Episode #298: The Cursed Child, Part 1

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has arrived around the world! We’ve read the script book and are ready to dive in. In today’s episode we break down Part 1.

– We’re celebrating 11 years of podcasting.. Thank you, listeners!
– GeekyCon memories and Brooklyn shoutouts.
– Andrew correctly predicted a major Cursed Child plot point! He is… genius!
– JKR: Harry is done and Cursed Child should be considered canon – we give our thoughts on these comments.
– We break down Part 1 of The Cursed Child.
– Nineteen Years Later: Revisiting the Epilogue.
– Scorpius rumors: What purpose do they serve?
– Does Albus lack certain knowledge and abilities he should have at his age?
– Harry’s blanket: why did Petunia keep it?
– Harry’s adult character analyzed: his fight with Albus and treatment of McGonagall
– Delphi and Amos Diggory
– The Trolley Lady is a BAMF!
– Why, and HOW is security so lax at the Ministry and inside the Minister’s office?
– Time-turning back to the first two tasks: their consequences (and in some cases, absurdity)
– The Part 1 cliffhanger
– Listener thoughts and questions
Read Andrew’s DIRTY Cursed Child fan-fiction.
– Mail us a birthday card! If you’re into that.

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Running time: 1:57:58, 70.9 MB

  • EB

    I am in NYC and my book did not come until Wednesday from Amazon (Prime) :/

  • EB

    In line with the relationship between Harry and Albus: this period in his life, early adolescence/12+ is when children and parents have their most difficult struggles! So I can’t assume that Harry never knew his son, his son is just beginning a new stage of life.

    Also, rebellious children don’t try to rewrite history, but Albus’ father was not a regular person, he’s the most famous wizard alive, and what he wants to do something comparable.

    It’s one of the rules of parenthood– don’t speak in anger. Take a break. Because you say things that you really don’t mean. Harry is ECHOING what his son, Albus had just said when he says he sometimes wishes he weren’t his father.

  • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

    I can’t help but bristle everytime I hear someone say “Well..I guess we have to take it as canon, because Jo said it is..”. I wholeheartedly am rejecting this notion.
    Look, I get it; I’ve generally stuck by the idea that whatever Jo says goes because Harry is after all, her creation. HOWEVER, the whole point of establishing canon is to determine the “realities” of the fictional world. Canon is what provides the answers to our many questions. When we wonder how a specific magic works, we turn to canon. When we analyze a character’s behavior and motivations, we analyze the canon. When we say “Oh wait, how and when did such event happen again?” the canon provides those answers. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t and we are forced to draw our own conclusions but again, we come to those ideas via the canon.

    Here lies the problem; within the very first two scenes, Cursed Child already contradicts events (and therefore, canon) of the original series. We are essentially getting a replay of the epilogue, and while the general gist of it is the same, it isn’t an exact replication. Harry parrots Molly. Ron performs the terrible “got your nose” dad-joke. Some lines are left out entirely or swapped between characters while new ones are added. It is in fact a different series of events. So now we have to ask ourselves- How did this scene ACTUALLY happen? Which one is “real”? Unless we are going to decide that Harry’s universe now also contains various parallel realities (which goes beyond the various time-turner induced alternative realities later), then the two versions of this scene simply can’t coexist.

    Before her declaration that it is canon, I was totally willing to enjoy this story for what it is, and as a separate sort of canon unto itself, just as I do the movies. It wouldn’t have MATTERED if it contradicted the books; our opinions of it wouldn’t have needed to include those notions at all. Now here we are, being forced to reconcile how this story fits with the books. I find this to not only be a disservice to the fandom, but to the play itself and, most importantly, to this world that she created and has been so fiercely protective of. I can’t help but feel some resentment here, and feel that we do have a right to fight her on this one.

    Rant over, for now.

    • Septumseverus

      Pumpkin Pasties can be used as grenades

      “this is canon”

      Not cool JK

    • Lisa

      I don’t find the contradictions to the epilogue to be that much of a problem. We got some snapshots of the conversation in book seven and some other snapshots of the same conversation in CC. It’s still possible to reconcile the two even if you have to do some mental acrobatics for it to work. I think people forget that contradictions happened in the books too. For example in GoF Alice Longbottom is referred to as an “Auror’s wife”, yet book five reveals she was an Auror herself (and it’s not like the Ministry wouldn’t have know who works there and who doesn’t). In DH, Hermione deletes her parents’ memories using the Obliviate charm and only chapters later when she has to do it on Dolohov she says she’s never done it before. The first name of a Death Eater, Rookwood, changes from Augustus to Algernon between books. Penelope Clearwater is a Muggleborn in CoS but then suddenly a halfblood in DH when Hermione gives her name to the Snatchers. These might look like small things but it shows that there are inconsistencies in the books as well. Yet it wouldn’t make anyone think one book is less canon than another.

