The Case for a Gay Romance in the Fantastic Beasts Sequels

Despite the Johnny Depp of it all, I’m still excited to see Grindelwald as a character in the Fantastic Beasts sequels and to see if they expand on the relationship between him and a young Dumbledore. Part of Grindelwald’s depth comes from their relationship; the two were extremely close and basically planned to take over the world together until a fight between Grindelwald, Dumbledore, and Dumbledore’s brother ended tragically in Dumbledore’s sister’s death. This caused a rift between the two, and Grindelwald struck out on his own, while Dumbledore attempted to delay his confrontation with Grindelwald after Grindelwald started to seize power in Europe.

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I previously believed that Albus and Gellert were confirmed to have been in a relationship, and so when I heard that Albus’s sexuality would be explored in future Fantastic Beasts films, I assumed that would include their relationship. But while researching this post, I discovered that J.K. Rowling never believed that Grindelwald reciprocated Dumbledore’s feelings, and, in my opinion, this really takes away from the complexity of the character. Furthermore, if their relationship became a major focus in the movies, it would be huge. Queer main characters whose relationship is at the forefront of the story and not playing second fiddle to the main straight couple would be major representation.

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Magical Mondays: Food as Comfort and Craft

Pictured: most likely me when someone tries to explain this. via PopKey

Pictured: most likely me when someone tries to explain this. (via PopKey)

One of the biggest mysteries of this season in my eyes is “how in the world have the Harry Potter films become a Christmas/holiday tradition?” Sorcerer’s Stone came out in November back in 2001, but the timeframe doesn’t instantly make a film a Christmas classic. Sure enough, though, every December I can turn the channel to ABC Family (or whatever it’s called now) and find each and every Harry Potter film nestled snugly in between other classics such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express. While this mystery may never be solved in my eyes, it got me thinking about a certain facet of the Harry Potter series that, in all its exploration of magic, seems to be woefully underutilized—a fellow holiday tradition, food.

Fans of course remember the grand banquets during the sorting ceremonies and have fond memories of the pumpkin pasties and the chocolate frogs available on the Hogwarts Express, but all things considered, wizard food remains strangely mundane compared to Muggle food. Stranger still is how it seems that, in general, the more realistic the story, the more magical its food seems to be. Yet in a way this makes sense; these seemingly at odds representations of the magic of food serve to reinforce what the characters are looking for in their respective stories.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: The Legacy of Christian Paternalism in the Harry Potter Universe

As long as there has been racism, people have been trying to justify it to themselves and others. Unfortunately, all too commonly, religion has been a prime factor in these justifications. While the Atlantic slave trade was just beginning, before slavery was made hereditary, slavery was justified by the simple fact that slaves weren’t Christian. Worse—they didn’t even know about Christianity! It was obviously necessary to capture them all and take them under the loving wing of white overseers in order to educate them about the Lord and Savior, right? Jesus did say to go and make disciples of all men! And otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get into heaven! And Christian salvation was just the first perk in a long line of awesome things slaves got for being slaves!

Yeah, that was my sarcasm voice.

Slavery is rampant in the Bible. The Hebrews were God’s chosen people, and they had slaves. Not only did they have slaves, but God must have approved of them doing it, because He gave them specific rules in Deuteronomy and Leviticus on how to do slavery the Yahweh way. In the New Testament, in St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon, Paul doesn’t so much reject the idea of slavery as he recommends that slaves and their masters maintain an imbalanced system of mutual respect, e.g. slaves should be obedient to their masters, and masters should repay that obedience with compassionate lordship. (Sounds a lot like what he had to say about marriage, so, uh, yikes on that one, dude.)

