Transcript #640


MuggleCast 640 Transcript


Transcript for MuggleCast Episode #640, Rita Skeeter: A Voice For Potter Podcasters (GOF Chapter 10, Mayhem at the Ministry)

Show Intro

[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: Happy New Year to all of our listeners. It’s our first episode of 2024. We’re very excited to be back after a couple of weeks off, and even more exciting, we are entering our 19th year of Harry Potter podcasting.

Eric: Wow.

Andrew: 19 years later. So our birthday will be in August; we’ll have to do something special since, of course, the epilogue is set 19 years after the events of Deathly Hallows.

Micah: Choo-choo.

Andrew: Can’t believe it. [laughs]

Laura: I know, I know, it’s wild. And none of us have children yet, at least that I know of…

[Andrew laughs]

Laura: … so I think the one thing that we can do to really solidify our legacy is when the first MuggleCast baby comes along, should that ever happen, it cannot have a cringy terrible name like the ones that we saw in the epilogue. Let’s all agree to that right now.

Eric: I was going to say, yeah, come July or August, we should all don really, really aged makeup. Prosthetic makeup.

Laura: [laughs] Oh, no.

Andrew: Ooh, yeah.

[Micah laughs]

Eric: And go meet in London and just look really, really old. No, we’ve aged far better than those characters did.

Andrew: Yes. A lot of people might not know, they originally shot the epilogue scene with this really bad makeup. Draco looks awful; it looks like he was 100. He didn’t look like he only aged 19 years.

Micah: He looked worse than Nicolas Flamel.

Andrew: [laughs] They shot the scene, too, at the real King’s Cross, which was very nice, but then everybody looked so bad – I think Ron looked like he was balding – that they decided to reshoot it. They did a better job with aging the characters up. Unfortunately, though, they did not film again at King’s Cross, so we didn’t get that authenticity. But yes, I think we should all look as bad for our big 19th birthday episode this August.

Laura: No, I think that we should provide a lesson to the fandom that hey, actually, 19 years later – because we’re all about the same age that the trio would have been in the epilogue – you’ll look a lot better than what was depicted in the movie. [laughs]

Eric: That’s right.

Andrew: Give everybody hope. Happy 19 years, sorta kinda. And we’re going to be watching our words carefully this week, lest Rita Skeeter twist any statements from this week’s episode to create some hot goss for the Daily Prophet. Today we’re discussing Chapter 10 of Goblet of Fire, “Mayhem at the Ministry.” But first, a couple of announcements. We touched on this I think at the end of last year: Bonus MuggleCast installments are coming to our paid Apple Podcasts subscription starting later this month. For just $4.99 a month, you can sign up for MuggleCast Gold! That’s a new announcement. We’re calling this MuggleCast Gold.

Eric: Andrew, are we sure we want to do this, given the success of other Harry Potter-related things branded gold?

Andrew: You’re referring to the hit subscription service Wizarding World Gold? [laughs]

Eric: Yes. Are we sure that this is an okay name?

Andrew: We’re going to do the gold thing the right way. And ours is like, half the price; I think theirs was $90 or $99, $79…

Eric: Oh, goodness.

Andrew: Ours is definitely cheaper than that. $4.99 a month, you can sign up for MuggleCast Gold and you’ll receive ad-free early access to our main show plus two new bonus MuggleCast installments every month, in which we discuss the latest wizarding world news, our favorite headcanons, we do these introspective looks back at book releases and original titles that JKR was considering, and so much more. We do a lot of really fun one-off discussions. These have been previously available on Patreon, but now they’re also available on Apple Podcasts.

Eric: Yeah, I was going to shout out, too, that some of those bonuses made their way to the main feed as well, as a good sample over the holiday break.

Andrew and Micah: Yeah.

Micah: And I know I’ve said it before on the show, Andrew, but I really do think that this is a good deal.

Andrew: Even at $4.99!

Micah: At $4.99, and here’s why: You’re getting the show, right? And then you’re getting two additional pieces of content. It’s ad-free. What more could you…? You’re paying less than a dollar…

Andrew: You can get it early, too, and you do.

Micah: There you go. And if you think about it, everybody does this probably at least once a week, right? What do you do? You go to Starbucks, or you go to your favorite coffee spot in the morning. How much does your coffee cost?

Eric: More than $5!

Micah: More than $5. So you can get ad-free early MuggleCast, four episodes a month, two bonus MuggleCasts a month.

Andrew: It’s a good deal.

Micah: It’s a very good deal.

Laura: And brew your coffee at home.

Eric: Also, if you walk into the gift shop of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, wherever it may be playing, and you tell them that you’re a member of MuggleCast Gold, I bet they’ll think you’re pretty cool.

[Andrew and Laura laugh]

Micah: Maybe they’ll give you a pin.

Andrew: We’ll give them a little badge. [laughs]

Eric: They might have a pin leftover. Ask them if they have any pins for being a Gold member; don’t specify which Gold, and maybe you’ll be in luck.

Andrew: Oh yeah, I missed that. That was a good idea that they had. Well, anyway, we really appreciate everybody’s support. We couldn’t do the show without you, so that’s why we have set up the subscription programs, because we need your support in order to run this show. Speaking of supporting the show, don’t forget that the MuggleCast overstock store is open. And we had it closed over the holidays; it’s open again. This is where you can buy MuggleCast merch and help support the show, and we have an update: It’s very cold in the northern hemisphere, so MuggleCast is helping you out this winter with the MuggleCast Beanie and Socks Comfy Cozy Combo Pack. So purchase this new combo set for $25; it’s cheaper than buying the socks and beanie separate, and you’ll be warm on both ends of your Muggle body for winter. I was on a cross country road trip over our break; I went through the Rocky Mountains. That beanie was comfortable and kept my head warm as we were cruising at high altitudes and spending a little time outside doing some stretching and all that. So check out the Comfy Cozy Pack, $25. Normally these two items separately would be $35; if you buy the combo pack, they are together for $25, just in time for winter. By the way, Sam, one of our listeners, said of the socks: “These are a unique gift for the MuggleCast fangirly. Well-made socks with bright and bold colors.” Ellie said the socks were “So cute, comfy, and well-made.” And then on the album art, which is also in our overstock store, JenPen said, “Beautiful album art and happy for the autographs.” So we’ve been getting some reviews of the products, which has been fun to read.

Eric: I wonder if she got Dobby or Hedwig as well as the four of us.

[Micah laughs]

Andrew: Some album art comes with additional signatures, yeah, from characters.

[Eric laughs]

Micah: Yeah, what do they call this? Collector’s, right? They’re even more special than the ones just signed by the four of us.

Andrew: You’ll find a link in the show notes to the overstock store. It’s also, if you just want to type in the URL directly.

Chapter by Chapter: Seven-Word Summary

Andrew: So let’s get to Chapter by Chapter, and this week we’re discussing Goblet of Fire Chapter 10, “Mayhem at the Ministry.” And for the first time this year, let’s do our Seven-Word Summary.

[Seven-Word Summary music plays]

Andrew: Arthur…

Eric: … laments…

Micah: … over…

Laura: … a…

Andrew: … problematic…

Eric: … news…

Micah: … cycle.

Laura: Hey!

Andrew: That was perfect.

Laura: Wonderful job, y’all.

Andrew: No notes.

Laura: We’re firing on all pistons at the start of 2024. I just want that on the record.

[Everyone laughs]

Andrew: All pistons? What is this, 1940?

[Seven-Word Summary music ends]

Laura: Yes, I’m going to start speaking with a transatlantic accent.

[Andrew laughs]

Laura: I can’t actually do that, so I won’t.

Chapter by Chapter: Main Discussion

Laura: So getting right into this chapter, it picks up where we left off. Curiously, I noted at the start of this chapter, everyone seems like they stayed overnight. I think I made the assumption at the end of the last chapter that maybe Arthur was trying to keep the kids close and not travel at night, but perhaps some other people left. No, apparently nobody left. When they are leaving the following morning, it is a madhouse trying to get a Portkey. And I thought that it was so odd that nobody seemed to nope out the night before, like… terror attack by wizard Klansmen, and everybody was like, “Eh, it’s fine. We’ll just sleep here and then we’ll go home tomorrow.” What?

Eric: Why should they let that ruin their good time?

[Laura laughs]

Micah: It would seem in situations such as this that it would have made sense to evacuate following the attack. The space is unsafe, as they like to say. It’s compromised.

Laura: Yeah. And any large event should have evacuation plans; I feel like that’s pretty standard protocol. It seems like the Ministry was pretty prepared for tons of logistics around the travel and the arrival of wizards from all over the world. It does seem shocking that there wasn’t any kind of emergency contingency.

