Harry Potter and the What Exactly? A Spoilertastic Review

Last night’s midnight screening of the final instalment in the vast, lumbering Harry Potter franchise was attended chiefly by teenagers. An unsurprising fact, given that for the last few films at least, the movie series has been given a very teenage makeover. Whenever possible, the directors have tended to get Hero, Redhead Sidekick and Token Clever Girl out of their scholarly robes and into middle-aged approximations of teenage clothes. Hoodies! Denim jackets! Hoodies worn underneath denim jackets! These people are COOL TEENAGERS! As anyone who remembers Mr Weasley’s utter bafflement at Muggle clothing in one of the earlier books (Chamber of Secrets? Shoot me, I know) will have noticed, this makes no sense. Unless, hypothetically, the films are more concerned with being cool and marketable than representative of the Rowling universe. Hypothetically speaking, that might explain it. In that hypothetical scenario.

Let me say that in all fairness, HP7.2 is not a bad film. Except for the franchise-wide attempt to Muggle up Harry and his amigos to the point where they lack any engagement with the quirky wizardly details that made the Potter world so interesting, it’s pretty good in places. The Gringotts sequence isn’t bad at all, and the Malfoy arc is handled fairly well. Okay, some genuinely significant subplots are dropped, such as Dumbledore’s family history, and we can say goodbye to his ex-boyfriend Grindelwald (too controversh for the super cool teenage audience perhaps). But hey, these things happen. It’s not like they interfered with anything major, right? It’s not like they’d remove something that’s necessary for the film to make sense, like for example something crucial to the actual movie title, right? Right?

Yes, you’ve guessed it, spoiler-hounds. The Deathy Hallows – for you non-fans, the magical items that, when combined, give the user power over death itself – have mysteriously disappeared from the Harry Potter film franchise. Oh, there are some vague gestures, yes, there was that cool animated sequence in HP7.1, but here, when they are most crucial, when they combine and finally make sense, they’re totally absent. To get even nerdier than before for a second, I was frankly pissed off that the famous Hallows symbol (displayed here) makes no sense whatsoever in movie canon, because the ring that made Dumbledore’s hand all gross and diseased looking is not the Resurrection Stone. Inexplicably, and totally unnecessarily, the Stone is a totally new thing with no connection whatsoever to the Gaunt ring or anything else that we’ve seen before. So the ring in the middle of the symbol is just… a ring?

But more importantly, when Harry dies (SPOILERLOLZ), there are two explanations in the book for his resurrection. One is explicit – Dumbledore tells him in the Heavenly Railway Station – and the other is implicit but obvious because duh it’s in the book title. Dumbledore’s explanation is that the blood Voldemort took from Harry in the Goblet of Fire makes him unable to kill Harry. I wasn’t really down with that, but whatevs, because the second explanation was way cooler: Harry, as the possessor of all three Hallows, is the Master of Death. When Voldemort tries to kill him in the Forbidden Forest, he has the cloak and ring with him, two of the three awesome things that give you the power of not dying. The only missing component is the wand Voldemort actually uses to kill him – the wand of which Harry is the true master. Hence, the Hallows are united and Harry cheats death. He cheats the shit out of it. For real. Hence the NAME of the GODDAMN BOOK.

But in the movie? No cloak. The stone has been abandoned early. And Dumbledore doesn’t even give that half-assed explanation about the blood, so we literally have no idea why Harry comes back from the dead, except that he’d quite like to, and oh yeah, he’s Jesus.

Scene-for-scene, it’s not a bad movie. There are definitely terrifying scenes, par example the bit where Voldemort walks in bare, bloodied feet through strewn bodies in Malfoy Manor. But in the overall Harry Potter schema, it’s a mess. It explains nothing, and in fact raises new demands for explanation – how can Ron speak Parseltongue? Why does Voldemort explode into scraps of heated plastic and vault merrily through the air? Why is the movie called Deathly Hallows when they’re almost totally insignificant? The stone is rightfully lost in the Forest, but instead of putting the Elder Wand to rest with Dumbledore, Harry decides he’ll just crack that shit in half and throw it off a bridge because, you know, he’s a cool teenager. The last we see of the cloak is in Gringotts or something. Come on, Warner Brothers. Read a fucking book once in a while.

The epilogue, I have nothing to say about.

That epilogue always sucked.

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Piggygate and Women in Politics

Credit to Maman Poulet for the video and the story, which is now all over the actual and not just internet news.

Skip to 1:09 to hear three of our sterling independent male TDs – Shane Ross, Luke “Ming” Flanagan and Mick Wallace – discuss the clothing choices of female TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor, and compare her to one of the Muppets. Guess which! It’s Miss Piggy. Good guessing, because you guessed the one that lends itself most easily to sexist insults!

