Welcome to the first edition of the Geek Talk series. It should come as no surprise that today’s topic is related to Harry Potter…
Anyone who know me even a little is well aware that I’m a hardcore Harry Potter fan.
Harry Potter and I, We Go Way Back…
My first day in junior high school, I proudly walk into my class with my HP backpack, my HP school planner, my HP ruler and my HP pencil case. Of course, I was utterly unaware that my deep love for the Harry Potter saga could entice some mockery (read bulling) from my fellow students.
I was eleven, naive and very much in love with J.K Rowling’s universe. Suffice to say, I went through hell during that first year, and let me tell you, the level of cruelty kids can ditch out knows no bound. But even today, as I am past my mid-twenty, I can honestly say that I don’t regret any of it.
Like a surprisingly reduced part of the HP fandom, I discovered the books when the very first came out, in 1997. I was eight. From that moment and to this day, Harry Potter and every single characters of the wizarding world grew up with me, evolved as I evolved and followed me into adulthood. For the lonely kid that I was, it was like having fifty new family members, and some of them became my inspiration because their dreams and sufferings pushed me to try harder in life.
I could relate to most of the characters and I felt like I understood the strengths and weaknesses of Hogwarts’s four houses. I was enchanted by the magical world J.K Rowling depicted and overwhelmed by how much love and sadness a book series could make me feel.
Constantly reading the Harry Potter books while growing up was a great way to grow up right, grow up with a little light of happiness, especially when the rest of my days were so dark.
When you’re a child or a teenager, everything always feels so extreme. Everything is “all or nothing”, everything is drama. My view on the events happening in those books was no different during that time:
- I hated the Dursleys.
- I felt a lot of pity and affection for Hagrid.
- The idea of four houses into a school always felt wrong to me. Divisive much?
- I was flabbergasted by the injustice and the condescending treatment Harry had to endure from the adults around him.
- I felt betrayed by Dumbledore when I realized Harry was an horcrux and he knew it.
- I called bullshit about the reasons he gave for not telling Harry about the prophecy.
- I was devastated by Sirius’s death.
- My feelings for Snape were forever oscillating between an intense dislike and a crushing pity.
- While I liked Ron, I never fully trusted him to stay completely loyal to Harry due to his jealousy, and I felt that way until the very end of the series.
- Hermione Granger equally inspired me a great deal of admiration and exasperation.
- I loved Fred and George.
- I always thought Percy Weasley was treated unfairly. I’m not overly fond of the “black sheep of the family ” concept.
- I hated Bellatrix.
- I adored Luna Lovegood.
- I wanted to see more characters’s developments among the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws students, not just the unnecessary crap about Cho Chang, Zacharias Smith and Justin Flinch Fetcher.
- I did not like Remus Lupin. But I loved Tonks.
- I think that there is something deeply unrealistic and wrong about the way the Slytherin House (in general) and Draco Malfoy (in particular) were depicted and imagined.
So let’s dive into that.
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Draco Malfoy, The (Almost) Perfect Poster boy For Evil Spawn…
Now, there is no mistaken the fact that Draco Malfoy was an awful little brat during the six first books of the series.
Only child of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, he was obviously spoiled by his parents, spoiled with everything he truly did not need. A lot of money, extravagant gifts, tooth-rotting sweets, expensive clothes… nothing material was out of reach for him.
His father gifted the Slytherin Quidditch team with brand new and expensive Nimbus brooms once Draco became their seeker. His mother send him sweets and chocolate via owl every week.
So, yes. Draco Malfoy was spoiled but it became very obvious in the Chamber of secrets book that he was not as loved or as cherished as he would have liked his fellow students to believe. The scene between father and son that takes place in Borgin and Burkes shows that not only Lucius is not proud of his son but their relationship seems to be cold as well.
In the books, it’s very obvious that Draco worships the ground his father walks on. In terms of an accomplished, respected and even feared wizard, Lucius was the perfect, the only example that Draco had. He was raised from the cradle by a blood purist man, he was taught to despise everyone and everything his parents told him were inferior to him and as a son, a child sheltered from everything that could alter this twisted view of the world, a son desperate to please his parents, Draco never questioned it.
As the result to this, of course, he lacked the empathy and the compassion that characterized Harry. Draco had not being raised to experiment his own sufferings and therefore had no idea how to relate to the sufferings of others. He only grew up feeling like a failure to his father’s eyes and he had to strive to fix it. This is why the relationship J.K Rowling created between Harry and Draco is so interesting and well-played: She made that feeling of being a failure, of being worthless grow every time Draco lost to Harry in the books.
