Author Topic: Wizards are jerks  (Read 961 times)

sparkletwist

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Wizards are jerks
« on: April 30, 2017, 10:32:47 PM »
For once, this isn't a rant about class balance in d20 systems.  :P

This time, I'm talking about the Harry Potter universe version of wizards... or, more specifically, the way wizards are presented in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Pretty much any time any story in the Harry Potter universe depicts an organization of wizards it ends up justifying everything bad that muggles did to them. Sometimes it's meant to be an overtly uncaring bureaucracy, but not in all cases. I mean, the President of MACUSA was ostensibly not evil, and Tina Goldstein was definitely supposed to be a sympathetic character, but they end coming across like jerks. And of course it's Newt Scamander's bungling that causes about half of the problems that are solved in the movie anyway.

What really goes over the top is at the end of the movie...
Wizards really are jerks
The problems of the movie are entirely the fault of wizards. The villain is a wizard, and the secondary problem of escaped fantastic beasts is the protagonist's fault, who is also a wizard. So what do they do? They use their magic to fix everything and erase everyone's memory to cover it all up. Their secrecy is more important than any fairness in their dealings with muggles-- and people actually died. I mean, are we just supposed to not care because the dead people seemed like assholes?

Anyway, the way wizards just fix up everything raises a lot of questions, too. How powerful are they? What else can they do? How selfish are they being not sharing any of this with anyone?

Also, the ending with Jacob and Queenie was probably supposed to be sweet but it ended up seeming more like she's going to lure him into a relationship based on false pretenses and a secret she will never reveal... which seems pretty manipulative when you think about it.
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I think it's more acute in this movie, and I noticed the fundamental dickishness of wizards far more, because Hogwarts was kind of an insular place and most of the stuff that happened in the Harry Potter stories was off in wizard-world. This new movie shows wizards interacting with muggles on a large scale... and, guess what, they're jerks.

I mean, Rowling probably wrote some stuff somewhere about how it's all really muggles' faults, but that doesn't really make much sense. It's overtly mentioned in the stories that wizards weren't always underground, but the stories are basically based on real history, so life was crappy back then, too. It was muggle science, not wizardry, that ushered in the modern world. They don't even have something like the M:tA Technocracy where technology was invented by wizards. Wizards were content to just hog all of the good stuff for themselves, and when the muggles finally got sick of it, all the wizards did was take their toys and go underground and continue to hog all the good stuff for themselves.

LoA

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Re: Wizards are jerks
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2017, 11:53:00 PM »
First off...

Quote from: sparkletwist

What really goes over the top is at the end of the movie...
Wizards really are jerks
The problems of the movie are entirely the fault of wizards. The villain is a wizard, and the secondary problem of escaped fantastic beasts is the protagonist's fault, who is also a wizard. So what do they do? They use their magic to fix everything and erase everyone's memory to cover it all up. Their secrecy is more important than any fairness in their dealings with muggles-- and people actually died. I mean, are we just supposed to not care because the dead people seemed like assholes?

Anyway, the way wizards just fix up everything raises a lot of questions, too. How powerful are they? What else can they do? How selfish are they being not sharing any of this with anyone?

Also, the ending with Jacob and Queenie was probably supposed to be sweet but it ended up seeming more like she's going to lure him into a relationship based on false pretenses and a secret she will never reveal... which seems pretty manipulative when you think about it.
[close]
I think it's more acute in this movie, and I noticed the fundamental dickishness of wizards far more, because Hogwarts was kind of an insular place and most of the stuff that happened in the Harry Potter stories was off in wizard-world. This new movie shows wizards interacting with muggles on a large scale... and, guess what, they're jerks.

I mean, Rowling probably wrote some stuff somewhere about how it's all really muggles' faults, but that doesn't really make much sense. It's overtly mentioned in the stories that wizards weren't always underground, but the stories are basically based on real history, so life was crappy back then, too. It was muggle science, not wizardry, that ushered in the modern world. They don't even have something like the M:tA Technocracy where technology was invented by wizards. Wizards were content to just hog all of the good stuff for themselves, and when the muggles finally got sick of it, all the wizards did was take their toys and go underground and continue to hog all the good stuff for themselves.

THANK YOU!!!!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you...

I cannot stand this trope at all. If you're going to have a genetically based race of superhumans (which is what wizards and witches are, with the occasional fluke like Hermoine), why haven't they conquered over the human race, if not wiped them out? If technology is the answer... Why didn't you conquer them when they were younger and less technologically advanced? I have the same indignation towards X-men for the record. Heck even worse with them, but that's a different topic.

