POSTS TO HPFGU
2002-2003
     
       
       

Weekly Archive
August 18, 2002 - August 24, 2002

RE: Crouch, the duel, and the Imperius


Melody wrote:

Crouch Jr. is a facinating character to me because he enjoyed his time in Hogwarts so much.

Yes! Yes, yes, yes!

Ahem. Erm, well. Sorry about the...enthusiasm there. It's just that Crouch Jr. really is one of my all-time favorite characters, and the major reason for that is the sheer amount of fun that he has, all the way through _GoF_. I find it curiously refreshing. Endearing, even. It somehow just resonates with me. I love the malicious glee with which he conducts his entire masquerade: all of those double-edged statements, all of that payback. And I love scenes like the Yule Ball, too, places where he's having a (relatively) innocent good time doing things like gallumphing around the dance floor with Professor Sinistra. He's an arrested adolescent who has been enslaved for over a decade, and now he's finally getting to act out in a big, big way -- and he is just having a blast with it. And really, now. I mean, how can you not love a character like that?

And besides, he was a good teacher.

On which topic...

Richelle asked:

Plus Moody/Crouch and the Imperius. Which still blows my mind why Voldemort's most faithful servant would want to teach Harry to resist an Imperius curse.

Do you really think that Crouch was Voldemort's most faithful servant? He didn't put up a very good showing at his sentencing.

Really, the only way that I can see for Crouch to stake a legitimate claim on "most faithful servant" would be under a variant of JOdel's theory in hich he willingly accepted the role of sacrificial lamb in order to help the DEs to destroy his father's political career. Even then, though, I'd say that his co-conspirators, the Couple Assumed To Be The Lestranges, ought to be awarded just as many faithfulness points, if not even more, for the part that they played in the entire charade.

But I digress. The question here is: why would Crouch want to teach Harry to resist the Imperius?

Well, for one thing, it was his job. He needed to be impersonating Moody, and Dumbledore asked "Moody" to teach the Unforgiveables to the fourth year students. Crouch couldn't very well have refused, could he? What possible reason could he have given for doing so?

And besides, it must have been quite a kick for him, don't you think? To have been actually sanctioned to cast Unforgivable Curses on a bunch of schoolchildren -- and sanctioned to do so by Dumbledore, no less?

Melody wrote of Crouch that:

[he] loves casting dark curses on students with Dumbledore's permission especially on the one wizard that causes he precious Dark Lord Father to become the evilbabyVoldemort he is today.

Sure. It must have been absolutely irresistable, I'd say. Quite the perverse thrill. He did have quite the sense of irony, after all.

But I agree with Richelle that Crouch really does seem to have gone above and beyond the call of duty when it came to training Harry to fight off the Imperius.

She wrote:

Why on earth? Of course he didn't know Harry would instinctively resist it, but once he found out he didn't stop until Harry could resist it completely.

Nope. He didn't.

Over the years, people have suggested a number of reasons why this might be the case. I personally believe all of the below to be true.

1) Crouch was a method actor.

Crouch's masquerade must have been very good indeed to have fooled Dumbledore for nearly an entire year. He was rather deeply in character. To say the least. The real Alastor Moody would presumably have been thrilled to death to see a student prove so adept at fighting off the Imperius Curse, and would have gone out of his way to encourage that student and help him to develop his talent. Crouch-as-Moody therefore did the same.



2) Crouch hated the Imperius Curse.

He spent over a decade underneath the Imperius Curse himself, remember. I'd say that Crouch just plain hated the Imperius and that it gave him a deep sense of satisfaction to see anyone, even an enemy, prove so adept at fighting it off.

I also think that in many ways, Crouch found it very easy to identify with his adolescent students. He was himself very young at the time of his arrest, after all, and from his behavior in the Pensieve, he would seem to have been rather emotionally immature as well. Thereafter, he was first in Azkaban and then under the Imperius Curse, neither of which are states conducive to any real emotional development or growth. In his Veritaserum confession, both his assumption that his father never really loved him and his desperation to view Voldemort as a surrogate father figure always come across to me as strikingly childish, really pathetically so. Crouch was himself trapped in an arrested state of adolescence, and I think that this may have led him to on some level identify with Harry in those DADA classes. He was reading Harry's success in throwing off the Imperius Curse as his own success in throwing off the Imperius Curse -- and he was reacting accordingly.