      Cursed Child really doesn’t have that many inconsistencies and its plot in some ways actually makes more sense than the plot of DH (not to mention GoF which has the most nonsensical plot, IMO). There aren’t really that many contradictions with the books, the issue of Time Turners is addressed instead of simply ignored, and the play does a good job of incorporating information from JKR’s interviews and tweets (such as Ron’s career or Myrtle’s full name, as dumb as it sounds).

      • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

        I don’t mean for my definition of canon to seem so cut-and-dried. Issues of continuity/inconsistencies are often debateable. For example- Rookwoods name may meremy be an editing error as it only existed in the U.K. first editions. All later and international editions were corrected. Sir Nicholas may have been the 4th muggle-born referred to rather than Penelope, or maybe Hermione was lying. Some would argue that its possible Hermione was using two different types of memory charms.

        So you see, actually determining violations of canon isn’t so easy. The point is, when they do arise, they are damaging to the narrative. We get plot holes, we question character’s actions, we take fault with the devices used; essentially the “reality” of the fictional world is broken, even if for just an instance. If you take issue with the plot of DH or GoF (and I’m not saying you’re wrong to) then that is damaging to the value of the overall narrative for you and any other readers who feel the same. This is why issues of canon matter.

        To be sure, no fandom exists for which there is a perfect canon. LoTR, Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Firefly- all have their issues, even within their respective “alpha” canons. So really the discussion is more about HOW damaging the inconsistencies are. Does Penelope’s blood-status really matter to the overall scope of the narrative? Not really. However, too many of those little problems and they all start to add up into an eventual weakening in the quality of the narrative. So one or two minor details, or even the odd bigger one, aren’t going to illegitimize the whole book, but we can certainly take issue with them. No, we don’t disclude book 4 from the series despite it’s faults because to do so would in fact be more damaging to the overarching narrative. Each book contains information necessary to the development of the plot and the characters within it.

        My arguement isn’t that identifying a few inconsistencies automatically makes something non-canonical. It is that these are the issues that should be considered when discussing what is and isn’t canon- not simply what an author declares to be canon. Declaration alone is not enough because clearly, even the creator is capable of mistakes and screwing up things in their own story. So should we accept that as the final word? Not when the author herself is capable of contradicting her own canon.

        As a fandom we may never agree as to what is and isn’t canon (and that’s ok) but simply taking Jo’s word as the final line doesn’t solve matters, since she creates just as many inconsistencies as she tries to explain away. I’m just saying that her word isn’t necessarilywhat we should be using as the basis for the discussion.

        Personally, I find that the issues CC raises to be more problematic than what the story as a whole does to further the world Jo built and it’s canon. I find it lacking in adequate authenticity, despite whatever hand Jo had in it. Qualitatively, I find it to be of a lesser work than the original series ( my reasons for which have nothing to do with it being a script, btw). The number of problems it poses for me caused me, as a reader, to break with the “reality” of the story so many times that I can’t say it satisfies canon by any stretch of imagination. Plus, excluding it from canon does not in anyway alter the canon of the original seven books. That story remains finished and the world intact without any information from CC. However, if we include CC as canon, then the original series IS affected. Issues with GoF are made worse. There are things that I have to go back now and reevaluate under CC terms (Was Voldemort even capable/ interested in sexual activity or creating progeny? How does this change or add to my understanding of him as a character, when previosly it was irrelevant and a non-issue. Just one example.) So when we discuss canon, those are the things I want to talk about, rather than being told “oh well, it doesn’t matter, Jo says canon”, because it DOES matter.

        • Lisa

          I agree that her word shouldn’t be the only argument used when deciding what is or isn’t canon. Her word does however matter to what she is likely to create from now on. By saying CC is canon she’s essentially setting up goalposts for herself and her future creations. Whether she will ever create more HP content or write characters’ bios on Pottermore, we don’t know. However, if she ever does so she will have to stick to what CC says about the characters because contradicting that would make people lose her faith in her (if they haven’t already). So in that sense it does matter because CC sets the standard for future canon (or whatever we want to call it). They’ve already removed stuff from Pottermore which conflicted with it.