Forgive me if this sounds jingoistic, but I get a really snide British Anti-Americanism vibe from this movie. The part where Scamander is sitting there lecturing Tina about how backwards the MACUSA is for not letting anyone marry muggles rubs me the wrong way. Because Britain was just a bastion of progressive forethought at the turn of the 20th century... I can't remember was the main villain from the British wizarding world, or was he from America?

Jacob is my favorite Harry Potterverse character, and I like Queenie too. The movie doesn't make it clear, but maybe she was willing to give up were witch abilities or something?

I still like this movie for the record. This is actually kind of what I had in mind for Dynama, if anyone remembers that. More over the top than what this movie presented, but yeah.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2017, 11:54:33 PM by LoA »

Xathan

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Re: Wizards are jerks
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2017, 11:54:24 PM »
Funny, I watched this movie this weekend and was just thinking the same thing. It wasn't as obvious during the main 7 books, but Fantastic Beasts really drove home that there's no problem we Muggles (I refuse to use No-Maj since it doesn't roll off the tongue well) have that couldn't be solved through wizardry.

Food transport? Wizards teleport. Build a floo network to get around if needed, since nothing in the books indicate you need to. Global warming? We wouldn't need pollution-producing devices if we had magic to power things. Food shortage? Just transform some ordinary rocks into apples! Housing shortage? Wizards just wave their wands and presto, entire new cities! Or just make a bunch of apartments bigger on the inside! Landfills? wave those wands, and now it's a bunch of compost! Or some other valuable material! Disease? Yeah, there's a reason wizards only get special wizard illnesses - do you think the common cold can stand against Adavra Influenza?

Instead, they hide away because "something something witch trials something something persecution." First of all, who is going to attempt to pesecute people going around using their magic to make life better? Second, even if people did try...have you seen everything wizards survive and can do? Our guns would turn into snakes in our hands, or planes would turn into bread, our tanks become chocolate, and if we go for the ultimate option and shoot a nuke at Hogwarts, it gets turned into a pie that comically splats some Slytherin in the face.

Oh, and it's not like we can't solve their problems either. Communication relying upon owls? Hey, check it, here's this thing called a smartphone. They're instant, don't poop on stuff, and if they die you don't have emotional attachment. Can't find Voldemort and the Deathly Hollows? Lets feed what you have into a satellite system and get scanning from space. Hey, speaking of space, think you could adapt some water breathing spells to allow for breathing in the vacuum? Cool, lets go explore the stars together!  

At least in most urban fantasy stories they semi justify this. Dresden files, magic and technology get along like sodium and water, so wizards can't really prove what the can do and even if they could, they couldn't help - and are far more limited. Percy Jackson? Well, it's the greek gods, they're known for being dicks in their own mythology, who's surprised? Supernatural? Literally everything that can do magic is evil, insane, or corrupt. (Which is actually a pretty common solution).

In the Potterverse though? It's because screw muggles, that's why. Magic has no downside, is being done by normal people, and every evil wizard we meet is 100x more dangerous to normal people because we don't know they exist.

No wonder they think we'll hate them, think of how many deaths they could have prevented over the years!
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Steerpike

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Re: Wizards are jerks
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2017, 01:34:19 AM »
Wizards are definitely jerks, I am very much in agreement. To me one of the big failings of the original series is to leave mostly-unexamined the way that Wizarding society before Voldemort is deeply, structurally flawed in its relationship with muggles. There are hints of this (Dumbledore, in his youthful days with Grindelwald, almost groks this, it seems), but it seems to me that Voldemort is basically a symptom of a much bigger political problem at the heart of the entire society. The books and most of the good characters usually seem at least tacitly in favour of upholding the Statute of Secrecy, and anyone who talks about ending it is understood to be a fascist who wants to dominate the muggle world, but this seems totally bonkers to me. The Statute is supposed to emerge from the witch-hunts of the 17th century, meaning that this has been the status quo for 300+ years, and the rest of the wizarding political apparatus seems to have remained at about the same stage as well. This is, well, nuts, considering the massive political upheavals during the modern period - though maybe realistically nuts, given the wizarding world's ability to magically insulate itself from the muggle world.

The only exception seems to be a totally marginal character who mostly just appears in various spin-off videogames, Carlotta Pinkstone. I have to imagine "Pinkstone" is meant to suggest communist sympathies. To her credit, Hermione is very good at pointing out the various other injustices deeply ingrained in Wizarding society - i.e. House Elf enslavement/indenture. One can only hope that during her tenure as Minister for Magic she would be poised to reform things more radically.

Quote from: LoA
I can't remember was the main villain from the British wizarding world, or was he from America?

If you mean Grindelwald, he's European (probably German, or Scandinavian; I think it's not fully clear). If you mean Voldemort, he's British.

