Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Harry Potter and Women as Sexual Objects

The feminist analysis of Narnia will have to wait until Christmas Eve, because I took advantage of $9.50 movies to go see Harry Potter instead. I have the usual observations: Daniel Radcliffe is awful, Emma Watson gets worse each year, and the dress Hermionie wore to the ball was hideously ugly. Despite this I thought it was quite a good adaptation, the Goblet of Fire is my least favourite books, and this might be the best movie (which is probably damning it with faint praise).

But there was one thing I wanted to write about and that was the portrayal of the two visiting schools (which I'm too lazy to look up). I don't know if the fact that the French school was all female, and the Russian school was all male was mentioned in the books, but I certainly didn't pick up on it. But in the movie the contrast between the schools became a contrast between Masculinity and Femininity, which wasn't there at all in the books, and didn't work for me at all.

But what I found most scary, was that feminity was represented basically through sexuality. When the girls come in and do their weird little dance thing, it's basically a seduction dance (when the boys come in it's a war dance).

This really disturbed me, because it plays into the idea that sexuality is something women have, and men want. In fact it took it further, until women are defined by this sexuality, not their own sexuality, but a sexuality performed for men.

8 comments:

  1. i definitely picked up from the books that one was a girls' school the other a boys' school.

    I found it interesting that the girls were portrayed, as you have said, so seductively, but at the same time no mention was made of the fact that Fleur at least was made out in the book to be part Neela (sp?) which seems to be Rowling's take on those seductress nymphs in celtic mythology (can't remember what they are actually called).

    Rowling seems to me to be quite clumsy at writing the romance stuff (although the Ron and Hermione friction isn't too bad), she often falls into stereotypes.

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  2. To me both the performances were to do with stereotyped sexuality. For goodness sakes the guys were running around with large poles that were on fire. They were performing just as much as the women.

    In terms of the 'Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', I can't see how you can not see it as a gender war.

    The 'White Witch' is a seductive, sterile, capricious, primitive, life-taking, powerful to a point, and female. It's interesting to also note that two of the Witch's lieutenants are both 'reduced' men - a dwarf and a minotaur. Every strength she has is mitigated and undermined by her gender.

    Aslan is loving, life-giving, civilised, omnipotent, and male. He has the heroic middle-class 'whole' children as his lieutenants.

    If Lewis had not meant it this way, you have to ask why he chose a women as the antagonist for Aslan - considering the New Testament contains no female antagonists.

    The director seems to be even aware of this when Aslan is sacrificed by the White Witch in the positioning of the dagger.

    There's heaps more, the only thing that can be said about the movie is it is so faithful to the book, and therefore so laughable and dated it hopefully makes little impact on the children and young people that see it.

    Although it's was interesting to hear that the added sexist and classist bullshit represented by the beavers that was 'enhanced' by the director was the only bit that was repeated verbatim by the 11 year old boy who I saw it with.

    I had to see the movie to judge for myself, but that's another 2 and a bit hours I won't see again.

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  3. It's explicitly stated in GoF (which is sitting at my left hand as of now) that Beauxbatons is a co-ed school (in the book, Parvati and Padma end up dancing with Beauxbatons boys after giving up on Harry and Ron) and there is also a glancing reference to a Durmstrang girl at one point. So they're both co-ed. I think it's ridiculous in the movie how they're shown as single sex-schools, because where are the French male and Eastern European female wizards supposed to study, huh?

    The dance the Beauxbatons girls did got the biggest unintentional laugh. But as Spanblather interestingly points out, the film omits to mention that Fleur is part Veela (an actual mythological being, though it's usually spelt Vila). There is probably a great deal to be said about the Veela and female sterotyping, but the movie left out that angle.

    And Hermione's ball dress is supposed to be blue, damnit! Blue!

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  4. "...it plays into the idea that sexuality is something women have, and men want." I really hate to break this to you, but for a large proportion of the population that idea is correct!

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  5. eleanor - I was sure they were mixed schools - although I wasn't sure because I read Goblet of Fire in one sitting. Also I'm pretty sure Hermionie's dress wasn't supposed to be hideously ugly. I was glad they cut the teeth thing though (even though

    Psycho Milt, I'm aware a large percentage of men think like that - it fucking terrifies me. Ampersand is really interesting on some of the effects of this:

    John you could be right about the portrayl of Durmstrung being about sexuality - which just makes it worse. Men's sexuality is about violence, women's sexuality is about performing sex.

    The problem with popular culture is that I hate our culture.

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  6. Sorry Psycho Milt this was the link I was recommending: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2004/02/11/what-causes-rape-anatomy-of-a-rape-culture/

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  7. I see - I hadn't picked up the implication that it's like some valuable object someone else owns that I'd like to take from them. In that case, yes it's a pretty bizarre idea. But then I also find "Men's sexuality is about violence..." to be a pretty bizarre idea.

    Personally I think Ampersand puts way too much emphasis on culture compared to biology in that post, but that's an argument you could have for years without getting anywhere.

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  8. Yes - JK Rowling says Hermionie is based on "her" - yet she gives the girl so little to do but play the "part of the girl." Is this JK Rowling's reflections on her own childhood, do you think?

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