MuggleCast 504 Transcript
Transcript for MuggleCast Episode #504, The Achievements of Women in Harry Potter
[Show music plays]
Andrew Sims: Welcome to MuggleCast, your weekly ride into the wizarding world fandom. I’m Andrew.
Eric Scull: I’m Eric.
Micah Tannenbaum: I’m Micah.
Laura Tee: And I’m Laura.
Andrew: We have a big episode today; we’re going to be celebrating the achievements of female characters in the Harry Potter series in honor of Women’s History Month. And to help us with this discussion today, we are joined by one of our listeners, Olivia. Hi, Olivia. Welcome to the show.
Andrew: Let’s get your fandom ID.
Olivia: So my favorite book is 6. I just really feel like that’s when I came to the series as an adult, and I feel like that’s really when everything started taking off. My favorite movie is 5 for kind of the same reason. [laughs] My Hogwarts House is Ravenclaw. My Ilvermorny House is Thunderbird, I think, but I couldn’t go check because that’s not there anymore.
Andrew: [tearfully] It’s gone.
Olivia: [laughs] And my favorite lady Harry Potter character is Hermione. When I was first reading the books as a kid, she was described as awkward with buck teeth and bushy hair and a bit of a know-it-all, and I was like, “Oh, that’s me!”
Olivia: Immediately gravitated towards her.
Andrew: Awesome. Thank you very much for supporting us, and we’re excited to have you here.
Andrew: We do have a couple of news items, actually. First of all, the four of us – the four MuggleCasters – did something very exciting last weekend and it’s going to be released this upcoming week, so keep your eyes peeled on our social media channels. We don’t want to share it yet because it’s not our announcement to make, but we appeared on another podcast, and you’ll be hearing that very soon. And we’ll talk about it more on next week’s episode. But again, follow us on social media, @MuggleCast on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and you’ll see what we were up to last week in the coming days. Also, a little update on Hogwarts Legacy: We found out that when you start up the game and create your character, you will be able to create a trans person in the game. It’s going to have an inclusive character creator allowing players to choose voice and body type, unrelated to gender. The character creator will allow players to choose one of two options, witch or wizard, which will – wizard – which will put players in one of two dorms. This decision, however, has no bearing on what character is created. Voice and body type are not tied to gender. This is according to a new report from Bloomberg. And apparently, the people who are in charge of the game were a little hesitant to include this, but as of right now, this feature, if you will, these settings are available in the current build of Hogwarts Legacy, so it’s good news. It’s not the biggest deal because a lot of video games already do this, right, Eric? I know you called out Cyberpunk.
Eric: Yeah, I mean, it is a big deal for inclusivity. And the fact that it’s a new… especially given this franchise, right? This series, the fact that they’re allowing this level of customization of character is extremely important for representation purposes. But it is the hip new thing to do, like, again, Cyberpunk. But you said, too, The Sims allowed you quite a bit of customization over the years.
Andrew: You can really create any type of character you want in The Sims video games, and they’ve been focused on inclusivity over the past couple of years. And yes, I did invent The Sims video game; I am a billionaire. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Eric: [laughs] Follow him @Sims on Twitter and ask him all your questions.
Andrew: [laughs] I just say it’s not a huge deal just because some games already do this. It’s not like Hogwarts Legacy is forging a path here. But it is nice to see; you’re right.
Eric: Yeah, well, apparently it came out of the people who were working on the games’ growing frustration with some of J.K. Rowling’s comments. So they really fought to have this level of inclusivity and feature, and we’ll just see if it sticks.
Andrew: Does this change anybody’s opinion on buying the game, how they buy the game, whether or not they play the game?
Eric: It’s not switched me from not paying for the game to paying for the game. But actually, this was a beacon of hope; this was a green light in the distance that makes me think there’s a better experience to be had with this game than previously thought, so I’m kind of excited to see where this goes.
Andrew: I am more with Laura. Laura, do you want to say why you feel that way?
Laura: Yeah, so first, I mean, I think it’s a great thing that is being included. I think that it does represent that there are people involved in the franchise who aren’t bigots. That said, this isn’t the hard work that needs to be done in order to… I don’t even want to say “rectify,” because I don’t know that you can rectify the damage, but become at least neutral, to have this franchise be representative of something that is truly inclusive. I don’t think that this alone does all of the work that needs to be done to make that a reality.
Andrew: Yeah, I agree with that.
Olivia: I agree.
Micah: The other piece of that, too, is that it’s not coming from the author herself, right?
Micah: And that’s something that came to mind for me. I probably would’ve planned to buy the game and play the game anyway, so this doesn’t impact my decision one way or the other, but I think it’s great that they are being more inclusive.
Andrew: Yeah. Look, I mean, features like this do help normalize trans people to a wider population. That is good, that is helpful, and that’s what we need.
Olivia: So like Laura and Micah were saying, I don’t really think that… the people who were going to buy the game anyway are still probably going to buy the game. It’s not going to make anyone not want to buy the game. And the people who weren’t going to buy the game, I don’t know if this would be something that would just push them over the edge, because like you were saying, it doesn’t come from the author. It’s still just coming from these developers, which is good, but not the push needed to make me want to go out and spend more money in this franchise.
Andrew and Laura: Yeah.
Andrew: Hogwarts Legacy will be released in 2022, so we still have a ways to go until it is released.
Main Discussion: Achievements of women in Harry Potter
Andrew: So let’s move on to our main discussion. Eric, do you want to kick things off?
Eric: Yeah, so this week’s discussion is about the achievements made by women in the Harry Potter series. So actually, March 8 is in fact International Women’s Day, which, we all may know, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It’s also a day calling to action for gender equality. Just a good, good, good day to celebrate women, and that’s this week that our episode falls on. So we wanted to take a look at just the various female characters. I also envisioned this as a sister episode to our Mother’s Day episode of several years ago, Episode 368; we took a look at all the mothers of the wizarding world and how they made such a positive impact on the characters and swayed the series. So today, we’re going to be looking at just other women characters and how they affected the series through their actions not related to their motherhood specifically. So of course, the first one we do have here is related to motherhood: We have Lily Potter. We’re going to go in book order, and Lily’s biggest achievement that we’ve highlighted here is that she successfully saves Harry’s life. She dies for her son, and her sacrifice happens to invoke this ancient magic which thwarts Lord Voldemort, and it saves countless lives because of doing that. So she’s not only saving Harry’s life, but by that defeating Voldemort, she’s pretty much saving the world. [laughs] So, Lily Potter, everybody.
Laura: It also sets motherhood as a really important repeating theme in the Potter books. And of course, we learn later that Voldemort was doomed not to foresee this particular magic because he never experienced a mother’s love, so he couldn’t conceive of what it was capable of doing.
Micah: Yeah, and I know we’ll probably talk a bit about Narcissa a little bit later on, but the whole ring theory, Sorcerer’s Stone, Deathly Hallows, in connecting the two points of Lily’s sacrifice and Narcissa’s sacrifice and the importance of motherhood, like you said, Laura, in this series is definitely an important one.
Eric: If we want to look at Lily again, she was given the choice to walk away. The thing is, Voldemort had agreed not to kill her, and she could have walked free. She would have been a widow and she would have been childless as a result of it, but had she any desire to self-preserve, it would be a very different book series. Or there wouldn’t be a book series, because Harry would be dead.