3) Crouch's plan depended on Harry winning the Triwizard Tournament.

The Ever So Clever Eloise suggested this explanation back in February, and the more I think about it, the more compelling I find it to be.

In order for Crouch's scheme to work as planned, Harry must win the Triwizard Tournament, a contest in which we are told that "cheating" is traditional. One of Harry's major opponents in this competition is Victor Krum, who has been trained at Durmstrang (where it is rumored that students are taught the Dark Arts), and who is also the pet pupil of Igor Karkaroff, an ex Death Eater who clearly wants Durmstrang's champion to win the competition very badly.

Crouch may well have feared that Krum (or Karkaroff himself) would at some point place Harry under the Imperius Curse in order to prevent him from winning the Tournament. After all, later on Crouch himself will use just this technique to weaken the chances of both Krum and Diggory. People do tend to ascribe to others the same sorts of plans, motives, and tactics that they themseles are the most prone to utilize.

Once Crouch discovered that Harry stood a chance of being able to resist the Curse on his own, then he would have had a strong vested interest in helping Harry to develop this talent. It would have been one less thing for Crouch himself to worry about when it came time for him to be scurrying around behind the scenes, working to ensure Harry's victory.



4) Crouch was a born teacher.

Melody wrote:

[he] had that teacher facination and giddiness when a lesson goes well and a student helps prove a point.

Yup. Crouch was a very good student himself in his day, and I think that if his life had gone differently, he would have made an excellent professor. Harry's class is by no means the only one raving about "Moody's" DADA lessons. The entire school is excited by them. Sadistic nutcase though Crouch may be, he's also a very good teacher, and I do tend to read that as a reflection of Crouch's own character, rather than merely as a reflection of Moody's.

I always get the impression that teaching Moody's DADA class was just about Crouch's favorite part of his entire masquerade. I think that he was born to teach, and that like all good teachers, he took a genuine and instinctive pleasure in helping students succeed at difficult tasks.



So that's why I think that Crouch was so dedicated to teaching Harry to throw off the Imperius Curse. But of course, if you don't like my own referred "all of the above" answer, you can always mix and match to suit your own tastes. ;-)



Melody wrote:

I also assume he told evilbabyVoldemort about it and Voldemort wanted to try.

Hmmmm.

You know, I used to reject this notion that Crouch reported Harry's talent at resisting the Imperius Curse back to Voldemort. I always figured that had Voldemort really known about Harry's talent in this arena, then he would never have risked losing face in front of all of his Death Eaters by giving Harry the opportunity to resist him during that "duel" in the graveyard.

Now, however, I'm beginning to change my mind. Looking back over the graveyard scene, one of the things that I find rather striking about the failed Imperius is how utterly unsurprised by it Voldemort seems to be. His Death Eaters are taken aback, but he himself is not. He is not described as looking in the least bit startled, nor alarmed nor astonished, nor dismayed, nor even particularly angered. We see him be all of those things later on in the scene, when he is thwarted by the Priori Incantatem, but when Harry resists his Imperius Curse, his response (said "quietly") reveals no particular surprise.

Of course, he could just have been putting up a good front. But I don't think so. Voldemort has not, elsewhere in canon, shown himself to be in the least bit skilled at putting up a good front when he finds himself (as he constantly does!) thwarted by unforeseen events. He just doesn't take that sort of thing well. He doesn't usually respond to it "quietly." Instead, he generally screams and rants and raves and otherwise make an appalling spectacle out of himself. Voldemort isn't exactly one of those "roll with the punches" sorts of Evil Overlords.

So I'm beginning to come around to believing that Crouch really did give him advance warning, and that just as Melody suggests, Voldemort cast that Imperius Curse mainly to gratify his own curiosity about the real extent of Harry's ability to resist. After all, Barty Crouch was shipped off to prison at the age of nineteen and then spent the rest of his life as a mind-controlled zombie with an invisibility cloak thrown over his head. His testimony that Harry had this amazing Imperius resistance might therefore have been something that Voldemort felt disinclined to take at face value. I suspect that he wanted to see for himself.

