Taking responsibility

MGC is usually a blog by writers about, well, writing. Or at least about the publishing industry, be it traditional or indie. Today, however, I’m going to step outside of the writer persona and into the reader and, more importantly, parent persona. You see, I saw an article linked on Facebook this morning that had me alternating between shaking my head and wanting to shake someone else. The article itself isn’t all that important. What is, is the mindset behind it and the pointing of fingers without taking a moment to take a bit of personal responsibility.

In this case, yet another person has raised their head to complain about Harry Potter. Believe it or not, but according to the post, Harry Potter promotes a rape culture.

Yes, you read that right. Harry Potter promotes a rape culture.

How? I know you are each asking that and the answer is simple. It does so because — gasp — love potions are used.

Now, on the surface of it, if I squint really tightly and turn my brain off, I can almost see the point. After all, love potions do take the “choice” away from the person it is being given to, much like rohypnol or any of the other date rape drugs.

However, let’s not squint and twist our brains around and actually look at the allegation in the light of day and as adults with more than two working brain cells. Are we going to condemn every story — every fairy tale — that has been told over the years and centuries that has mention of love potions in them? Think about it. Most of those stories revolve around young women, teenagers often, who use the potion to win over the man of their dreams. Will we condemn those stories as promoting rape culture or give them a pass because the one using the potion is female?

Now, before I go any further and some of those who might read this think I have no problem with using an artificial means to take someone’s free will or ability to knowingly consent away from them, I don’t. In fact, you won’t find many folks with a lower opinion of anyone — male or female — who do so. I have worked with victims of sexual assault, male and female. I have friends and family who have been such victims. No one has the right to force himself or herself on another when that person either refuses to give consent or who has been so compromised that consent cannot be freely and willingly given.

With that said, when looking at Harry Potter, you have to remember it is fiction, fantasy. Love potions don’t exist. However, as a parent, when you are reading the book with your kids — or when you see your child reading it — talk about the book with them. Use the book as a teaching moment without taking away the joy of reading. In other words, take responsibility to read the books your kids are reading and then take responsibility to spend some time talking with them about it.

Maybe I’m strange that way but ,when my son was growing up, I made a point of knowing what he was reading, what movies he wanted to see, what video games he wanted to play. I didn’t wait for him to come to me and ask about something in a book. Well, not usually. One book on his summer reading list I read half of and made an assumption about the book. That assumption came back to bite me. More on that in a minute.

I didn’t do that sort of supervision because I wanted to keep my son from reading anything that might “harm” him. I didn’t do it to keep him from reading something I didn’t agree with. I did it so we could discuss the book — or the game or the movie. If there were themes I thought he might not understand, I wanted to be prepared to discuss them with him. What I usually found was that he was already three steps ahead of me. However, on occasion, he did have questions or he wanted to talk about what he had read.

The one time not reading the entire book came back to bite me was, as I said, with a summer reading list book. My son was about to go into the fifth grade. We were on vacation out-of-state and this was the last book he had to read. I’d read about half of it and nothing set off any of my warning bells that there might be a theme or scene or anything we might need to talk about. It was a nice little gothic mystery.

Until you got to the last two chapters. Then, out of the blue, came a very graphic attempted rape scene that culminated in an almost as graphic murder of the attempted rapist by the ghost that had been haunting the house.Β Imagine my surprise and then frustration when my son started asking me questions about the scene. We had a long talk about the scene and how it fit in with the rest of the book, the realities of rape (age appropriate discussion) and how no one, male or female, had the right to force someone else to have sex. If I had read the entire book, I would have been prepared.

What I learned when we got back home — and when the English teacher who had assigned the book as part of the summer reading list finally agreed to meet with me — was that the list for these newly minted fifth graders had been compiled by so-called experts: librarians, business professionals and education administrators. Oh, and the list was actually for students going into the 10th grade but because my son and his classmates were in the gifted and talented program, the teacher had deemed the books appropriate. It didn’t matter that there was a five year difference in age between the students the books had been recommended for and those she had assigned them to.

Responsibility. Or, in her case, a lack thereof.