Andrew: Unless Lily decided to go back to Hogwarts in place of Harry to pay tribute to him. But that wouldn’t have been as good.
Eric: [laughs] Can you imagine Lily showing up on what would have been Harry’s 11th year and being like, “Okay, I’m going to take some classes”?
Eric: Very weird.
Andrew: So let’s look at Hermione, and we have a bunch of Hermione examples today. And actually, we’re saving a few of them for bonus MuggleCast, because Hermione is amazing and we just want to feature as many different women as possible. But in Sorcerer’s Stone, of course, at the end of the book, she solves Professor Snape’s logic puzzle. We have a little quote here:
“Hermione let out a great sigh and Harry, amazed, saw that she was smiling, the very last thing he felt like doing.
‘Brilliant,’ said Hermione. ‘This isn’t magic – it’s logic – a puzzle. A lot of the greatest wizards haven’t gotten ounce of logic, they’d be stuck in here forever.'”
That is so true, and a good reminder about life. A lot of people are a lot stupider than you realize.
[Eric and Laura laugh]
Andrew: Just keep that in mind as you go through life. But anyway, I really appreciate seeing her work through this puzzle, because I take one look at this riddle… and this might be a stereotype, but men are impatient. I’m impatient. I am so impatient. And when I looked at that riddle, I was like, “I’m out. I’m done.” I would turn around and go home and give up. Snape, you can take the Stone.
[Eric and Laura laugh]
Olivia: I would also say, not just men, because I also look at that puzzle and I’m like, “I could sit here all day and not be able to figure this out.”
Andrew: Great, thank you for saying that. Let’s be lazy together.
[Andrew and Olivia laugh]
Olivia: It’s definitely a Hermione thing.
Andrew: Okay. Phew.
Laura: Yeah, no. And to be honest, I took a logic class in college, and I learned a lot, but it was single-handedly the most frustrating class I ever took.
[Andrew and Olivia laugh]
Laura: So yeah, I’m with Olivia on this.
Andrew: A logic class. I want to hear more about that sometime.
Laura: Ugh. I’ll send you the textbook.
Andrew: Okay. [laughs] But shout-out to Hermione here, because it’s a really great moment to see her work through this. And she actually works through it pretty quickly; I reread this passage in the book, and it’s no problem for her. It was great.
Eric: [laughs] Right. It definitely speaks to the need to be well-rounded and to not just be focused on one thing, and I think that’s a lesson we can all learn as well. Let’s hone a small set of skills, but also try and pick up skills here and there that aren’t necessarily directly in your wheelhouse, and you will succeed in life.
Micah: One question I did have about this, though, is do you think it’s easier for her to solve because it isn’t magic-related, and she’s coming from a non-magic family?
Eric: I think she has the attention… the only comfort that Snape gives in providing this is the instructions, because you presumably have everything you need in the little intro there on the slip of paper, right? But Hermione’s cool demeanor in the face of towering… there’s walls of flame and you’ve got to step through them; I think most people would just freak out about that. But she keeps her cool and is like, “No, we have everything we need; I’ve just got to focus.” So I think it’s her ability to focus more than anything.
Andrew: Yeah, and Hermione is very pragmatic, right? So I think that comes into play here. She’s the best of both worlds.
Eric: Yeah, she actually saves the trio – well, the rest of the trio – [laughs] Harry and Ron’s lives multiple times in the first couple books, so just huge shout-out. She’s a super powerhouse of a person.
Laura: Yeah, we’ve definitely joked on the show before about how the first three books could be retitled “Hermione Granger and the 15 times that I saved these guys’ asses.”
Eric: Really does.
Micah: I was just wondering, maybe the Sunday crossword came into play here. And she was really good at it.
Laura and Olivia: Ooh.
Andrew: [laughs] Okay.
Laura: All right, well, we’re going to look forward a little bit, specifically at Chamber of Secrets and Half-Blood Prince at Ginny and her role in the series. First of all, first and foremost, she survives her ordeal with Tom Riddle’s diary, a.k.a. a Horcrux she has all year, and even though it has significant impacts on her, she doesn’t allow her trauma to define her. Now, I will say, something that I’ve got to call BS on…
Laura: … is we don’t get to see her working through this. There’s just no way she doesn’t walk away from the events of the second book with significant trauma, and we just don’t really hear a whole lot about it. In fact, you could almost forget that any of that happened until Book 5 when she’s like, “Hey, bozo, I was possessed by Voldemort too.”
Andrew: Yeah, yeah.
Eric: Well, it makes me wonder why and how she was able to overcome that. I mean, we know that Hogwarts… we’ve joked before about how there’s a tremendous lack of psychological services provided to the students.
Andrew: Mental health nightmare!
Eric: There’s no grievance counselor. There’s no guidance counselor. There’s no any of this. And we don’t know, did Ginny rely on close female friendships? Did she rely on her mom? Did she rely on Hermione to help get her through this? There’s just no precedent. We don’t know how she did it. I think, obviously, that’s an oversight from Jo; she’s telling Harry’s story, but I would have liked to have seen it. But it is still equally impressive. We don’t know how Ginny did it, but the evidence is on the page; she did do it. She overcame this tremendous trauma. She almost had her entire life force sucked out to build a new Voldemort.
Olivia: Yeah, I would say we do get hints of it throughout the books, I think. So we don’t know, obviously, but I think that there’s enough. If you really read into what Ginny has been doing until she comes into prominence in Book 5, she comes into Book 5 with pretty strong female friendships, right? She already knows Luna, she’s clearly been friends with Hermione for a little while, and we see her relationship with her mom some. So she has a unique network, I think, that Harry doesn’t really get to explore or dig into much because he’s pretty self-centered, which makes sense.
[Eric and Olivia laugh]
Olivia: But we do get glimpses of that. And I think that it’s important to step back and say, “Hey, she clearly has been dealing with this in one way or another,” because she does come in as pretty healthy, and she does seem like she’s managed a lot of that trauma and moved forward. So I just think there’s a lot to explore there with her. Yeah, we just don’t have it on the page, so it’s just hard to know exactly what happened.
Andrew: This sounds like a perfect story for Potter-no-more.com. But I don’t think anything ever got written about her experience after, how she dealt with it after.
Laura and Micah: Yeah.
Laura: I think it’s also maybe a relevant social commentary to say women are often forced to deal with their trauma quietly and out of the view of the public, and this feels like it could be a commentary on that. Harry gets a lot of fanfare because he gets physically injured a lot, but Ginny was literally pouring her soul into a Horcrux and nearly died from it, but she doesn’t walk away with any lasting physical harm, right? I would imagine that would be a very heavy mental burden to bear. And because it’s not an impact that we see physically, I think that characters in the books, but also readers of the books, can move on from it fairly easily. And I think that that’s reflective of the experiences of a lot of women.
Eric: That’s amazing. Yeah, perfect call-out there. I mean, she’s forced to suffer in silence. Meanwhile, the whole school knows every little bit of Harry’s insecurities and failures, and everybody knows what he’s going through all the time. He’ll have an outburst in class and it’ll be the talk of the town. Meanwhile, Ginny is forced to recover in the background.
