Taking Responsibility – A Blast from the Past

(I am up to my eyebrows with editing but, worse, I am also up to my elbows with wet carpet and possible sprinkler repairs. So I have no brain. However, a conversation I had over the weekend got me thinking about how we, as parents or simply as adults, need to set the example for our kids when it comes to reading, especially books they are assigned in school. That, in turn, made me think about the following post. I original published it May 2016. Enjoy.)

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. 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.

***

Now for a bit of promo. Nocturnal Rebellion, the fifth book in the Nocturnal Lives series, is available for pre-order.

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

You can find a snippet from Nocturnal Rebellion here.

20 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

20 responses to “Taking Responsibility – A Blast from the Past

  1. paladin3001

    c4c…just stepping out the door

  2. Uncle Lar

    I did read all seven books and watched all eight movies and the only case of love potion usage was that of a smitten girl who wanted Harry to return her affections. And she tried to dose him with a box of chocolates that Ron wound up eating instead. So the entire episode was a comedy of errors.

    • John R. Ellis

      There is one other notable case of love potion usage. Apparently Voldemort’s mother used one to get a husband. Rowling strongly implied that at least part of the reason why Tom Riddle was a bit of a raging psychopath was because he was conceived via criminally applied, emotion-warping magic.

  3. I recommend books to my students. Sometimes I encourage them to read them now. Other times I give them a title, or send a list of titles (knowing that their parents will also see the list) and say, “This/These is/are excellent books about the subject. However, you might want to wait until you are older or have your parents look over the book to see if you are ready for it because of the subject matter.” I did have a group of students pool their pennies and read John Keegan’s _Face of Battle_, with their parents’ permission. (Ages 12-15, because some students have skipped grades). However, these are all books I personally have read. There are a few I won’t recommend, because they are just too much for 99% of the students. History can be really grimdark.

  4. paladin3001

    I will be honest, I wll probably go through most reading material for the Squire when he gets to that point. Of course my definition of “age appropriate” will definitely be different than public education. On both ends of the spectrum. Never too early to start them on the classics like Tolkien, Kipling, and Weber…. 🙂

  5. There’s an even bigger problem with that argument: the use of love potions is presented as a terrible idea.
    They get mentioned at the beginning of HPHBP, and the one time they’re used in the book it’s by someone who’s presented as being utterly abhorrent. Then, later, we find out that Voldemort was conceived in a relationship that was based on, well, a love potion–and the father, who was the one dosed with it, is not criticized for walking out the moment he realized what had been done to him.

  6. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Changing my WP account

  7. I wasn’t allowed to read Harry Potter until I was 16, and when I did… honestly, I understood why. It was sooo good that I could easily get sucked into the story as a teen. From a strictly Biblical perspective, I know my parents didn’t approve of the witchcraft angle, and I get that it’s easy for kids to get sucked up into a good story and let that affect their minds. I’m not going to ban my kids from reading Harry Potter, but I’m probably going to either read it to them or read it with them. Also, I might make them wait a bit for the later books. The scene in one of the last two where Hermione gets tortured got under my skin a bit even as an adult.

  8. Lirio100

    The gifted and talented angle has been that way for a long time. I had to explain the Scarlet Letter to a twelve year old years ago and I don’t think he ever really understood it.

  9. I thought about the love potion angle in a world I’m building; and the most you get is a lust enhancer.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      I’ve Mentalists/MindMages in a story universe I’m working on.

      They don’t have “love potions” but have mind-control powers (which most moral ones restrict their use of).

      Unfortunately, a prolonged sexual relationship between one of them and normals means that the normal is completely enthralled.

      Obviously, moral Mentalists only have prolonged sexual relationships with other Mentalists or people who can’t be mind-controlled.

      • Terry Sanders

        One of the fanfics I never bothered to write had an order of renegade Jedi who’d found a workable alternative to the Light-Side/Dark-Side thing. One of their starting points had been the fact that casually changing someone’s mind for him was *not* “of the Dark Side”…

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Well, my Mentalists would see little wrong in ordering a group of bandits to kill themselves in self-defense or to protect others but would otherwise limit themselves to “influencing” somebody to do something that the other person might have done anyway.

          Besides the Moral Aspect, they don’t like to get into the habit of controlling other people’s minds.

          In this universe there are super-beings that can’t be mind-controlled (or mentally influenced) but have the power to make things very rough for the Mentalists.

          IE “Puny Mentalist, Hulk Will Smash”. 😀

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