Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ch. 6-7: Common sense dictates a 20-week mandrake ban until women stop sinning with their butts

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This week, we discuss: the social leverage of Howlers; Gilderoy Lockhart’s narcissism; Google already knows what you’re thinking; The Matrix dude fantasies; mandrakes and sexual commerce in the Bible; hallucinogenic coincidences; anatomically correct root vegetables; the doctrine of signatures; keep the dog, lose the mandrake; posh Justin Finch-Fletchley; Republican wizards and the 20-day mandrake waiting period; what is Spellotape, really; perfect Colin Creevey; Lockhart’s magical Google alerts; Mormon fever dreams; Cornish pixies v. Pornish pixies; morning Wood; Hooch v. Snape; Mudbloods and the politics of racial slurs; anti-Semitism and the ugly history of Jewish blood libel; Black Mirror and genocide; why Judas Iscariot proves that sin enters (and exits) through the butt; the periodic penitence of menstrual periods; the bloody flux; wizarding eugenics; Confederate truck nuts and racist gun shows; 50 Shades of the Chamber of Secrets; the difference between wizard photos and portraits; and whether listeners will forgive us for this truly bizarre and NSFW episode.

S: Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies!

C: Yay!

S: We’ve slept, we’ve braced, ourselves, and it’s time to tackle Chapter 6.

Chapter 6: Gilderoy Lockhart

S: I think they’re going downhill. This is not a good sign. Do you know what kippers are?

C: Aren’t they fish? I thought that’s what it was but I could be wrong, not being British.

S: Yes! It is a whole herring that has been butterflied, gutted, pickled, salted, and cold-smoked. How do you cold-smoke something? Over smoldering woodchips. Hmm.

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ARE YOU SURE???

C: I don’t know how you hot smoke something.

S: Anyway, it’s a gloomy day, overcast, they’re going down to breakfast. Hermione is very frosty behind her copy of Voyages with Vampires. We get our first mail delivery, which is good for Neville, who has forgotten everything. But not good for Ron. He’s got a Howler.

C: I love Howlers, and the Howler is one thing that they did in the movie that worked really well.

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S: This notion of a Howler is brilliant. The Howler is a lot of parents’ dream invention. It’s like a recorded message, and the longer you let it sit, the worse it gets. So send a Howler, and the longer the kid puts off the scolding, the worse it will be.

C: It’s pretty epic.

S: It’s smoking at the corners! And it’s an explosion of sound that fills the entire Great Hall, and it is the worst ass chewing you will ever get in your life, from an angry red envelope that bursts into flame.

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C: Ron says later when Hermione’s about to tell him, “Don’t tell me I deserve it.” You 100% deserve it, Ron. He deserved more than a Howler and a single detention, probably, but you know, what the fuck Hogwarts.

S: Mrs. Weasley is yelling at you is bad enough, but from 100 miles away from a smoking envelope is worst. Plates and spoons are rattling on the table. It’s a great tool because everyone will hear it. All your peers will know what you did, which is almost worse. Getting humiliated by your parent in front of everyone you know-

C: So embarrassing!

S: It bursts into flame. I like in the movie the way it stuck out its tongue and ripped itself into pieces. Of course Ron doesn’t want to hear that he deserved that, but…

C: He totally did.

S: First off is double Herbology. Hogwarts kids get block schedules! At least the Howler has done one good thing – Hermione was holding out for some repercussions before her moral code would allow her to give them the privilege of her friendship again. But now she’s being nicer.

As they get near the greenhouse, they see Professor Sprout carrying bandages. She’s been putting Whomping Willow branches in slings.

C: I gotta say, I’m terribly impressed with Professor Sprout that she can get close enough to the Willow to do that.

S: Professor Sprout has always struck me as one of the most competent people at the school, who knows her job damn well and just gets stuff done.

C: I love her in the movies. She was very well cast. It’s a small part, but she’s perfect.

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S: She’s accompanied by Gilderoy Lockhart, “immaculate in sweeping robes of turquoise.” He was out early in the morning to harass Professor Sprout about the proper way to doctor a Whomping Willow. He’s been rattling on at her the entire time, and now they come back and he announces that he’s just been showing her how to do her job, “but I don’t want you running off with the idea that I’m better at Herbology than she is.” Yes, yes you do want that. You complete douchehole.

C: He’s just so transparent.

S: Worst Ravenclaw! They go to the greenhouse, but Lockhart pulls Harry aside. He is convinced that Harry flew the car to Hogwarts because he has the bug for publicity and wanted another front page.

C: I just had a thought! Lockhart is Albus.

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MIND BLOWN

S: Because he thinks everything is about him?

C: Because he believes that Harry would want the spotlight.

S: For a man who has spent his life conning people and taking credit for other people’s work, and passing himself off as an expert, I would think that in order to gain their trust and steal their stories, that he’d be a decent judge of people. Lockhart can’t read people. I don’t if his narcissism just gets in the way, but he projects himself onto everyone. He sees Harry and thinks, well, I’m desperate for publicity all the time, that must be what Harry did too. Harry did this drastic thing – it’s all about me and what I did! He’s such a narcissist. Everything is about him!

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C: He’s like our current president.

S: Lockhart would totally call up the Daily Prophet, pretend to be his own publicist, and talk about how all the hot witches want to date him.

C: I can see that.

S: “Oh, yes, I’m the publicity agent for Gilderoy Lockhart, you know, that very handsome, charming wizard. So many ladies have been calling him! He was out with Celestina Warbeck only last week.”

C: “And you know that the pussy that he grabs is terrific pussy. It’s the best pussy.”

S: It’s beautiful!

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I did not make this. This already existed. I started to Google “Donald Trump Gilderoy Lockhart” and Google AUTOFILLED THAT SHIT

C: I’m glad to see we wandered down this segue already. We never change.

S: We’re broken records. Sex politics sex politics cussing sex politics.

C: Religion.

S: Can I segue REALLY hard core for a second? Have you seen The Matrix sequels?

C: Unfortunately.

S: I had only ever seen the first one. I treated the sequels like the Divergent movies – I knew they existed but didn’t feel the need to engage with them at all. But for some reason there was a marathon on TV, I watched the first one, and then just let the second one play. And there’s a fucking scene in that movie where, no joke – I don’t know if this dude was a real person or a program, I was losing track at this point because the plot was so convoluted – they’re sitting in this café and this program guy gives this random woman an orgasm with his mind, and I was just, like, WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING IN THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW? What is the point of this scene? Why are we watching it? I don’t understand.