Micah: To Olivia’s point, though, there are moments where Ginny does try and bring this up. And I think probably the biggest one is in Order of the Phoenix when she’s finally able to break through to Harry, saying, “Yeah, you know what? I’ve been in this situation before; why don’t you try talking to me?” In Half-Blood Prince as well, when she gets on his case about following the words of a mysterious book. I think that’s another example of her trying to maybe express some of what she has gone through herself, but it’s definitely something that they can connect over as traumatic as those experiences were.
Micah: All right, next up is Fleur Delacour, talking about her becoming the champion from Beauxbatons for the Triwizard Tournament. And Eric, I know you have in here the movie really made Beauxbatons out to be an all girls school, but it is in fact coed. Nicholas Flamel attended the school, and it’s where he met his wife, Perenelle. And Fleur is the only Triwizard champion chosen by the Goblet of Fire during this particular tournament, and she’s deemed worthy enough to represent her school. So I mean, I guess it’s something that generally I haven’t thought back on, but the fact that only one of the champions that year was a female begs the question: During prior tournaments, how many were female?
Eric: Yeah, what was the diversity? And is the Goblet of Fire using the same metrics as, say, American businesses to choose candidates? [laughs]
Andrew: Is the Goblet of Fire sexist?
Eric: Is it? We don’t know!
Andrew: Next week, an interview with the Goblet of Fire!
Andrew: I would hope it’s not. I would hope it has a different way of picking. Do we know how the Goblet of Fire…?
Eric: Well, it’s just… Dumbledore calls it an impartial judge.
Andrew: Okay, so not sexist.
Eric: That’s pretty much the only… well, if you believe Dumbledore and if Dumbledore himself is free of bias. We don’t know. But he calls it an impartial judge. Yeah, really the big deal here, the action item, the thing to talk about, is Fleur was chosen for a reason. She’s going to represent all of Beauxbatons. She beat out every other student. And in fact, hundreds of students are there, basically, after the choosing ceremony, to cheer her on and support her as their champion. So there must be more to her character on the inside, on the outside, that is very stunning for her to basically beat out all the other competition.
Olivia: She’s not really represented that great in the Triwizard Tournament, right? [laughs] She’s a little bit of, well, a bit of a dunce when it comes to actually being a great champion. But she’s also… I mean, just because she’s not the best champion does not mean that she’s not a good representation of her school or the best champion from her school, right?
Andrew and Eric: Yeah.
Eric: We’ve talked about this issue with Fleur before, where even when we see her again a couple years later, they call her “Phlegm,” and the Weasleys are very hesitant to invite her into their family. And it’s a big… there’s a lot of women hating women moments as it pertains to Fleur. But in Book 4, she’s just also loudly remarking about the differences and how [in a French accent] “Beauxbatons eez better,” and “This Great Hall is so extravagant, but not at all in comparison.” So it just really rubs Harry the wrong way, and I think rubs the reader the wrong way sometimes. Coupled with her scores, like you said, Olivia; she places last in the first task, she doesn’t finish the second task, and in the third task, Barty Crouch, Jr. comes in and Stuns her before, obviously, so she doesn’t win the third task either. To not even place in subsequent tasks, yeah, it’s not the greatest look, academically or otherwise. But I think that there is something there, and I think that she’s got tremendous character, and she’s got bravery and all the makings of a warrior and an accomplished witch in the wizarding world.
Olivia: I agree. Next character that really comes out and has a lot of great accomplishments is Tonks. She’s a former Hufflepuff student, and she ascends to the rank of Aurors after rigorous training, and is one of the few women we know to do that. And she’s also really young when she comes in as an Auror. So I think that she’s a really interesting female character that doesn’t get full exploration, I think, in the books.
Eric: Yeah. I mean, I looked up a list of all the known Aurors, because places like Harry Potter Lexicon were writing down every time they heard of or saw anything, both in the books and in the extended media. And there were 17 listed on the page, and 4 of those, including Tonks, are women.
Eric: The others being Alice Longbottom, and then two we’ve never really seen or heard of: Venusia Crickerly, and “Witch with eyepatch.”
[Andrew and Laura laugh]
Olivia: Awesome. Doesn’t even get a name.
Eric: She was either part of the Advanced… yeah, I want to know more about witch with eyepatch, but…
Andrew: I saw her in the Goblet of Fire movie credits once.
Eric: Oh, I see, I see. Okay, cool. Was that the one everybody thought was Jo doing a cameo? Anyway.
Eric: But yeah, so 4 out of 17 Aurors that we know of are women. That’s not great odds. It’s a boys’ club, everybody, and Tonks is there. She stands out.
Andrew: Yeah, and it makes me wonder if it’s the results of gender roles from decades, centuries past that there aren’t more female Aurors, similar to how in the Muggle world we’ve seen less women in police forces, or in world leadership roles, etc. This, of course, is changing, and I would assume it’s changing in the wizarding world as well. But it makes me think that that’s what’s going on here.
Micah: It’s interesting that you say that, though, because we’re dealing with a series now in Fantastic Beasts where I feel like it is becoming more diverse, even though timeline-wise, it’s taking place before Harry Potter. So I’m thinking of Seraphina Picquery being the head of MACUSA, right?
Andrew: It’s a really good point.
Micah: Which probably should have happened in Harry Potter or subsequently after that, but it seems like it’s happening – what would that be – like, 70-80 years prior? So it’s a little weird.
Andrew: Right. Well, plus, Tina was an Auror, speaking of Aurors.
Eric: Oh, yeah. Well, what is the American equivalent?
Eric: I agree with that. I think that nevertheless, Tonks really stands out. She’s got the right attitude. I think she’s the coolest person the Harry ever meets as of Book 5. He’s just like, “Man, who is this chick?” She’s really, really cool, and she gets under Mad-Eye’s skin [laughs] and adores him as a mentor. The Tonks/Mad-Eye relationship is one that I would absolutely read about constantly; she’s his protégée, and I think she really picks up a lot of what he lays down and does it in her own cool way, and also doesn’t sacrifice her personality. Although, I think she wishes she could sacrifice her clumsiness a little bit, to become an Auror. But we know she can’t do that either. But yeah, she’s just super interesting and super accomplished. It’s an amazing feat to become an Auror, and that’s what Tonks does. Again, like Micah said, at a very young age.
Eric: So this next achievement by a woman in Harry Potter is my personal favorite. It is Walburga Black.
Eric: It’s not what anyone’s expecting. Sirius’s mom defeats the Order of the Phoenix; I have this taking place in Order of the Phoenix. And the reason is that the portrait of Walburga Black, the portrait of Mrs. Black, is affixed to the wall in Grimmauld Place where the Order of the Phoenix has decided to make their headquarters, and not a one of them, not any of the members of the Order can figure out how to get this this absurd, vicious painting off the wall.
Eric: They can’t remove it. We’re talking about the brightest witches and wizards of the day. We’re talking about literally the people that Dumbledore hand chose to defeat the most evil Dark Lord of all time, and they can’t get a painting off the wall of a house that they’re using as their headquarters?
Olivia: I really like the headcanon that Dumbledore absolutely can remove that Sticking Charm and just is choosing not to the whole time.
Eric: Well, it’s such an annoyance. It disrupts business. It disrupts the strategic planning everyone needs to do, the fact that they have to tiptoe around Mrs. Black…
Olivia: It’s so perfect. [laughs] I just love it so much.
