I love 1999’s The Mummy, but that wasn’t always the case. While I now consider it a delightfully campy, appropriately spooky, and surprisingly empowering movie, I used to be so terrified of it that I had trouble looking at the posters. You know the ones, with the big scary sand-mummy sandstorm? I dunno, I was nine and they freaked me the fuck out. Add onto that the gruesome murders in the movie’s prologue and I was officially Not Into It.
Eventually I made it through the movie (applying a pillow as a shield between me and the flesh-eating scarabs as necessary) and realized that it was actually a hell of a fun ride.
I’ve been writing about Rick Riordan a lot recently, if you haven’t noticed, but I promise this is the last post for… a while. After all, Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer doesn’t come out until October. Anyway, I just finished The Kane Chronicles, Riordan’s Egyptian mythology-based trilogy, last weekend, and while I have high expectations from his books to begin with, I was still pleasantly surprised by this series.
Pop culture has a weird relationship with poverty. You’d think that geek culture would be pretty good at portraying poverty; we’re seeing more and more strides towards inclusivity and greater representation of all people from all backgrounds. Yet socio-economic issues are heavily charged with politics, and our political beliefs shape the way we perceive reality. They shape the kinds of pop culture media we create, and as David Wong’s recent Cracked article explains, popular culture doesn’t seem to believe that actual, real-world poverty really exists, just a sort of nebulous feeling of being poor while occupying the middle class, and actual financial consequences of a character’s actions aren’t ever really addressed. Most of the time, shows don’t even acknowledge any of the consequences of property damage, let alone address the financial ones. We’re happy when the superhero defeats the monster, but who’s going to pick up the tab now that the city looks like it’s been bombed?
This real lack of proper representation of what it means to live in poverty in our media is at least partially responsible for many political biases against the poor, especially among young people. To put it generally, the influence of pop culture makes younger people more likely to embrace the idea that the poor just need to work harder in order to be not poor, because being not poor is the ultimate goal.
Now, there are a lot of tangled, complex issues when it comes to poverty and its portrayal in geek culture. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot recently, all because of a specific example I came across and previously wrote about. So to show you what I’m talking about, I’m going to show you how that example both supports and fights negative perceptions of poverty in geek culture. Who am I talking about? The Weasley family from the Harry Potter series.