“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”
As rankings go, at least so far during this Harry Potter rereadathon, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is one of the better books in the series. The Order of the Phoenix largely deals with propaganda waged by the Ministry of Magic and I recommend it to readers who are interested in fantasy with realistic political themes. Smear campaigns, propaganda, and government corruption are issues that will remain a large part of politics and the Order of the Phoenix stresses the importance of educating ourselves and questioning sources, the media and powerful authority figures in our digital age of click-bait and fake news.
I can’t help but wonder if willing students of History, Law, and Government and Politics enjoyed the Order of the Phoenix. This is, surprisingly, one of the less popular books in the Harry Potter series. Similarly, I find that many history enthusiasts, like myself, are major fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. This is my personal reflection, so I would love to hear your thoughts on whether the subjects we loved learning play a key factor in which book genres we consume.
Though the pacing was inconsistent at times and several themes were imperfectly and chaotically explored, rereading the Order of the Phoenix through an adult lens was enlightening. Simultaneously, it led me to question whether the themes were comprehensible for its target audience because, as a child, my unsophisticated mind did not, in the slightest, register the gravity of the politics being explored.
I had far too many thoughts on the Order of the Phoenix and this blog is basically my personal Pensieve, so get ready for some relentless rambling!
1. CHO DESERVES OUR SYMPATHY
Whenever I stumble upon a character assessment of Cho Chang, I encounter a high volume of venom directed at the grieving Cho. “She’s so weepy” is the common attack hurled at Cho and I find this line of reasoning devoid of any empathy. I think this calls for loud disapproval as I don’t believe that this is an appropriate message to send to anyone: that we should be ashamed of our emotions.
Cho Chang loses her boyfriend, Cedric Diggory, after he is murdered by Lord Voldemort. This is a very valid reason to cry… and cry a whole river. Given that we should all be mental health advocates, isn’t expressing emotion and grief valid especially given the circumstances that Cho is faced with? However, it is also important to understand why readers have adopted this attitude towards Cho Chang and these reasons are two-fold:
- Harry Potter considers it irritating
- Ginny Weasley isn’t “weepy”
Harry’s frustration with Cho for repeatedly breaking down in tears is more so in line with the fact that Harry is a classic male teenager who’s uncomfortable with and ill-equipped to deal with displays of intense emotion. Whichever character Harry is frustrated with should not be taken as the gospel truth of what is right and wrong.
Hermione Granger explains to Harry and Ron why Cho has been frequently emotional allowing us to see things from Cho’s perspective. Ron Weasley, on the other hand, understands that, realistically, Harry can only be attracted to whoever he is attracted to, and, for Harry, Cho Chang doesn’t match what Harry is looking for in a girlfriend.
Harry shouldn’t feel compelled to date Cho. He’s clearly suffered a lifetime of grief already at such a young age, and Ginny being more emotionally contained person enables Harry to attain and preserve the peace he so longs for. This doesn’t mean that Cho is, in any way, lacking and undeserving. No one is right or wrong here. Harry and Cho are simply incompatible. Ron and Hermione do wonderfully well here as a duo to teach us that we can be both empathetic and true to what we want.
2. HERMIONE V LUNA = HARD FACTS V WILD SPECULATIONS
Remember how I trashed Hermione Granger for trashing Luna Lovegood? Yeah, well, here I am… eating my words. I choose Hermione’s hard facts over Luna’s wild speculations.
What we saw here, dear readers, for those of us who are MBTI enthusiasts, is Ti (introverted thinking) v Te (extraverted thinking). Ti users (Luna Lovegood) seek accuracy and, as a result, find it difficult to rule out, well, a lot and are prone to avoiding generalisations. Whereas, high Te users (Hermione Granger) prefer to deal with solid proof and hard facts. They are efficient and prefer making fast judgements which is necessary for law and order. For me, or anyone, to ask Hermione to be open-minded to wild theories is akin to demanding Hermione to play pretty with conspiracy theories.
Hermione attacks Luna’s ideas, but she doesn’t *hate* her. Hermione and Luna approach logic in two wildly different ways, so it was only natural that they would butt heads. I completely understand Hermione’s frustration with Luna (that Tert-Te, people), but I still appreciate Luna’s openness to new ideas and theories.
3. REALISING THAT I DO ACTUALLY RELATE TO HERMIONE GRANGER
Books and social awkwardness aside, there are a lot of other things about Hermione that I find myself relating to. Tactless? Oh, yeah, I definitely can be when I no longer value what someone stands for. Stubborn? As a goat. Confrontational and passionate? Oh, where do I start (but may I add that I have learned some lessons in decorum and grace)? Loves a good debate? My family have been, unsuccessfully, trying to get me to be quiet for years.
Here is my moral quandary: Hermione Granger is J. K. Rowling’s self-insert and, to be frank, JKR gives me the heebie-jeebies. There are a lot of questionable things that Hermione does post-Prisoner of Azkaban which went unchallenged (except by Cho Chang). My primary concern is that J. K. Rowling is too sure of her own self-righteousness to hold her self-insert accountable. She’s too close to the picture to deliver character growth to Hermione believing herself incapable of ever being morally compromised.
Rowling gives me major Dumb Daenerys vibes. We’ve cheered her on for so long that she believes that she is the only one who knows what is good and nobody else gets to choose. In contrast, though George R. R. Martin sees the young version of himself in Daenerys for all the privileges of luxury and wealth that was taken away from him, he does not spare Daenerys for her faults. In short, George R. R. Martin did to Daenerys Targaryen what J. K. Rowling failed to do with Hermione Granger.
Hermione Granger is one of my favourite characters during this Harry Potter rereadathon because I can’t not root for a character who reminds me of me, but neither will I justify Hermione’s darker moments. Hermione is an inspirational character, but she has her fair share of troubling flaws too. Fleur Delacour and Sirius Black are the two other relatable characters. I love Fleur for her high standards and for her ability to graciously accept her own shortcomings, and I love Sirius because much of his trajectory in life is similar to mine – total douche in our teens who later develop a better moral conscience… but not exactly perfect either, and perpetually restless and easily bored.
4. A NEW DRINKING GAME COURTESY OF HARRY POTTER
I propose a new drinking game: every time Harry Potter says, “Er,” you have to take a shot. And for my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, down that chilli pepper. Don’t look at me all incredulous, we are the spice, the drama, the garam masala, we can handle it just fine.
What are your thoughts on Cho? Is the fandom too harsh on her? What do you think of the Hermione v Luna beef? Have your thoughts on J. K. Rowling changed? Will you take on the Harry Potter drinking/all spice challenge? Let me know in the comments!
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