—Elkins

Posted August 21, 2002 at 7:58 pm
Topics: ,
Plain text version

 

RE: "Despiadado" Crouch and HumanRightsMartyr!Wilkes


In Message #40967, Eileen (after having been left a choice canon by the ghost of Evan Rosier), wrote:

She looks down at the canon Rosier has left her. It reads (in translation from my Spanish edition, as well as I can make it):

"Crouch used violence against violence, and authorized the use of the unforgivable curses on suspects. I say he became as cruel and "despiadado" as those on the dark side."

But, it's always bugged listies, hasn't it, that the aurors didn't have the authorization to use "Avada Kedavra" in the first place.

It's never particularly bugged me. As discussions of Harry and Sirius in the Shrieking Shack show, there are plenty of other ways to kill people, and I suspect that the aurors were always authorized to use them in self-defense, or to protect the innocent.

How is killing someone in a magical shoot-out evil?

It isn't, very. Or at least it's a highly justifiable evil.

But I don't really think that authorizing the Aurors to kill in self-defense was what Crouch did, and I don't think that Avada Kedavra was really the Unforgivable Curse that Sirius was talking about, either.



A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away (well...okay, it was actually just in April, in message #37476), Eileen posted a rousing series of Crouch Sr. apologetics in her attempt to coax us all into trying a bite of her CRAB CUSTARD ("Classy, Rich, Ambitious, Bold: Crouch's Unsung Sexiness Tempts All Raunchy Damsels").

In the course of the ensuing discussion, this pernicious notion—that Crouch's measures consituted nothing more dire than authorizing the aurors to kill in self-defense—came up more than a few times, and I wanted very badly to address it even back then. Sadly, however, I never got the chance. Now that I've been handed a second opportunity, though, I will happily help Eileen to man this canon, in the hopes of blasting that nasty crab-flavored herring out of the water for once and for all.

Here is the full passage (written in English) to which Eileen referred:

"The Aurors were given new powers -- powers to kill rather than capture, for instance. And I wasn't the only one who was handed straight to the dementors without trial. Crouch fought violence with violence, and authorized the use of the Unforgivable Curses against suspects. I would say he became as ruthless and cruel as many on the Dark Side."

Okay. Two things here.

First thing. Sirius does not say "The Aurors were given new powers -- powers to kill, for instance."

What he does say is: "powers to kill rather than capture." [emphasis mine]

In other words, what Crouch authorized his aurors to do was not to kill in self-defense. It was not to kill in bloody magical shoot-outs. It was not to use lethal force when such was necessary to provide immediate protection to the innocent. And it was not to kill when capture was impossible.

What Crouch authorized his aurors to do was to kill rather than to capture.

In other words, they were authorized to kill people who could instead have been apprehended.

That's serious. The Aurors are not judges, but investigators; their job is not to convict, but to investigate and to apprehend. As shoddy and as corrupt as the Wizarding World's justice system may be, it nonetheless does exist. There are courts, and there are trials, and people are sometimes acquitted of the charges against them. We are told that a good number of the DEs stood trial and were acquitted after Voldemort's fall. Presumably at least one or two genuinely innocent people have managed this as well.

So what Crouch authorized his aurors to do was to kill suspects, people against whom absolutely nothing had yet been proven in a court of law. He authorized them to kill on the basis of nothing more than suspicion -- or even their whim.

In short, he authorized them to kill anyone they damn well felt like, with little or no accountability to anyone for their actions.

Very reassuring.

The second thing I would like to point out here is that Sirius lists the aurors' license to kill as a separate issue from that of their license to use the Unforgivables.

First he mentions that the aurors were granted license to kill rather than to capture. Then he mentions that many people (other than he himself) were sent to prison without trial. And then he states that Crouch authorized the use of the Unforgiveables. Finally, he concludes that Crouch had become "as ruthless and cruel as many on the Dark Side."

I have never assumed that the AK was the Unforgivable Curse to which Sirius was alluding here. He'd already covered that base when he cited the license to kill. No, I have always assumed that the Cruciatus—and to a lesser extent, the Imperius—were the relevant Unforgivables here.

Eileen:

I'm beginning to suspect that Crouch authorized the use of the unforgiveable curses on people already taken into custody.

Yes. Or, for that matter, even on people who in the end were never taken into custody. That, at any rate, was my instinctive understanding of what that passage meant when I first read it.