Eric: She literally decreed that this portrait of hers was always going to be in the house that she was the matron of for all time, basically.
Andrew: I don’t know if we should be celebrating this, just like I don’t think we should be celebrating the next character. But I appreciate your passion, and your…
Eric: I think it’s an achievement made by a woman.
Laura: Well, yeah. And I think that we can talk about multiple truths here, right? It’s true that this is absolutely quite an achievement. Is this the sort of voice that we want to be continually subjected to every time we go to Grimmauld Place? Absolutely not.
Olivia: I think that there’s a lot more to dig into as far as Mrs. Black and all of her stereotypical characteristics that she unfortunately does bring to the books, but as far as having an accomplishment, I mean, she clearly ran that household with an iron fist, right? Her children, for the most part, fell in line, and she continued this longstanding tradition and really was the classic example of those old money passing down through lineage and all of that sort of stereotypes, which I don’t know if those… I wouldn’t necessarily view them as accomplishments I would like to see. But in certain circles or in certain worlds, I mean, she was pretty accomplished for herself.
Andrew: Right. Yeah, and I think this Permanent Sticking Charm is probably symbolic of, as you said, Olivia, her running this house with an iron fist and the fact that this is her house. And it’s funny.
Eric: Yeah, so young girls out there, if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. Just look at Mrs. Black.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Olivia: Oh, no.
Laura: Yeah, not the character that I would pick to be a role model for young girls.
Eric: Fair enough.
Andrew: All right, well, our next character…
[“Hem-hem!” Umbridge suck count sound effect plays]
Andrew: Yes, we’re going to celebrate her. Did that just trigger you all? That sound effect?
[“Hem-hem!” Umbridge suck count sound effect plays]
Laura: Little bit.
Eric: I missed it. I missed it so much.
Micah: How could we do this? We talked about how many times she sucked in the Harry Potter series. Now we’re going to lift her up?
Andrew: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are retracting all of those suck counts.
Andrew: We’re clearing them all out. It didn’t happen. No, so Umbridge, she flies completely under the radar in her attack on Harry Potter. [laughs] This would be a good one for me to talk about, because I’m the person who would say stuff like this. But actually, Eric wanted to include Umbridge here. [laughs] Yes, she is a clever witch. She did a very good job accomplishing what she set out to do. But I would just leave it at that. [laughs]
Eric: Well, yeah, the problem is… so we have to be a little bit objective here as far as… is Umbridge a good person? No. Was Mrs. Black a good person? No, she was a crazy bigot. But in the honor of actually just celebrating women’s achievements, it is pretty terrifying that somebody like Umbridge, who’s the Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic, can tell the Dementors to go and suck out Harry Potter’s soul. Now, she ain’t even ever met Harry at this time, right? So she doesn’t know him. She is able to use the full force of the government to attack a child student in a Muggle area – Dudley could have died as well – and nobody at the Ministry knew that she did it. And we don’t hear about any kind of inquiry either afterwards, even after Dumbledore makes his great point at Harry’s trial about “Well, surely the Dementors are either under the Ministry’s control, or not?” We don’t hear about any kind of follow-up. And so really, the achievement here is for Dolores Umbridge being either as much of a nobody that nobody questions her, and as much of a somebody that she could get it done. Here’s a terrifying person who’s able to enact all of her most insidious plans and fly under the radar for it.
Micah: It’s hard for me to celebrate her, but I will say, if you’re just isolating her achievements and putting yourself in her frame of mind, she is able to become Undersecretary to the Minister. She is able to become Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts and eventually take over the school. She is able to become Head of the Muggle-born Registration Commission.
Eric: Thank you.
Micah: So she is able to do the things that she sets her mind to, albeit in a very underhanded, devious, crooked sort of way. So I will just add that caveat to it.
[Eric and Micah laugh]
Laura: Yeah, she knows how to manipulate the system. So that’s the thing. And I mean, when we’re talking about women’s history, it doesn’t mean that we can’t recognize people doing, to quote Ollivander, “great and horrible things.” Again, multiple truths. What she achieved here, she created, she wrote a role for herself, and she sunk into it perfectly. So that’s what I’ll say about that.
Eric: I don’t think… I know we’re celebrating women, but as humans, none of us are impervious to corruption, or selfishness, and the pulling of emotions and wants and needs and political ambitions. All of us are subject to that in this world. And so viewing Dolores’s political achievements here… I think in order to be in politics, you might have to make some of these sacrifices. Doesn’t justify anything Umbridge did, but I think that all of us as humans are familiar with the concept of what drives Dolores Umbridge, deep down.
Micah: Yep. And a lot of it seemingly from her backstory that we had looked at on Potter-no-more came from the fact that she was very just embarrassed and disappointed with her father’s lack of ambition for rising up through the Ministry, and that’s why she chose to take that path.
Eric and Olivia: Right.
Olivia: It mars most of her accomplishments, though, that she was accomplished because she was basically the worst person. [laughs] So it’s a really hard position to take because you understand that yes, she rose to power, and yes, she did these things, she had great follow through, right? This was her ambition and she did it. But it also comes at such a high price to her character…
Olivia: … that it’s really hard to sit back and and say, “Yes, hurray, you did it,” when you know the truth of it.
Laura: Yep. Well, moving to something that’s a more positive representation, we’re going to talk about Luna and Hermione in Order of the Phoenix and how they work together to get Harry’s story to the press. I mean, Harry had no idea what he was in for.
Laura: He was just sort of a pawn in this whole game of publicizing the true events of what happened at the end of Goblet of Fire. She’s really able to work with Umbridge’s deficiencies. Umbridge would never think to imagine that Harry Potter would do an interview with the Quibbler, right?
Laura: So there’s that. But there’s also the fact that Hermione is able to overlook her own biases and just realize, “Hey, you know what? Anybody who will listen to this story is good enough,” because we’ve seen that she was incredibly biased against the Quibbler earlier on.
Eric: That’s really it. It’s the working together with Luna – who she thinks, I think, is still quite off – but for the good of the wizarding world. Hermione is so personally offended by the lack of truth that’s getting out, and bites. She’s so fed up with Umbridge that she not only is so strategic with figuring out how to accomplish this, she puts all the pieces in play, but she also, in doing so, actually uses her one blackmail against Rita Skeeter. I think one of the components that really helps the story gain traction early on is that it’s written by Rita Skeeter, who, absurdly enough, the wizarding public trusts. And so Hermione selflessly uses her blackmail against Rita to get Rita to show up and write this piece. And I think that that is also a quality to be celebrated, is Hermione’s selflessness here as well as her stratagem.
Laura: Yeah, because Hermione here very well could have been doing the mental calculus of “Do I want to sacrifice this trump card right now? What if Rita goes on to do something horrible later, like, I don’t know, write a book called The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore?”
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Laura: But it really does speak to Hermione being able to think strategically about her place in the story and the placement of everyone else in the story and what’s going to be of the greatest mutual benefit to everyone.
Olivia: Right, she understands that this is the most important thing that could be happening right now, and how vital it is for them to be able to continue to move forward and to be able to continue to do everything that they’re going to need to do in the next several books, too, that this story has to be told.