Her response was to try to pass the responsibility buck back to me, telling me that I could have requested another reading list, or at least an alternate to the book I found objectionable. The problem with that was we weren’t given the list until after school was out for the summer and teachers unavailable. Then there was the little fact that nowhere in any of the information we were given with the list was there made mention of being able to substitute books.

I dropped the ball by not reading all the book but the teacher and the administration dropped it first and farther by not taking into account the age of the students being told to read a book recommended for kids much older than they were.

So how does this relate back to the Harry Potter books? Simple. From the time the first book in the series came out, parents and educators and critics have condemned the books for a number of different reasons. There were the calls to ban the books in schools and libraries because they promoted devil worship and witchcraft. Of course, many of those making the claims had never read the books. They weren’t about to risk being contaminated by Satan’s work.

Responsibility.

To read and think before condemning.

There were complaints because the books didn’t follow the hallowed “Zero Tolerance” edict that has been put into play in our schools. Harry and friends never, ever should have done anything to protect themselves from the bullying and attacks from those who weren’t good and pure.

Responsibility.

To read and think and discuss bullying and standing up for yourself and others.

Responsibility.

To make sure your kids understand the difference between fantasy and reality.

Now, about those love potions. What a great opportunity to talk about what I just mentioned, the difference between fantasy and reality. Or how about how it is never acceptable to take away someone’s free will? There are so many things you could discuss, all without taking away your child’s joy in reading the book. Discuss, not lecture.

It’s simple really. By talking about the book — or the movie or TV show or video game — you are spending time with your kids. You are bonding. You are showing them you care about things they think are important or that they care about. That is what’s important and will set the example for how they can be good parents when the time comes.

With regard to the allegation that the use of love potions in Harry Potter promote rape culture, gimme a break. It’s a fantasy, first and foremost. For another, as far as I remember from the books (and it has been some years since I read them) it was generally made clear that there were negative consequences eventually from using them. But none of that fits the social construct right now. That means it is up to each of us as parents or aunts and uncles or extended family or big brothers and sisters to make sure we know what our kids are reading and to take the time to discuss it with them.

In other words, we have to adult and take responsibility.

Who knows, in doing so, we might just find a few new authors and books we like in the process.

70 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

70 responses to “Taking responsibility

  1. Laura M

    I cannot, for the life of me, remember the love potion and who deployed it.

    What I do remember is that in Harry Potter the kids stood up to evil and fought back. That’s one part of why the books are so popular.

    • Uncle Lar

      As I recall, from the movie not the book, some minor character had set her sights on Harry and left him a dosed box of sweets. Only Ron got to them first. Made for a funny bit in the movie.

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Off Topic (a bit),

    I once read The Perilous Gard, an Elizabethan “Romance” book based on a Classic Fairy Tale.

    At the end of the novel, the defeated Fairy Queen (actually a pagan High Priestess) offered the female Main Character a “love potion” to make the Male Character fall in love with her.

    The “Queen” claimed that she was offering it because she respected the female Main Character.

    The woman rejected the love potion and it appeared that the “Queen” respected that decision (or at least considered it a victory for the woman).

    Now the woman had been thinking that the Male Character had been planning to marry her sister, but finds out that he had been getting permission to marry Her!

    Then the woman realized that the “Queen” could easily have known about his plans (no magic just listening to servant gossip which the female MC hadn’t done).

    So while the “Queen” may have respected her before, the offer of the “love potion” was revenge as the MC would never know that he actually loved her, imagining it was “just the love potion and perhaps worrying that the love potion would wear off”.

    So not only did the MC win one victory over the “Queen”, she won a second victory by rejecting the “love potion”. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

    • Laura M

      That was a good book. Listened to it with my kids on audio years ago.

    • Sara the Red

      Listened to that book a few months ago–wish I had found it years earlier!

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        It’s one of the first stories I remember reading where the “girl” saved the “guy”.

        Note, it was a very believable save. πŸ˜‰

        • aacid14

          That’s the crux of the matter. Believability

        • Sara the Red

          Yes, and she did so in a manner consistent with what she was: a gently reared Elizabethan noblewoman (or gentlewoman, at least). No modern-woman posturing, but that did not make her one whit less a clever, resourceful, capable heroine. (Anyone who knows even a smidge about the royal courts of that time period…you couldn’t be a wimp and survive, either socially or–frequently–literally.)

