The Anti-Ilvermoarnyey Rant

Okay, so I can’t help it. Everyone’s all excited about the new Pottermore reveals and honestly, each one has been pissing me off more and more. Chatter would have you believe that Potter-universe is a deep, wonderfully magical place, but there are giant holes and gaps that increase each time that Rowling posts a new bit.

All of my problems with the recent additions have to deal with J.K. Rowling’s blatant ignorance of American cultural history and present (something pointed out since the first posting). Sure, she wrote up a new magic school and you can get sorted into one of Ilvormony’s (is that misspelled? Not sure. Don’t care) houses! It ought to be cool as an American to have a piece of Potter-verse on our doorstep instead of being completely ignored (I mean, did the US, Canada, or Mexico get even one mention? What about the rest of the world?). Unfortunately, the new houses are stolen from indigenous tribes’ religions! As that second link points out, the ‘history’ that Rowling was setting up for North American wizarding world’s relations to indigenous tribes was bad enough in the first place, but this reinforcement is terrible.

Perhaps as bad as the Ilvermoney’s (Did I get it that time?) houses is the ‘histories.’ First, there’s no distinction made between Canada, US, and Mexico. We’re all lumped together as ‘North America.’ Time frames where incredible amounts of change happened are lumped together and glossed over that the lack of details makes the fiction meaningless. Harry Potter’s wizarding world has always been removed from the ‘Muggle’ or ‘No-Maj’ world (which, okay, what the hell? How does ‘No magic’ become ‘No-Maj’ and why is North America using a different name anyway? A multitude of languages has always been spoken on this continent, but if we’re predominately English, French, and Spanish speakers, why aren’t we using Muggle or another language’s word? No one would reinvent the wheel. If Muggle’s the Brit word since forever, then our word should be at least related to it.) Ahem, anyway, magic history and muggle history often seem divided, which honestly makes the wizards seem rather stupid. Why doesn’t Mr. Weasley know how to work the damn Tube station? People manage initial contact with the concept without having a teenager describe it to them. But particularly in the case of US history, divorcing the magic and muggle worlds is a huge slap in the face. Consider, for a second, coming from Virginia in the Civil War and getting a letter telling you to go north to learn how to deal with this weird crap you’ve been doing. Or being a slave-child or coming from a reservation and going to school that tells you ‘Never share your power with your (filthy) Muggle parents!’ Those examples are from over a hundred years ago, sure, but recent considerations aren’t much better. Conflicts were numerous (and ongoing) when America began desegregation, didn’t this affect the magic school as well? Everyone just, got along?

Oh, yeah, and despite the population of an entire continent, we only have one wizarding school? Where does that begin to make sense? My imagination has been running away with me on what America’s wizarding history ought to look like, and I can come up with six schools and one university just for the US. I will admit too much ignorance in Mexican and Canadian histories to write up schools for them as well.

I just find it completely ironic that Rowling’s twitter has been exploding with Brexit texts this week, even ones calling out racism, and she (and whoever’s beta-ing this shit) has completely participated in cultural erasure. As an anthropologist, I’m angry at the disregard for myth structures. As a writer, I’m angry at the lazy world-building. As a reasonable human being, I’m freaking pissed at the mistreatment of non-white culture. Stay as excited as you want to about the new products being unveiled this year, but this has firmly placed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in my “Do Not Watch” list.


How the True Blood finale lived up to its name

Let’s start with a reminder of what the product “True Blood” is. It’s a blood substitute. It’s kept cold and to the vampires who consume it (even a newbie as we saw with Jessica) it tastes like shit. While it comes in a few flavors (different blood types), it really never satisfies. So in the end, you’ve got a product that vampires are meant to consume, to pay for, and they’re supposed to fake enjoying to get along in society.

In so many ways, the True Blood finale last night was just like that: emotionally distant, lacking any real substance, and leaving a shitty aftertaste.

Fuck, where do I even start?

Okay, let’s go with Bill and Sookie’s plot, since that took up most of the episode. First off, I’ve given up any hope of Bill’s decision-making being anything similar to our decision-making skills. Bill Compton, despite all of his professing otherwise, has always put himself and his way of thinking first. You see it in the way he wants to “mainstream” and you see it in the way he wants to “raise” Jessica. So when he makes the decision to end his life because that’s the only way Sookie will ever move on, he’s not really thinking about Sookie’s well-being. He’s convinced himself he is and he’s convinced himself that this is the “only way” she will ever move on, but all he does is strip her of any choices and then fucking mess her up psychologically by asking her to finish him. You know who he could have asked, who would have gladly put it through him and been done with it? Eric. You know how he could have done it himself? Let the Hep-V take its course or walk into the sun he waited to go down. Instead, he wanted Sookie to use the last of her fairy light to take him out of the world so that she could go live a ‘normal’ life.