Eric: Yeah. And for Luna’s part, she’s pleased as punch to really arrange this with her father, I think. And Xenophilius Lovegood, to his credit, too, is just thrilled for the scoop. But I think they are also on the side of good, so they understand that it’s important, and so for Luna’s part in arranging this with her dad, and the fact that they’re able to get it all together, really speaks to Luna’s good qualities as well.
Andrew: Yeah. I will also say it was refreshing to see two women work together in the series. I don’t know if you see that too often.
Olivia: One of the only ones that comes to mind is Molly and Tonks…
Andrew and Eric: Yeah.
Olivia: … and their relationship and friendship and the way that they strategize and help with Order of the Phoenix stuff.
Andrew: So it was refreshing to see two women work together.
Micah: Definitely. And one of the best just overall role models, I think, in the series as a whole: Professor McGonagall. Just, I think, probably a teacher we would all like to have had, somebody we can look up to, and she defends Dumbledore and Harry at great personal and professional risk in Order of the Phoenix, particularly in that “Career Advice” chapter.
Eric: Ahh, yes.
Andrew: That’s one of my favorite chapters in the series.
Micah: Yeah, and I think it didn’t quite deliver on screen. And I know a lot of people were disappointed about that.
Andrew: What does, really?
Micah: I mean, there was a moment between the two… yeah. David Yates again.
Andrew: [laughs] Leave David Yates alone.
Micah: After cautioning Harry to not engage with Umbridge all school year, it’s Umbridge’s decision to sit in on his career planning session with McGonagall that really finally breaks the camel’s back and unleashes that inner tabby cat from inside McGonagall.
Micah: And we know how much McGonagall cares for Harry. She puts her career really ahead of anything here; she says as much in this back and forth with Umbridge, if it’s the last thing that she does. And she’s also attacked later on in Order of the Phoenix, right? She takes a spell straight to the chest, and Harry sees it from up on the Astronomy Tower. So she’s really one of the last lines of defense that Harry and the students have prior to taking that hit during Order of the Phoenix.
Eric: Yeah, I mean, Hogwarts is sliding into totalitarianism and we do not know where it will end, so the fact that she chooses this moment to stand up to Umbridge… she may not keep her job, and Umbridge in a year or two could decide that she needs to die. I mean, you just never know how how bad this is going to get with Umbridge in control. And the fact that McGonagall openly defies her and talks about, “Oh, Dumbledore? He’ll be back very shortly, I think, and there will be no trouble for Harry to become an Auror and follow his dreams for…” What does she say? Like, “Whatever administration there is, regardless of the government,” and Umbridge is like, “You want to overthrow the government!” She’s like, “Damn straight, if it’s you in charge.” So I mean, just really dangerous waters that McGonagall… I guess this was the biggest Gryffindor moment, I think, for McGonagall here. She is all bravery. But it’s not like she hasn’t measured the potential consequences; she is still standing up to Umbridge here, and it is a sight to see.
Laura: Also think about the events of Deathly Hallows. And we know that conditions at Hogwarts were horrible, but it really begs the question: How much worse could it have been if somebody like McGonagall had not been there?
Andrew: I mean, yeah, the Battle of Hogwarts was a huge Gryffindor moment for her, and one of my favorite lines in the series is the whole “Man the boundaries! Protect us! Do you duty to our school!” So epic in the book and movie. And then, of course, everything else she does during the Battle of Hogwarts, and like Laura said, that book.
Olivia: Yeah, I just was going through and read back through the old Potter-no-more little description that they had written about McGonagall and found a lot of things that I had forgotten, including the fact that she had top grades in OWLs and NEWTs, she was a prefect, she was Head Girl, she was the winner of Transfiguration Today‘s Most Promising Newcomer Award, she was a gifted Quidditch player… she’s not just great in the eyes that we see her through, in the lens that we see her through with Harry and as the Deputy Headmistress. She rose to that through a long career of being outstanding. So I think that it’s just important to note all of the things that got her to where she was. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m just friends with Dumbledore, and so that makes me Deputy Headmistress.”
Andrew: This list makes me want to see a TV series based on the early days of McGonagall, following the early days in McGonagall, and there’s a lot here that she did.
Eric: Well, pitch it to Warner Bros. I hear they’re looking for…
Andrew: Oh yeah, they’re accepting pitches, right, yeah. I’m a writer, totally. [laughs] Says everyone in Hollywood.
Eric: So this next achievement… want to bring it back to Ginny here real quickly in the interest of not defining any one character by their trauma, although we talked about how Ginny got over the trauma, and that was the achievement we mentioned earlier. I also wanted to mention her prowess at Quidditch, and not to… if you think about the seven books and who the Gryffindor Seeker was during the Harry Potter books, duh, it’s Harry. But I actually didn’t realize this, but both in Book 5 and Book 6, Ginny makes, actually, the game-winning saves that give Gryffindor the Quidditch Cup for each year against Ravenclaw. In the first year, Book 5, Harry is banned from Quidditch by Umbridge, and so Ginny has to compete in at least the last two games. Against Hufflepuff, she takes the ten point loss and that allows them to still maintain their overall point count, and then eventually they defeat Ravenclaw. And then also, when Harry has detention during Book 6 for attacking Draco Malfoy in the bathroom, that’s of course the big, big final game of the year, where Ginny, again stepping in for Harry, brings the Gryffindor team to victory. And so we know from extended canon that Ginny will go on to play Quidditch professionally, which I think is badass, first of all, that Harry’s got such a celebrity Quidditch player for a wife. But it just really shows you that if you look closely in the books, things like the characters’ future, it was really there. It’s in the background, but if you look for it, it’s there. Ginny was an accomplished athlete, and this shows that.
Olivia: Definitely. Bringing up another character again, right, that we talked about when her relationships with Ginny and things, was Hermione. We’re getting towards the end of the series, right, where in Deathly Hallows she performs a super strong Memory Charm on her parents, completely erasing her from their lives for their own safety and protection, which is just… I can’t even imagine that sort of sacrifice that you’d make at 17 years old to decide that this is the best thing for your family, and that you’re going to be able to have the wherewithal to do this and to be able to walk away.
Laura: Yeah. And I have to say, I’m really glad that we actually got to see this in the movie. It’s not something that we got to see in the book; it’s something that we only learned about through Hermione piping up, or maybe it was Ron piping up about “Hey, we’re all making sacrifices here.” So it was really nice to actually get to see this offscreen moment portrayed in the movie.
Micah: Hurray David Yates.
Eric: Hey, you got a W there.
[Micah and Olivia laugh]
Laura: I think that it really drove home just what an impossible decision it was, and it’s, again, Hermione recognizing… in some ways, she can have a greater good mentality, which is really interesting when you consider it alongside the themes of the greater good that Dumbledore and Grindelwald were exploring in their youthful days, but I would argue that Hermione’s application is a lot more ethical.
Eric: Oh, absolutely.
Olivia: Right, she sacrifices something herself versus having other people make the sacrifice for the greater good.