          I’ve got at least one other book by that author on my wishlist. Hope it’s as good!

          • The Sherwood Ring isn’t as good as TPG, but it ain’t bad. It’s sort of Sabatini-ish, and loveable. Naturally a lot of SJW’s hate the book for irrelevant reasons, so be prepared for the unbearable edginess of a blameless old book!

            Do yourself a favor and never read any fanfic based on it, though. Oh, crikey, the things that people do. Brain bleach needed.

    • sabrinachase

      One of my very favorite books… and Kate, the heroine, also commits rampant cultural appropriation from the Folk Under the Hill–and brags about it in that scene! The Folk practice scrupulous honesty, even to enemies. “Did you think I learned nothing in the time I lived with you?” Kate also learns to parse what is said very, very carefully πŸ˜‰ Even though the Folk are her enemies, she still can appreciate some of their customs and use them herself. “Who will know?” the Lady asks. “Well, I would,” Kate said. And that honesty defeats the malicious revenge. Even sweeter that Kate learned about innate honesty *from* the Lady.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        And of course, the Lady was honest because IIRC she said “if he drinks this potion, he’ll marry you” but she knew that he was planning to marry Kate already. πŸ˜‰

        Great example of “lying with the truth”. πŸ˜€

        • Sara the Red

          I always admired someone who could stick to the whole “The Fair Folk never lie” thing well, while still having them be genuinely deceptive and manipulative. (Little wonder that many of those old tales equated the Folk with the demons of hell: it’s a favored tactic of the Adversary as well, to lie to you with the truth…)

        • Sometimes I wonder if some folks now should have spent some time listening to the Soviet-era Radio Moscow which was.. very… economical with the truth. I think I watched Colbert once and his show tripped all the same indicators for me.

    • I remember lines to the effect, “I saw the way you looked at him, she looked at you, and he looked at you both.” Parsed one way when she was considering using the love potion, another when he came to talk to her later.

    • Arwen

      I love that book. It’s my favorite take on the Tam Lin legend.

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  4. I, as someone with the same attitude as yours, took “Love potions to mean enhance affection towards a person.

    • Reality Observer

      For those of us who weren’t taught the equation Love = Sex, that is all they ever were. Myself, I always asked the question about when they wore off…

      Many of the problems in our modern world are caused by the idea that Sex –> Love. (Note the different operator, there.)

  5. For a number of years, I vetted what my daughter watched on TV, (we didn’t have anything but what friends taped for us from the on-base cable) and when we finally came back to the states we watched things together – and there were shows that she liked that were excellent teaching tools, Even Beverly Hills 90210 could provide a lesson in how not to behave.

  6. freddie_mac

    Now, about those love potions. What a great opportunity to talk about what I just mentioned, the difference between fantasy and reality. Or how about how it is never acceptable to take away someone’s free will?

    Merope Gaunt & Tom Riddle Sr are an excellent case against love potions, yet it is worth thinking about how desperate Merope must have been to escape such a horrific situation that she resorted to a potion. There’s also worthy things to discuss about Tom Riddle Sr’s actions as well, and how the actions of his parents shaped young Tom.

    So, yes the HP books do have love potions (and many other nifty/not-so nifty items), but Ginny and Molly giggling about them is balanced by Merope and Tom’s tragedy.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Rowling used the magical mind control as an explanation for her secret magical world, and it would have been a tremendous oversight to entirely neglect the evil implications.

      • Sara the Red

        And while she never blatantly stated it, it was pretty clear that one of the major reasons Voldemort was so very, very messed up was because he was born of such an evil use of mind control. Yes, Merope was pitiable, and in a pitiable situation…but it in no way negated the fact that what she did was, ultimately, evil, and that evil left its mark.

        Or, more succinctly: choices have consequences, and they are rarely limited to just the person making the choice.