Now, I freely admit that my reading of this scene may have been biased by the fact that not only have I spent some time working for Amnesty International, but that I also knew full well while reading GoF that its author had as well. Nonetheless, that was precisely how I interpreted Sirius' words in "Padfoot Returns." Crouch authorized his aurors to use torture and mind-control, and he authorized them to use these techniques even against people who had never been convicted (or even necessarily accused) of any crime.

Hence, "descended to the level of the Death Eaters."

Again, very reassuring.

No. I did not like that Crouch Sr. I did not like him at all.



And I am very suspicious of that "very popular" martyr-auror Frank Longbottom, too.



Eileen asked:

Where in canon do we see the aurors overstepping their bounds?

An excellent questiom. Sirius is clearly no fan of the aurors, but even he acknowledges that Moody was all right. Moody was the Good Auror. Didn't kill if he could avoid it. Never descended to the level of the Death Eaters. So who were those other aurors? Who were those guys who were running around killing suspects rather than bothering to arrest them, practicing their Unforgivables on people who had never even stood trial?

Could their zeal have made them "very popular?"

It does rather beg the question, doesn't it?



What about Wilkes?

Yes. What about Wilkes?

It's about time that poor old Wilkes got some speculative attention, don't you think? I mean, the poor man! (Or woman. After all, the possibility still does exist that Wilkes might have been a girl named Florence who used to snog Snape behind the greenhouses...) A member of Snape's old gang, killed by aurors in the year before Voldemort's fall, and yet half the time s/he gets left out when people try to draw up a DE roll call. (Witness message #42806, for example.) No first name, no backstory, not even a gender!

And Karkaroff didn't even bother to try ratting him-or-her out to the Minstry.

Yes, Wilkes is the Forgotten Death Eater, to be sure. S/he's even more neglected than dear old Nott, or than my boy Avery.

Was Wilkes killed after he was apprehended?

Well, it's certainly a truism that once you start letting your police do things like practicing torture on suspects and killing without having to stand inquiry for it, then an inordinate number of people generally do start mysteriously dying in custody.

Funny how that works, isn't it?

We've already speculated that much of Snape's bitterness stems from the fact that he was forced to betray his friends. If Wilkes was killed this way, that could have been a hard blow.

And if Frank Longbottom was involved...

::happy smile::

As Eileen knows full well, I have been plugging for "Wilkes dead at Frank Longbottom's hands" ever since my delurk.

It would explain much.

It would go a long way towards explaining the particularly excessive (and strangely impractical) savagery of the Lestranges' treatment of the Longbottoms. They were after information, yes. But they could also have been after payback.

It would also go a long way towards explaining Snape's difficulties in dealing calmly and rationally with Neville. In message #41873, Porphyria makes a strong case for the idea (which I support wholeheartedly) that Snape reacts so badly to Neville in part because he views Neville as a representative of his own weakness. Others have pointed out that Neville is an irritant because he is disruptive to Snape's potions class, and because his dangerous incompetence places other students at physical risk. That Snape simply doesn't suffer fools gladly is certainly a factor here. So is the fact that Snape enjoys bullying -- and Neville is prime bully-bait. A few people like to argue that Snape responds to Neville with guilt because he failed to protect the Longbottoms. I myself have more than once defended the notion that it is a manifestation of Snape's survivor guilt: every time he looks at Neville, he is forcibly reminded that two of his old school friends are still gibbering their sanity away in Azkaban.

But it does occur to me that there might be something even more immediate going on there. Snape responds to Neville with uncharacteristic temper—and uncharacteristic crudity, as well—at his very first potions class. His verbal abuse of Harry and Hermione is calm, cold, deliberate, quite sophisticated. With Neville, all that he can manage is a snarl of pure rage. It is a rather striking loss of control for Snape, I've always thought, and it happens before he has really had much opportunity to observe Neville's behavior. It's only the first day of class. He has not in fact yet had much opportunity to learn what a chronic bungler Neville is, nor how timid, nor how weak. And yet he shows a striking lack of self-control when it comes to the boy.

It does make you wonder, doesn't it? Sons in the Potterverse do have this strange tendency to take after their fathers physically. Who is Snape really seeing, every time that he looks at Neville in potions class? While Snape did eventually turn on his old Hogwarts classmates, there is some evidence to suggest that he's still not altogether comfortable dealing with the people who actually killed them. He is afraid of Moody.

