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Feminism in Deathly Hallows - or the lack thereof v.3



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  #1001  
Old May 1st, 2012, 2:36 pm
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Re: Feminism in Deathly Hallows - or the lack thereof v.3

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Originally Posted by StarryVeil View Post
This can be read in two ways: For some, Mollyís glorification in her role as mother will seem unfeminist, as if a woman can have no greater motive for fighting than to diminish any threat towards her children. Others (I fall here), will find the glorification of Mollyís role as mother Ė while Arthur or any other father doesnít receive the same glorification in their paternal role Ė will seem unfair towards men because, in a story whose theme is love, glorifying a motherís love over a fatherís IS, IMO, unfair to men. Whatever way you look at it, I think gender issues do come up in regard to the final battle.
I agree and I think there need not be two ways of looking at it as I can definitely subscribe to both of the views you described. I think it's unfair towards both women and men and I'm not even sure how much the scene is glorifying motherhood. It seemed to me to mostly justifying Molly's choice by pointing towards the fact that she wasn't useless in battle situations, as though anyone believed that or questioned her choices.

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Well, personally, I do think disliking children is sort of a negative trait and I think JKR is of the same belief. Children are precious and innocent and I feel that any antipathy displayed towards them is abominable.
I have female friends who don't like children at all and they are a far cry from abominable. They are normal people who prefer the company of adults. There is nothing wrong with that IMO. People like different things.

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Not being very maternal, however, is a different matter. Madam Amelia Bones is shown to be a good witch who doesnít have kids. Tonks, herself, didnít strike me as a very maternal type until the very end when she has Ted (though we donít even get to see her in her role as mother). On the other side of the spectrum, women in majorly maternal roles such as Narcissa and Aunt Petunia are shown in a not-very-positive light (although, yes, Iíll also point out that Narcissaís maternal love is presented as her only redeeming quality).
Narcissa is redeemed by her motherly love and I wouldn't say Petunia is very maternal. She totally adores her child but she treats the child of someone else (her sister even) with contempt and even cruelty. I think a maternal person would be kind to a child even if they considered the child a freak.
Madam Bones is Susan's guardian so that excludes her from this reasoning and Tonks does become a mother so I guess she can be excluded as well.

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Originally Posted by HedwigOwl View Post
In my opinion, that's viewing things with a gender filter. Harry and Voldemort are both male, both at polar opposites of choice. Yet I see no objection here that the author has "pitted" a good man against an evil man.
For reasons I have already explained. Voldemort and Harry have a history together, they are connected to each other from the beginning of the series and Voldemort is determined to kill Harry. This is in no way comparable to Molly/Bellatrix. Tonks killing Bellatrix would have been fine as there is some history between them, they are both eager to kill the other and Tonks isn't a symbol for motherhood nor could she be considered Bella's antithesis, IMO. With Molly/Bella you have the fact that she attacked Ginny and the contrast between the two characters and while there is a contrast between Voldemort and Harry there are other reasons why they are fighting each other.

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There is a difference between a society allowing everyone to make choices concerning their own lives, and consequences for people who make choices to torture/kill/control others. This has nothing to do with gender; killing is equally reviled no matter if it is a man or woman who murders or tortures.
I'm not sure why this misunderstanding keeps popping up. I have never said Bellatrix shouldn't be punished for her crimes-- quite the contrary actually. I want Bellatrix to be punished because she was an evil DE with a racist agenda. I do not want Bellatrix punished because she was a childless woman attracted to a man who wasn't her husband. I feel the duel stresses the latter. If you read JKR's explanation of the duel you will see that there is no mention there of Bellatrix's evilness and bigotry- only of the fact that she was "obsessed" with Voldemort while Molly prefered Arthur and the kids.

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And I'd suggest that Bella is NOT portrayed as disliking children. She is proud of Draco and teaches him occlumency, and wishes she had sons to serve Voldemort.
I disagree that she wishes she had sons but regardless, the fact remains that she isn't exactly portrayed as a maternal person. This is shown in her lack of sympathy for Narcissa's concern and I think the point of that was to somehow overshadow the contrast between her and Molly. Sure, she follows Narcissa to Snape's house and helps out with the Vow but that is because she loves Narcissa not because she understands Narcissa's worry for Draco.