    • Bob

      One of the theories I’d heard (don’t know if JK herself actually confirmed this) was that being conceived under a love potion was what blunted Voldemort’s ability to love in the first place, in essence assuring that he would be born a psychopath (as good a reason as any why he was a bad apple from the start and never seemed to have any compunctions about ripping his soul apart by creating horcruxes – it’s supposed to be traumatic to kill someone but from what I read, Voldey’s soul was ‘numb’ to begin with).

      So with Voldemort being incapable of love from birth, using a love potion condemned him to wizard hell from the start.

      • Weeeeeell, implications of Rowlingish Calvinism aside, there are plenty of people walking around the world who got deprived of contact with instinctual emotions and understanding of right and wrong. But most of them don’t go out and become serial killers; they deal with their issues rationally and calmly, and make honest lives for themselves. Of course we only hear about the ones who don’t.

        So even though Tom Riddle had serious issues and legit beefs, nobody was putting a gun to his head and making him do all this stupid evil stuff.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Well, I’ve never heard anybody “excusing” his evil because of that. πŸ˜‰

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Which is part of the point of having Harry have a parallel early life.

  7. Uncle Lar

    It has been my experience for a good many years that teachers and school administrations are cowards, and totally unable to accept responsibility for anything.
    It’s always the student’s fault, their parents’ fault, or they were simply following the advice of so called experts. Never ever is it on their shoulders. And in any case, just wait a year and whatever problems they called will move on and they are free to inflict their experimentation on a fresh new class of students.

    • Sara the Red

      Heh. I am eagerly awaiting an account of my mother being unleashed (again) upon my baby brother’s school, upon learning that a fire extinguisher had exploded at the school…and the school had put baby brother and a couple of other kids to work cleaning it up. Without masks or gloves. (I do hope she enquired as to whether or not they would be receiving pay for that work, not mention inclusion on the school’s insurance program on account of cleaning up hazardous materials sans safety equipment…)

      To be fair, the superintendent is less cowardly than most, and when problems are brought to his attention by concerned parents, he generally acts without much hesitation and usually to the detriment of the cowardly district employee who has caused the mess. The principal of this particular school, on the other hand…

  8. “Are we going to condemn every story β€” every fairy tale β€” that has been told over the years and centuries that has mention of love potions in them?”

    Err – yes? Harry Potter should be safe though. JK can afford to buy indulgences and keep it on Amazon’s shelves.

  9. Barbara Thompson

    Too often those running GT programs seem to believe that the kids in these programs are simply small adults. My son was in a GT program over thirty years ago–his class was assigned The Scarlet Letter. I was still bumping heads with the school system over problems with his younger sister and let it go through–I figured there wasn’t anything graphic in it and the worse was he wouldn’t understand it. Unfortunately ::rolling eyes:: he knew he didn’t understand it and he had some pointed questions for an eleven year old! It’s discouraging to find that even now there are administrators who think GT kids are just small adults.

    • aacid14

      It’s a matter of maturity. Sometimes you can take adult themes early, sometimes you cannot. Plus people use rape or gorn purely for shock value

      • Barbara Thompson

        *I* knew what I was writing, but it didn’t get into print! Forgot to include he was eleven at the time; it wasn’t so much adult themes but he had no clue about the basic theme of the book. I had it assigned at 15, at that age I at least understood the basis of the book.

        • aacid14

          Honestly that seems as much a teaching issue as poor planning. But you do often get much more out of a book after you live more. Red Badge and 1984 were that for me (first read in 3rd and 4th grade)

          • Feather Blade

            *blinks* Yeah, those really aren’t comprehensible at that age. Wait til junior high at least.

            • My sixth grade class actually loved The Red Badge of Courage. Surprised our teacher. We also read Animal Farm and A Tale of Two Cities that year. And The Hobbit, which is actually age-appropriate.

    • Holly

      Because they’re smart and when they’re being rational they sound adult. Usually they’re smarter than the people running the program.

      Of course, they’re only rational part-time, because they’re kids.

      If we have gifted programs in the schools we should at least require that the folks running them have IQ 160+.

      • I don’t know how smart the teachers were in the gifted classes I took in grade school, but I think the more important thing is that they understood kids. Couple that with the ability to accept that a smart kid can astonish you with their learning in a particular area and you’ll do fine. (Some teachers think that kids can’t understand certain things intelligently because they’re kids. Really throws a wrench into the teaching process no matter the level.)