Andrew: Maybe they didn’t want to let anybody out because they didn’t want the culprit or culprits to escape. That’s standard procedure, too, in certain situations.

Laura: Yeah, but everybody can Apparate, is the thing. [laughs]

Eric: Well, I think anyone who would likely be the culprit would potentially be capable of Apparating. It is weird that even some of the Weasleys who can Apparate didn’t at least go home to tell Molly everything was fine, because that becomes an issue in the morning as well. They could have, I guess, maybe planned that a little bit better, and yeah, why did they stay? Why do they consent to submit to being in this long line for a Portkey?

Laura: For the plot.

Micah: Andrew, I think this sounds like a security nightmare.

[“It’s starting to sound like a security nightmare!” sound effect plays with sirens]

Eric: Heck yeah.

Andrew: Well, it’s something for them to work on for the next Quidditch World Cup.

Eric: [laughs] That’s for sure.

Laura: Yeah, indeed. Well, on their way to wait in the very lengthy Portkey line, Arthur and the family actually pass Mr. Roberts, the Muggle that we chatted about last chapter, who had himself and his entire family completely traumatized by the Death Eaters. And Mr. Roberts has yet again had his memory wiped to spare him the recollections of what happened to his family the prior night. It’s August, which is notable here. It’s August, but he wishes everyone a Happy Christmas as they walk by. And it’s noted here, Arthur says, “Sometimes when a person’s memory is modified, they’ll be a bit disoriented for a while.” And I was reading this and I was like, “Ya think?”

[Andrew and Eric laugh]

Laura: You think the man’s going to be disoriented? Y’all have been wiping his memory, you said two chapters ago, about ten times a day for two weeks, because that’s how long the campsite has been open. You’ve been wiping this guy’s memory… you’ve wiped it 140 times.

Eric: Oh my God.

Laura: There is no way this man does not have neurological damage. None whatsoever.

Andrew: Yeah, it’s really sad.

Laura: So I wanted to ask you all, actually, in this case – and I think it can be kind of a controversial question – was wiping the Roberts family’s memories the right thing to do here with this?

Andrew: Like this particular time or just…? [laughs]

Laura: Yeah, this particular time.

Andrew: Well, what’s one more time?

[Micah laughs]

Laura: To remove the trauma of what happened to them, was it the right thing to do?

Eric: I don’t think they had much of a choice. In order to explain what happened to them, in order to make sense of it to them, they would have to break the Statute of Secrecy, for starters, to explain how they were lifted up basically telekinetically, but magically, and tortured. So they don’t have much of a choice.

Micah: What really surprises me, though, is the fact that Mr. Roberts is still there “working.”

Andrew and Laura: Yeah.

Micah: You would think that his entire family, himself included, would have been taken to St. Mungo’s for evaluation, because presumably, they’re still going to have to continue to wipe his memory as he’s allowing all of these people to exit his campsite. It’s not like it stops at 140; there’s probably a few other memory wipes that are going to have to go on. But I think for the big trauma, to Eric’s point, I don’t think you can not wipe his memory, right? The problem is they’ve wiped it so many other times before on so many inconsequential things, so it just feels like they’re taking as much advantage of him as the Death Eaters did, in a way.

Eric: Wow. Wow.

Andrew and Laura: Yeah.

Laura: 100%. And the reason I wanted to bring this up… I think we alluded to it a little bit on our last episode, but trauma doesn’t just live in the mind, it lives in the body, right? So even if something traumatic happens and you just don’t remember it for whatever reason, your body can very well remember it. So who knows what the Roberts family is going to go through over the course of the next several years as a result of this trauma? Erasing their memories doesn’t actually erase what happened to them, and it feels like a huge disservice that at the very least, there doesn’t seem to have been any attempt to do welfare checks on the Robertses. Like, we never hear about them again and we never hear about any sort of Ministry efforts to do something like this. What about the Pensieve? Eric, you had an interesting point here.

Eric: Yeah, it’s interesting because we’re right in the midway point of the series, and there will be these points inevitably that we bring up of like, “Oh, something from the later books could have helped here.” Well, this is something that something from this book might have been able to help with. Regarding the Pensieve, the way that I believe Dumbledore describes it is that he uses the Pensieve to put memories, truly put memories, out of his mind, and it helps him think better because a man like Dumbledore has got a ton of things to focus on and be rattling around in his brain all the time.

Andrew: [imitating Dumbledore] “I’m a busy man.”

[Laura laughs]

Eric: Yeah. Presumably, then, when you put a memory in a Pensieve, you actually don’t have that anymore. And would there have been – potentially, is my question – the possibility to store the memory of last night for the Roberts family in…? Basically just to extract it. You don’t even need a Pensieve; just extract that memory and say, “Goodbye.”

Micah: Let it float away.

Andrew: [laughs] Blow it away like a dandelion. [makes air blowing sound]

Eric: Yeah. Is that something that a wizard could do to a Muggle? Or is it a little bit more complicated? Because then, if that’s possible, why are they even bothering with memory replacement, which is essentially… what a Memory Charm does is say “Nothing bad happened,” instead of “Something bad happened.” Why aren’t they using a Pensieve? Or using actual memory extraction stuff?

Andrew: Well, first of all, it’s presumably less abusive to use a Pensieve over and over again, because we see wizards do it. And as far as I can remember, there’s no downsides. There’s no impact.

Micah: Really? Dumbledore looks constipated when he’s done it.

[Andrew and Laura laugh]

Micah: Or at least that was the Michael Gambon expression.

Eric: Side effects may include constipation, forgetfulness…

[Everyone laughs]

Andrew: See if Dulcolax is right for you.

[Laura laughs]

Andrew: I do wonder if there’s some sort of elitism going on here amongst Ministry officials in determining when’s the right time to use a Pensieve for Muggles versus just Obliviate-ing their memories, because the Pensieve being able to extract a memory and still hold on to it… you can blow it away like a dandelion, but you can also just put it in the Pensieve. To be able to do that seems very special, and I can almost imagine officials at the Ministry being like, “You know what, we don’t use that with Muggles because we’re going to be storing those memories. This is a sacred privilege that we have, and we’re not just going to let anybody have it.” So that’s the only excuse I could come up with.

Eric: Yeah, they also might, though… the magic of the Pensieve as we’re introduced to later in this very book is that you can see those memories from different angles, and so they could actually use the Roberts family’s memories as additional evidence, essentially. They could take a look at who’s parading them through the streets; they could see if they could identify some of the Death Eaters that came in the closest contact with the Roberts family. It actually seems like a huge potential in trying to get the memories from the Muggles, so…

Micah: Solving the crime.

Eric: Yeah, yeah, basically get a detective on it.

Micah: Yeah. And Laura, I really like the fact that you brought up the point from the last episode about trauma not being what happens to you, but what happens inside of you as a result of what happens to you. And Meg pointed this out, actually, Eric: Yes, I was quoting Dr. Gabor Maté. I’m not sure if folks are familiar with him, but if they aren’t, they should be because he’s probably one of the best thinkers of our time for sure, and an expert on trauma. But in the case of the Robertses, yeah, I mean, because if trauma was what just happened to them, then they wouldn’t be able to go back and heal it, because it would just be the event and the event happened and there’s nothing you can do about the event, but presumably, they can heal what’s happening inside of them. But if they can’t recall why they’re feeling that way, I think that’s a major, major issue, and let’s face it, I know I mentioned this before, but the Ministry is sort of to blame here to start with for putting Mr. Roberts in this situation, putting his family in this situation to begin with. They kind of served him up on a platter to the Death Eaters.

Laura: Yeah, and I think that goes to, Andrew, the point you just made a couple minutes ago about there being this level of elitism and superiority, because we see throughout this series, even some of the characters who are the most well-intentioned good people, characters we genuinely like, kind of look down their nose at Muggles and see them as being less than, and this is how it manifests, right? This is the real world impact of that attitude.

Andrew: Right.

Eric: You nailed that on the head there, Laura. Muggles are not seen as people, and so they aren’t given the kind of treatment… to Andrew’s point as well, elitism, I think that’s exactly it, too, as well. It’s like, “A Muggle, we’ll just give them a Memory Charm two dozen times,” instead of actually using something a little bit more specialized.