LoA

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Re: Wizards are jerks
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2017, 02:39:00 AM »
Quote from: Steerpike
If you mean Grindelwald, he's European (probably German, or Scandinavian; I think it's not fully clear). If you mean Voldemort, he's British.

Thank you. I meant Grindelwald.

Quote from: Xathan
Spoiler
Funny, I watched this movie this weekend and was just thinking the same thing. It wasn't as obvious during the main 7 books, but Fantastic Beasts really drove home that there's no problem we Muggles (I refuse to use No-Maj since it doesn't roll off the tongue well) have that couldn't be solved through wizardry.

Food transport? Wizards teleport. Build a floo network to get around if needed, since nothing in the books indicate you need to. Global warming? We wouldn't need pollution-producing devices if we had magic to power things. Food shortage? Just transform some ordinary rocks into apples! Housing shortage? Wizards just wave their wands and presto, entire new cities! Or just make a bunch of apartments bigger on the inside! Landfills? wave those wands, and now it's a bunch of compost! Or some other valuable material! Disease? Yeah, there's a reason wizards only get special wizard illnesses - do you think the common cold can stand against Adavra Influenza?

Instead, they hide away because "something something witch trials something something persecution." First of all, who is going to attempt to pesecute people going around using their magic to make life better? Second, even if people did try...have you seen everything wizards survive and can do? Our guns would turn into snakes in our hands, or planes would turn into bread, our tanks become chocolate, and if we go for the ultimate option and shoot a nuke at Hogwarts, it gets turned into a pie that comically splats some Slytherin in the face.

Oh, and it's not like we can't solve their problems either. Communication relying upon owls? Hey, check it, here's this thing called a smartphone. They're instant, don't poop on stuff, and if they die you don't have emotional attachment. Can't find Voldemort and the Deathly Hollows? Lets feed what you have into a satellite system and get scanning from space. Hey, speaking of space, think you could adapt some water breathing spells to allow for breathing in the vacuum? Cool, lets go explore the stars together!  

At least in most urban fantasy stories they semi justify this. Dresden files, magic and technology get along like sodium and water, so wizards can't really prove what the can do and even if they could, they couldn't help - and are far more limited. Percy Jackson? Well, it's the greek gods, they're known for being dicks in their own mythology, who's surprised? Supernatural? Literally everything that can do magic is evil, insane, or corrupt. (Which is actually a pretty common solution).

In the Potterverse though? It's because screw muggles, that's why. Magic has no downside, is being done by normal people, and every evil wizard we meet is 100x more dangerous to normal people because we don't know they exist.

No wonder they think we'll hate them, think of how many deaths they could have prevented over the years!
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Again thank you. These are quasi-gods with the power to manipulate reality with nothing more than a wood stick.

It would be nice to see a story set in the Potterverse where there was a muggle born to wizarding parents and he has learned to live inside of muggle society, and how badly he's been disenfranchised from the wizarding world for their cultural BS

sparkletwist

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Re: Wizards are jerks
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2017, 03:26:05 PM »
Quote from: Xathan
Instead, they hide away because "something something witch trials something something persecution." First of all, who is going to attempt to pesecute people going around using their magic to make life better? Second, even if people did try...have you seen everything wizards survive and can do? Our guns would turn into snakes in our hands, or planes would turn into bread, our tanks become chocolate, and if we go for the ultimate option and shoot a nuke at Hogwarts, it gets turned into a pie that comically splats some Slytherin in the face.
Maybe? In general, magic does what the plot of the current story needs it to do at that particular moment-- nothing more and nothing less. This means that for as much as the Hogwarts setting focuses on magic as a thing that can be and is academically understood, the actual power level, strengths, weaknesses, and such of wizardry within the setting are not well-defined. There's definitely a trend towards making it seem whimsical and wacky as opposed to like a branch of (meta)physics, too, probably so the books are actually any fun to read for kids, but this also makes it even harder to quantify what magic can actually even do.

The power level demonstrated by most wizards in Fantastic Beasts is quite high, particularly at the end, but... on the other hand, Newt Scamander, for all his considerable ability, got sucker-punched by a (quite average) muggle who then successfully escaped from him. So who knows. Could wizards stop a nuke? Depends on if nuking Hogwarts is how the plot is supposed to go!

I mean, wizards were driven underground by muggle weapons of the 17th century, so maybe they aren't really that strong. On the other hand, as Steerpike astutely observed, since every person in the Harry Potter universe who doesn't want wizards to remain secret is automatically Magneto, this could be some bullshit where wizards "magnanimously" went underground instead of being forced to kill a bunch of muggles... or something. I don't even know and in all honestly I'm pretty sure JK Rowling doesn't either.