None of this excuse the fact that Draco was a bully, cruel to others, a blood purist, ignorant, intolerant and manipulative. His father’s son.
The thing is, even as people despised his character, they started to relate to him more than they did to characters like Harry, Hermione or Ron. Why?
Because at the beginning of the books, he was the lowest of the low, the snake, the bully, the proverbial school nemesis of Harry Potter, and inside this tailored box, he struggled to become more. He struggled to beat Harry Potter at Quidditch, he struggled to make his father proud, he struggled to beat muggles-born at exams. Despite his more than dubious intentions and his selfishness, he fought again and again. While he was sometimes described as cowardly and actually behaved like it, he never gave up trying to overcome his shortcomings.
And that is what people root for in someone. The drive. The ambition. The determination to never stay down, no matter how much humiliation you endure, no matter how much it hurts.
Draco Malfoy: The Bitchy Underdog
Which brings me to my second point: people loves underdogs. I’ve got to admit it, it’s a little astonishing that such an awful character managed to provoked so much sympathy and even pity which in time definitely transformed into fondness and love for some fans. J.K Rowling certainly did not expect or want that.
But it happened.
No matter how awful of a villain you creates, if you keep beating him up, metaphorically or otherwise, if you introduce to the audience his inner struggles, his deepest insecurities and his tortured psyche, people will humanize him enough to break that black and white straight jacket you planned to trap him into.
However the most interesting (and worthy of notice) thing about Malfoy is not who and what he was. It’s what and who he became, it’s how he evolved.
We all remember how Draco’s world crumbled and shattered in the sixth and seventh books. With Voldemort living in his home and forcing him to tortured people as a punishment for his obvious lack of murdering tendencies, Draco suddenly learned in the worse way what it felt like to have everything taken from you, your safety, your sanity and your freedom.
And we learned a lot more about him in those two last books, didn’t we? Much more than in the five previous ones. Stripped of his bully mask and false pride, what truly characterized Draco Malfoy?
His fear and his love.
Between the lines and the glimpses of his anguish, it’s a beautiful, terrible thing, the way his love is described in those books. Without restraint, without boundaries, without moral. He opened Hogwarts to the devastation that was the Death Eaters and Greyback. He did it because it was somehow more bearable than to have his parents killed. His love for them is made of devotion and annihilation. It’s almost the love of a slave. Lucius is certainly undeserving of it. The jury is still out for Narcissa.
His fear for his family and for himself, his fear of the Dark Lord and to a certain extent of Dumbledore is what ironically kept him safe. He did as he what told to do, no matter how tainted his soul became, no matter how much he did not want to. He made the deliberate choice to do wrong because he could not stand the consequences of doing the right thing. It became clear at the middle and the end of the Half Blood Prince that Draco knew he was in the wrong. He held no more disillusion about Voldemort or his father. But he could not stop.
Already tainted with the Dark Mark on his arm, already used to cast “Crucio” on his victims, Draco finally became the son Lucius always wanted while we learn who Draco Malfoy truly was or rather who he wasn’t:
A murderer. A monster.
Instead he became a victim and at that, one that inspired the most bittersweet pity.
Draco Malfoy: The Fated Loser
At the end of the series, most people just described Malfoy as a loser. After all that how J.K Rowling spent the last seven books describing him. He constantly lost to Harry, to Hermione, even to Ron. He failed at pleasing his father, he failed at pleasing Voldemort, he even failed at accepting the flimsy and half-ass attempts of protection Snape and Dumbledore awkwardly offered him.
On Pottermore, J.K. Rowling described the entire Malfoy family as always involved in some evil and nefarious deeds. Apparently even the Malfoys from several generations removed were evil doers, somehow forever involved or even responsible for some awful and devastating events in the wizard or even muggle history. They were never ones to help people, they were completely unrepentant.
Oh, how I loathe that.
The idea of that someone can never change. The idea that they are doomed to follow a dark path and will automatically end up bad, or hurting people because it’s in their blood. I hate that idea so much, that black and white judgmental tunnel-vision crap. Worse, the idea of an entire family always and forever rotten to the core?
That leaves me nauseous. What the hell?
That is not the real world. That is not how people work. Of course doing the right thing is never the easiest road and very few take it, especially if their entourage is urging them to do bad… but I believe that most people fight to overcome their worst selves and go against the current and try to better themselves, especially if they have suffered. Most people change.