        • Barbara Thompson

          I had two kids in the GT program and most of my problems were in the elementary grades. “Understand kids” absolutely, AND understand that their intellect is only one facet of the child. The GT program in their school system tended to err on the side “of course they can understand it, they’re gifted” far too much.

  10. Christopher M. Chupik

    Between this and the cultural appropriation lynch mob, I wonder if Rowling will finally get a hint and realize that the people on “her side” aren’t really on her side? Being a Brit leftie, probably not. But one can always hope.

    • Indeed, we can always hope.

    • scott2harrison

      As I recall she was a welfare mom before she was published. When a leftist program is all that kept a roof over your head and food on the table, it can be hard to accept how evil it is.

  11. aacid14

    Responsibility….what does this word mean?

  12. Bob

    Are the uses of love potions crimes that come under the subset of the imperious curse?

    But yep, Ill agree that Voldemorts mother definitely raped his father. Totally screwed him up too.

  13. Hm. I can imagine one situation where I’d approve of the use of a love potion: a society with arranged forced marriages. Let’s say a young woman has to marry an older man, has no way to escape or avoid the situation. Said older man mostly wants a young plaything and breeding mare for himself. The love potion can bring actual love – something which make him take her wishes into account, would make him care about not hurting her and so on – not just lust.

    She uses it on him.

    πŸ™‚ ?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      What happens if his idea of “Being In Love” differs from her idea of “Being In Love”? πŸ‘Ώ πŸ‘Ώ πŸ‘Ώ πŸ‘Ώ

      Seriously, with any “magic” I expect there will be a problem of “what you want to happen” and “what actually happens” will be two different matters. 😦

      • True, but since we are talking about fictitious situations you could always put suitable rules for the magic – this love potion will get you that, the other will get you this and so on. πŸ˜€

    • Sara the Red

      Hmmm. Sounds an intriguing idea. A love potion that perhaps opens his eyes to the fact that here is another breathing, thinking human being with her own thoughts and hopes as worthy as his? Could make for an interesting story.

      Of course, even in the case of ‘older man wants a young plaything/broodmare,’ it does not automatically follow that he would be a monster to her. He might not treat her as an equal, but it’s not an either/or situation necessarily, either–one can be kind even if one does not love or truly respect.

      • I can see two main ways to tell that story: he is bad to her, and that makes her use of the potion into something akin to self-defense – or he is actually pretty decent, but she uses it anyway, perhaps to gain more influence over him, in which case it could be quite questionable morally.

    • Joe in PNG

      Traditionally, with aristocratically arranged marriages, once you had your heir & set of spares, the happy couple was free to play the field… provided they kept it discreet, and kept it within their class.

  14. BobtheRegisterredFool

    If one accepts that this ‘rape culture’ argument as valid, what about all the fictional depictions of the consumption of alcohol prior to intercourse?

  15. Synova

    Love potions NEVER work… even in Fairy Tales the end result is always, eventually, the cheater gets their comeupance. Always. It doesn’t matter if they used magic to turn their rival into a donkey or if they used magic to steal the love of the Prince… eventually the severed head of the donkey talks… eventually the deceit of the potion brings the user to a Very Bad End.

    • Sara the Red

      This is true…I cannot honestly think of a single situation where a love potion was EVER portrayed as a fantastic, workable, positive thing. The one book I can think of where it was shown as ‘wasn’t originally a bad thing’ was the first of the Paksennarrion books, where a minor character usually bought a ‘love potion’ for him and his girlfriend to enjoy, which I read as ‘aphrodisiac to make the night more fun/last longer’ but someone poisoned or otherwise corrupted it to force him into behavior he would not otherwise have done–and so, ultimately, was shown to be a Bad Idea.

      I think this is yet another disconnect-issue with the shrieking SJW types: for some reason, they can’t grasp the concept that pretty much no one who isn’t a psychopath thinks that rape or drugging someone to have sex with them is a good idea either in fiction or real life…

      • Joe in PNG

        Dan Simmons weaponized it in the Illum books- the gods perfume the Amazon Penthesilea with Aphrodite’s most powerful love potion* to befuddle Achilles, hopefully to his doom.
        It backfires, severely, and in the end, Achilles rides off with a bride that he just cannot stand, but can’t live without.