C: I know exactly what you’re talking about. It’s one of the things I remember specifically from those movies. Maybe that’s why – to be memorable.

S: There is NO REASON for it to happen. I feel like studio executives got hold of the movie after the first one and said, “We need more sex in these movies, stat.” So you have the naked dancing orgy scene at the beginning and the awkward Neo-Trinity sex, but that’s not enough, so telepathic orgasms! Make Neo make out with Monica Belucci! And I would just like to put it on record how confused I was and still am about this.

C: They’re not great. Totally unlike the first movie, they take a 90 degree turn in another direction. But I also feel like most men think they can give women orgasms just by smoldering at them.

S: It did feel like a dude fantasy.

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C: That’s really interesting, because the Wachowski brothers directed that, and they have both since transitioned to women.

S: It felt to me like studio intervention. Because the first was very sex-neutral.

C: Two and three were shot back to back. So maybe in the editing room after 2 didn’t have the same reaction…

S: They said, “More weird, awkward sex now!”

C: I remember thinking in the theater, what is this? I just want guys running around in shiny pleather shooting things. You’re trying to give me some weird Biblical Messiah allegory, and that is not what I bought this ticket for.

S: And they already did the Messiah allegory in the first one, so I don’t know why they’d need to do it again. I completely lost track of the plot. So in my mind they don’t exist.

C: That’s how most people feel.

S: I’m sorry, listeners, I know we’re not here to talk about The Matrix, I just need to talk about this. And this is the violence cussing sex podcast, so it’s technically on topic.

C: Come for Harry Potter, stay for segues.

S: If we’re going to transition back, I keep thinking about Dan Brown. Lockhart is definitely not getting any from anyone from himself.

C: He’s Narcissus.

S: It’s hard to see past his narcissism. Is this Lockhart trying to be nice and connect with someone? I can’t tell if he likes Harry because he’s famous, and he loves to talk about himself, but part of me wonders – maybe he likes Harry and thinks he’s helping?

C: He likes Harry as long as Harry doesn’t threaten his own thing, or he can catch reflected glory like he did in Flourish and Blotts. But if he ever felt ilke Harry was threatening his spotlight, I think he’d get very ugly very quick.

S: We get our first Herbology lesson. There’s a bunch of earmuffs. We learn we’re going to repot Mandrakes, which we mentioned last week due to a weird-ass connection to the Hand of Glory. Hermione, who has swallowed the textbook, says that Mandrake is used to return people who have been Transfigured or cursed to their original state. It is apparently an essential part of most antidotes, but it is also dangerous because the cry of the Mandrake is fatal to anyone who hears it.

In my head I imagine them like beet plants – green with purple. They put on earmuffs and pull up the plant, and there’s an extremely ugly, muddy baby. This is where your Cabbage Patch Kids things leads us.

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I will squeal in your nightmares

C: This is your baby. This is your baby on drugs. Any questions?

S: They’re repotting them, and apparently since they’re young they’ll knock you out, not kill you immediately. “And be careful of the Venemous Tentacula, it’s teething.” That’s not a sentence I want my teacher to say.

So let’s talk about Mandrakes! Did you know anything about them other than Harry Potter related?

C: I don’t think so.

S: I knew about them from the Bible – Genesis 30. Mandrakes pop up in the story of Jacob and Rachel. Poor Jacob slaved for 14  years of his life to marry Rachel.

C: Well, when you live 850 years it’s not so bad.

S: At this point he was already married to her older sister Leah, due to his being bad at distinguishing faces when drunk. We’re at the point where Rachel’s barren and jealous of Leah, who’s having kids. There’s a great line. Rachel: “Give me children or else I will die!” At this Jacob’s anger flared up against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God who has prevented you from having children?” There’s only so much he can do!

So she gives him her slave girl to have children for her, which was apparently a common practice at the time. Bilhah has a couple sons for Jacob.

C: Marriage is just between one man and one woman!

S: Leah’s not having children now, so this turns into a childbirth competition between women.

C: That’s all we’re good for.

S: Leah gives him Zilpah, her servant, who has 2 sons. So now they’re even. I always had to wonder what Jacob was thinking through all this. Was he happy, because he’s a dude, and is like yay, more women? Or was it more, please stop doing this I don’t know what’s going on?

C: I’m going to guess he was like, ooh, more things to put my penis in.

S: It’s possible. According to the story he loved Rachel very much. I always pictured him as sort of, “Sure, dear, whatever you want.” So the mandrakes come in verse 14, when Reuben is out in the fields and finds mandrakes, which be brings to Leah. Rachel: “I would like some of those, please.” This becomes a challenge. Leah: “Is it a small matter that you took my husband? Must you take my son’s mandrakes also?” SHOTS FIRED!

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Included for sheer WTF value

C: Are we sure he found mandrakes, or is this a metaphor?

S: Pretty sure it’s actually mandrakes, because mandrakes were believed to aid in fertility. So he finds them and Rachel wants some because she wants her own kid. Leah’s just being petty here. “First my man, now my mandrakes?”

C: I would be petty if I were her.

S: Me too, because Leah is in the world’s worst situation. It sucks so hard to be Leah. She’s the uglier older sister. Jacob worked for Rachel’s dad for 7 years to marry her, and then on the night of the wedding his new father in law swaps out Leah for Rachel, gets Jacob really drunk off his ass, gives him Leah – and maybe she’s veiled – he consummates the marriage, and the next day Laban is like, “Surprise! You’re married to my older daughter, who I really wanted to marry off first. But if you want my younger daughter you can totally have her for 7 more years of work.” This guy was the king of free labor.

C: Jacob must have really loved her.

S: But you gotta feel for Leah! “Thanks dad, you have to get some guy drunk and lie to marry me off?” Then she gets stuck with Jacob, who loves her sister more, and now she’s married to him for 7 years while he’s working to win her sister’s hand in marriage.

C: Except, he still comes to her tent, because not loving her has no bearing on being willing to bone her.

S: If you want to use the best intentions, he’s trying to treat her well and give her children.