His logic alone was so rampantly sexist I was willing to reach through and do it myself. He didn’t want to stay with Sookie because she would “never have children, never have a real life” and he believed that so long as he was alive somewhere, she would never get over him. The show–including Sookie–just accepts this as justifiable cause. The reason is so sexist, I’m still groaning and rolling my eyes at it. The message completely reads, “I am man. You can never move past me because of my awesome effect on your life. You’re obviously not a woman if you do not procreate. Being different is bad, you should try to blend in.” So in the end, I’m glad that they staked Bill and got that fucking backwards, archaic logic out of the world-setting. I just wish Sookie had gotten pissed at him beforehand and called him out on his complete crap. I wish she’d done it as an expression of “I do need you out of my life, you’re damaging it. I’ve accepted who I am and who I choose to love, but you never accepted yourself or me.” —Her final speech did have elements of it, but it lacked the anger or resolve of removing the toxicity from her life finally.

Of course, maybe she couldn’t have that mentality because the show’s writers certainly didn’t. After Bill’s scene, we’re treated to a “several years later” montage of watching Eric and Pam set up for their new business, while still keeping the old perfectly afloat, showing that nothing from the events of the show has actually done anything other than increase their wealth in the end. And then, the Thanksgiving scene. Holy fucking shit. Are we supposed to suspend our disbelief so far that all of the people that we’ve seen hook up in the final season are still together after four years when during the course of the show they all broke up and connected with new flames a couple of times? Some of them, yeah, it’d be understandable, but far more believable if at least a couple of people at the table had had someone new sitting besides them.

However, the worst part is that we start this scene with seeing a pregnant Sookie in the kitchen. She, who has always struggled with ‘normal’ men, she who earlier in the episode flashbacked to a moment when she believed that she’d never have a normal marriage and all that, is pregnant and in the kitchen. To top off this nightmare, we never see the face of the man in her life now. We get the back of his head, just enough of the side of his face to see that he’s got a beard, and on top of all of that, he’s got the head of the table seat. It sends the message that, despite having the rest of her family there (both blood and those close friends), her life was not the happy, perfect bliss without the fucking man and a fucking baby on the way.

And on top of all that, at the beginning of the episode, we see Bill force Jessica’s hand into an impromptu wedding with Hoyt because he never got the joy of giving his daughter away at a marriage. We see amnesiac Hoyt deciding that after one night, yes, he would like to marry Jessica one day and sure that day could be today. Jessica starts out by saying “Oh hell no, this isn’t what I wanted for my wedding day” and then Bill talks her into it with his “Ah, but I haven’t gotten to do what is mine by right,” *cough* sorry, “I haven’t gotten to have my privilege,” *cough* sorry again, “I haven’t gotten to do what so many other men fantasize about doing” –oh fuck it all. He emotionally blackmails her into the act. So we get a by-now cliche moment of him getting to hand her off at a wedding–the trope being badly misused in this situation because Bill Compton was given the chance to cure his terminal disease and instead he chose to go on towards the True Death. Because Bill chose not to take the cure, any emotional connectivity to the scene is completely lost. Once again we were forced to witness Bill’s bad decision-making dictate how everyone else got on with their futures.

In other story-telling aspects, the episode failed to deliver. We knew Bill was going to die (though because of the ‘he’s feeling human’ comments and symptoms there were bets that Bill was going to turn human in the end for Sookie) because he kept driving that point home. The scenes lacked any sort of tension, especially since the one tense force left on the show–the Yakuza–got taken out in the first seven or eight minutes. No one was in any danger, nothing was going to change the blandness that was happening, and we got was a drama that moved about as much as a vampire’s heart. For a season that began with a tense ‘anyone could die next, anything could change,’ the ending wound up safe, slow, and almost-line-by-line predictable. It was like the Hep-V vampire disaster ended too quickly, and since they didn’t know what else to do with their time, the writers/showrunners just started hooking everyone back up for the happy ending. True Blood never cared for that happy ending before–always leaving each season off with a giant hook, always gripping onto the next violent problem, but after Hep-V and Bill being essentially over, they don’t even discuss or mention the political fall out from everything that’s gone on in the last year. No hope or mention that vampires would get their rights back, that while everyone’s survived, their universe has a long way to go before it’s okay–and no one cares about the shape-shifter moment on national television or that the entire town found out about Sam’s ability. Naw, domestic bliss saves the day, doesn’t it?

For my friends and I, the ending felt so unsatisfying that we agreed that we’d wasted our time on the entire show. We’d been sucked into the world of Bon Temps for years and instead of a reward for the journey, we were wanting to spit it out faster than a baby vamp and her first bottle of O Pos. I can’t recommend the whole journey in good conscience any more. At least when next summer rolls around and I hunt down something else to watch, I won’t be sitting back and missing True Blood and pining away to know what happened after the end. As Bill Compton would have wanted, we can all move on with our lives without any profound effects.