Finally, if Eileen is correct in her suspicion that there was something untoward about Wilkes' death, then that would finally provide us with a canonical illustration of the excesses of those rotten aurors. I do think that we may well be handed harder evidence of that one of these days. The series is becoming more morally complex as it progresses, after all.

And JKR did once work for Amnesty International.

—Elkins (who was highly disappointed that when OTC hosted that "who is more evil?" poll a few months back, Crouch Sr. wasn't even listed among the options)

 

RE: Wandless magic -- is it Dark in here or is it me?


Marina wrote:

And remember that the Darkest spell we've seen in the books so far -- the one that resurrected Voldemort in the graveyard -- involves a potion. But it also involves a certain amount of wand-waving and an incantation. It seems like some sort of combination of Potions and traditional spell-casting. Which does seem to suggest that Potions and Dark Arts are closely related somehow.

In fact, most of the Dark Arts that we've actually seen in the books don't seem to require a wand, do they?

We don't know precisely what all of that "Dark Arts stuff" that Lucius Malfoy has hidden under that trapdoor of his is, but the items that have either been mentioned or that we know came from his stash include poisons (wandless) and Riddle's Diary (an enchanted object). Creating the diary may have involved a wand; we just don't know. Activating it obviously does not.

Although we know that there do exist "dark" books—or at least, I infer as much from the existence of a restricted section in Hogwarts' library—the items that the text mentions as on display in B&Bs all seem to be magical artifacts and enchanted items: the hand of glory, the enchanted necklace. No books are mentioned.

The Weasley admonition against seemingly self-aware magical items strikes me as highly significant here. The Marauder's Map seems to have a mind of its own; so does the Sorting Hat. Are these items "Dark?" Well...maybe not. But they certainly are suspicious, aren't they? Was there anyone here who upon reading PoA for the first time, did not get a thrill of dire apprehension when Snape asked Lupin whether Harry might not have received the Map "direct from the manufacturers themselves?"

Voldemort activates his followers' Dark Marks by touching Wormtail's mark with his finger, not with his wand. He managed to possess Quirrell without his wand. Was Quirrell's wand required? Somehow I really doubt it. Similarly, we don't know precisely what was required for him to become embodied in the ugly baby form. Potion ingredients are specified; wands and incantations are not. Again, I somehow feel doubtful that a wand was involved at all.

Divination also appears to be a completely wandless art. Neither the less efficacious skills that Trelawney teaches to her students nor the one act of True Seership we have seen her exhibit involve wand or incantation. I've hypothesized elsewhere (message #35373) that Divination itself may be itself a suspect art.

My gut feeling here (admittedly on the basis of very little in the way of canonical proof) is that the sort of magic that does not require a wand is primarily old magic, magic that predates the ritualized formulae developed by the Wizarding World. There is a mythopoetic quality to many of the wandless magics that exist in the WW, yet which are not outlawed classified as inherently "Dark." People transforming into animal forms which reflect a part of their inherent essence, people foreseeing the future, potions brewed up in cauldrons, magical artifacts which continue to reflect their creators' personalities long after their creators have moved on...these are the magics of myth and of fairy tale. They are old magics, older than the spell-casting of the ceremonial magician, with his Latinate incantations and his carefully formulated gestures.

Old magics may well be suspect within the WW simply by virtue of being less controllable, less predictable -- and far less well-understood.

Into the category of "old" magic, though, I would also have to group the "ancient" magics which Dumbledore cites in tones of reverence. The bond of the life-debt. The protective power of sacrificial maternal love.

Both of which are evidently wandless.

Neither of which is Dark.

—Elkins

Posted August 22, 2002 at 11:13 am
Topics: ,
Plain text version

 

RE: Fred and George: The Bullies You Do Know


Jenny from Ravenclaw wrote:

Fred and George are quite the loveable scoundrels, are they not?

No, they most certainly are not!

Heh. Oh, boy. Was Jenny actually trying to bait me here? I find myself wondering. Was it possible that she just didn't know how I feel about the twins? Was she hoping to send me off on another series of snarling, spitting, foaming rants, just like the ones that I hacked venemously up onto the list the last time I expressed my opinions on the twins, way back in February?