C: I don’t look at it that way!

S: Gotta get off somehow, I guess? So Rachel makes a deal. You give me some of your mandrakes, and Jacob will sleep with you tonight.

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Good to see everyone getting along

This has always been a great verse. Gen. 30:16: “When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, ‘It is with me you are going to have relations, because I have hired you outright with my son’s mandrakes.’”

C: Way to get him in the mood, Leah!

S: All pretensions are down. We are trading you for your dick. She catches him coming in – she doesn’t even wait for him to come in and have dinner, settle down, no. None of that. She goes out there and is like, “Yeah, you, me, my tent, I paid for your time, dress pretty.”

Which is why, in my head Jacob has always been slightly confused. Because, what? I was just working. I don’t understand! Sure! Whatever! Do with my penis what you will!

And of course she gets pregnant. Leah: “Damn straight I did.” So that’s mandrakes in the Bible.

C: Can you imagine the horror of living for 800 years and having like 500 years of fertility?

S: Rachel should be happy to be having a hard time conceiving.

C: Take this at face value, that people lived longer – you could still have a kid every nine months.

S: Which makes the whole maidservant system slightly better, I guess – at least you spread it around? I realize that could mean just 4 women constantly pregnant….

C: I am so glad that is not my lot in life.

S: That’s the Bible version! But as we all know, this lore and mythology tends to have history before the Christianizing comes along, too. In Greek mythology, they used mandrakes as an aphrodisiac, but in the grand tradition of things we like to talk about on this show, the mandrakes are a member of the nightshade plant family and contain hallucinogenic and narcotic alkaloids.

I’m starting to notice that any plant associated with witchcraft seems to have hallucinogenic properties at some level.

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Leaves growing out of my head? Why do you ask?

C: I wonder why?

S: Apparently a 1st century Greek physician said if you boiled the root in wine and drank a cup you could use it as anesthesia, but if you drink too much you can die, because it’s poisonous. So you have to be careful with it. But this guy, Dioscurides, is one of the first references, because he documented the uses and was the first to describe them as male and female. He was describing 2 different species, actually, but he didn’t know that. I guess the root system kind of looks like the human form – but you’re going to love this illustration of the mandrakes. The distinction between the male and female mandrake has one very important feature. I’m sending you the photo in a text so you can see it.

C: While I wait, I want to wish all our listeners happy first day of baseball! Okay, let’s open this. Oh! The male mandrake has a penis.

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S: He has just one more root over here by the leg roots, so that must make it male.

C: What if he was looking at the mandrakes upside down?

S: I’m trying to flip them in my head.

C: Then the male mandrake has a really big bush. Take care of yourself! Do some landscaping.

S: The male mandrake has a penis, apparently. But this idea – because, as we know, humans love to gender the fuck out of things – once started, people ran with it. So this idea about the mandrake having different sexes and being shaped like people got stronger. And it was reinforced by the doctrine of signatures, which is the idea that plants that look like certain body parts could be used to treat that particular body part. For example, there’s a plant called eyebright, which looks like a daisy. Someone thought it looked like a wide-open eye, and Eureka! This must be used to treat eyes. Because folk healers thought God would deliberately make plants resemble the parts of the body they were meant to heal. This idea is still the basis of homeopathy, which is…total bullshit.

C: Yeah.

S: So because we’re associating the look of the plant with health, and especially since these are gendered, they were thought to induce love, or conception as we saw with Jacob, Leah and Rachel’s weird sex tug-of-war. A mandrake root shaped like a baby under a pillow could help a woman conceive. If you had a mandrake root shaped like a woman and carried it around in your pocket, it could help a man secure his desired lover. My question is, does it still work if you’re a woman?

C: I don’t see why not. Everything else is just bang-on.

S: Apparently mandrake roots were very popular, and fraudsters are bountiful where there is demand, so hucksters would take the bryony root and carve it to make it look like mandrake, and sell that.

The idea of the shrieking is pretty bang-on, the way she uses it. But this is my favorite detail: “According to the story, the only way to uproot the mandrake safely is to plug one’s ears with wax and tie a rope between a mandrake root and a dog’s tail, back away from the root, throw the dog a treat, the dog will go after the treat, the mandrake root will be uprooted, and the mandrake shrieks will kill the hungry dog” – then you get your mandrake in peace.

C: I would think the dog would be worth more than the mandrake.

S: This requires pet sacrifice? And does the mandrake just stop shrieking when the dog dies? What makes it stop?

C: It demands a blood sacrifice and is content with just one?

S: It seems like a flaw. There’s a great illustration of this too, the dog looks happy, the mandrake looks like a person, and the person is sitting over here with the Home Alone face, watching their dog about to get murdered by a mandrake.

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C: I feel like what you just said – along the lines of “It’s great! It’s terrible!” sums up this podcast pretty well.

S: That’s us! The other thing about the mandrakes, of course – it’s a hallucinogenic alkaloid. So if ingested or transmitted through the skin, it can induce excitation, hallucination, sleepiness, and sometimes comas or death. So that’s the whole “it’ll knock you out for a few hours.”

C: It actually now made me think of a Beach Boys song.

S: What?

C: “I’m picking up good vibrations, she’s giving me excitations—“

S: “Good, good, good, good vibrations!” Yeah, I can’t think of that word in any other context. Thank you Beach Boys.

So by the time we get to the late medieval period and the Christianization of everything, anything herbal was considered demonic and the purview of witches, so it faded from popular use. The root kind of looks like a carrot, if you’ve ever grown your own carrots. I’m not sure about the whole male/female thing, but what are you going to do.

Mandrake root photographed for NGM Departments. Susan Welchman

C: No comment.

S: So this is where the mandrake thing comes from. Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors getting high in the greenhouse! We get a significant character introduction: Justin Finch-Fletchley, who I always picture as having that whole upper class, schoolboy accent. “Jolly good!” Because he’s so cheery. “Awfully brave chap! Have you read his books? My name was down for Eton, you know. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I came here instead!”

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I say, good show

C: What I would like to know is what his posh, blue-blood parents told their friends when he didn’t go to Eton, since they can’t say “He’s a wizard off to school learning magic.”

S: Maybe they lied and in slightly embarrassed tones said he went abroad. Maybe to France?

C: Ohh! The Continent.