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Originally Posted by Pearl_Took View Post
Not only that, but the scene also contains a thinly veiled allusion to Ripley battling the Alien Queen. (Which is one of my favourite cinematic confrontations ever. )
Another reason to hate that scene for me. Do we have to be reminded of a Hollywood movie while reading HP? It seems so Muggle-ish

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However: I don't think it is anti-feminist to include a female character who is all-round bad, like Bella.
Of course not, who said that it was? I'm glad Bella was around, personally...


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  #1002  
Old May 1st, 2012, 3:08 pm
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Re: Feminism in Deathly Hallows - or the lack thereof v.3

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Originally Posted by StarryVeil View Post
... For some, Molly’s glorification in her role as mother will seem unfeminist, as if a woman can have no greater motive for fighting than to diminish any threat towards her children. Others (I fall here), will find the glorification of Molly’s role as mother – while Arthur or any other father doesn’t receive the same glorification in their paternal role – will seem unfair towards men because, in a story whose theme is love, glorifying a mother’s love over a father’s IS, IMO, unfair to men. Whatever way you look at it, I think gender issues do come up in regard to the final battle.
I don't think that the HP series in general is unfair to fathers and men, or that it glorifies motherhood over fatherhood. For starters, Harry has three surrogate fathers: Dumbledore, Remus and Sirius. All of them are principal characters (even if JKR has Remus sink out of view, somewhat, in the latter books, he plays a very important role in PoA).

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Originally Posted by Sereena View Post
I do not want Bellatrix punished because she was a childless woman attracted to a man who wasn't her husband. I feel the duel stresses the latter. If you read JKR's explanation of the duel you will see that there is no mention there of Bellatrix's evilness and bigotry- only of the fact that she was "obsessed" with Voldemort while Molly prefered Arthur and the kids.
It occurs to me that any problem with this scene is somewhat removed if you completely ignore JKR's own comment on her intended sub-text. For me, the author's interviews come a very strict second to the actual text. Many people reading the books won't have read JKR's interviews anyway.

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Another reason to hate that scene for me. Do we have to be reminded of a Hollywood movie while reading HP? It seems so Muggle-ish
When I read DH, it seemed very clear to me that the author was writing in a cinematic way throughout. I can hardly blame her for that.

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Of course not, who said that it was?
I was making a general point, not addressing anyone in particular.


Generally, I must confess that I'm not a great fan of Molly. (I find her pretty annoying.) But I really didn't mind her 'mama bear' moment in DH.


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  #1003  
Old May 1st, 2012, 5:23 pm
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Re: Feminism in Deathly Hallows - or the lack thereof v.3

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Originally Posted by StarryVeil View Post
I agree. To me, throughout the course of the series Bellatrix did not come off as a bad woman; she appeared to be a bad person. I donít think any man who showed the same callousness was cut some slack just because he was a man and it was, therefore, alright for him to not be compassionate.
There's no doubt about it that Bellatrix is a terrible person and I agree that no man was or should have been cut any slack because he was a man displaying the same characteristics as Bellatrix. The reason we focus on Bellatrix's sex is because she is one of two known female death eaters (the other being Alecto Carrow who is just about a throw away character) and she is basically said to be as evil, as malicious, as terrifying as Voldemort himself. Bellatrix must bear the weight of every female Death Eater because she is the only true example we have so we are consequently much harder on her with our judgements.

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This, for me, is the crux of the issue. For me, the gender issue came in only during the Bellatrix-Molly duel. I didnít like it that Molly, the ultimate symbol of motherhood in the series, would be the one to finish her off in a fit of maternal rage. Arthur is shown to be dueling Pius Thicknesse alongside Percy Ė there is nothing particularly paternal about his emotions and actions there. He is simply a warrior fighting the bad guys. With Molly, however, her motive to duel Bellatrix is her love for her children. She throws aside her cloak and, with all her maternal ferocity, defeats Bellatrix.
I do not like the Molly-Bellatrix duel at all. I found it out of the blue, it had no set up, they had no prior relationship in the books fueling their confrontation and the whole thing felt very melodramatic. I also felt cheated that a more worthy character (one who had a pre-existing relationship or score to settle with Bellatrix like Neville, Tonks, Hermione, heck, even Ron!) wasn't given the task of defeating her. Molly wasn't the right character for that moment, IMO.