Does she just like the smell of bile in the morning?

Hey, maybe she does. Maybe she does at that.

Well, okay, then. Happy to oblige. ;-)

Now, I know that everyone else in the entire universe just adores the twins. I know that they're popular characters. And indeed, they have been very nice to Harry -- and I do appreciate it when the characters are nice to Harry.

But I just have to say it. I do not like the twins. At all. I think that they are a pair of mean insensitive bullies, and I tend to feel that the only reason that readers don't generally perceive them as such is because we see the story through Harry's eyes -- and Harry happens to be inside of the magic circle of people the twins perceive as their in-group, and who are therefore protected from their harrassment.

The twins are indeed decent to Harry. They're the Bullies We Do Know, and that makes it a lot easier for us to overlook their bullying traits. But if I may riff a bit off of Sirius here for a minute, if you want to know what a man is like, take a good look at how he treats outsiders, not the members of his own in-group.

And how do the Twins treat those who do not fall within the magic circle of those they consider to be under their protection?

Well, what interactions have we actually seen between the twins and students from outside of House Gryffindor?

Hmmm. Well, there's Draco Malfoy and his cronies, of course. In PoA, they sneer at Draco for running into their cabin while fleeing the dementor on the Hogwarts Express. In GoF, they hex him and his (unarmed!) buddies in the back, leave them lying unconscious on the floor of a train in the middle of London, and then step on them while they're out cold. This, I would add, at a point in the tale when they have become legal adults. Not a whole lot of noblesse oblige going on there. Not much in the way of chivalry. Not the sort of behavior that represents an assumption of the mantle of adulthood.

And...let's see. Who else? Well, there's Dudley. Ton-tongue toffee, anyone? The kid is three years younger than they are, and he's a muggle besides; it is plain to see that he is absolutely petrified of magic, and the twins are passing him cursed sweets.

Very nice.

Oh, and then there's little Malcolm Baddock. Eleven years old, it's his very first day at school, the poor kid's probably scared out of his gourd to begin with, he's just been sorted into Slytherin, and on his way to the table, big strong sixteen-year-old Fred and George actually hiss him.

You know, we've never heard of even the Slytherins doing anything like that Never once has there been a mention of anyone jeering, hissing, or booing at the Sorting Ceremony. Except for Fred and George, that is, because Fred and George are a couple of thuggish cads.

They can't even manage to be nice to the Ever So Decent Cedric at the beginning of GoF. He's trying to be friendly, and they're scowling menacingly at him, just because he had the unmitigated gall to whip them once at Quidditch. What would they have been doing if their parents hadn't been around, one wonders. Beating him up?

Well, maybe not. Because, after all, he's just as big as they are. Although they do outnumber him.

It certainly is interesting, isn't it, that we so rarely see Fred and George insulting or abusing students who are actually their own age? Or their own size? I mean, they're a couple of really big kids, aren't they? Built like a couple of bludgers, and by the end of GoF, they're actually technically adults. And yet who (outside of their own family) do we see them going up against? Who do we see them hexing or hissing? Who are the targets of their practical jokes?

Yes, that's right. It's always younger kids, isn't it. Children two, three, even five years younger than they are.

Even when the twins target adults, it's always vulnerable adults. They don't hurl snowballs at Professor McGonagall, do they? No, of course not. They throw them at Professor Quirrell, whom they have every reason to believe is indeed precisely what he appears to be: a stammering, shell-shocked wreck of a wizard who is tottering right on the edge of a nervous collapse.

You know, where I come from, we had a word for big strong self-confident teenagers who spent their time picking on younger kids and emotionally crippled adults.

We called them bullies.



Jenny asked:

Has anyone ever thought of their pranks as a bit mean-spirited?

Yes. Take Ton-Tongue Toffee, for example...

Oh! Oh, you already have. Well, all right then.

When I first read GoF, I delighted in the Ton-Tongue Toffee scene. Boy, did I love picturing Dudley on his hands and knees in the living room, scooping up as many of the "brightly colored" toffees as his greedy hands could find.