S: “Of course mother was slightly disappointed, but since I made her read Lockhart’s books I think she’s begun to see how useful it will be to have a fully trained wizard in the family.”

C: Imagine her shock to find out that vampires and werewolves actually are real.

S: So apparently the Mandrakes are hard to re-pot. They don’t like getting pulled out of the ground, but they don’t like getting put back in either. They are just ornery. They squirm, “flail their sharp little fists and gnash their teeth.”

C: That reminds me of when my niece was a baby and she’d fight getting undressed so she could get bathed or changed, but then she would also cry and flail her little fists and didn’t want to get back dressed again either.

S: I think that’s exactly what she’s doing. I personally love the progression of the mandrakes and their progression that keeps getting slipped in as they age.

C: They’re getting acne!

S: And when they try moving into each others’ pots.

C: That does make it creepy though when they chop them up to use in potions.

S: It is challenging when you anthropomorphize already anthropomorphic plants that like to throw parties.

C: Best not to think about it too much.

S: Everyone’s exhausted and dirty, and have to come back to the castle to wash up.

C: I just had a thought. Can you imagine Republicans as wizards? “No, you can’t use mandrakes in potions! They’re too much like real children!”

S: And, given the mandrakes’ quite racy history, it’s fair to say that people might use them in some ways related to female issues like pregnancy or periods, and we can’t have that.

C: Ohhh! Can’t get mandrakes over the counter!

S: Absolutely not. You need a parental signature and at least a 20-day waiting period to obtain a mandrake. Your doctor is not allowed to counsel you that the cry of the mandrake might kill you.

C: But if the mandrake helps you get pregnant and there’s something wrong with the pregnancy, the doctor is allowed to keep that from you.

S: And if the mandrake makes you sick upon ingesting it, you cannot vomit it up. Legally, you must simply endure.

C: Because Jesus.

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S: This is how Jesus would have wanted it! Meanwhile, somewhere in time there is a confused, kindly brown carpenter’s son telling people to be kind and forgive, and stop being judgey.

They head to Transfiguration, and “everything Harry learned the previous year seemed to have leaked out of his head over the summer.” This is how I always felt after going back to Algebra. I knew this once! They’re supposed to be turning beetles into buttons, but all Harry can do is give his exercise because it just keeps running away from his wand. Ron, meanwhile, patched up his wand with Spellotape, which – what is it, even?

C: Magic Scotch tape.

S: Maybe it has a mild charm on it to help repair whatever you’re taping. But yeah, it keeps crackling and sparking and smoking. I think one of my favorite movie moments is right after Ron tapes his wand, and he tells Harry, “Admit it. I’m doomed.” Harry: “You’re doomed.”

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The class has ended and Ron is still whacking his on the desk. And he’s not telling his parents about it, because it’s his fault it broke.

Meanwhile their mood is not improved by Hermione’s handful of perfect coat buttons she produced.

C: Of course she did.

S: Not just buttons – coat buttons!

C: Not just one, but a handful!

S: This afternoon they have Defense Against the Dark Arts, which Hermione has outlined in hearts. At this point we must call Hermione’s judgment into question. I know she’s 12, but good heavens, Hermione. I’m glad to know your taste in men improved later on, because Lockhart. Maybe he’s just that dreamy, I don’t know.

Meanwhile, Harry’s being stalked by a little boy with a Muggle camera: Colin Creevey.

C: Who is PERFECT in the movie, by the way.

S: They plucked him from the pages of the book and put him in the movie.

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“Hiya Harry!”

I know he’s supposed to be kind of annoying, but he’s so genuinely sweet and so excited to be a wizard.

C: Doesn’t he get killed in the war? It’s so sad.

S: Yeah, he comes from a Muggle family, his father is a milkman, and he’s still kind of a Muggle kid so he brings his camera to Hogwarts and he’s taking tons of pictures to send home to show his dad.

C: Does his brother die too? That would be so sad. I’m going to Google it.

S: What saith thou, O Google?

C: They got pulled out of school and after several months of being on the run, when Neville Longbottom summoned all members of Dumbledore’s Army into battle, Colin came out of hiding and went to fight. It’s unknown if Dennis also returned to fight at Hogwarts, as he was not only on the run but also underage. During the battle Colin was killed on school grounds, and his body was later recovered by Oliver Wood and Neville. So I’m going to guess Dennis did not get killed.

S: That’s something! Little Colin is so cute and sweet. And he’s a gutsy kid. But this leads us to another awkward moment where he asked Harry to take a picture and sign it, and Draco hears it because Draco hears all things potentially embarrassing and/or incriminating. So now he’s making fun of Harry giving out photos, and I love that Colin’s like, “You’re just jealous!”

C: Which is exactly correct.

S: Everyone is paying attention. It’s getting confrontational, now there’s some 5th years hanging out and laughing, but of course Lockhart strides in to save the day! Oh, wait, no he doesn’t, he strides in because he heard the phrase “signed photograph.”

C: I feel like Lockhart has the magical version of Google alerts for certain things.

S: Autograph, signed photo, photo ops. Poor Harry. And of course Lockhart makes Harry take a picture and promises they’ll both sign. Lockhart thinks he helped Harry out, although him telling Harry to rein it in is pretty rich, particularly given the interesting information given in the e-book version. Lockhart says it’s early in Harry’s career to hand out signed photos. Well, side note: during his days at Hogwarts Lockhart got a week of detention for magically carving his signature in 20-foot-long letters on the Quidditch pitch, and sent himself 800 Valentine cards, leading breakfast to be abandoned.

C: That’s hilarious.

S: Oh book, you are timely. I’m telling you, he would be his own publicist. Unbelievable, this guy.

C: He just knew he was going to make Hogwarts great again!

S: He started off with a small loan of brilliantly dazzling good looks.

C: And three million galleons!

S: Now they’re in Lockhart’s classroom. Dear lord. Harry goes to the very back of the class and piles all the books in front of him so he doesn’t have to look at Lockhart. Ron: “You better hope Creevey doesn’t meet Ginny, or they’ll be starting a Harry Potter fan club.” “Shut up!” snapped Harry. The last thing he needed was for Lockhart to hear the phrase ‘Harry Potter fan club.’