Eric: Yeah. I mean, the love of a parent is something to be cherished, and she’s able to set it aside and go, “Look, because I care about them, I have to let them go.” And not only that – I don’t know exactly how Memory Charms work – but she has to erase every memory they have of her and every memory they’ve ever spent together, the vacations, the moments of parenting even back to her infancy, and remove the fact that they even have a daughter from their heads. So just the sheer amount, just the astronomical amount of specific… and then not damage their brains. We’ve seen one Memory Charm, a simple Memory Charm go bad, and Lockhart is in the hospital wing for life. So the fact that Hermione is able to do this, and then presumably, years later undo this, is insanely accomplished and worthy of an achievement in and of itself.
Andrew: All right, so next we have Narcissa Malfoy. She saved Harry’s life! No big deal. She told Voldemort that Harry was dead when he was very much just coming back from the dead, and Narcissa is instrumental in allowing Harry to emerge victorious from the second wizarding war. This was such a great redemption moment for Narcissa. So great to see. And as we mentioned at the top of this discussion, ring theory is on display here. We see Lily saving Harry at the start; we see Narcissa, another mother, saving Harry at the end. Just beautiful.
Laura: Yeah. I think, though… I mean, not to rain on this parade, but I feel like Narcissa’s motivation was because she wanted to save her son, right?
Laura: And Harry was just a vehicle to allow her to do that. At this point in the book, it’s very clear that Narcissa is like, “Oh, screw all this Dark Lord crap. I just want to make sure that my family survives.” So she’s in full-on survival mode at this point. Anything that would have allowed her to save her son, I think she would have done.
Laura: And yeah, I mean, it just shows, again, this theme of a mother’s love triumphing over all. Including your ideological leanings, apparently. [laughs]
Eric: Right, yeah. Well, she finally does the right thing, and that’s really the achievement that we all want to see as readers. [laughs] As people who care for Harry.
Micah: No, but we see her love for her son on display really throughout, I would say. Aside from this moment, let’s go back to Half-Blood Prince with the Unbreakable Vow that she forces Snape to make. It’s all for Draco.
Olivia: Absolutely. And another mother that we see throughout is Molly Weasley, coming in to kill Bellatrix at the end and save her daughter’s life.
Eric: Heck yeah.
Andrew: “Not my daughter, you-” bleep!
[Eric and Laura laugh]
Olivia: Probably a lot of people’s favorite line, yes. [laughs] Molly Weasley is really an interesting character as far as accomplishments is concerned, because talking about motherhood in this series, right? Mothers we see accomplish a lot of things. But Molly is, other than maybe Narcissa, one of the only mothers who really gets to raise all of her children all the way through for the most part, and all of her kids, honestly – except for maybe Ron – turn out to be a bit of a badass.
Eric: Whoa, Laura, will you accept that massive shade on that character?
Laura: I don’t disagree with that statement. Per our conversation last week, I think that Ron’s portrayal and subsequent history… I just don’t see how it exists in a vacuum. I think Ron was made to be a joke in the films in a lot of ways, and that has an impact.
Olivia: I think one of Ron’s biggest accomplishments is surrounding himself with powerful people, and being Harry’s friend and being Hermione’s husband, right? I think he winds up ascending to this level of accomplishment because of who he surrounds himself with. But I think Molly has just done a really good job of instilling good character and work ethic and love and so many characteristics into her kids, and I think that that is such a huge accomplishment for motherhood.
Eric: I completely agree. She’s very willful as a character, and no clearer is that will of hers than saying “Not my daughter.” Like, “You do not get to remove one of my children from this planet, Bellatrix. I will obliterate you.” And she does.
Olivia: And the daughter she wanted so badly.
Eric: Oh, “And after all that work! I gave birth to six other kids; you are not taking the girl!”
Laura: What’s interesting about this, too, just thinking about themes of motherhood and mothers not being able to be present for their children, this interaction… we didn’t know it at the time, but it makes Bellatrix’s daughter motherless.
Laura: Now, I mean, we could have a whole conversation about what kind of mother we think Bellatrix would have been. But yeah, I mean, I think it also ties into the ring theory, because Delphi is not the only character that loses a mother at the end of the series. Teddy Lupin does too.
Eric: So I think that brings our accomplishments discussion to a close, everybody. Happy International Women’s Day.
Andrew: Excellent. Yes.
Micah: I do have a question, though, before we go on. And it’s not necessarily to put Laura and Olivia on the spot, though it kind of is. So when you were reading the Harry Potter series, what were your reactions? Not necessarily to these moments, but I’m just curious to female characters as a whole, in terms of some of the things that they did, and were they really brought to the forefront in a way that you were happy with?
Laura: Oof. That’s a big…
Micah: Sorry, that was a loaded question. [laughs]
Eric: It’s a great question.
Olivia: For me, I come at it in two different positions. So I read Books 3 and a half when I was younger, right around the time that they were coming out. And so at the time, I really identified closely with Hermione, because she was, again, a bit of a know-it-all, bushy hair; I felt like I could really relate to her character. And then the fact that she wound up becoming so close to these guys, that she really proved her worth, and all of those things. But then I didn’t come back to the series again until I was an adult, and I think I had a completely different perspective. I think I was impressed and proud with the way even though this book was shown through a male – the main character is a male – I really felt like there was a lot of really solid moments for women. I wish there was more. I always wish there were more. [laughs] But I think that the way Jo utilizes certain characters, especially Molly and Hermione and Ginny, and even McGonagall, really said a lot about who Harry was as a character, and what he valued looking at, the series as a whole.
Laura: Yeah, I think so too. And I think Olivia makes a great point there. It makes me think about how it’s repeated multiple times throughout the series that Harry has his mother’s nature. So we hear it again and again, yeah, Harry looks like his dad. But in terms of his personality, he’s most like his mother. And I think the fact that Harry leads the series with his mother’s personality, rather than that of his father, the person that he looks up to, I think, in a lot of ways – most especially in the first half of the series, until he realizes what a jerk his dad was – that really opens up the opportunity for him to be more embracing of those characteristics that are reminiscent of Lily. The series does a good job of showing female characters, with the exception of Cho Chang, through Harry’s perspective.
Olivia: Yeah, and Lavender Brown. I think those two characters…
Laura: Yeah, Lavender too. Yeah, which is so annoying because it’s like, what, teenage girls aren’t allowed to be idiots? Teenage boys get to be idiots all the time.
[Andrew and Laura laugh]
Laura: Nobody holds it against them. But yeah, it’s hard to say because I mean, I’ve read the series from age 11, I got the first three books for my birthday, and it felt like I got to grow up with the series. So I definitely most resonated with Hermione as a character when I was younger, just because she was the most obvious and available character to really relate to. But to Olivia’s point as well, it’s been really nice revisiting the series as an adult, because I feel like I’m able to relate to a lot of the other characters at this point with the time and distance that age provides. So I don’t know if that answers your question, Micah. It’s hard to say.
Micah: No, it does. I just thought it would be amiss to not ask that question given what we’re discussing, so thank you for those answers.
Laura: No, thank you for asking.
Game: Famous witches you never heard of
Andrew: All right, Eric, so you prepared a game for us?
Eric: Yes, so this game is, I think, a lot of fun. It’s sort of trivia based. You’re going to have multiple choice questions, but it’s about the famous witches that you’ve never heard of. So if you guys remember, before WizardingWorld.com, before Potter-no-more, there was the J.K. Rowling Flash website by Lightmaker. And in the – I think it was the upper right corner – there was this witch or wizard of the month segment…
Andrew: Oh, yeah.