Really? I just plain hated that scene. I thought it cruel. Dudley had been on a diet all summer long, for heaven's sake! The poor kid had been being given lettuce leaves and grapefruit halves to eat. If I'd been eating like that for two months and then someone dropped a pocketful of toffees at my feet, I'm sure that I'd be down there grovelling around on the carpet for them too.

Never mind the fact that from the instant the Weasleys arrive in the Dursley's home, Dudley is cringing away from them, and he's got his hands clamped across his buttocks, and he's backed all the way up against the wall, he's so terrified of what they might do to him, and...

Oh, well. Ugh. Just made me sick, that scene did.

My mother, however, didn't think it was so funny. She thought Fred and George were mean.

Well, whether one found it funny or not, I'd say that it certainly was mean. It was hardly a good-natured joke. It was malicious. And quite properly, their father chastised them for it, although he did misascribe their motive.

I did not find their excuse in the least bit impressive. "Oh, but Dad, he's a big mean bully!"

Yeah. And the twins are even bigger and meaner and more powerful bullies. So? And? Their point was?

Jenny:

How popular should they be? I wouldn't call them bullies like Draco and his cronies...

Oh, I would. And I suspect that quite a number of the younger members of House Slytherin would probably agree with me. I think that Fred and George are every bit as big a pair of bullies as Crabbe and Goyle are. We just don't see quite as much of it, because the story isn't told from the point of view of the kids they choose as their victims. But we see enough of it. We see enough of it to get the picture. I think that they're quite clearly bullies.

...but how must Neville feel about them?

Oh, living with them is probably giving Neville ulcers. But still, you know, it could be a whole lot worse. Neville's in their magic circle, which means that he's only likely to fall victim to their callous thoughtlessness, rather than to their outright bullying. And I'm sure that they'd protect him, if they were around when someone outside of their group were hassling him.

One man's bully is another man's bodyguard.

Jenny asked if people like the twins. HF queried in response:

When you say 'people', are you talking about the reading audience or the wizarding world? The WW seems to approve of them on the whole, with the exception of Mrs. Weasley.

Yes. The twins are charismatic, and they are well-liked. This probably contributes to my sense of anger about them. They remind me far too much of so many bullies I have known: the charismatic bullies, the popular ones, the ones who are always favored by those in authority, the ones who are widely believed to be all-round "nice guys" -- by everyone, that is, except for their victims.

But hey. Their victims deserve whatever they get. Right?

HF wrote:

To sort of divide this up a bit, the twins seem to ply their trade on two levels: retributive, and for the hell of it.

Read: "bullying" and "callous thoughtlessness."

Most of what falls into the category of "retributive," I read as plain and simple bullying.

HF:

Percy's stuffed-shirtedness and Malfoy's arrogance are natural targets (such traits are, after all, the target of pranksters and satirists the world over); they're practically begging to be taken down a peg or two by having Head Boy badges enchanted to read 'Bighead Boy' or be hexed into oblivion.

Yup. Percy and Malfoy were begging for it, all right. Much in the same way that Snape was just pleading to be fed to a werewolf, by virtue of being so nasty and sneaky, and of having oily hair.

See, this particular logic really hits all of my hot buttons, because in my experience, it's the logic that bullies always use to justify their actions. "If he weren't so snotty, we wouldn't have been forced to shove him in the locker." "She was really asking for it, the way she always dressed so badly and never stood up for herself."

It reminds me most uncomfortably, in fact, of those gruesome excuses that people sometimes offer for committing sexual assault. "She was asking for it, wearing a short skirt like that!" "She just thought that she was IT, so she needed to be taken down a peg."

I don't find it compelling. To say the least. In what way is being somewhat stuffy and pompous a request for constant harrassment? In what way is arrogance a petition for physical assault?

HF called this "retributive," but it just doesn't read that way to me. To me, it reads like bullying. A case can be made for the twins' assault on the Slyths on the train at the end of GoF as "retributive" to be sure, but what about Malcolm Baddock? What about Professor Quirrell? And what about Percy? The twins aren't picking on Percy because he has injured them terribly through any particular action he has taken against them. They're picking on him because he is vulnerable, and because they have identified some trait that makes him, to their mind, "fair game," thus enabling them to rationalize their behavior. In Percy's case, that trait happens to be pomposity. But what if it had instead been ugliness? Or intellect? Or talent? Or timidity?

