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.
Last week, Lady Geek Girl asked whether it was ethical to keep droids as servants, in the Star Wars universe. Her answer centers around the idea of souls, and whether droids might qualify as soul-bearing beings. Ultimately, she concluded, it doesn’t matter if they have souls, these machines need to be treated with dignity and respect.
I’d like to expand on the idea, because it’s a good one. If we assume souls exist and are part of what makes us fully human, then we have to deal with the question of non-human beings that exhibit traits that philosophers like to assign to souls. Our favorite geeky genres are a great place to experiment with a lot of these ideas, with all sorts of beasts and beings with all kinds of abilities. So if you’ll indulge me for a few moments, I’d like to take a look at how droids are basically the Harry Potter house-elves of the Star Wars universe, and what that could mean about their place in their own universe.