Eric: … that J.K. Rowling would write about a… sort of like Famous Witches and Wizards Cards. It was like, “Here’s the witch or wizard of the month.” And so I have picked four witches that were featured on this section of J.K. Rowling’s original website, and I’m going to quiz you guys on what they are known for.
Andrew: All right, well, we used to worship this website…
Andrew: … so I’m sure we’re going to get these answers correct, because we studied these very closely.
Olivia: Yeah, I’m just going to say, as a Ravenclaw and a guest, it was really hard for me to look at this and not go and look this up.
[Andrew, Eric, and Olivia laugh]
Olivia: I was like, “I really want to know these answers.”
Eric: All right, well, without further ado, here we go. Question one of four: Ignatia Wildsmith, 1227 to 1320, is known for which of the following feats? Did she found the Society for the Reformation of Hags? Is she a popular presenter of the Wizarding Wireless Network? Is she captain of the Holyhead Harpies? And did she invent Floo Powder? That’s Ignatia Wildsmith. What do you guys think?
Andrew: I’m going to guess it’s a big one, because this witch was featured on the website, so I’m going to say invented Floo Powder.
Olivia: I really want it to be that she founded the Society for the Reformation of Hags.
[Andrew and Laura laugh]
Olivia: I really want that to be the answer. [laughs]
Micah: To go off of what Andrew said, though, just given the years that are listed here, that’s what makes me think Floo Powder as well.
Laura: I remember the answer to this question…
Laura: … so I don’t know if it’s right for me to answer.
Micah: Of course it is. Do you not answer Jeopardy questions because you know the answer?
Andrew: We can test your memory. Yeah, let’s see. What do you think?
Laura: Okay. Yeah, she invented Floo Powder.
Eric: She did.
Eric: Let me surprise all of you guys, though: All of these feats got a witch featured on this section of JKR’s website.
Eric: All of these. So Honoria Nutcombe, Olivia, founded the Society for the Reformation of Hags. Gwenog Jones, also a witch of the month, is captain of the Holyhead Harpies. And the Wizarding Wireless presenter is…
Andrew: Laura Tee.
Eric: … Glenda Chittock. So, kind of funny pun name there. So actually, funnily enough…
Andrew: She was great in Wicked.
[Eric and Olivia laugh]
Eric: So Ignatia Wildsmith did invent Floo Powder. Question two: What is true about Artemisia Lufkin, 1754 to 1825? Is it that she established the Department of International Magical Cooperation? Is it that she lobbied hard for the Quidditch World Cup to come to Britain? Is it that she was the first female Minister of Magic? Or is it all of the above?
Laura: I feel like she was definitely the first female Minister of Magic. I don’t know… off the top of my head, I cannot recall one way or the other on these other two items.
Micah: The all of the above is tempting, you know?
Laura: It is.
Andrew: Right, usually it’s there… yeah. I’m going to say, A) Established the Department of International Magical Cooperation.
Olivia: I think all of these go together really nicely.
Olivia: So I am going to say all of the above.
Laura: Yeah. YOLO.
Micah: I’ll say she lobbied hard for the Quidditch World Cup to come to Britain.
Eric: I love the variety, you guys. It’s great. Yes, I was not smart enough to do three truths and a lie here. It is all of the above.
Andrew: So we’re all right.
Eric: Oh yeah, if I included an “all of the above” in a four-thing prompt, it’s all of the above. But Artemisia Lufkin, the first female Minister for Magic. She’s really impressive and did all of this. This comes both from J.K. Rowling’s website featured witch of the month and later from Pottermore. There’s a segment on Pottermore we’ll be referencing in our bonus MuggleCast about all of the Ministers for Magic, and she goes into more detail, such as about the International Magical Cooperation and getting Quidditch to Britain. So, very good stuff. Very good job, everybody. Question three: What is Bridget Wenlock known for? Is it that she was the first landlady of the Leaky Cauldron? Is it that she first established the magical properties of the number seven? Is it that she’s the author of the “Enchanted Encounters” in-universe book series in Harry Potter? Or is it that she’s Chieftainess of the Warlock’s Council?
Andrew: I’m going to say established the magical properties of the number seven. That’s a fun one.
Micah: Yeah, I like that.
Olivia: I was going to go with the Chieftainess of the Warlock’s Council, just to mix things up.
Eric: I appreciate that. The Chieftainess is Elfrida Clagg, and Fifi LaFolle is the author of the “Enchanted Encounters” series. You guys were actually correct; Bridget Wenlock is the first person who established the magical properties of the number seven.
Andrew: Mm, excellent.
Micah: And Melissa was the first landlady of the Leaky Cauldron, right?
Eric: Melissa Anelli. Actually, if we’re talking about the pub in London, it was Daisy Dodderidge. So, final question: Jocunda Sykes did this in her lifetime. Did she make a fortune selling household cleaning potions, which turned out to produce more mold? Did she fly her broomstick across the Atlantic Ocean and was the first person to do so? Did she write the bestseller “My Life as a Muggle” after giving up magic for a year, and is she married to the celebrity gardener Tilden Toots? Or is she the founder of the Society for the Support of Squibs?
Andrew: I vaguely remember this one about flying a broomstick across the Atlantic Ocean and was the first to do so, so I’m going to go with that. I don’t know if it was her, though.
Micah: I thought you’d go with Toots, Toots.
Andrew: Yeah, I went through a dumb phase where I would call myself Toots on the show. It was really stupid. I was trying to move past that, Micah.
Micah: Oh, but we never forget.
Laura: I honestly don’t remember this one, so I’m just going to say wrote bestseller “My Life as a Muggle.”
Micah: I’m going to go with the Squib.
Laura: I’m going to agree with Laura.
Eric: Okay, so Daisy Hookum wrote the best seller “My Life as a Muggle” and is married to Andrew.
Eric: Idris Oakby was the founder of the Society for the Support of Squibs. The household cleaning potions fraudster, I don’t know if this is a reference to – was it Martha Stewart? – and her jail time, but that witch was Erica Stainwright. She was disgraced for her criminal acts.
Micah: Stainwright. I see what she did there.
Eric: Yeah, it’s a very sellable name. Very TV advertisement – what’s that shop from home channel? – kind of name. But in fact, it was… Andrew, you’re right; Jocunda Sykes flew her broomstick across the Atlantic Ocean, sort of the Amelia Earhart of the wizarding world. She was the first person to do that.
Micah: Well done. I will say, I love the fact that pretty much all these answers relate back to some witch in the series.
Eric: Yeah, even if they weren’t in the original seven books, there was some serious effort back on the original author website to honor these achievers. So it felt very fitting to do a game segment based on that, and work it into the episode for our International Women’s Day.
Discussion: Male pen names
Micah: Cool. Well, about to wrap up the discussion, but we thought we couldn’t have this discussion about International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month in the Harry Potter series without mentioning the author herself. And it goes without saying that it is no small achievement to write the most successful book series of all time. But one piece of information that I’m not sure all of our listeners are aware of is that when she was looking to publish Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling faced a situation that I don’t think is unfamiliar. She was asked by her publishers to not use her full name. So instead of it being Joanne Rowling, it was shortened to J.K. Rowling. And that just came to her from her publishers, because they thought that it would sell better to both boys and girls. If she had her name as just Joanne Rowling, they thought the series wouldn’t appeal as much to boys. And so we know that obviously, the series did extremely well, but I’m wondering, is this a surprise to us that even in the mid to late ’90s, this kind of mentality existed? And was this the publisher being sexist? Or was he just being realistic in terms of focusing on what he’s paid to focus on, which is how well the series is going to do? Or is it a mix of both?