After all, Harry's way too talented, don't you think? He desperately needs to be taken down a peg or two. It's for his own good, really.

And the same goes for Hermione. She's just asking for trouble, with all of that reading and studying, and sucking up to her professors, and being such a swotty little know-it-all.

And Neville? Well, my goodness! Neville was actually down on his knees to Malfoy in that corridor, don't you know. Yeah, he was just grovelling for a good old fashioned leg-locker curse. He needed it, you see, because he's so ridiculously timid and non-confrontational. Malfoy was doing him a favor, really. And so is Snape, every week in Potions class.

No, I'm sorry. When bullies are called to account for their actions, I'm sturdily unimpressed by the claim that their victims were "asking for it." That's the excuse that bullies always use. It doesn't get either Draco or Snape off the hook with me, and it doesn't get the twins off the hook with me either.

I don't like bullying.

Then, I readily admit there are times when the twins mean no harm. There are times when they mean well. They're just so appallingly insensitive that they end up causing harm in spite of themselves. Here we have HF's "for the hell of it," which I suppose we might also classify as "lads will be lads."

HF:

On the other hand, you have things like wanton Puffskein destruction, turning poor Ron's teddy bear into a spider, and salamander torture -- although, with regards to the last point, salamanders are immune to fire (yet I'm sure the salamander didn't appreciate flying around the room while fireworks were going off inside it.)

Hmmm. You know, much as I dislike the twins, I think that I may have to agree with Olivia when it comes to the spider incident. Fred couldn't possibly have been old enough to be held accountable for that one. He had to have been very young at the time, so it was probably just a case of that spontaneous magic that wizarding children do. So I guess that I'll give him a (reluctant!) pass for that.

But the Puffskein incident really horrified me, and I didn't much care for the twins' treatment of the salamander either. Nor did I think much of their cavalier attitude towards Scabbers' "death" in PoA. Even taking into account the whole "boys will be boys" thing, the twins still strike me as exceptionally callous when it comes to animals, and that's really not a trait that I find at all endearing.

Nor is it only animals. Into the "callous thoughtlessness" category, I would also place the twins' remorseless teasing of Ginny in CoS. Now, I understand that the twins actually didn't mean to be upsetting her that badly. They were genuinely trying to cheer her up. They really did mean well. I appreciate that. But they were so ridiculously insensitive that they didn't even notice that she was heading straight for a nervous breakdown until Percy pointed it out to them, at which point (to their credit) they did indeed cease and desist.

I'm not much impressed with that degree of insensitivity either. The twins really do strike me as a pair of thuggish brutes.

Back to Jenny again:

Many people dislike Snape, Draco, Rita Skeeter and some aren't even crazy about Ron - all because of their attitudes. Fred and George are funny and fun, and obviously talented wizards, but are they nice?

No. They're not. And personally, I don't find them particularly funny, either.

Should we applaud them for their prank inventions and encourage them to do more? I for one would love to see them open a new jokes shop, but maybe they should be steered away from their current passions for practical jokes.

Nah. As much as I dislike the twins, I think that they should definitely open their joke shop. It's what they really want to do, it's what will make them happy, they certainly have both the drive and the hustle to succeed in business, and their joke items are obviously very well-crafted. Indeed, the twins so strike me as exceptionally talented.

And besides, selling their gag products would be a productive outlet for their sadistic brand of humor. Harry's right: the WW is going to need its yuks, and apparently a lot of people in the WW actually find the twins' sense of humor funny. (Go figure.) So yeah, they're serving a useful purpose.

Besides, maybe if they got that shop opened, they'd be far too busy running it and making their items to have the time to make other people's lives stressful and unpleasant.

And then maybe poor Percy would finally be able to relax a little bit, rather than being driven into such a state of exhausted insecurity from their constant harrassment that he finds himself unwittingly aiding the forces of evil yet again! ;-)

I mean, should we like them as much as we do? Why do we like them so much more than we like Snape or Draco?

What "we," Jenny?

—Elkins, who really will feel very bad for the surviving twin if one of them is to die. Honestly. She will. And that won't be a smirk you'll be seeing on her face either. It will just look like a smirk, but it will actually be an...um, er, an attempt to, uh, to choke back her sobs. Really.

Posted August 22, 2002 at 2:13 pm
Topics: ,
Plain text version