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Well, personally, I do think disliking children is sort of a negative trait and I think JKR is of the same belief. Children are precious and innocent and I feel that any antipathy displayed towards them is abominable.
I don't mean to bring overly personal feelings into the conversation but I take offense to this statement (though I know it is not meant personally). I have no great love of children and I would agree with anyone who states that I dislike children but I don't think that makes me abominable. I think children in general are cute, I agree that protecting them and their innocence should be a priority of our society but I don't care to spend more than twenty minutes in their company unless I have to.

I think there is an important distinction to be made between people who display complete apathy for children and people who just don't enjoy being around them.

Keeping this in mind, I don't think Bellatrix dislikes children in either sense of my example above. She seems to be genuinely interested in Draco and raising him with the "right" belief system, even if it's somewhat for her own gain as well. I also don't think she's completely apathetic to all children; I think she takes active measures against those she feels are unworthy to be at Hogwarts, namely the muggleborns and anyone who will stand up for them.

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Originally Posted by HedwigOwl View Post
I'd argue that Lucius pushed Draco to cooperate against his will in order to reinstate his own favored position with Voldemort.
good example.

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Professor McGonagall has no children; nor Madame Rosmerta. And I'd suggest that Bella is NOT portrayed as disliking children. She is proud of Draco and teaches him occlumency, and wishes she had sons to serve Voldemort.
I don't know if she wished she'd had sons, I think she's too ambitious in her pursuit of power and glory at the feet of Voldemort to take time out to have sons of her own. I think she says that if she'd had sons she would have been proud to hand them over to the dark lord. To me this doesn't translate to her wishing she'd had sons but rather that she chose not to have them but would have given them up to Voldemort's cause if she had made the choice to become a mother.

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Originally Posted by Pearl_Took View Post
However: I don't think it is anti-feminist to include a female character who is all-round bad, like Bella.
I agree, I think to a certain extent Bellatrix added a kind of balance to the DE mix. I also think, though, that her being a woman did add to her evilness and the fact that she was so widely dispised. In other words, had Bellatrix been a man I don't think that character would have been quite so evil because a male character hating to that degree and committing atrocities to that degree is more expected. I think it's a societal thing. Serial killers tend to be men so men doing heinous things is less shocking and less novel then a woman doing those same things. I also think women are often judged more harshly than men and on more factors than men; women are judged on their looks, their fashion sense, their public persona, their talents, their feminine wiles and how they use them, etc. while men are often judged on their actions or abilities alone.


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  #1004  
Old May 1st, 2012, 10:18 pm
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Re: Feminism in Deathly Hallows - or the lack thereof v.3

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Originally Posted by Pearl_Took View Post

It occurs to me that any problem with this scene is somewhat removed if you completely ignore JKR's own comment on her intended sub-text. For me, the author's interviews come a very strict second to the actual text. Many people reading the books won't have read JKR's interviews anyway.
I agree with you on the author's interviews coming second but I don't think that solves the problem here. Many fans, myself included, saw the symbolism of the duel before JKR came out and explained it so it's not just because she said so that I and others have this interpretation. It's the oldest trick in the book to have characters who are each others opposites engage each other in a fight and have the character the author most approves of come out the winner.

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When I read DH, it seemed very clear to me that the author was writing in a cinematic way throughout. I can hardly blame her for that.
Well I think there are limits however. I enjoy Hollywood movies, don't get me wrong but that doesn't mean I would think it's good writing if Harry/Ginny or Hermione/Ron had a Titanic moment or if Neville told Voldemort he's had it with the [insert bad word] snake Funny as that would have been I prefer to keep B/C- rated movies away from books even if HP isn't exactly considered fine art either.
Also, more to the topic the b-word is I believe meant to once again enforce the fact that we are dealing with a woman on woman battle and further underline the symbolism of the scene, IMO.