This video is exactly why so many young, bright, politically-motivated women will emigrate instead of running for public office. Because incidents like this serve to remind them that they are not lads. You know, lads! Who can have the craic with other lads. While having the craic and taking a joke and learning to take jokes about having the craic with lads. And hey, some of the jokes are about men! Sometimes men get joked about! You know, men, the people who represent 141 of the Dáil’s 166 TDs. They can take a joke! Why can’t you, hugely under-represented minority? What’s your problem with our hilarious contempt for your clothing? You chose to dress like that! Which is to say that patriarchal gender roles more or less insisted you dress like that from birth to differentiate yourself from the group with whom power really belongs.

Taking a joke is great and all, but you know what I feel is politically superior? Being considerate of those who are faced with the challenge of speaking from a minority position when those they speak for are not a minority, and trying not to make Dáil culture, of which Ross, Wallace and Flanagan are very privileged members, any more toxic for women (or any other minority group) than it already is. Irish politics fails so consistently and so egregiously because it is at heart a club of schoolboys who never left the classroom.

In addressing gender balance in Irish politics, the question is not “why don’t women run?”. The question is, why the fuck would they?

If you want to tell Luke “Ming” Flanagan – the only TD involved that has not so far apologised – what you think of his complicity with these remarks, his email address is luke@lukemingflanagan.ie.

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Love & Other Drugs: A Romantic Comedy Review

Love and Other Drugs is a recent(ish) romantic comedy starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. In it, Gyllenhaal is Jamie Randall, a heartless sex hound and drug rep, and Hathaway is Maggie Murdoch, an early-onset Parkinson’s sufferer and artist. Here, the film and its myriad problems begin. Because while, like most current romantic comedies, the script is only occasionally terrible, Love and Other Drugs fails as a film, both in some obvious and some more subtle ways.

First off, and obviously, we never believe for a moment that the doe-eyed and seriously attractive Randall is heartless; nor for that matter are we convinced of Murdoch’s artistry, just because she like painted a thing one time and has curly hair. The film never tries to make Randall uncaring enough to make his later reversal into caringness believable or interesting. Like yeah, he has casual sex with lots of women. Call me when it’s 1896 and someone gives a shit. Conversely, Murdoch’s commitment to meaningless enjoyable sex is totally unassociated with moral failure, presumably because she’s a woman and we totally suspect that under all that crazy sex lust she just wants a relationship like all the other ladies out there amirite, etc. In other words, Maggie makes all the same “mistakes” that we’re supposed to want Jamie to correct in himself. Either we, as an audience, don’t think casual sex is all that huge of a flaw, or we do, and we resent both characters for it. Double standards: you can’t have them both ways.

In terms of Maggie, the film’s lack of interest in her art is pretty typical of its treatment of her all the way through. We find out bizarrely like halfway through the film that she paints stuff or whatever, and are then, despite zero commitment from the script and film-makers, supposed to care. Showing her with a scissors one time does not make us believe in her artistic integrity. Shock horror. And yet that’s the only facet of her character, other than her illness, that we’re ever presented with. The female artist is a pretty complex figure in cultural terms, and I’m going to go ahead and say it’s not, and shouldn’t be, reducible to a vague and unsubstantiated subplot, constantly relegated to third place after her illness and her interest in men. Just once I’d like to see a romantic comedy end with the quirky female artist character saying, “do you think I have time for this bullshit?” instead of biting her lip meaningfully at the thought of commitment, which for all female artists ever is apparently the key life fear.

But most importantly, Love and Other Drugs just isn’t about Maggie. The one scene in which she’s really the central character takes place in Chicago, where she finds a conference for fellow Parkinson’s sufferers and is immensely heartened and energised by their stories. It’s one of the film’s most moving and sympathetic sequences, and probably the most cheering. And yet when Jamie gets offered a promotion to Chicago at the end of the film, he rejects it to go to med school instead. For Jamie’s character, this represents a moral victory, which is supposed to offer us a sense of complete conclusion, a resolution of all raised issues. But for Maggie’s character, this represents nothing but a boyfriend’s life choice. Her one moment of clarity – her emotional climax in the film – comes to no resolution whatsoever. She’s not the protagonist. She’s simply an instrument through which Jamie learns to live. And although gestures are made in the latter third of the film as to Jamie’s selfishness – his obsession with “curing” her illness is condemned – it’s this selfishness that the film ultimately celebrates in its own narrative form. By letting the story find its happy ending in Jamie’s happiness rather than in Maggie’s, it’s just another story about a privileged white guy and his quirky, rare-illness-suffering girlfriend. And you know what that’s not? Cool.

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