Laura: Well, Eric, you mentioned that the Pensieve is an answer that exists in this book that could have been helpful here, but for something that comes along later in the series that could have been helpful here, for Molly specifically, is Patronus messaging. We find out as soon as Mr. Weasley, Harry, Ron, Hermione, et al. get home that Mrs. Weasley has been frantically worrying. She can’t find any evidence of them being alive or dead; she’s freaking out. And as I was reading this, I was like, “Couldn’t they send messages through their Patronuses?” And then I was like, “Oh, wait, that’s later.”

[Andrew and Laura laugh]

Laura: That’s one of those inventions that comes later in the series.

Eric: I think it’s the very next book, so it’s within the next three years of the writing process that we learn about it. And I’m pretty sure the author gave an interview within the next year of this book coming out saying that certain members had something that was the equivalent of the wizarding world’s instant messaging, but it was not yet invented here, clearly, because Arthur surely would have used it to set Molly at ease. And the other aspect of this is it would have been a really cool ring composition moment, because the final book has obviously Kingsley Shacklebolt’s Patronus message showing up at the Burrow, and so we would have at least heard about Arthur sending one in Books 4 and 7.

Andrew: I’m glad we’re bringing this up, though, because it is an interesting look behind the scenes of the development of the series overall. Clearly, there was a ton developed even within Book 1; the world-building was fantastic. But still, there were some things that weren’t invented until later chapters or books, so I think this is a really fun thing for us to point out from time to time.

Eric: Yeah, I mean, in this chapter, “Mayhem at the Ministry,” Molly has been terrified all night and for most of the morning. They’re slowly traipsing back to the Burrow, and as soon as she sees them, as soon as she knows evidence that they’re okay, she freaks out and goes out to meet them.

Andrew: I wonder when she did find out exactly that something went awry…

Micah: I was thinking that too.

Andrew: … because she is clutching – I was just looking it up – the Daily Prophet when they come in. So I would presume maybe the following morning, she saw it through the paper and then got very concerned, because I was also wondering like, maybe Molly should have went to investigate herself.

[Andrew and Micah laugh]

Micah: Lazy.

Andrew: Just like, at a distance.

Laura: No, that’s so interesting. I think the way I read it, I assumed that she had heard about it the evening before and was freaking out all night, but maybe not. Somebody fact check.

Eric: We know that she has a wireless; she has a radio that she listens to the programs on, at least Celestina Warbeck’s Witching Hour.

Andrew: [laughs] Celestina comes on: “Attack at the Quidditch World Cup!”

Eric: No, that’s what I’m saying. How about “We interrupt this broadcast to let you know that something horrible has happened to potentially your loved ones”? That would absolutely make the cut.

Laura: Yeah. And actually, I want to call out HufflepuffsBadger in our Discord, pointing out that Molly can check the clock. We are reminded of the Weasleys’ very special clock in this chapter; that’s actually one of our odds and ends that we’re going to chat about a little bit later. But yeah, presumably, all of her children and her husband’s hands would have been pointing to “Mortal peril.”

Andrew: [laughs] Sleep well.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: For some period, yeah, last night.

Andrew: You know, it’s actually even worse to hear about it through the clock, because then she’s wondering, “Why are they in mortal peril?”

Laura: “What’s happening?” [laughs]

Micah: And the question would be, when it first clicks over to “Mortal peril,” is there an alarm of some sort that goes off where she would be notified? Because it’s not like you’re going to work or Hogwarts or something like that; it’s pretty serious stuff.

Eric: It makes the sound effect of our foreshadow alert; both are equally pressing sounds.

[Everyone laughs]

Andrew: I don’t know if I would want this clock. It’s almost like having access to too many people in the Find My app on iPhone.

Eric: Oh my God.

Andrew: You start wondering why they’re in certain places if you get bored and start looking at people. [laughs]

Micah: It’s the early version of BeReal.

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: That’s true.

Laura: Yeah, oh my God. And then Molly, starting at Book 5, she sends Patronus instant messages to be like, “Oh, I see that you’re in mortal peril.” [laughs] “What’s going on?”

Andrew: “What’s going on? I’m 12 drinks in at the Hog’s Head, Mom. I’m sorry.”

Laura: [laughs] That could be mortal peril.

Micah: And I just want to bring up, Eric, what you said earlier, which I think is worth reemphasizing, that not one Weasley went home. I mean, they have a pretty big contingent at the Quidditch World Cup, and Percy, Bill, and Charlie can all Apparate by themselves.

Eric: Right.

Micah: Presumably, Bill and Charlie can Apparate long distances without any issue. Percy might be a little bit too early on in his training…

Eric: Sure.

Micah: … but Bill or Charlie could have gone home and made sure Molly was not freaking out.

Eric: That “We’re okay,” yeah, yeah.

Micah: So shame on them. Shame on them. Bad kids.

Laura: Well, we’re going to chat about Rita Skeeter and journalism here in a moment, but just to kind of tie a bow on this aftermath theme of this chapter, towards the end of the chapter Harry finally does tell Ron and Hermione about his scar hurting and his dream from Chapter 1. So how did we take Ron’s and Hermione’s reactions to that? It seems like they reacted just in the way that Harry predicted they would.

Eric: I liked reading that part of it where Harry is… because at the beginning of the book, it opens up and says, “Well, what would Ron say? What would Hermione say?”

[Laura laughs]

Eric: Harry replays the whole thing, and to see that actually play out is satisfying. It’s like, “Oh, Harry knows his friends.” But what I liked in particular was Jim Dale’s reading of Harry asking Molly, “Have we gotten anything from Hedwig?” and she says “Hedwig? No.” And then a moment later, Harry is like, “Uh, Ron, okay if we put something in your room?”

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: And Ron is like, “Uh, yeah, yeah, let’s go up there. Hermione, do you want to come too?” It’s just so not subtle that something has occurred that they need to discuss. But it’s funny.

Laura: Yeah, I think Molly is probably too distraught and exhausted at this point to really pick up on it. I think normally she would. Think about how quick she is to get on the kids anytime they’re doing something that she thinks they shouldn’t be doing.

Micah: Hermione is situationally aware in this chapter. I mean, she is a lot throughout the series, but it really does come through in this chapter, because she’s also the one who makes Mrs. Weasley a strong cup of tea after they all arrive home, and I don’t know that necessarily that’s something a 14-year-old would look to do, right?

Andrew: No, no.

Micah: She’s being a bit of a caretaker. And that’s how she’s behaving at the end of this chapter, too, with Harry saying, “Oh, maybe we should all go to bed, because it’s been a long night.”

Eric: Yeah.

Andrew: But I also understood Harry’s perspective here being like, “No, I do want to play Quidditch, actually,” because he just wants to blow off some steam. Sometimes you want to go for a run after a hard day, or you want to hit the gym and pump some iron after a hard day.

Micah: Bro.

Andrew: People use that as a way to get out any pent-up energy or anger and then they feel good after.

Eric: Oh, boys.

Andrew: Otherwise maybe in Harry’s situation he’d be staying up all night, worrying about the events of the past 24 hours. He needed to let out some steam.

Eric: Yeah, yeah, that’s fair.

Laura: That’s probably right.

Eric: Well, I just appreciate Hermione for her emotional intelligence, to Micah’s point, too, and it’s not a bad suggestion to sleep; it’s just that it’s not the right suggestion for Harry in that moment. And actually, discussing this with Meg, she had a really good point, which was that Ron suggesting Harry play Quidditch to ease his tension, which is what works, showcases how well Ron knows Harry, and may be a foreshadowing of Harry being about to lose Ron, unfortunately. Because when Harry only has Hermione to regulate his mood and as a friend later in this book when Harry and Ron have their falling-out, Harry finds it insufficient. They go to the library a lot more, and Harry begins to miss Ron. Ron knows him much better, I think, in moments of need than Hermione does, unfortunately. Ron knows best in this moment.

Laura: That’s a great point. So looking towards the other half of this discussion, we’re really going to focus on Rita Skeeter, unethical journalism, and Ministry blunders.

[Eric laughs]

Laura: So in the wake of terror at the Quidditch World Cup, this chapter introduces us to the wizarding world equivalent of a gossip journalist named Rita Skeeter. We are going to recap a little bit on what we know about Rita as people who’ve read the entire series, because I think it’ll really help us better analyze her contributions to the book as we’re reading through. So just a reminder that Rita’s ability to acquire information is aided very significantly by her being an unregistered Animagus. She is a beetle. This is perfect setup because we just read all about unregistered Animagi in Prisoner of Azkaban, so this one is kind of hiding in plain sight, literally, several times throughout this story. So I thought that we could keep a Rita count, a beetle count, throughout the book…

Andrew: Oh boy.