In the beginning, God created a bunch of stuff, including Adam. In both of the Creation stories included in Genesis, part of the myth involves God granting dominion over the earth and all the creatures He created to Adam, to hold in stewardship. As nonwhite peoples, in particular Black Africans and brown Native Americans, were seen as lesser, subhuman, and savage by white colonialists, it was easy to argue that this sense of God-given stewardship, this paternalism by divine right, should extend to include these other races. (The troubling principles of social Darwinism later lent pseudo-scientific credence to these arguments.) Instances of cultural genocide like the Trail of Tears, the doctrine of manifest destiny, and the Indian Residential School System were all in some way justified by the God-given belief that the white man had authority over how these “lesser races” should be living their lives.

Now, this is all horrifying and unpleasant to say the least, but what does it have to do with geeky stuff? Well, this Christian paternalist mentality is front and center in the Harry Potter universe, with the serial numbers filed off just enough to make it kind of secular.

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House Elves & Racism or Discussing Racism, but Not Really

So I’m not gonna lie, I absolutely loved Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but I was probably more critical of this movie than most other movies I’ve seen recently. I tend to hold the Harry Potter franchise to a higher standard because I love it so much. In essence, the Harry Potter franchise, like many others, has always been incredibly problematic; I was just too young and privileged to notice this when I first started reading the books. I’m now an adult watching Fantastic Beasts, and there are still aspects in the worldbuilding that we at this blog have criticized before and that others have criticized as well, so it’s a wonder that J.K. Rowling—or even Warner Bros—hasn’t attempted to fix some of these issues yet.

There is plenty to discuss about the recent movie, but today I want to focus on the house elves and how they were a stand-in for the period-era racism that Black people faced (but, you know, there weren’t actually any Black people in the movie). Once again, the Harry Potter franchise finds itself discussing racism without actually discussing racism.

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From Pig Tails to Fat Ladies: Fatphobia in the Harry Potter Universe

While I did enjoy it, there’s still quite a lot to critique about the newest entry in the Harry Potter series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. From Queenie’s casually nonconsensual Legilimency to the general lack of people of color, at least I know that I won’t lack for post topics for a while.

One of the more egregious issues in the original series was J.K. Rowling’s ongoing conflation of fatness with badness. While Fantastic Beasts takes a small step in the right direction by making its fat character a good guy, his portrayal is still far less than ideal. Spoilers for the movie after the jump.

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Pan Reviews: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

It’s a strange and wonderful thing to be diving back into the world of Harry Potter, a franchise that so many people around my age literally grew up with. There was certainly a lot of pressure on the new film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to transport us back to a world we all knew and loved, and I’m happy to say that while it certainly differed a lot from the series of films starring Harry and the gang, it was generally delightful. It made a lot of good storytelling choices, introduced a lot of great characters, and really invoked a sense of wonder, which is what every Harry Potter story ought to do. There were a few small hiccups in execution: specifically, some elements of the magical world seemed incongruous with the rest of the stories. Even with that considered, however, nothing significantly detracted from the overall experience, and I came out of the theater excited to learn more about Newt, Tina, and the American wizarding community.

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Spoilers below the cut!

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Sexualized Saturdays: Teaching Consent to Kids

Trigger warning: mentions of rape throughout.

We’ve established again and again that pop culture has issues with consent. From that horrible Jaime and Cersei sex scene that the directors insisted wasn’t rape (it was) to almost every siren-related fantasy plot ever, the one thing that’s obvious about understanding consent is apparently that no one does.

That’s kind of terrifying. It’s pretty horrible that adults just don’t get simple concepts like “no means no”, “inability to consent means no”, “the absence of a yes means no”, or “coerced consent is not consent”. And what’s worse is that, when this way of thinking lodges itself in our cultural headspace, it isn’t just adults who are on the receiving end of it. Rather, this mentality creeps its way into children’s media as well, and too often goes entirely unchallenged within that media. Kids aren’t going to go read a blog post about Snow White or Sleeping Beauty’s inability to consent while asleep after watching those movies—there needs to be some kind of message within the film (or book, or show) that shows them why it isn’t kosher. And while there’s a lot of onus on kids’ media to be didactic in some way, a lot of it still falls flat.

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