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Originally Posted by Goddess_Clio View Post
I do not like the Molly-Bellatrix duel at all. I found it out of the blue, it had no set up, they had no prior relationship in the books fueling their confrontation and the whole thing felt very melodramatic. I also felt cheated that a more worthy character (one who had a pre-existing relationship or score to settle with Bellatrix like Neville, Tonks, Hermione, heck, even Ron!) wasn't given the task of defeating her. Molly wasn't the right character for that moment, IMO.
Oh yes, definitely agree with this.

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Keeping this in mind, I don't think Bellatrix dislikes children in either sense of my example above. She seems to be genuinely interested in Draco and raising him with the "right" belief system, even if it's somewhat for her own gain as well.
Well it depends on how we define children I guess. While Draco is a child legally I would say that interacting with a sixteen year old is very different from interacting with a toddler. I think even people who dislike children can tolerate and even enjoy the company of teenagers (unless one happens to dislike teenagers even more). It's not really the same thing as dealing with a child IMO.

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I agree, I think to a certain extent Bellatrix added a kind of balance to the DE mix. I also think, though, that her being a woman did add to her evilness and the fact that she was so widely dispised.
Despised by the fandom or by the characters or by both? While I don't think Bellatrix is despised more by the characters than Voldemort is I do think that she is judged harder than Voldemort by the fans. Just to take an example, she is often refered to as insane and while I don't dispute the fact that she is hardly the picture of mental sanity Voldemort is also killing people right and left (much more so than Bellatrix actually) yet his sanity is never in question. Even though the books do describe him as mad at least once.

I also think many people despised Bellatrix for killing off one of the male characters the fans considered cool. While I'm not suggesting everyone felt this way I wonder what the reactions would have been had Sirius been killed by Voldemort instead. Bella's talents and power are often downplayed by the fandom as well while male characters displaying less skill in the books are considered more powerful.

I'm not saying this applies to everyone but I think there is a tendency in the fandom to judge female characters more harshly than male ones. It's not just with Bellatrix. Hermione for example is often disliked because she outshines Ron and Harry and gets very proactive in DH. Lily is criticized for not putting up with Snape's racist slurs. I'm not excluding myself from this as I know I've been criticizing female characters as well. It's a tendency we all have I believe. Also, there is legitimate criticism against females as well I'm not saying anyone who criticies them is doing so because of their gender. I am simply giving some examples that I find problematic.


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  #1005  
Old May 2nd, 2012, 4:03 am
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Re: Feminism in Deathly Hallows - or the lack thereof v.3

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Originally Posted by Sereena View Post
Oh yes, definitely agree with this.
The more I think about it the more I am a fan of Ron defeating Bellatrix over Molly - he would be defending his love from the person who tortured her - which also makes it the reason JKR would never have allowed it (and the reason she wouldn't allow Neville to finish off Bellatrix): it would be an act of revenge.

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Well it depends on how we define children I guess. While Draco is a child legally I would say that interacting with a sixteen year old is very different from interacting with a toddler. I think even people who dislike children can tolerate and even enjoy the company of teenagers (unless one happens to dislike teenagers even more). It's not really the same thing as dealing with a child IMO.
True. While I am no big fan of children in general I tolerate my 14 year old neighbor boy fairly well, but I suspect that it has a lot to do with the fact that I've been around since he was born and watched him grow up, I know his troubled family situation and I sympathize with him for having to make the choices he has made at such a young age.

With that being said, though, I do think it's a bit of a different situation when you know the child or know the child's parents intimately. While I am no fan of babies if my best friend asked me to watch her baby for a couple hours I wouldn't hesitate (okay, I might hesitate but I'd do it to help out my friend) If my sister had a son I would make an effort to have a relationship with him even if I'm not overly fond of children. Perhaps Bellatrix takes a similar view of children - in general she might not be a fan but in specific cases she would or could make exceptions. I got the impression that she and Narcissa were not exactly besties I do think they were reasonably close growing up due to sharing some similar beliefs and being united against Andromeda. Bellatrix might have been a more active aunt then we're led to believe. Or she might have only taken an interest in Draco once she saw she could use him to further her own position with Voldemort.