Laura: … of all the times that she’s spying or turning up as a beetle. I can only think of maybe one or two examples that I remember, so I’m pretty excited to come across the others because I know there are a few.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s a fun idea. One thing that I noticed when reading this area, Arthur uses the word “ferreting” when talking about Rita, and I’m wondering if the use of that word by the author was almost meant as foreshadowing the Animagus revelation about Rita. The quote from Arthur is, “Rita Skeeter’s been ferreting around all week, looking for more Ministry mess-ups to report.” I just thought it was interesting because of what we later learn about her. I know ferreting is a sort of common word or phrase, but…

Laura: And it feels very British, too, to say, “Oh, she was ferreting around,” but I think you could do a double reading of it.

Andrew: I’m always looking out for foreshadowing in these books.

Micah: I kind of read it as his commentary on the type of reporter she is and the type of news that she likes to write about, and that’s why he used “ferreting” in this case.

Eric: Yeah. I mean, there’s a skill level attached to “ferret,” being able to sneak in and out and retrieve something, too, so it’s not not necessarily a compliment, in some ways.

Laura: Yeah. I mean, to your point, there is skill there. We maybe don’t like the skill, but if you’re being objective about it, it is there.

Eric: I mean, Rita is super cunning.

Laura: Yeah, well, given that we will find out towards the end of the book that she is this unregistered Animagus, she’s a beetle, I thought we could talk a little bit about what beetles represent socially, historically, and I wanted to start with certain biblical translations. So I’ll just preface this by saying that my biblical knowledge is somewhat limited; I was not raised in that context, so I’m interested to hear from people who maybe were, whether that’s y’all or whether that’s listeners. But certain translations have historically referred to the plagues in the Book of Exodus as plagues of a “grievous beetle” instead of locusts. I think that kind of interpretation or translation is to be expected of something as old as a religious text, but there are other significant cultural examples of what beetles represent. I think what’s really interesting is the role they play environmentally; they actually play a really important role preserving our planet by recycling filth, a.k.a. poop, to keep the Earth clean.

[Andrew and Micah laugh]

Eric: We don’t have a real world poop mountain, but we do absolutely have real world beetles performing in the…

Micah: They’re dung beetles.

Andrew: Nor do we have Evanesco.

Eric and Laura: Yep.

Laura: They’re just out there rolling that poop around. [laughs]

Micah: Dung beetles: very hard to catch in Animal Crossing, by the way.

Eric: Oh.

Micah: Right, Andrew?

Andrew: Oh, yeah.

Micah: They’re not easy.

Laura: Probably in real life, too, to be honest.

Andrew: But you’re also bringing this up about recycling filth, Laura, because of her being a gossip columnist.

Laura: Right, exactly. And listen, I’m going to get to this point here in a couple of minutes, but there can be some value to that, depending on timing and whatnot. Some cultures view beetles as being signs of good fortune and rebirth, right? Because again, they’re recycling the filth of the world and making it into something positive. Others view them as unclean, probably for the same reason – they’re just thinking about the poop differently – and even as symbols of evil or bad luck, so I think these are all things that we can connect to Rita in various ways. So I would like us to just keep this in the back of our mind as we read through this book and as we get to know her a little more. We’re also going to find out that she was a journalist during the first wizarding war, and we’ll see her later in the book in the Pensieve sequence where that reveal about Barty Crouch, Jr. being a Death Eater is made. She’s written a couple of biographies; she wrote one about former headmaster Armando Dippet, titled Armando Dippet: Master or Moron? And of course, as we all know, she later went on to write The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore.

Eric: She’s just doing the headmasters. She’s just biographing… she’s the very well-respected lead biographer for Hogwarts headmasters, apparently.

Andrew: She’s the Walter Isaacson of the wizarding world.

[Laura laughs]

Andrew: He wrote about Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, many others.

Laura: Right.

Eric: There you go.

Laura: I mean, I’ll be fair, I did not read either of those books. Andrew, were they gossipy?

Andrew: No, no, no.

Laura: Or were they actual legitimate works of nonfiction literature?

Andrew: I did not read the Elon one. I do not want to read the Elon one.

Laura: Okay.

Andrew: I did read the Steve Jobs one. It was good. Actually, speaking about gossipy type of info, I’ve been hearing about the Elon one, is there are a bunch of inaccuracies in it, apparently, so maybe he is kind of like Rita. [laughs]

Laura: Well, what do we think of…? And this is obviously very high level, but when we’re talking about…

Andrew: There it is; Micah found it in his library. Sorry, the Steve Jobs.

Laura: [laughs] Micah’s library has everything in it.

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: “Micah’s Magic Library” is the series that I want to see coming to HBO Max.

Laura: Aw, please do.

Micah: Patreon.

Andrew: For our listeners, he just showed off the Steve Jobs one on his camera.

Laura: [laughs] But what do we think of this representation of Rita as a beetle? And these are obviously high level examples of what beetles can represent.

Andrew: Well, I love the examples that you brought up, the recycling filth one in particular, just regurgitating but also bending the truth, which we see Rita do quite a bit. But I also think about how I feel about beetles: They’re ugly, they’re hard-looking… not to say Rita is ugly. [laughs] But they just put you off. They’re hard-looking, mean-looking insects, and I think these are a couple other reasons why her Animagus may have been a beetle.

Laura: I don’t think they’re ugly.

Andrew: [laughs] And I don’t think Rita is ugly; she’s a good-looking lady, for the record.

Laura: I know you’re not. I know you’re not saying that. Also, just shout-out to Miranda Richardson, who was the perfect casting in this role.

Micah: She was awesome.

Eric: Amazing.

Andrew: She was, yeah.

Micah: I was looking in the Discord and LegalizeGillyweed mentioned that her personal headcanon is that Rita’s Animagus is a beetle as a nod to the Beatles’ “Lovely Rita.” Rita Skeeter, meter maid.

Laura: Oh!

Andrew: Oh, interesting.

Eric: That’s fun! [sings] “Lovely Rita, meter maid.”

Laura: I love that.

Micah: We can probably get an orchestral version of that so you don’t get copyright infringement, if we want to use that as the sound effect. I’ll look it up for you, Andrew. Don’t worry.

Eric: For the beetle catch, yeah. You know, I’ll just say I think beetles are actually really pretty. We had Japanese beetles, I think, in our backyard, and their colors just always blew me away.

Andrew: Okay, guys.

[Laura laughs]

Eric: And did you know they use…? It’s actually been scientifically proven that dung beetles use the stars to navigate.

Laura: That’s cool.

Micah: Wow.

Andrew: All right, but they’re still really scary.

Eric: It’s insane. It’s insane. The meaning that I always took away from Harry Potter was this idea that you would call a journalist an insect. She waddles around in the filth, and she’s an insect because she’s so beneath us, or she’s not deserving of full human respect or whatever, whatever, whatever. That’s what I always thought it meant, and not anything deeper. But it’s always satisfying to go into this kind of stuff because the more you think about it, too, recycling information and this other stuff is really compelling, I must admit.

Micah: It’s obvious why she chooses it, because it also allows her to just get into places and situations that anybody else otherwise wouldn’t have the ability to. But I’m also interested from the standpoint of, the beetle can be killed very easily, and especially thinking about how common it is for people to swat bugs, was she never concerned that somebody wasn’t just not going to be like, “Boom,” and Rita’s gone?

Andrew: [laughs] Or capture her in a glass jar?

Micah: Well, that’s coming later.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Well, I bet she’s constantly worried about that after the events of this book.

[Andrew laughs]

Laura: Yeah, it’s a good thought.

Micah: But if you’re Sirius, you’re a dog, right? If you’re James, you’re a stag. You’re intimidating.

Andrew: Well, but if you’re small, you’re easy to…

Micah: Conceal.

Andrew: … it’s easy to sneak around, whereas if you’re a dog, it’s not easy to sneak around.

Micah: Yeah, I know. But what if Trevor ate her?

Andrew: Yeah, well, I guess you’ve got to keep your distance from any foes.

Micah: I guess that’s part of the… yeah, you’ve got to be smart.

Andrew: There’s no perfect solution, I suppose, unless you’re just invisible.

Laura: And I think she’s being portrayed as the type of journalist who will do anything for the story, right? And that extends to this, to potentially compromising her own safety, which a lot of journalists in the real world do all the time, journalists that are way better than Rita. But speaking of Rita, she is creating some work headaches for Arthur and Percy in the days following the Quidditch World Cup, so they’re both having to put in long hours at work because of her sensationalist reporting about the terroristic events of the Quidditch World Cup. And it is noted fairly early on in discussions of Rita Skeeter… I think it’s Bill who says, “Rita Skeeter never makes anyone look good,” so that’s the first I think real introduction that we get to her as a character, is this depiction of her being just the kind of journalist that is never going to print anything nice about anybody.