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The way Lockhart begins his lesson! He picks up a copy of his book, holds it up to show the portrait, and says, “Me!”

C: You mean that’s not how you started your lessons? You held up a copy of our school newspaper from when we were editors: “Me!”

S: I liked the way Branagh delivered this line in the movie: “I see you’ve all bought a complete set of my books, well done.” The way he delivered it – he just wanted to sell books.

C: As if they weren’t on the required list.

S: As if they had a choice! Now we’re having a quiz about Gilderoy fucking Lockhart. And the fact that all these things are in the books means the books are SO BAD.

C: Was there ever any doubt?

S: No, but Hermione keeps reading them, and I thought at a certain point she’d put them down if there’s no substance in them, but maybe she’s so dazzled by Lockhart that she’s determined to read them, and heaven forbid she not read a book assigned by a teacher. “When is Gilderoy Lockhart’s birthday, and what would his ideal gift be?”

C: Hair pomade. Teeth whitening.

S: Well, if you’d read Year of the Yeti like you were supposed to you’d know his favorite color is lilac. I’m starting to think our take on Wandering With Werewolves was spot on, because he clearly states in chapter 12 that his ideal birthday gift would be “harmony between all magic and non-magic peoples.”

C: Well, there you go.

S: Uniting werewolves and sparkly vampires forever. Also, that is the equivalent of a beauty pageant contestant saying they want world peace.

C: I think he doesn’t really have to worry about uniting werewolves and sparkly vampires, because Renesmee takes care of that.

S: Yes, the magic, growth-accelerated half-vampire baby.

C: Is this an appropriate time for me to go off on a rant about how Edward could not have impregnated anyone? He actually could not have had sex with anyone, because number 1, he’s been dead for centuries and has no viable sperm, and 2, has no blood circulation because he is a vampire, despite drinking blood to survive, and therefore he could not get an erection.

S: The fact that he couldn’t get an erection is hands down one of the most obvious things. But let’s suspend all knowledge of anatomy and say that he could. I’m willing to play along, but playing along makes it worse. The idea is that when you’re vamped in that world, you’re frozen exactly as you are right at that point. So let’s say he was vamped at 17. The only way he could have any sperm left is if he never ever ejaculated from the moment he was turned into a vampire until 100 years later, the moment he first has sex with Bella and knocks her up. Maybe, just maybe there was one shot in there that got preserved. But that’s creepy. Assuming vampires can get erections and have orgasms, which presumably they can because Rosalie and Emmett are boinking all over the place – that just means that Edward has been completely celibate for 100+ years and decides to spend his precious shot of sperm on some rando teen.

C: Oh no, not some random teenager! The beautiful, the wonderful, the alluring, the freesia-scented Bella Swan.

S: That exactly. I can’t decide if it’s that Stephanie Meyer doesn’t understand how penises work, or if it’s just that those books have no internal consistency or logic and the whole thing is a Mormon fever dream.

C: Why not both?

S: One day we’ll have to do a couple of bonus episodes to talk about Twilight. And Fifty Shades of Grey while we’re at it.

C: Also terrible.

S: The same brand of terrible.

C: I wonder why?

S: Lockhart has devolved to winking at the class and making bad jokes. Ron is staring in disbelief, Seamus and Dean are dying laughing, Hermione is listening with rapt attention. She knew about his secret ambition to “rid the world of evil and market my own range of hair-care potions. Good girl.”

C: WASN’T I RIGHT ABOUT THE POMADE?

S: You were! It’s an interesting combination of ambitions. He’s such a Kardashian. Now that we’ve gotten the circle jerk out of the way, Lockhart is about to arm them against the foulest creatures known to wizardkind, and whips the cover off a cage of….freshly caught Cornish pixies.

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C: Back in the day there used to be a fanfic group for NC-17 Harry Potter fanfic called “Pornish Pixies.”

S: NOOOOOOOOOOO!

C: I love it. You know how I feel about puns.

S: The problem is it’s kind of a good name!

C: It’s a great name!

S: So pixies have 5 variations on their name just for Cornwall alone. They’re mythical creatures considered to be especially concentrated in high moorland areas around Devon and Cornwall. They’re similar to Irish and Scottish notions, but they’re believed to live in underground ancestor sites like stone circles, barrows, dolmans, ring forts. They’re generally benign, mischievous, short, look like children, fond of dancing.

C: So nothing like how they were presented in the movie.

S: They gather outdoors in huge numbers to dance or wrestle, kind of similar to folk celebrations in the medieval period. Pointed hats, eyes pointed upward at temple ends like in the movie, can be synonymous with fairies or sprites. You can see they did that in the movie – they looked at how to put them together.

When we Christianized them, they changed pixie mythology to mean the souls of children who had died unbaptized and “they would change their appearance to pixies once their clothing was placed in clay funeral pots used in their earthly lives as toys…”? WTF?

C: One of my least favorite things, and I don’t know if it’s religion in general or specific to Christianity – to make people feel bad about stuff.

S: Using guilt to incite religious fervor is a problem.

C: To make people feel miserable. I get that it’s supposed to drive you to the church, to follow the Ten Commandments and live a good life, but it’s fucking shitty.

S: It’s an ugly connection that religion has been used so often as a tool of colonization, and wielded as a political –

C: Club?

S: Expedient.

C: Not great, Bob.

S: I would argue that even in his era, that was the kind of thing Jesus was pushing back against – criticizing Pharisees’ showiness, their being political, using religion to keep people down and exalt themselves, to fuel anti-Roman resentment – using it as a tool of the colonizers or the colonized, as a political weapon.

And we can’t have that, so they killed him for mentioning it.

Interestingly, there’s not a solid connection but they think the name “pixie” might be related to the Picts, the tribes that used to paint and tattoo their skin blue, and pixies are often depicted as blue.

C: I like that. Works for me.

S: The real question here is: where do Pixy Stix come in?

C: Do you remember the halcyon days of our youth going to football games and getting super hyped up on soda and Pixy Stix?

S: How did we consume that much sugar in one sitting? We’re not talking the little Pixy Stix here, people. We’re talking the great big plastic ones that are like 3 feet long, and we’d couple that with cans of Coke.

C: It was glorious. Our metabolisms worked so much better then.