        *#9

      • I cannot honestly think of a single situation where a love potion was EVER portrayed as a fantastic, workable, positive thing.
        In Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde the love potion leads inexorably to the tragic conclusion.

      • Terry Sanders

        The Kedrigern series tossed off two scenarios:

        1)
        The Narrative requires the couple get married. A love spell at least made it tolerable.
        (definitely played for laughs)

        2)
        A wizard and a heroic Warrior Maid face a completely undefeatable monster. Said monster is under a curse that makes her infinitely monstrous and infinitely hideous, and it can only be lifted by one who loves her as she is.

        The wizard orders the shield-maiden to get behind him. Then he casts a Love Spell on himself.

        He tells this story to Kedrigern while introducing his beautiful wife…

  16. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Another “off topic” comment.

    One humorous take on “Love Spells” (technically Spells of Infatuation) is in a Randall Garrett Lord Darcy story titled “The Ipswich Phial”.

    A beautiful Polish spy casts a “Love Spell” on Lord Darcy to make him help her find a missing “Secret Weapon”.

    It didn’t work out as she planned, partly because Darcy suspected who she was before the spell was cast, partly because Darcy knew that he was under a spell and mostly because he is Lord Darcy. πŸ˜‰

    While under the spell he convinced her that the “Secret Weapon” was safely heading back to London but of course this “conversation” took all night since she didn’t want Darcy to realize something was wrong and Darcy didn’t want her to realize something was wrong.

    Oh and yes, it was a conversation in her bed. πŸ‘Ώ πŸ‘Ώ πŸ‘Ώ πŸ‘Ώ

    • snelson134

      No, the funniest part is where the British Intelligence agent working with them complains that he was running around all night working hard while Darcy was solving the case in bed.

      The agent’s name? Le Lien. James Le Lien. 😎

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Point. [Very Very Big Grin]

        Note to anybody who doesn’t get the “joke”, “Le Lien” equals “Bond”.

        James Le Lien is James Bond. πŸ˜‰

        • snelson134

          “Drop it, Sir James. You’ll get her eventually.”

          Randall Garrett had way too much fun with that one.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            His Lord Darcy stories are full of little things like that. πŸ˜€

  17. ravenshrike

    Pfft, if we’re talking HP fridge horror love potions are small beans. Between soul sucking dementors, and it’s shown on a consistent basis that wizard justice isn’t deserving of the name, and obliviation(do you really think govt. agents are attentive enough to only remove a specific magic incident?) the amount of fucked up shit that happens on a very regular basis in the HPverse has to be massive. Not to mention that there have to be active wards suppressing technology, because if it were strong ambient magic there would be a giant technology exclusion zone around Diagon Ally.

  18. I’ll just leave this here:

    • Synova

      I thought it was Love Potion #9… which is different. I like the refrain which goes something like: “blah blah blah… started kissing everything in sight, but when I kissed the cop I was paying for my crime, he took away my bottle of… Love Potion #9…”

      I wonder why “9”?

      (Looking up on You Tube… looks like there was a *movie*… )

  19. The Twilight movies are decidedly not my cup of tea, but I watched them with my daughter, figuring they would spark some great discussions. (They did.) One thing I found really amusing was that she later watched the movies with a friend and the friend’s mother, and – wait for it – that mom had many of the sames things to say that I did. πŸ˜‰

  20. “With regard to the allegation that the use of love potions in Harry Potter promote rape culture, gimme a break.”

    My objection starts with the existence of a “rape culture” in Western civilization. There isn’t one. The Femmies have had to make it up from whole cloth. To then accuse JK Rowling of promoting this imaginary thing is frosting on the Cake of Stupid they’re baking.

    Now, I will admit to the existence of cultures where rape is common, expected and considered no big deal, but they are usually also cultures where women are considered chattels, and made to ride in the back of the truck while the goats ride in the front. Femmies are unusually silent on that whole issue, a thing I find massively suspicious. Almost as if modern Feminism isn’t about women.