Eric: I mean, in addition to her putting herself in danger by being a beetle and maybe being stepped on – we were just talking about – she’s also not making any friends this way. Her chosen style of journalism does put her, I think, at further risk, because she really doesn’t have anything nice to say. And this is sensationalized journalism; Rita obviously represents a much larger but very real concept, and something that we… in Britain, the tabloid situation for many decades has been way out of hand, even more so than it has been in other places of the world, so a sensationalizing journalist who’s unafraid to make things entirely up – has no ethics – is a very important character, I guess, to showcase in this as this politicking is going on.

Micah: I’m glad you said that, though, because this also continues to world build for us, and we’ve talked about that a lot at the start of this book. And of course, we’ve heard of the Daily Prophet before, but now we’re introduced to an actual “journalist” in Rita Skeeter, and we start to see how the media plays a role within the wizarding world through her as a character and through comments like Bill makes about her, right? How the media is perceived, how certain journalists are perceived; and I know we’re going to talk a little bit more about that later, but just wanted to bring that up. And Laura, I was thinking about this because I know we often talk about work, but Arthur pulls one of those situations where the next day he’s like, “I gotta go to work, I gotta go to work,” and Molly is saying to him, “No, Honey, relax. Take the day… you were in a very stressful situation.” And we’ve all been there where we’re like, “No, gotta go. I gotta go to work.” And Percy, of course, too.

Laura: Well, especially if you feel like you’re the one who messed up, which Arthur does. Whether there’s any merit to him feeling that way is another conversation…

Eric: Sure.

Laura: … but he is the unnamed Ministry official who gives Rita a quote that is then used in this article that’s really just intended to slander the Ministry and point out, I think, some of the same criticisms that we’ve had of them over the course of this event, so Arthur feels responsible.

Andrew: And he enjoys his job, right? So this is a unique opportunity for him. I know it’s hard, I know it sucks, I know it’s stressing him out, but he also feels like “This is my time to shine,” in a way. Like, “I’m going to get involved in this situation and help resolve it.”

Micah: But it’s not his department. He should stay in his lane.

[Laura laughs]

Eric: It is kind of, though, company culture, right? When you feel that loyalty to the system, essentially.

Micah: Exactly.

Andrew: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Eric: And that is Arthur. He’s a company man.

Andrew: Clearly a workaholic if he wants to keep going in. [laughs]

Eric: Well, there’s that as well. But yeah, he feels personally responsible, and even if he weren’t like, not mentioned by name but quoted anyway in a Prophet article, it is this culture of “All hands on deck” at the Ministry because they need as many people as they can get to run interference, basically, now that the journalism aspect is becoming a problem.

Laura: Yeah. And Rita really adds fuel to the fire by noting that several bodies were removed from the woods after the Dark Mark was cast. And we didn’t see anything in the last chapter to substantiate those claims at all, so this is just Rita writing what she thinks it is people want to read, and she goes into that philosophy a little later in the book when we meet her.

Eric: This is where she crosses the line, to me. This is just straight up fake news. She knows there’s no bodies, but posting “Oh, the rumors of the bodies…” It’s actually irresponsible. It’s sensationalist journalism.

Micah: Clickbait.

Eric: It’s clickbait, but the story is sensational without her making this stuff up, and so for me, where she fails the integrity test is stoking those fears of bodies and starting just straight up lying. I’m sorry; there’s exaggeration and there’s lying. The bodies coming out of the woods? That’s a lie.

Laura: Well, and she’s shielding herself too. It’s the same thing that you see in gossip magazines; you’ll see these allusions to rumors, or friends of X person have said, and it’s like, this isn’t a real thing. This is just something that you’re printing to sell copies, but you can’t state it as a fact, so you’re going to say it’s a rumor.

Andrew: Also, her higher-ups at the Daily Prophet are to blame here as well. They should be asking, “Well, who are your sources?” Bodies? I mean, that’s a bold claim to make, saying that bodies were pulled out.

Eric: Right, she needs an editor, to be like, “You can’t say this without… you need to give up your source.”

Andrew: And presumably she has one, but they’re letting this go, too, so the Daily Prophet is very irresponsible as well.

Eric: Yeah, that’s a good… if Rita has an editor, they’re as morally bankrupt as she is. [laughs] Because the stuff she gets away with this whole year is insane.

Laura: Hey, it sells. What is it? What’s the saying? “If it bleeds, it leads”?

Andrew: If it bleeds, it leads. Yep.

Eric: Oh, man. Well, and bad news is good news, or all news is whatever…

Andrew: Everybody listening, watch your local news tonight on television. What’s the first story they feature? Somebody getting killed in your city. And unfortunately, it’s indicative of a larger problem in this country, but if it bleeds, it leads. That’s what gets people’s attention right at the top.

Eric: Man.

Laura: We can give Rita a little bit of credit here because Arthur also mentions that part of the damage control, part of the interference that he’s having to run, is because due to all of Rita’s buzzing around over the last few days because of these events, she found out about Bertha Jorkins’s disappearance. Credit where credit’s due. Was she ethical about how she did it? Absolutely not. But is this a case where Rita’s particular style of journalism, lacking in integrity though it is, is doing an actual public service?

Eric: Well, look, I think there’s very important points even that Rita does make, like the things she says about there being lax security and a national disgrace that the Death Eaters got to parade around. She’s not wrong.

Laura: No.

Eric: That’s absolutely 100%. Dark wizards running “unchecked”? Absolutely; that’s exactly what happened. So I don’t think that there… we cannot fault her for saying some things because they’re absolutely true and fair, and people should be questioning the government when a blunder like this happens or when somebody like Bertha Jorkins disappears. The fact that he – meaning Bagman – is outed in this chapter as not having done any searching… because Percy alludes to the fact; he’s like, “I told Bagman to do some searching.” The fact that he hasn’t, good, because they have done… everyone has failed Bertha Jorkins. And Rita Skeeter, it just takes somebody like her to be like, “This is a nightmare.” And is she exaggerating? Actually, this case, no. It’s a nightmare.

Andrew: In some ways, she is the much needed voice for critical Harry Potter podcasters like us.

[Laura laughs]

Andrew: We’re out here making these accusations against the Ministry and the wizarding world and all the issues. We can’t criticize her! We’d be throwing rocks in a glass house.

Eric and Laura: Wow.

Andrew: We stand with Rita here at MuggleCast.

Laura: Oh, no. [laughs]

Andrew: Lax security.

Micah: So you agree that she saw Dumbledore for who he was.

Andrew: I didn’t say that. [laughs]

Laura: Oooooh…

Andrew: Is this how you want to start the year, Micah?

[Eric and Laura laugh]

Micah: Well, she wrote a book.

Andrew: I must admit that I do have the Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore

Micah: From MinaLima.

Andrew: … MinaLima print framed in my home, so yes, actually, Micah, I am saying that.

[Andrew and Micah laugh]

Laura: Whoa. Andrew, you spent all of 2023 touching grass…

[Andrew laughs]

Laura: … and now you’re starting out 2024 saying that Dumbledore is a liar and a fraud. I can’t believe it.

Andrew: No, I still need to stand with all my Dumbledore fans who listen to the show.

[Laura laughs]

Eric: We’ve put him in a corner here. He’s in a corner.

Andrew: Don’t worry, I won’t let you down. I’ll burn that print from MinaLima tonight.

Eric: Oh my God.

[Laura laughs]

Andrew: I mean, it was several hundred dollars. But I’ll burn it for you all. [laughs] In solidarity.

Eric: There has to be an alternative.

Andrew: It’s signed by them.

Laura: Please don’t.

Micah: I will say, it is nice to see somebody challenging the Ministry just given how much we’ve seen and will see the Daily Prophet be a mouthpiece for them, thinking as we move forward in this book into Order of the Phoenix.

Eric: Exactly, exactly. I think the real solution here is just to have more journalists. I mean, Rita is the only journalist we ever meet, and she goes way off the deep end, but that’s not a reason to say we shouldn’t have any journalists, right? And to your point, Micah, of somebody challenging the Ministry, absolutely. But somebody should also be out there; another journalist should be challenging Rita. There should be two, at minimum, investigative sensationalist journalisms given equal bylines in the Daily Prophet, where you can read the perspective of more than one person. And hopefully, hope to God, hope to Merlin, they hire somebody with more integrity. But if there was just somebody else out there doing the work that Rita is doing, she would be forced to toe some line or be more of the middle ground, or people would appreciate her eccentricities because they would never venture into that territory of utterly absurd, or she would lose viewers to the person that was doing the more balanced, level-headed stuff. So this is a situation where more competition would breed better, I think, moral ground.