S: Even Seamus is like, yeah, pixies aren’t dangerous. They’re like 8 inches high with pointed faces and shrill voices, making bizarre faces at people. And Lockhart, being an idiot, opens the cage.

C: Where did Lockhart get these pixies? Who did he buy them from? You know he didn’t catch them himself.

S: I was about to ask the same thing! If he didn’t know what would happen when he opened the cage, he clearly just paid someone to bring them in. Maybe he bought them in Diagon Alley. But it’s a disaster. They lift Neville by his ears! And the rest wreck the classroom “more effectively than a rampaging rhino”!

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He tries a spell, Peskipiksi Pesternomi! Which I imagine is a real spell, but he has no skill as a wizard and it doesn’t work, so they take his wand and throw it out the window. The bell rings, everyone dashes for the exit, and he leaves the trio to “just nip them back into their cage.” Great.

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And of course Hermione freezes them and puts them in their cage, but this is the first moment where we have this conversation where Hermione’s defending him for the good things he’s done. Ron: “Things he says he’s done.” I love that Ron’s BS meter is finely tuned, and on. He’s got Lockhart’s number.

C: I do appreciate that later on as ridiculous as Hermione and the other girls are over Lockhart, the boys react the same way to Fleur. So Ron gets his moment as a fool.

S: My god, we’ve talked a lot and we’ve only done one chapter. We can do one more chapter and then we’re going to have to stop because it will be so long!

C: We’re the worst. We’re the best. We’re showing the depth and breadth of our knowledge.

S: Old Testament…vampire semen…we really are well-rounded people.

Chapter 7: Mudbloods and Murmurs

S: Back when we were waiting every year for a new book, every time I got a new one I’d go to the table of contents and read the chapter titles. I’ve always loved her titles, because if you’ve never read the book you’re so intrigued, because these titles are so interesting and vague. The title significance is always made clear in the chapter, but at the time, it’s like, what does it even mean?

Harry’s doing a lot of dodging these days – Colin, Lockhart, Hedwig is still mad at him, which, can’t blame her. Ron’s wand still doesn’t work, he accidentally attacked Flitwick. Thank god for the weekend.

Except, no, no. Although – yes yes. Because Oliver Wood shows up to wake him early. Hi Oliver! He’s insane.

C: Harry is so lucky that he gets morning Wood.

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S: “His eyes gleaming with crazed enthusiasm.” I love that this is where Wood starts going off the rails, getting more and more manic.

Everyone goes down for Quidditch practice, including Colin, who has his own Google alert because he heard someone saying Harry’s name on the stairs and went to track him down to show him his photos.

C: SO cute!

S: The description of this photo: “A moving black-and-white Lockhart was tugging hard on an arm Harry recognized as his own. He was pleased to see that his photographic self was putting up a good fight and was refusing to be dragged into view.”

The essence of wizarding photos is interesting. They seem to capture, not just what is happening, but the spirit of it too. Which makes wizarding cameras good judges of character.

This is a clever way for Rowling to explain the rules of Quidditch again without stopping the narrative. So she has Colin follow Harry as he explains the rules. Meanwhile, everyone is half asleep and nodding off, and Wood is the only one awake. He spent the whole summer devising a new training program. Oliver. Calm down, Oliver!

He gets through his 3-board explanation, and asks for questions. George:

“I’ve got a question, Oliver. Why couldn’t you have told us all this yesterday when we were awake?”

Oliver is consumed by the knowledge that they could have won last year, and he’s determined to make things right. Ron and Hermione, meanwhile, are already done with breakfast and practice hasn’t even started because Wood’s talked so long! Oy vey.

I love that Wood thinks Colin might be a Slytherin spy trying to learn about the training program.

C: To be fair, we find out later that Fred and George are spying on Slytherins, so not without precedent.

S: It doesn’t matter if we have spies, because the Slytherins are here! Wood booked the field ahead of time, but – and I didn’t know this was a thing that they could do – Professor Snape gave them permission to practice owing to the need to train their new Seeker. First of all, who’s in charge of field bookings?

C: Madam Hooch would be my guess.

S: Mine too! So how can Snape write a note that completely trounces Madam Hooch’s schedule? The mind boggles. If I were Hooch I’d be pissed and tell him to stay in his dungeon. But woe betide all of us, because the new seeker on Slytherin is Draco Malfoy.

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C: ::blows raspberry::

S: And Draco’s father has very generously bought the entire team Nimbus Two Thousand and One brooms. We are legit in a penis measuring contest. Draco just added an inch and he’s super proud.

C: I’m disturbed.

S: Ron and Hermione come over to see what’s up. Draco starts with the poverty jokes, and Hermione steps in to defend Ron with an excellent and very salient point:

“At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in. They got in on pure talent.”

C: OH SNAP.

S: And I’m pretty sure he knows that he’s not as good as he’d like to be. Good job, Hermione! Jab him in the ego.

C: That is the interesting thing about Malfoy: deep down, he knows he’s not as good. He’s not delusional like Lockhart is. He’s an asshole, but he knows the truth.

S: Which is were a lot of his aggression comes from – he’s covering for his insecurity. The downside is – you have to wonder if Draco could have been better. He’s raised in an environment where he’s never quite up to scratch. Is it really that he’s not quite as good? Is it that he’s been told that? Nature vs. nurture? He’s not as purely talented as Harry, he thinks he should be the most famous person around because of his name and he’s not. It’s annoying to know that someone who seems better than you and stands for things your family is against is ahead of you in the game.

Then he does it: he pulls out the M-word.

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I remember getting to this point in the series and thinking, whoa. I never expected a kids book to address the politics of racial slurs this way. This is the worst racial slur you can use in what was a sort-of civilized conversation, and Draco took it way up a notch. There is instant uproar. Flint has to dive in front of Malfoy to stop Fred and George jumping on him, and poor Ron pulls out his wand. Because he’s not thinking.

C: Ron not think? Come on.

S: He tries to jinx Malfoy and ends up belching up slugs. It’s so gross, even in the movie. It’s the sound effects that make it bad.

C: HUUURRRRKKKK.

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S: They take him to Hagrid’s, and barely manage to dodge Lockhart.

C: He’s networking!

S: That Google alert is working overtime. He’s there lecturing Hagrid on getting kelpies out of a well. There’s not much Ron can do but puke up the slugs.