I think the way J.K Rowling depicted the Malfoy family’s background as inherently bad and always following a dark path is why she suffered so much backlash from some parts of the fandom. Nobody is born evil. Nobody is born bad.
Yes, it would be harder to grow into your heart and into your soul if you were raised in a family that lacks the fundamental empathy you need to properly love the world but it is certainly not impossible. Nobody is predisposed to failed.
The idea of houses in Hogwart is extremely divisive. Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Slytherin… Why on earth can you not be Brave and Cunning? Why should you only be clever and not loyal? Why can’t you be both? Why can’t you be courageous and ambitious and smart and honest?
Nobody is solely one thing, and while I perfectly understand why J.K. Rowling chose to create those houses, how interesting it is plot wise, I always thought it was kind of horrifying… kids striving under a hierarchy slash rivalry and growing up with a mob-like mentality in addition to the permanent certitude that there is always a “them” and a “us”.
That cliche mirror effect… Rich vs Poor, Dark Wizard vs Light Wizard, Villains vs Heroes, Malfoys vs Weasleys, Draco Malfoy vs Harry Potter… It definitely wasn’t to the taste of everybody and I think it definitely help building up the defense of Draco Malfoy and his evolution from poisonous brat to cinnamon bun in the last two decades.
I’d like to point out that I always find it sarcastically ridiculous when some overzealous fans conveniently forget that Draco was an awful little bully and does deserves some of the hardships that fell upon him. Why would you want to paint him as the white dove, the poor, sheltered little darling who didn’t know better? He did know better.
If you truly want to understand and therefore appreciate the character, you have to accept his flaws. Who he was is relevant but who he became is what truly matters. That’s what is worth reading, what is worth noticing and appreciating. I like a good character’s growth…. Don’t you?
Which brings us to the latest installment of the Harry Potter series: The Cursed Child.
Yes, It is Exceptionally Lonely, Being Draco Malfoy… But It’s OK Too.
I went to the UK, in June 2016 to see the play of Harry potter and the Cursed Child in London Palace Theater. It was with the first original set of actors ever playing those characters in theater. Draco Malfoy was brilliantly played by Alex Price and he managed to make it painfully obvious how far Draco went in terms of personal growth.
Most importantly, with this play, J.K Rowling finally listen to the unhappy fans and gave to Draco what he never had in the first seven books: A win.
I told you earlier that Draco was described and then tagged as a loser in the books; He never won against Harry and suffered many humiliating moments, some deserved, some not so much.
However, in the Cursed Child, there is one area where Draco is definitely better than Harry: Parenting.
Despite the fact that he had Lucius as a father, Draco, while having a lot of trouble expressing his affections for his son, is definitely a better father than Harry is.
Granted, Scorpius is less of a pain in the ass than Albus, but the credit goes to his upbringing. Draco and Astoria did everything they could not to repeat the past. Harry unknowingly made Albus believe than nothing was more important than the past. Scorpius is nothing like Draco was at his age and while Harry is busy trying to relate to hi son and basically wants to control him, he just managed to make everything about himself, which is something Albus hates. Draco wants Scorpius to be leader, not a follower, like he was. He refuses to see his son influenced by others, which does create some father/son issues between them but ultimately, it’s very clear that what he wants the most is to see his son happy. He is determined to make sure Scorpius is happy.
Draco is a widower, he is forever under suspicion due to his past, there is no escaping it. he is heart-broken, he is lonely and yet when realizing that Scorpius made friends with the son of the person he loathes the most, he simply tries to keep them together when Harry is determined to separate them.
When confronted by the awful rumors that his late wife, the love of his life, might have had a child with Voldemort, Draco defended her honor and let’s face it, would have own Harry in that duel match if Ginny had not interrupted.
He doesn’t hold a prestigious position in the ministry like Harry, he is not the minister like Hermione, but he is definitely playing at their level magically and maybe even above since he studied and mastered basic alchemy, like Nicolas Flamel did before him.
He flirts with power but never cross the line. He grew up. He matured for the better and while it doesn’t sound like his life will ever be free of pain and sadness, while he will probably always somehow pay for his past sins, he had managed to let go of everything inside him that wants to hate and destroy, and he kept on loving and protecting.
Now… isn’t that the mantel of heroes?
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why it’s OK to like Draco Malfoy.
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I hope you enjoyed this first edition of my new series Geek Talks. Let me know what you think of Draco Malfoy and the Slytherin house, which house are you? Which house would you like to be?
I’ll see you’all soon for a new talk!
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