Laura: I hope so. But honestly, people love sensationalism. I mean, look at our own media, right? I mean, you see some of the most sensational lies being the outlets that get the most attention, the most viewership, readership, what have you, and I think that’s exactly what Rita is meant to represent here. Presumably there are other journalists who work at the Daily Prophet; we just don’t hear about them.

Andrew: This also ties into what we were talking about a few minutes ago with Rita being allowed to publish that bodies may have been pulled out of the forest. In a way, the fact that that got through was a canary in the coal mine for what we would later learn to be more corruption at the Daily Prophet.

Laura: True.

Micah: Right. And I would say the biggest challenge, Eric, to Rita is, of course, Xenophilius and the Quibbler, but the issue there is that they’re not taken seriously for their journalism. They’re just seen as crackpot.

Eric: Well, and Xenophilius is unhinged.

Micah: Yeah, but there is truth in some of what he writes, right? A smidge?

Eric: You’re right, but there’s nobody in-house. The United States used to have something called the Fairness Doctrine, and it required investigative stuff like this, matters of public interest, to be given broadcast time for both sides of an argument, and Rita Skeeter instead is able to run roughshod, publish anything that she wants, presumably without any level of needing to censor herself. And this is what allows her as the book goes on to relentlessly smear Hermione and all of the other crazy things that happen throughout the years. So it’s all because nobody is really making sure that there’s any kind of level or balanced or reasonable thing being in the print media.

Laura: Yeah, I think she’s also a representation of the British tabloids, which are a whole different level of gossip journalism that I think, based on events of the last 10 years or so, I think we’re all pretty familiar with. But British tabloids can be particularly vicious, and I really think particularly with regard to how Rita treats Hermione in turning her into a villain, I think that’s her place here. And unfortunately in this story, the Ministry is rubbing shoulders a little too closely with the Daily Prophet as the series goes on. Something I thought was interesting about Rita, and now thinking about Molly, is that Molly clearly recognizes that Rita Skeeter is a hack in this chapter. She tells Arthur not to let this woman “ruin whatever time off you have; she’s a hack.” I forget exactly how she referred to her, but it’s clear that Molly has no love for Rita Skeeter. But then later on in the book, she laps up everything Rita says about Hermione and treats her horribly. I thought that this was so interesting, and I was wondering why we think that is.

Eric: I think that Rita’s comments negatively trigger Molly’s mother instinct for Harry, and it’s one of the few subjects… one of the few ways to get Molly to turn on anybody is to make her think that one of her sons is being abused. That’s the only way that that this person could appeal to Molly. But because people who believe something unpopular need that verification; they need to believe that they’re good people. She then switches over and is like, “No, Rita Skeeter…” There’s no thought to it, because she needs to justify protecting Harry at all costs, so she’s now going to believe this person that previously she wouldn’t have given two inches to.

Andrew: Yeah, Harry is sort of her North Star, so I like your point that you’re bringing up about “gotta protect Harry at all costs.” I wonder if she’s also carried a little disdain for Hermione in the background…

Eric: Maybe.

Andrew: … and now some of that’s being brought to the forefront with Rita’s reporting.

Laura: I don’t know.

Eric: It occurs to me… what you were saying, Laura, a moment ago about Rita Skeeter being against the Ministry, but the Daily Prophet in the future always being the mouthpiece of the Ministry… I think what changed at the end of this book is when you’d usually have somebody like Rita calling things out and being negative about the Ministry, that’s when Hermione has captured her. And so Hermione might actually negatively impact the future of the wizarding world, because by removing Rita from the equation, the only people publishing at the Daily Prophet are the ones that are going to say what the Ministry wants them to say, and not somebody like Rita, who probably would have found something unpopular to say government-wise.

Laura: Yeah, I wonder how long they would have kept her on as a reporter at the Daily Prophet. I can definitely see them parting ways with anyone who doesn’t toe the line. But it’s a good point, that not having Rita’s voice out there… and it’s unfortunate, too, because I think we’re establishing that she has her moments where she’s right, but she’s not leading with the being right. She’s not leading with doing the right thing; she’s not leading with the ethics of it. She’s leading with salacious details, juicy stories, hot goss, as the kids say, and that just, I think, removes any validity from anything she brings to the table, right? She doesn’t care about Bertha Jorkins; it’s just a juicy story. “Incompetent Ministry official loses one of his department members for four months, doesn’t report it.” That’s really what she’s looking for.

Eric: Yeah.

Laura: So obviously – I think we’ve touched on this quite a bit – we’re all pretty familiar with the real world consequences of this brand of journalism. Clearly, media literacy is as much a problem in the wizarding world as it is in the Muggle world. So I wanted to ask for an honesty moment. This is a safe space, everyone…

[Andrew laughs]

Laura: … but have any of us ever been caught up in following salacious gossip-based reporting? I have.

Andrew: Oh, following. At first I read this as, “Has anybody been reported on in the gossip rags?”

[Everyone laughs]

Laura: No, no, no!

Andrew: Well, the reason my mind…

Laura: I mean, I know you have, Andrew.

[Laura and Micah laugh]

Andrew: Yeah, so briefly, I’ll just…

Micah: Yes to both for Andrew.

[Laura laughs]

Andrew: To answer your actual question, Laura, yeah, some gossip is fun to read. I used to be really into, and I still enjoy reading TMZ, even though, believe it or not, I find a lot of that actually fact-based. But a lot of people might not know there was actually a gossip rag for the Harry Potter fandom called the Acid Quill, and this was a real thing that two people were running. I later found out who wrote it; years and years later I found out who wrote it/was running it. But they were “reporting” [laughs] on things that were happening at fandom events, and there was some reporting on me at one point. I’m sure you all were mentioned at other points.

Eric: Not me. I escaped.

Laura: No, I was not important enough.

Andrew: Well, you all are just angels, aren’t you? [laughs]

Eric: Yes, we are, and that’s the point.

Andrew: No, but it didn’t report anything bad about what I was up to, but it was a little spooky because somebody… information was being leaked. And they later apologized for it; they were kind of teenagers who were doing it, who were…

Laura: Yeah, it was creepy, though, because they managed to get pictures of people at parties that were not open. And not just Andrew, I mean; other prominent figures in the Harry Potter fandom were being written about and gossiped about. It was wild.

Andrew: Yeah, the details are what were disturbing me. I can’t say I remember any photos. But it was rough; I didn’t like it.

Laura: Oh, do you remember how they would get people’s AIM transcripts?

[Andrew and Laura laugh]

Andrew: No, I don’t remember that.

Micah: Wow.

Laura: I remember that. That was awful. Anyway.

Eric: I wonder if I can recruit them to get mine and Emerson’s old AIM transcripts for me, because I miss those conversations, away messages…

Laura: Did you have a bunch of fights with him over AIM? Because I think everybody did. [laughs]

Eric: Well, probably not. I mean, I’m pretty sure it was like, “Hey,” and three days later was it like, “Hey, how’s it going?”

[Andrew and Laura laugh]

Eric: “Not bad, just read a book a day,” something, something. [laughs]

Micah: “Love my hat. Thank you.”

Eric: “Thank you. Thank you, sir.”

Micah: “Go Irish.”

Laura: [laughs] Well, I will say that I have definitely found myself getting caught up in this kind of journalism, and it’s not even necessarily journalism as it relates to celebrities or pop culture. I have definitely found myself following certain political stories where there’s a gossip angle probably a little more closely than I should have, especially if it was somebody that I didn’t like. Just being totally real with y’all. Like, yeah, it’s human. I’ve done it.

Andrew: Yeah, for sure.

Eric: And definitely this sense of closeness, or like you personally know somebody who’s a celebrity or a government official, is a very attractive failing of the human race. A psychological thing that we do… it brings us joy to feel close to the Kardashians; it makes us feel like we… we either live vicariously through something or we hate-watch their relationship tank. There’s a lot of social aspects to the psychology behind why this kind of news that Rita Skeeter is putting sells. And so to your point, Laura, I think yeah, it is. It is totally normal. It’s certainly prevalent, and it is a lot in the real world.

Andrew: People naturally enjoy watching a train wreck. We love mess. We like watching the s-show.

Eric: Give me the tea. Give me all the tea.