Bottom line is I don't know.

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Despised by the fandom or by the characters or by both? While I don't think Bellatrix is despised more by the characters than Voldemort is I do think that she is judged harder than Voldemort by the fans. Just to take an example, she is often refered to as insane and while I don't dispute the fact that she is hardly the picture of mental sanity Voldemort is also killing people right and left (much more so than Bellatrix actually) yet his sanity is never in question. Even though the books do describe him as mad at least once.
By both somewhat. Bellatrix is despised by Sirius fans because she was his murderer and by Neville fans for torturing his parents to insanity, despised by fans in general for being the second most nasty villain in the books and yes, despised by fans for being the antithesis of motherly love as she does appear to be Molly's mirror. In terms of the story, she is despised by characters for her actions against "good guys" (the Longbottoms, Hermione, Dobby) and generally despised as simply being a bad person.

And I'd say that Voldemort's sanity has been questioned, at least in these forums. I think Bellatrix's sanity gets more air time because there is sort of less to discuss about her whereas we can discuss Voldemort's past, his plans with Harry, his relationships with characters, his motivations because we know all of this stuff. With Bellatrix, we never met her husband, we're not entirely sure she was childless though it's a reasonable assumption to make, she isn't introduced as an on-page character until OOTP (she may have been referenced before but her character didn't make an appearance until OOTP) so there is simply a lot less to discuss about her.

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I also think many people despised Bellatrix for killing off one of the male characters the fans considered cool. While I'm not suggesting everyone felt this way I wonder what the reactions would have been had Sirius been killed by Voldemort instead. Bella's talents and power are often downplayed by the fandom as well while male characters displaying less skill in the books are considered more powerful.

I'm not saying this applies to everyone but I think there is a tendency in the fandom to judge female characters more harshly than male ones. It's not just with Bellatrix. Hermione for example is often disliked because she outshines Ron and Harry and gets very proactive in DH. Lily is criticized for not putting up with Snape's racist slurs. I'm not excluding myself from this as I know I've been criticizing female characters as well. It's a tendency we all have I believe. Also, there is legitimate criticism against females as well I'm not saying anyone who criticies them is doing so because of their gender. I am simply giving some examples that I find problematic.
I don't think it's simply the fandom that judges women more harshly, I think it's society in general going back to the original apple eaten by Eve. A woman was responsible for the fall of man and women have been swimming upstream to gain redemption for their sex ever since In all honesty, though, there is a double standard in our society. Women who have more than a handful of sexual partners are called whores while men in the same situation are studs. Women who attain positions of power are at least suspected of using their sexuality as a means of gaining that position. Women are viewed as more emotional and fragile than men by society where a man is viewed as the strong, capable, sturdy defender of his woman. These are all total generalizations but not untrue ones. Men and women are perceived totally differently and, yes, treated differently.

I agree that female characters in HP do seem to be judged a differently than the male characters though I can also say that in these forums I have heard arguments made from both sides. I have heard Snape defended by saying Lily should have been a better friend to him and more or less forgiven him for his words in SWM, but I have also heard the argument that Lily was in the right for standing up for herself and ending the friendship. Bellatrix seems to be the most polarizing female figure, with the possible exception of Molly. She (Bellatrix) doesn't seem to have a single redeeming quality in her favor so maybe, by the way she is written, she deserves to be despised.


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  #1006  
Old May 2nd, 2012, 4:57 am
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Re: Feminism in Deathly Hallows - or the lack thereof v.3

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I see Bellatrix as having made her own choices of marrying a man she doesn't love, of being a DE, of lusting after Voldemort and of not starting a family. However, these choices are presented, in my view, as unnatural for a woman.

Define what would be "natural" then and why.