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C: Better out than in. So I have one thing that the movie changed that I don’t like. Hermione in the books has no clue what a Mudblood is. And because she has no clue and hadn’t grown up with that as a slur or a way to be looked down on, she never really cares through the rest of the book when she gets called Mudblood. It rolls off her back.

S: I agree. It makes a touching moment in the film when Hagrid tells her not to think about it, but I liked the fact that Harry and Hermione don’t understand, because it’s important to how they navigate a racially-laden world. Academically Hermione understands more than Harry because she reads more, but that’s about it.

This is also the first mention of a jinx on the Defense Against the Dark Arts position.

But yeah, Hermione doesn’t know what it means. So Mudblood is basically the equivalent of the N-word in America. It’s the idea that someone Muggle-born has dirty blood and isn’t pure.

C: Which we know, from royal families in Europe, is not something you should strive for anyway. It’s not going to end well for you.

S: Not unless you want hemophilia. This felt very old to me, this idea of impugning the purity of blood. I was trying to find something on it, and there’s something nagging me, like I’m missing something obvious. But if we’re going with something related to blood and bigotry, I think blood libel is the most widely known and had the most impact.

Blood libel is accusations set against Jewish people in medieval times. In ancient Judaism, sacrifices were made, but the Jews weren’t supposed to use blood – animals were drained, blood was poured out on the ground as something sacred to God. It’s not to be consumed. So this blood libel in medieval times was the accusation that Jews were murdering and sacrificing Gentile children to make wine and matzo for the Sabbath, and that they were consuming their flesh. They literally accused Jews of cannibalism

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Apologies in advance for how disturbing some of these are
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You also see echoes of this idea — Jews obsessed with blood and flesh of Christians — in the plot of The Merchant of Venice and the character of Shylock

.C: Which, now that you mention it, is really hilarious considering communion wafers in the Catholic church are supposed to literally transubstantiate into the body of Christ.

S: It’s ironic, because that’s a staple of Christian belief as a symbol, but it is not in Jewish belief. Consuming blood at any level was always verboten. But that blood libel persisted. It stuck, and it kept being used over and over again. A lot of Jews lost their lives over blood libel accusations, or were driven out of their homes. “They’re killing our Christian children!” For no reason that made any lasting sense. You can find lists and lists and lists of blood libel incidents through the present day.

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“Gee whiz, that crucifixion thing was so much fun the first time we should do it again!” “Uh, sir, wasn’t that a Roman execution method, and not really a Jewish one?” “SILENCE YOU.”

I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why, of all the things, this is the thing that sticks.

C: Good question. I don’t know.

S: The only thing I can think is, if you like thinking of Jews as subhuman and animalistic…it’s still so bizarre.

C: People do want to think that, because it makes it easier to kill those people.

S: Which makes me think of an episode of Black Mirror. I don’t know if you watch that show.

C: No.

S: It’s like reading O. Henry plus Ray Bradbury plus The Twilight Zone, all focused on technology. The first one is tough to get through, because they went hard core with the shock value.

C: Is that the pig one?

S: Yes. But the rest of them are not quite so egregiously shocking, and there are some very thoughtful and interesting episodes. “Men Against Fire” was about a group of soldiers exterminating what they called roaches. The roaches looked kind of like the vampires from I Am Legend. The soldiers wear these suits kind of like what you see in the Halo games, and they’re all connected through a mental uplink to each other and headquarters. The big twist of the story is that they’re not exterminating monsters – they’re just committing genocide against a race of people. But they don’t know it, because the commanders have manipulated their mental uplink so that when they see the target, they kill a monster. The soldiers believe they’re killing genetically warped threats, when they’re just being used for genocide. The powers that be found that it was easier to get soldiers to follow orders and kill these people, and stay sane, if they thought they were killing monsters. It’s a brilliant, powerful story. But it pretty much boils it down, doesn’t it?

C: Yeah. It’s sad, though, that it doesn’t even take that much to get people to do it in real life.

S: No, it doesn’t. This obsession with blood surfaces a lot in anti-Semitic thought, not just the blood libel but accusations that Jewish men menstruated, and that that was somehow evidence of – what, being evil? Let me see if I can find it. I’m sure it had something to do with the Devil.

C: Oh, yeah.

S: Oh, we can blame the Cistercian monk Caesarius of Heisterbach, from 1240. Let’s all go back in time and kick his ass. “It was his suggestion that Jewish males menstruated on a regular basis as penance for killing Jesus.”

C: So why do we menstruate then?

S: Because we’re women.

C: Penance for the apple?

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S: Apparently periods are punishment and penance, which means that right about now white men should start menstruating hard core. They’ve got a lot to atone for too. This – oh god oh god oh god. I need to calm my brain down. If you’ve been paying attention, we were both raised religious. I still am. Professor Creed is not. But I just – I don’t understand it. I say I don’t – I do understand. It just repulses me the way religion is used and twisted to feed people’s hatred of each other. Like this thing with Jewish menstruation. They’re pulling this from the idea of when Judas hangs himself after betraying Jesus.

He throws away the 30 pieces of silver and goes to hang himself, but the rope breaks and he falls on the rocks below and bursts open, all his guts come out. He’s buried in the field, which is dubbed Field of Blood.

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This is the second instance I’ve seen where a demon is removing what looks like a baby from Judas’s guts. Maybe THAT explains the menstruation….

Apparently a line in the translation they were looking at:

“He burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.”

So:

“Late antique scholars devoted much exegesis to this curious line. They generally agreed that Judas’ soul departed through his anus because it could not exit through his mouth, for his mouth had been purified when he kissed Jesus.”

WHAT THE FUCK?

C: EH? MMMMM…..

S: “The bowels, which are the seat of deceit, bursting by such a wicked deed, were not able to restrain themselves.”

So it had nothing to do with falling and splattering on rocks, NO! It was because he was bursting open from the weight of his sin.

“Rightfully then, the bowels were poured out through the seat of deceit, not through the place of the kiss, that is, the mouth with which he kissed Jesus in false artifice, but where the point of secret malice entered.”

So what I’m taking away from this is that sin enters through the butt.

C: And that’s why gay sex scares us so much.

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S: It all goes back to Judas for some reason, because these people are high when they read scripture. I DON’T UNDERSTAND.