Micah: Well, I also think that…

Laura: And in that way, we’re not so different from wizards.

Andrew: Right.

Eric: Wow.

Micah: That’s true.

[Laura laughs]

Micah: But I think we subscribe to forms of media that fit our belief systems, but that doesn’t always mean that those forms of media are truthful, and I think you have to look really hard to find unbiased journalism. I think you may not find it anywhere, to be quite candid, right?

Andrew: True.

Micah: Because there’s always some personal element that’s factored into what that particular story is.

Andrew: A personal bias.

Micah: Yeah, it’s probably an unconscious bias on some level. And I was thinking specifically… I mean, yes, it could be very easy for me to sit here and say, “Yeah, Fox News, fair and balanced? Yeah, right.” But I was thinking more so in this case of the New York Times, right? Their tagline is “All the news that’s fit to print,” but isn’t that just them printing the news that they see fit to print?

Andrew: Yes.

Micah: Because there’s plenty of other news out there. So I thought I would…

Eric: I think that’s it, like the Washington Post too, as well, had to disclose I think at a certain point the disclaimer of who owns them, right? And when you have these major, major, major news conglomerates being owned by corporations, you’re not getting unbiased news.

Laura: Right.

Eric: You’re getting the most politically appropriate news that’s politically appropriate for the company that owns that news outlet, and don’t kid yourself that there’s anything other than that happening. So the Daily Prophet being the wizarding world’s only real established source of news that we see is a huge problem, just because again, there’s none of that competition going on. There’s none of that desire for truthfulness.

Laura: Yeah, that’s such a great point.

Eric: So follow MuggleCast on Truth Social. We’re starting…

[Everyone laughs]

Micah: Yeah, everything we say, you’d totally believe.

Eric: Your unbiased news source.

Laura: Yeah, if we did that, I would quit the show. [laughs]

Eric: [laughs] I would quit the show too. Oh, man.

Laura: Anything else apart from… I’ll just say this, y’all: Read your local news. You’re going to get a lot of really good reporting out of your local news. Local news goes very under-appreciated.

Andrew: And read multiple sources.

Laura: Yes, oh my gosh.

Eric: Yeah, media literacy right is like, please have some.

Andrew: So important. One of my favorite classes I took in college, media literacy. And I was actually just reading earlier today, states are slowly but surely starting to require media literacy classes. And to be clear, that’s understanding how to check sources, make sure you’re getting the right information, understanding what might be happening behind the scenes at media outlets, etc. Important class.

Laura: Too little too late, some might say.

[Andrew laughs]

Odds & Ends

Laura: But anyway, let’s move into some Odds & Ends. So I wanted to give Mundungus Fletcher a shout-out; he gets briefly mentioned in this chapter. He’s trying to commit, I think, the wizarding world equivalent of insurance fraud.

[Micah laughs]

Laura: He’s trying to get the Ministry to reimburse him for a much more exquisite tent than what he had, which was described as like, a coat propped up on a few sticks. [laughs]

Eric: Sticks, yeah. And he wants a 12-bedroom ensuite with jacuzzi.

Andrew: Fraud.

Eric: It’s fraud. But maybe first mention of Mundungus Fletcher?

Laura: Yeah, I think so.

Andrew: Ooh.

Laura: Ron also receives those horrid, horrid dress robes that are on his school list.

Eric: And featured as a bonus outfit in Hogwarts Legacy.

Andrew: Oh, yeah.

Laura and Micah: It is.

Micah: But Mrs. Weasley really doesn’t do Ron any favors here. And in the movie, we hear that these robes were hand-me-downs from somebody in his family, but it actually sounds like these were purchased, most likely at a secondhand store. But Ron is kind of the runt of the litter and he ends up with all the hand-me-downs. We look at Scabbers, his first wand… and I was just thinking to myself, both Bill and Charlie are employed. They couldn’t help Ron out from time to time with some nice things?

Andrew: Well, and also, Harry says he wishes he could give the Weasleys half his fortune. Why not just buy Ron a new dress robe set? He could.

Micah: He could, 100%. Especially given everything that the Weasleys do for him, right?

Andrew: Yeah, and Molly doesn’t have to know.

Laura: Yeah, I think he would if they would let him.

Micah: This will put Ron in a really bad situation. When he gets it in the movie, it’s in front of everybody in the Great Hall, and he makes the joke that it must be for Ginny, and Ginny is like, “No, it’s actually for you,” and everybody laughs at him and then he looks terrible when he goes to the Yule Ball. I just feel like Molly could have a little bit more care when it comes to Ron.

Eric: I forget where I saw this point, too, but Molly could sew something; she could fix it herself. She could get rid of some of that lace, maybe take it in a little bit, make it a little bit more masculine-presenting, instead of embarrassing Ron and then insulting him, saying if he runs around naked, it would be a sight to see. Unbelievable.

[Laura and Micah laugh]

Andrew: “I could use a laugh.”

Eric: But Ron leaves this chapter on such a down note. I mean, Pigwidgeon takes that exact moment to start choking on a biscuit or their food or something, and he’s like, “Why is everything I own rubbish?”

Micah: Because he probably realized how bad that thing looked too.

Eric: I know.

Laura: Probably.

Andrew: And that was the closing line of the chapter. “Why is everything I own rubbish?” It was quite the downer of a way to end the chapter.

Eric: It’s a real downer.

Laura: I know. Poor Ron.

Andrew and Eric: Yeah.

Laura: Honestly, if I were him, I would just take my regular school robes and ask one of the professors to just change the color of the robes, because Harry’s robes are described as just looking like his school robes, but they’re emerald green. It seems like there could be some magic worked.

Eric: Well, they’re fourth years at this point; they should be able to alter garments themselves, change the color of this thing. Come on, that seems pretty easy, right? To your point about hand-me-downs, too… and Bill and Charlie, maybe none of them ever had dress robes that they could just give Ron, and that speaks to the uniqueness of the Yule Ball, which is not being mentioned yet. There’s been no call for formal school robes at Hogwarts in possibly the entire time since before Bill and Charlie went to Hogwarts, so it’s actually a big deal that’s masquerading as… where the only talk we get of it is Ron’s disappointment.

Micah: Yeah, but they could have bought him robes.

Eric: Yeah, it’s fair.

Micah: They’re both cool. They could find something suitable.

Laura: Yeah, I think so. Moving on here, Harry reminds Ron and Hermione and the reader of Trelawney’s prophecy from the end of Prisoner of Azkaban about the Dark Lord’s servant returning to him and the Dark Lord will rise once again. So again, another really nice connection to Prisoner of Azkaban from this early point in Goblet of Fire. We know that Fred and George are noted as quietly working on something; we don’t yet know what it is.

Andrew: And Molly is already talking smack on Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes…

[Eric groans]

Laura: I know.

Andrew: … which kills me because this was right after saying she regretted her final words to the boys about their OWLs before the Quidditch World Cup, and now she’s already back to her old ways. Did you not learn anything? I thought you did. You were a wreck. You were like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe the last time I’d seen you before the Quidditch World Cup, I said something bad.” And now here she goes saying something bad again!

Eric: Well, to their credit, they call her out on exactly that.

Andrew: Yeah, and she even laughs.

Eric: Well, but she knows that they’re persistent. And that’s the best and worst quality of the Weasley twins, is their persistence, and so they very well could be up to something negative. We know they’re not; they’re trying to draft a letter. But they could very well be printing up more order forms.

Micah: And along these lines, I know I’m always the one that gets called out for being a savage…

[Laura laughs]

Micah: … but Eric, actually you shared a transcript very recently: Episode 210, when we last discussed this very chapter. Laura, to this very point, said, “Yep, she’ll be regretting that one in three years.”

[Andrew and Laura laugh]

Eric: Oh my God.

Laura: Listen…

Micah: It’s the Ravenclaw blood, the sarcasm.

Laura: It is. It’s there. But I feel like… I don’t know. I feel like I’ve become more subtle, 19 years later.

[Andrew and Laura laugh]

Eric: Yeah, you’re not in it for the shock value anymore.

Laura: No, I’m not. I’m not. I was Rita Skeeter back then. How long was that episode ago? 13 years, you said?

Eric: Yeah, 13 years, two months.

Micah: Oof.

Laura: Yep. And then finally here, Hermione thinks that it’s lucky that Rita hasn’t found out how Crouch treats his house-elves. In response to learning that she has found out about Bertha Jorkins, Hermione is like, “Oh, well, Crouch is lucky that she hasn’t found out how he treats house-elves.” And I think what Hermione is missing here is that the sad reality is that this treatment is so commonly accepted that it would never create the necessary shock to sell papers and thus would not be reported on.