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Old May 2nd, 2012, 5:32 am
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Re: Feminism in Deathly Hallows - or the lack thereof v.3

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Originally Posted by Sereena View Post
Despised by the fandom or by the characters or by both? While I don't think Bellatrix is despised more by the characters than Voldemort is I do think that she is judged harder than Voldemort by the fans. Just to take an example, she is often refered to as insane and while I don't dispute the fact that she is hardly the picture of mental sanity Voldemort is also killing people right and left (much more so than Bellatrix actually) yet his sanity is never in question. Even though the books do describe him as mad at least once.
Voldemort's heinous actions and complete lack of empathy define him as psychopathic. I don't think most of the wizarding world thought he was in any way sane. Also, I think it's only Sirius that calls Bella and most of his family "mad". At least at the moment I don't recall anyone else calling her insane.

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Originally Posted by Sereena
I also think many people despised Bellatrix for killing off one of the male characters the fans considered cool. While I'm not suggesting everyone felt this way I wonder what the reactions would have been had Sirius been killed by Voldemort instead.
I don't think it's true that "many people" despise Bella because she killed Sirius. And I think if someone else had killed Sirius the reaction would have been the same -- fans simply don't like their favorite character(s) killed off whether it's a dramatic duel or inadvertently drinking poisoned wine. But that's beside the point, because we're discussing the books, not the fans.


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  #1008  
Old May 2nd, 2012, 4:30 pm
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Re: Feminism in Deathly Hallows - or the lack thereof v.3

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Originally Posted by HedwigOwl View Post
I don't think it's true that "many people" despise Bella because she killed Sirius. And I think if someone else had killed Sirius the reaction would have been the same -- fans simply don't like their favorite character(s) killed off whether it's a dramatic duel or inadvertently drinking poisoned wine. But that's beside the point, because we're discussing the books, not the fans.
I think it's a fair argument to make, though. Sirius was and is a majorly loved character by a lot of fans and whomever killed him would automatically become a lightening rod for evil thoughts from Sirius fans whether that person had been Bellatrix or not. This arugment becomes a moot point in this discussion if Sirius wasn't killed by Bellatrix because this is a conversation about feminism in DH or lack thereof and if Sirius had been killed by a man we'd have nothing to discuss about his death in this thread. With all that being said, though, he was killed by Bellatrix, Bellatrix is the most prominent woman death eater and henceforth her killing of Sirius and the role her gender plays in her actions and readers perceptions of her is a valid topic for discussion.


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  #1009  
Old May 2nd, 2012, 5:34 pm
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Re: Feminism in Deathly Hallows - or the lack thereof v.3

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Originally Posted by Pearl_Took View Post
However: I don't think it is anti-feminist to include a female character who is all-round bad, like Bella.
It's just poor-writing. People are shades of grey so it's sloppy writing to create a human character who is all good or all-round bad.


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  #1010  
Old May 2nd, 2012, 6:48 pm
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Re: Feminism in Deathly Hallows - or the lack thereof v.3

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It's just poor-writing. People are shades of grey so it's sloppy writing to create a human character who is all good or all-round bad.
Bellatrix is a militant racist, an elitist classist snob, a radical fanatic, sadistic and someone who lacks empathy. Usually people with these traits aren't going to be the best or nicest people. Bellatrix seemed cordial with her family and among other purebloods but since we see the story from Harry's POV for the most part, we mostly see her in battle or in war situations. There is a war going on and people take sides and people tend to be defined and polarized by war. You also have to take into account that Bellatrix spent many years in Azkaban and was a little insane by the point we meet her.

People are shades of grey but usually people who lack enough empathy to take pleasure in torturing people aren't going to be the best of people in general. The lack of empathy isn't just an aspect of someone, it will inevitability seep into every aspect of their personality. It's not an isolated/detached personal quirk with no consequences on a person's overall psychology or revelation of their core personality to be able to gleefully kill and torture. IMO

Bringing this back to the topic of Feminism, I'd say it's more feminist for Bellatrix to be more of a hardcore evil villain like the male villains. There is a trope in fiction where the "bad girl" comes around in the end or turns out to be more misunderstood and a tragic victim of some type (and just needs the right guy to love her and guide her) but not Bellatrix. She is pure cold-hearted, unapologetic, irredeemable evil and dies a villain, like Voldemort.


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