Olivia: I think it’s a mix. First of all, it’s not surprising. It’s still something that we deal with all the time today, as far as in a lot of different mediums. Books, probably not as much, I would say right now, but definitely… I mean, even just thinking about TV shows and things like that, I don’t know if anyone’s ever tried to get a male friend to sit down and watch Gilmore Girls. It’s going to not happen. [laughs] It’s a great show for all sexes, but it doesn’t matter, because the name impedes people thinking that there’s room for them there, which is frustrating. So I think it can be both, right? It’s a sexist mentality that allows for this practice to continue, but as far as practicality of getting it in the hands of as many people as possible, maybe not the worst decision.
Andrew and Laura: Yeah.
Laura: It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? If you only ever put out bestselling stories with either male-sounding or neutral-sounding names, and those are the only ones that become successful, then you’re feeding into the stereotype, right? If little boys don’t have anything else to choose from, then of course, it’s going to breed that kind of mentality. But it is hard. It’s kind of like what came first, the chicken or the egg type situation. So I think it’s really complicated, especially placing myself in the time period, to know what everyone’s mentality was and how well-meaning they might have been trying to be. I think this mentality does still exist today, and like Olivia said, I don’t think that it would play out just like this today. But women, in particular women of color, are discriminated against in this way all the time, whether it’s from somebody seeing your name on a job application or existing in your day-to-day life as somebody who can be perceived as female on social media, this type of discrimination absolutely does exist. Speaking personally, I have the experience of having had a male colleague very earnestly and genuinely trying to be helpful recommend to me that I use a male-sounding name when communicating for my job to basically make people not give me as hard of a time.
Eric: Uh, what?
Olivia: I had a really similar experience.
[Laura and Olivia laugh]
Olivia: I don’t use smiley faces or exclamation points in my emails, and it really throws people; they really like to comment on it. They’re just like, “I’m not sure if you’re okay, or nice, or whatever.” And I was like, “I don’t think any male colleague has ever had to experience that.”
Andrew: Well, that’s frustrating. And thank you both for sharing that. Clearly, we have work to do.
Micah: One other thing that J.K. Rowling mentioned in the same article where she’s talking about having to shorten her name, she said, well, after the initial success of Sorcerer’s Stone, she became extremely well known, did a lot of interviews, won a lot of awards. So the cat was out of the bag, the fact that she is obviously a female author, and clearly that did not impact sales of the series moving forward. So I also found it interesting that when she did decide to write another series, she chose to write under the name Robert Galbraith, again, going that route. I don’t know if that was something that was told to her to do or she just made that decision on her own.
Olivia: I was going to say the same thing. I was like, “How interesting is it that she did this, rose to prominent fame as herself, right, as a female author, and then went back and when she decided to write under a pseudonym, she chose a male name?”
Laura: Somebody in our Discord actually brought up a really interesting point. It’s from Iris Tinkerbell. They say, “Fun side note: In Germany, the books were published under Joanne K. Rowling from the very beginning.”
Micah: That’s interesting.
Laura: Yeah, I had no idea.
Andrew: Props to that publisher. So if you have any feedback on today’s discussion, you can email MuggleCast@gmail.com or use the contact form on MuggleCast.com. You can also send us a voice memo to MuggleCast@gmail.com; we will have another Muggle Mail episode in about two weeks. Coming up in bonus MuggleCast today, available on Patreon, we will discuss more achievements of Miss Hermione Granger.
Andrew: It’s time for Quizzitch!
[Quizzitch music plays]
Eric: Last week’s question: What did Fred turn into a spider when Ron was three? Correct answer is his teddy bear. And it turns out with the more greater inclusivity over on MuggleCast.com/Quizzitch, now that we’ve opened it up for everybody and broken down the barriers, we had over 88 people submit their entries this week.
Andrew: Nice! Thanks, everyone.
Eric: Yeah. Impossible to read a list of everyone’s names, so we are going to say, like we used to, correct answers were submitted by the following people, or including the following people: Algebra Einstein; Andrea; Anna; Ashley; Big Mac; Billy; Bort Voldemort; Brenda; Broc; Brody; Buff; Caitlin; Caleb; Camilla; Daniela; Eleanor; Five_o_farmer; FrumpyButSuperSmart; Greta; Gujaanie; HallowWolf; Landon; Laura; Lumosnox; Luna; LunaLovegood; LUNAtic…
[Laura and Olivia laugh]
Eric: … Mariel; Mega Edge; Mercy; MGB; Morgan; Nate; Nicole; Ning; PicketWicket; PinkSpaceFrog; PotterPeep1591; PricklyWallflower; Rachel; Rebecca; Robbie; Suhas; Taylor; Tracey; Trace; Unsurprisingly, Slytherin; and William B.
Andrew: That sounded like slam poetry. Good job.
Eric: Honestly, I’m going to get really rhythmic with it. I’m going to start rapping.
Laura: [laughs] We’ll give you a beat next time.
Eric: Yeah, you guys come up with that. That will amazing.
Andrew: Oh my gosh. Good idea.
Olivia: Rap all the names.
Andrew: It can be to the seven-word summary song. I miss that.
[Seven-Word Summary music plays]
Andrew: It’s this one. It actually could work.
Eric: [raps] Hannah B.; Irene; Jenn; Jenna; Juna; Katie…
Micah: There you go.
[Seven-Word Summary music ends]
Eric: … Kevin; Kristin; Elizabeth; Ellen… okay, those were some others. Anyway, thank you to everybody who submitted.
Eric: Next week’s question: Name this famous female campaigner for breaking the Statute of Secrecy; she’s been imprisoned several times for her blatant and deliberate use of magic in public places. This was another one of those witches, you guys. It was a famous witch of the month over on the old JKR website.
Andrew: All right. Well, Olivia, thanks for coming on to today’s episode. We really appreciate it. You did a great job and you took the lead on a couple of these characters, so thank you for that as well.
Olivia: Thank you for having me. It was really exciting.
Andrew: You are so welcome. And Olivia is one of our supporters at Patreon.com/MuggleCast. Actually, one of our benefits at the Slug Club level is the chance to cohost MuggleCast with us one day. There are lots of benefits at Patreon.com/MuggleCast, including access to our live streams, early access to MuggleCast, bonus MuggleCast, a new physical gift every year, and so much more. So again, that’s Patreon.com/MuggleCast, and thank you for your support. It’s the reason why we are a weekly podcast. Also, again, follow us on social media; we are @MuggleCast on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Cool announcement coming up this week, so keep your eyes peeled. And we would also appreciate if you left us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to MuggleCast. Thank you in advance; it helps new listeners discover us. And last but not least, thank you for listening. I’m Andrew.
Eric: I’m Eric.
Micah: I’m Micah.
Laura: I’m Laura.
Olivia: And I’m Olivia.
Andrew: Bye, everyone.