Eric: Yeah. I think that’s more of a conversational retort that Hermione is trying to get a word in edgewise, but unfortunately, this whole book she doesn’t really have a case to state. There’s no shock about the elves being mistreated.

Laura: No.

MVP of the Week

Andrew: All right, well, that is the chapter, and now it’s time for MVP of the Week.

[MVP of the Week music plays]

Andrew: Going back to something we brought up a couple minutes ago, I’m going to give my MVP of the Week to Ron, specifically for the line, “Mum, you’ve given me Ginny’s new dress” when presented with his new dress robes.

[Laura laughs]

Andrew: I thought that was very funny. And sorry, Ron.

Eric: I’m sure she does the laundry all the time. That must happen in a house with so many kids.

Andrew: Right.

Eric: Like, “Oopsie.” I’m going to give mine to Mundungus Fletcher trying to get a big, big tent from the government. Bless him for trying. I don’t dislike Mundungus yet. He’s great.

Andrew: Yet.

Laura: So far. Controversially, I’m going to give mine to Rita Skeeter.

[Andrew gasps]

Laura: Not because I like her, but because she is genuinely the most interesting thing that happens in this chapter.

[Andrew laughs]

Laura: And her entire character arc is really interesting to me.

Micah: And she’s not even there. That’s the best part.

[Eric laughs]

Micah: She’s not physically there.

Laura: I know, she’s not even there; she carries such a reputation.

Andrew: That’s how you know you’re good.

Micah: And I’m going to give it to Basil, [pronounces it BAY-zil] who is the master…

Eric: Basil. [pronounces it BAH-zil]

Laura: It’s Basil. [pronounces it BAH-zil]

Micah: I don’t know; however you want to pronounce it. The master of the Portkeys. That man was very busy the morning after the Quidditch World Cup.

Eric: It was such a stressful job.

[MVP of the Week music ends]

Andrew: Well, I think we had a good start to the year with Chapter by Chapter. If you have any feedback about today’s discussion, you can contact us by emailing or sending a voice memo recorded on your phone to, or by using our phone number, which is 1-920-3-MUGGLE. That’s 1-920-368-4453. Next week, we’ll discuss Chapter 11 of Goblet of Fire, which is titled “Aboard the Hogwarts Express.” And we will also enjoy one of our Slug Club patrons.

Micah: Choo-choo.

Andrew: Yes. Well, Micah, I mean, you’re not going to be here next week, so we’ll just have to play this sound effect again and again.

[Micah’s “Choo-choo” sound effect plays]

[Micah laughs]

[Micah’s “Choo-choo” sound effect plays]

Andrew: So you’ll be here in spirit.

Micah: Correct.

Andrew: And you’ll really be in Paris. Have a nice time.

Micah: Thank you.

Eric: Yeah, Micah, are you going to check out the Circus Arcanus? I hear they’re in Paris.

[Andrew laughs]

Micah: Yeah, I will…

Andrew: [laughs] You sound so excited.

Eric: Please take pictures of the French Ministry.

Micah: Yeah, I want to make sure I see them before they move to Orlando for their permanent residence.

Andrew: [laughs] We can do the bonus MuggleCast on that, actually.

Micah: But Père Lachaise, right? Probably cool to check out.

Eric: Oh, please go.

Andrew: Please go! I’ve never been. I would love to go to Paris. That’s next on my…

Micah: And I will be in London afterward, so I am headed to the Studio Tour and will report back.


Andrew: All right, well, it’s time for Quizzitch.

[Quizzitch music plays]

Eric: Last year’s last Quizzitch question: What did Rita Skeeter once called Bill Weasley in an interview with Gringotts curse-breakers? The correct answer is a “long-haired pillock.”

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: Which, at least it wasn’t me she called that. Correct answers; here are the winners for the last Quizzitch of last year. Justice for Winky; Mrs. Finnigan’s Irish wristwatch; The hella good boat Arthur made for Ludo Bagman; Bill and Rita totally got their Skeeter on; Pilbus Dumbledore’s Christmas cookies; Mundungus Fletcher’s 12-bedroom tent with ensuite jacuzzi; Hermione is an anarchist and I will die on this hill; Andrew’s unwholesome gift; All I will want for Christmas is sexy Bill Weasley; Stream the Triwizard Tournament on pillock, I mean Peacock…

[Andrew and Laura laugh]

Eric: … BuffDaddy; HallowWolf; Katie from Hufflepuff; Nate the 12-year-old, cooler than this Luke kid… that’s harmful.

Andrew: Wow, ouch.

[Micah laughs]

Laura: Oh, man. Shots fired.

Eric: That was what they put. I think Luke is amazing. Okay, Elizabeth K; Amazing Skabidi; Perry over the 12th; If Ron is a time-traveling Dumbledore than the 1890s dress robes make perfect sense; Dumbledore’s lawn chair he uses to watch chaos unfold…

[Andrew and Micah laugh]

Eric: … Wrackspurt Chaser; and finally, this is one I’ve never heard before in 20 years of being a Harry Potter fan. Question: Where can you find Dumbledore’s Army? Answer: up his sleevy.

Andrew: Okay.

Micah: I get it.

Andrew: Well, it sort of rhymes.

Micah: I’m excited mine made it.

Eric: Oh, yours did make it. Which one is yours?

Laura: Probably the one that had me shook.

Eric: Oh, Bill and Rita totally got their Skeeter on?

Laura: Yeah.

Micah: Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.

Laura: Oh, that was you. Okay.

Eric: Wow.

Micah: See, Laura and I are on the same wavelength. [laughs]

Laura: Yeah, I was shook when I heard… I was like… [laughs]

Micah: See, I was creative without being too inappropriate.

Laura: Yeah. I appreciate it.

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: All right. Well, here is the first Quizzitch question of the new year: What spell does Hermione start learning on the Hogwarts Express in Harry’s fourth year? Meaning this year, meaning the chapter that we’re about to read next week. Anyone can submit their answer and fun nickname to us on the Quizzitch form, which is located on the MuggleCast website,, or go to MuggleCast – set it as your homepage while you’re there – and click on “Quizzitch” from the main nav.

Andrew: Set it as your homepage. Speaking of, if you click on the “Must-listens” link in the menu, you will find our Wall of Fame, which was updated over our break; Micah added numerous episodes. This is a great place to go to find some of our favorite episodes of MuggleCast, some big news-oriented episodes of MuggleCast, some particularly fun and special episodes. So maybe if you’re a new listener, even over the last couple years, go to, click on “Must-listens”; you’ll find other great stuff, too: our Chapter by Chapter archive, our movie commentaries, special interviews, and more.

Micah: We added maybe ten or so episodes from 2023, including our most recent one, which I know we had gotten a couple suggestions in the Discord to just throw it up there, so our last episode.

Andrew: Oh, our best Christmas episode ever.

Micah: [laughs] Yes. Minus the cheer.

Andrew: [laughs] Got it.

Micah: Since it was such a dark episode. But I will say, the ones that I really enjoy going back and listening to are the ones that we did on the specific Houses, the deep dive that we did on Gryffindor, Slytherin…

Andrew: Oh, those were so fun.

Micah: … but more importantly, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.

Andrew: And you wrote little captions for each episode, which is great as well, so check all of those out on the “Must-listens” page on You can also visit the site for transcripts, social media links, our full episode archive, and to contact us. If you enjoy the show and think other Muggles like you would, too, tell a friend about the show. We would also appreciate if you left us a review in your favorite podcast app. And last but not least, listener support is the reason why we are a weekly podcast, so visit if you want to support the show and you’ll receive early access to the show, ad-free episodes, bonus episodes, yearly physical gifts, access to our livestreams, and so much more. And then, if you prefer to support us via Apple Podcasts, we now have MuggleCast Gold, where you’ll get bonus MuggleCast, ad-free MuggleCast, and early access to MuggleCast. As Micah brought up at the top of the episode, it’s a great deal. Whether you’re pledging through Patreon or Apple Podcasts, free trials are available and so are annual subscriptions, and if you sign up for a year upfront, you will receive a discount on that annual subscription. That’s our way of thanking you for supporting us for the year ahead. So that does it for this week’s episode. Thanks, everybody, for listening. Happy New Year. Excited to be with you in our 19th year of being your Harry Potter friends. I’m Andrew.

Eric: I’m Eric.

Micah: I’m Micah.

Laura: And I’m Laura.

Andrew: Bye, everybody.

Eric and Micah: Bye.

Laura: Bye, y’all