New Castalia House/Superversive Post:”So you made it into Hufflepuff”

Here is my new, and last until Lent ends in 40 days, post for the Castalia House Superversive Tuesday slot, “So you made it into Hufflepuff”. I had a lot of fun writing it. It is a short analysis of Rowling’s (poor) handling of the house systems in “Harry Potter”, as well as a light-hearted look at my feelings about Hufflepuff House.

An excerpt:

There’s another dimension to Hufflepuff’s decision to take in the rejected students. In one sense, it makes Hufflepuff the loser house – but there’s more to it than that. It also makes Hufflepuff the wisest house.

Hear me out here. Is it really a good idea to be telling children exactly what their strongest and most important qualities are at the age of eleven? Is this healthy? Think of all of the trouble this causes at Hogwarts. In book five, the Sorting Hat warns the student body to come together in the face of the impending threat, and even questions the wisdom of sorting itself. Slytherin has the reputation as the house of dark wizards, so why would you wants children to grow up with that type of stigma?

The issues surrounding sorting didn’t even seem to occur to the most intelligent of the founders, Rowena Ravenclaw…but they did occur to one founder: Helga Hufflepuff.

Go check it out at the link!

A happy Lent to all of you. Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

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One Response to New Castalia House/Superversive Post:”So you made it into Hufflepuff”

  1. Res says:

    To be fair, isn’t that something of a diversion? Generally speaking the ‘protagonist’ houses, or clans or groups, at such times were generally distinguished by their being relatively plain or not having any clear character, while the others had specific gimmicks. Hence, when elemental forms were brought in, generally speaking they were associated with ‘earth,’ or with something taken as generic, rather than a specific elemental form. This helped set them aside, but was always somewhat derivative or fake, as they were both supposed to stand out and to be fairly generic and characterless, or to do this for no reason. It might also be an attempt to distinguish it from the books’ female audience, on the part of those working on giving it its final form, as otherwise it’s really just bait for others to disregard the protagonists and focus on the shiny things, which to be fair in those books was already a problem. In addition, as the protagonists are in a sense left out, another house taking up this mantle might seem to distract from this and pretend that they were more integrated into things. This became more of importance as the books tried to get its audience enthusiastic about romance, relationships, balls (pardonne), etc., and make them consider such things as exciting, in which sense when Emma Watson complains about being sexualised even though hardly anyone’s cared about her as an actress since Harry Potter, it’s cheap and quite lame, so to speak. Obviously, actresses were there to appeal to the audience by whatever means, and hence would be brought to behave in such a way if they were co-operative, which is indeed what occurred.

    Obviously, whether ‘failed’ students was supposed to be taken in terms of an admissions policy – and the heads of the place were not supposed to be taken as partisan in that way -, or simply in terms of ones that didn’t suit the others, might be ambiguous, but the name is distinctly in mauvaise foi. Obviously, if the students were actually ‘rejected’ by Hogwarts, you would expect them to be more likely to side with the only alternative which was generally presented in the books, presumably, which was Voldemort. Who really hadn’t come a long way since their starring role in ‘Hamlet’ as a minimally scary, slightly undefined ghost. Which is perhaps better than can be said for ‘Diggory’s’ role in Julius Caesar. That they have a vague selection policy might just mean that they were for ‘students’ who weren’t as highly specified as the others, rather than being actual ‘rejects,’ which would seem necessary if the thing was to remain coherent and not just a collection of fairly specific types. Of course, that whole system was a bit silly in context anyway, and the general portrayal of such things as a question of individual apprentice status – present notably in Eragon (nobody remembers Christopher Paolini, peculiarly) – generally worked better and there was little reason to externalise ‘magic powers,’ and treat them like any other subject or study of external things rather than as emanating from the person, and in that sense it might be worth seeing the whole thing as merely a disciplinary thing or a question of a place to teach people to ‘hold in’ their powers (not necessarily in the sense of self-discipline, in the sense of obedience), or limit them, which might be part of why young people were expected to like them. That their influence on any of these people by this point, except for the Quidditch (seemingly a strange combination of ‘quit’ and ‘ditch,’ which seems like a strange editorial decision) Society people, is minimal, perhaps strengthens your case that most of the systematic aspects of things were handled in a generic or simplistic fashion. At a certain point a book of Life Studies classes that last years might only seem to appeal to a few.

    Ultimately, though, most of the traits of ‘Hufflepuff’ are traits of such as the protagonists of the book (it’s why they’re supposed to be the ‘good guys’ in that book), as also Ash Ketchum and other protagonists who begin by being ‘set apart’ slightly and then are treated as important: this seems like a slightly disciplinary thing as well, they are set aside, being ‘protagonists,’ and then praised for integrating with the ‘unimportant’ people. (Their being in a basically ‘plain’ house means that they then have to be specified primarily in terms of ‘actions’ or their role as protagonists, rather than elemental, less generic or ‘relatable’ characteristics.) Their enemies therefore have to be ‘bullies’ because they are external impingements on their apparently happy community, and in this grouped in with ‘Voldemort,’ which is an act on the books’ author’s part that can be called really ‘childish,’ and that people were supposed to get passionate about characters who are at ease and passionate about such things, and so on, above the age of say 5 or even 17, speaks strangely for their reading proclivities. In this sense, Stewart Lee claiming that William Blake was less directed towards children’s literature, despite their similarly lame cosmology, perhaps made sense.

    It might be worthwhile to take the ‘literary’ purpose of the other ‘houses’ as being more significant to what they are: as they are both essentially, ultimately, just pressed into service to ‘Gryffindor’ (an offence to griffins, perhaps, but generally speaking Rowling or others working on the book avoided the disjunction between her fairly domestic tale and the interesting, or striking creatures summoned up elsewhere by portraying them as dusty, old things like are found in museums) by virtue of not being ‘Slytherin,’ they would therefore in the ‘novels’ themselves serve to reflect things which the audience are to take the protagonists as – or similarly serve the protagonists -, without acknowledging this, and in that sense be merely an unconscious PR team. They are, in this sense, sacrificed, as actually occurs. Because these books are mostly event-based – or movie fodder -, and the actual writing in them is both dull and discarded, you could then suppose that books with a similar structure around the ‘houses,’ for instance, which ultimately ground most of the primarily domestic events of the books, would ultimately end up being similar or equivalent to that book, even if in different forms. Hence, for instance, if the ‘Warriors’ series had opted to take their ‘ShadowClan’ and made them the opposition and direct enemies, rather than focussing instead on merely domestic conflicts within a ‘Clan,’ and hence also made those cats more determinate in a stereotypical direction (which in Harry Potter, as it involves arbitrary distinctions, especially where the reader is concerned, was basically portrayed as explicitly racial, making the choice of name ‘Gryffindor’ suspect in a British context, although they did mostly try to counteract this), then things would have in all likelihood become highly similar, if in a significantly disguised way and involving cats instead of bringing humans into things.

    Generally speaking, though, the adoption of the ‘protagonist house’ mechanism in literature at around the late 1990s to the early 2000s did certainly wreak havoc with Aristotle.

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