          When it comes to consistency issues I don’t find CC to be a worse offender than some of the books. Plot issues are subjective many times anyway, and some people might find something to be a mistake while others might think they can come up with a creative explanation for it so it fits. This is why I think it’s a bit arbitrary. I also don’t think quality should be a criterion for canonicity. Can’t canon be bad and still be canon? By saying that if an author’s work contradicts previous works then it isn’t canon aren’t we actually saying that it’s impossible for an author to ruin her own franchise? I think we are because whenever she produces something that is sub-par people will wipe the slate clean and say “okay Jo not canon but try again next year”. I understand (and share) the need for a fantasy world to make sense but the fact is that authors do screw up. We have the right to criticize her work, yes. But by saying it isn’t canon, we’re invalidating it and I think that goes beyond the authority of the fandom. We’re basically pretending it somehow doesn’t count because if it were to count it would destroy her world or take away from someone’s enjoyment of it. I don’t think the definition of canon covers that. It’s sad that she wrote or co-wrote something that sucks (according to many people), but not everything she produces will be great. That’s just how it is even if it is hard for fans to accept it.

          I also think the perspective on these canon discussions is a bit short-sighted. To you and me maybe the books are holy because we grew up with them and had to wait for the next book to come out and then the next movie and so on. That’s not how it’s gonna be five years from now. Maybe people reading the books then will already know Voldemort had a daughter so they won’t have to re-evaluate anything about him.

          Of course we don’t need CC in order to understand the story. But we also don’t need Tales of Beedle the Bard, Pottermore or Fantastic Beasts. That doesn’t make them not canon, imo. She’s expanding her universe and in a few years from now the seven books will no longer be the be all and end all of the Potterverse. And it IS a problem if fandom cannot agree on what’s canon. That worries me frankly because if we cannot decide what information about characters to include in our discussions and what information we ignore then how can we discuss anything? All discussions we might have are bound to turn into canon discussions instead of being about a character or a spell or whatever. Those of us who liked CC and its revelations are not going to want to go back to square one and pretend those things never happened just because other fans reject its canonicity. And those who disliked the play and don’t think it’s canon are never going to want to engage in serious discussions on anything CC-related. That’s a huge problem, IMO, if this fandom is to have any future. And Rowling’s future works are just going to blur the lines further and create even more variations in what information fans are willing to accept.

        • Lisa

          I agree that her word shouldn’t be the only argument used when deciding what is or isn’t canon. Her word does however matter to what she is likely to create from now on. By saying CC is canon she’s essentially setting up goalposts for herself and her future creations. Whether she will ever create more HP content or write characters’ bios on Pottermore, we don’t know. However, if she ever does so she will have to stick to what CC says about the characters because contradicting that would make people lose her faith in her (if they haven’t already). So in that sense it does matter because CC sets the standard for future canon (or whatever we want to call it). They’ve already removed stuff from Pottermore which conflicted with it.

          When it comes to consistency issues I don’t find CC to be a worse offender than some of the books. Plot issues are subjective many times anyway, and some people might find something to be a mistake while others might think they can come up with a creative explanation for it so it fits. This is why I think it’s a bit arbitrary. I also don’t think quality should be a criterion for canonicity. Can’t canon be bad and still be canon? By saying that if an author’s work contradicts previous works then it isn’t canon aren’t we actually saying that it’s impossible for an author to ruin her own franchise? I think we are because whenever she produces something that is sub-par people will wipe the slate clean and say “okay Jo not canon but try again next year”. I understand (and share) the need for a fantasy world to make sense but the fact is that authors do screw up. We have the right to criticize her work, yes. But by saying it isn’t canon, we’re invalidating it and I think that goes beyond the authority of the fandom. We’re basically pretending it somehow doesn’t count because if it were to count it would destroy her world or take away from someone’s enjoyment of it. I don’t think the definition of canon covers that. It’s sad that she wrote or co-wrote something that sucks (according to many people), but not everything she produces will be great. That’s just how it is even if it is hard for fans to accept it.

          I also think the perspective on these canon discussions is a bit short-sighted. To you and me maybe the books are holy because we grew up with them and had to wait for the next book to come out and then the next movie and so on. That’s not how it’s gonna be five years from now. Maybe people reading the books then will already know Voldemort had a daughter so they won’t have to re-evaluate anything about him.

          Of course we don’t need CC in order to understand the story. But we also don’t need Tales of Beedle the Bard, Pottermore or Fantastic Beasts. That doesn’t make them not canon, imo. She’s expanding her universe and in a few years from now the seven books will no longer be the be all and end all of the Potterverse. And it IS a problem if fandom cannot agree on what’s canon. That worries me frankly because if we cannot decide what information about characters to include in our discussions and what information we ignore then how can we discuss anything? All discussions we might have are bound to turn into canon discussions instead of being about a character or a spell or whatever. Those of us who liked CC and its revelations are not going to want to go back to square one and pretend those things never happened just because other fans reject its canonicity. And those who disliked the play and don’t think it’s canon are never going to want to engage in serious discussions on anything CC-related. That’s a huge problem, IMO, if this fandom is to have any future. And Rowling’s future works are just going to blur the lines further and create even more variations in what information fans are willing to accept.

          • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

            Yeah, I will concede that it is problematic to not have an agreement on what is and isn’t canon. I’m just not sure how that will happen, we’ve already been divided on the subject for so long, I think I’m trying to just make peace with it.

            Having a more restrictive canon doesn’t mean we can’t include information from Pottermore, Jo’s tweets, movies, or even CC, in our discussions. For me, it just means we treat those things as hypotheticals or as not being set in stone. We can talk about how those things may or may not fit within the world or the story, and we can still talk about how they affect our reading and personal interpretations. Because you’re right, we can just forget what we’ve learned.

            I think about canon in terms of literary analysis in the long-term. In say a hundred years, when Jo is long gone, will Pottermore exist? Will anything that she tweeted be held in common memory? They very well might not. The literature itself though will endure, even if it holds none of the popularity it holds now. If it were to be used in academia, and if students are using the series as a topic of study in literature classes, how much of the outside information would still be available and considered necessary/ appropriate to critical analysis? I don’t know the answer, time will tell, but it is a consideration. It is already something we are dealing with by the fact that information has been removed from Pottermore. It is essentially an unreliable source, but many argue that all within it should be considered canon because it is released by Jo. Where will CC be 100 years from now? Will it be forgotten to time, or will its longevity be tied to the books themselves? Somehow I don’t see people who are reading the books long after Potter has lost it’s place in pop culture necessarily including CC as part of the set, for the sole reason that it is a play rather than a novel. So yes, this newest generation may be fully aware of all the outside information, and CC may be for them an essential part of the story, but that isn’t neccessarilly going to hold true further down the road. We’ll never really know.

            And you’re right that it is all incredibly arbitrary. That is where a more restrictive canon is beneficial. If we can say everything outside the 7 books isn’t canon, than it actually leaves us more room to talk about those outside pieces in terms of personal interpretation. We don’t have to argue whether or not x means y. That is the thing with literature, so much is up for personal interpretation once the book leaves the writer’s hands and enters the reader’s. We all read the same words in different ways. That’s part of what makes discussion so enriching. By having a solid and simplified base in canon, we preserve the “reality” of the fictional world, but we leave more room for discussion in terms of personal interpretation. Rather than simply not accepting eachothers ideas because “not cannon” we can discuss them for what they are, ways that the text and outside information COULD be interpreted. We aren’t having to force those ideas upon eachother, agreement wouldn’t matter. It is much the same as how we treat eachother’s headcanons, we revel in the ones we like, ignore the ones we don’t, but noone says “You must believe this because canon”.

            I don’t really know where I stand on the whole issue, to be clear. I see benefits to a restricted canon, but am I ready to say Dumbledore being gay isn’t canon, since it isn’t in the books? Like you said, we can just forget those revelations. the whole issue gets more complicated the more that Jo releases.

            I think of canon in terms of the classic literary application, of which there are 2 basic tenents
            1. That canon is essentially the established “rules” of a particular fictional world
            2. Within a set canon, works are included that are “genuine” in terms of being authentic to the creator, and as representing the same qualities and standards exemplified by the rest of the group.
            So I would argue that quality does matter. We may find more problematic elements with one of the 7 books, but it still in general represents the same qualities found in the others. Personally I find that CC doesn’t exhibit the same qualities that I love in Jo’s writing. You and many others disagree, so even then it’s rather arbitrary. And even now, I’m doing a second, close-read, of CC to see if my feelings hold true. I may find from a more academic standpoint that they don’t. Either way, I think it’s great that we are having this discussion, because there really is so much to consider, plus it is always good to at least understand the stance of the other side in these debates. So thank you, you’ve definitly given me more to think about. These are absurdly long comments, but I think its a worthwhile discussion to have.

  • Jones, Captain of the Romione

    Did anyone else have a problem with Hugo only being mentioned in the play? I was wondering for a second if they were getting rid of the fact that Ron and Hermione had a son at all. I understand that not having him in the play was one less real person to pay a salary to, but I just found it weird.

  • Julie Ann H

    I did the Amazon Prime Now and got my book Sunday morning at 11 a.m. It was awesome! I was in Oak Park, IL just outside Chicago. I also got snacks!