C: One of the things I don’t understand the most is the need to make everything literal and explain it all in detail.

S: Now take that crazy interpretation of the Judas thing, and add the story of this guy, Arias, who was a heretic and the next victim of what they called “bloody purgation.” This dude had a prolapsed anus, people.

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This is what happened to him:

“He turned aside to a public place because of human need. While he was sitting there, his intestines and all of his bowels flowed down the drain of the toilet. Thus in such a place he died a death worthy of a blasphemous and stinking mind.”

THE DUDE HAD A PROLAPSED ANUS. Probably he was getting some on the side, in the butt, without lubrication.

C: It sounds deeply unpleasant.

S: it is. Prolapse is very dangerous. Things like this can happen. That has to be what happened – he ruptured in prolapse and died. But because he was a heretic, that verified the interpretation of the Judas story and that meant that that’s what happens when you’re full of sin – your guts just explode or fall out your ass. I DON’T UNDERSTAND. WHY.

But this is what the bloody flux is?! I did not know that. I thought the bloody flux was a reference to epically chronic and deadly diarrhea that causes you to shit blood. Like an actual disease. Not to THIS crap.

C: Here’s my question: did every single person who died before Jesus die that way because they were so full of sin?

S: I don’t know! No, because no one before Jesus counted. I DON’T KNOW.

C: Don’t ever try to understand this and take it literally, because it doesn’t make sense.

S: But the fact that people DID take it seriously blows my mind!

C: Did? DO.

S: This idea of divine punishment by bloody flux enters medieval literature and continues to evolve until the 17th century. So by the 1200s and 1300s, people were already saying that Jewish men menstruated annually in penance for the ultimate betrayal of Christ.

I hate everyone and everything right now. You can all go stick your head up your bloody ass. Because this is such bullshit. Although, I have to say, this is a great line I just saw in this paper from Hugh of St. Cher, which says, “For God struck the Jews in their posteriors.” I kind of want that on my tombstone. “For God struck her in her posterior.”

C: You know what I want on my tombstone? I saw a picture that someone did this. Imagine a tombstone in the ground but it sits on a platform, so when you stand on it you’re looking down at the top of the platform. And engraved there in small letters, it says: “If you can read this, you’re standing on my boobs.”

S: That seems like something Carrie Fisher would choose.

C: I suggested that to my mother and she said no. I might do it anyway. She will be dead, after all.

S: This paper addresses the fact that the accusation of ritual cannibalism might actually be a reaction to the doctrine of transubstantiation, which kicked in around the mid-13th century. They think that putting the Eucharist in Christian dogma “contributed to the proliferation of blood myths.”

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Oh good, we made sure it got into our sculptures, too

C: I can’t imagine why.

S: There’s no shortage of blood myths, from blood libel to male menstruation to issues with circumcision – there’s a lot of crazy tied up in blood that is related to anti-Semitism, and it runs deep.

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Nice to see the Nazis carrying on tradition with their propaganda
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HEYYYYY shame to waste a good blood libel (from 2002)

I’m going to have to go back and read this entire paper – it’s brilliant, well written, and has some fantastic material. As much as it will make me scream and bang my head against the wall, I have to read it all.

Now, obviously, when we’re talking about Mudbloods in Harry Potter, we’re not so much talking specifically about a blood libel parallel. But I do find it interesting that this distinction of racism that eventually leads to wizarding eugenics all hinges on blood, dirty blood, pure blood – and that’s the ultimate insult. She tapped into something very ancient and interwoven into so much of our deeply disturbing history, with just this one insult. It’s a brilliant piece of invention for this world.

A little awkward to say – doesn’t quite roll off the tongue – but it’s fascinating. I do remember the first time I read that I thought they needed a more creative insult. “Mudblood?” Seemed a bit reductive. But nobody ever accused bigots of being wildly inventive, I guess.

C: Or intelligent.

S: Except in methods of mass extermination.

C: Speaking of bigots, today I was driving behind this pickup truck. You know those decals that are silhouettes of naked reclining women? This truck had that, but instead of being totally silver or black, the pattern of it was the Confederate flag.

S: Oh fuck that.

C: Just when you thought it couldn’t get tackier or worse, someone came up with a way to make it worse.

S: Have you seen the one with the overweight trucker girl? That’s tacky too.

C: I just can’t wait until I find a pair of Confederate flag truck nuts.

S: Oh, they’re out there.

C: Let me Google it right now.

S: OH GOD. Never thought you’d Google the phrase “Confederate flag truck nuts.”

C: So many things pop up immediately! Do you see these pictures of men sitting –

S: With the truck nuts dangling between their legs?

C: What on earth are you compensating for?

S: These people have such deep and abiding insecurities about their own genitalia. Oh, this person deserves to die! There is a Millennium Falcon with a Confederate flag on it. Can we hunt them down?

C: Oh, bullSHIT. Han has an alien as a co-pilot and best friend. Han would not have the Confederate flag on the Millennium Falcon.

S: I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an exercise in performative sexuality quite so much as these pictures of two girls sprawled on the pavement licking a pair of truck nuts.

C: This is so disturbing.

S: I just saw one with the rainbow flag on the truck nuts.

C: Take Back the Night sort of thing?

S: Still tacky, but sure. This is taking me down a dark and tacky rabbit hole I’m not prepared for.

C: This reminds me of gun shows. They’re normal up front, or as normal as a gun show can be, but as you get further back in the room, although maybe not so far away these days, in the dark corners are the white supremacist people who have books about the KKK and Confederacy.

S: Oh yeah, I’ve been there. I went to one and they had trays full of Nazi pins and memorabilia, and they had racist black mammy lawn sculptures, all sorts of crap.

C: God help me if I ever wind up living next to someone like that. It will not end well for either of us.

S: Personally I like to think that you would undertake a creative campaign of lawn terrorism and sabotage.

C: I’d introduce invasive species to destroy the nice green lawn.

S: I also think you’d use creative signage…rearrange their Nativity scenes, perhaps.

C: I’d have to make sure they don’t have cameras.

S: Hire some aspiring teenagers with nothing else to do.

C: I’d go to a military surplus store, get night vision goggles, and use them to make sure there were no cameras, and then conduct my campaign of –

S: Guerrilla education?

C: There you go!

S: At least we know that Mudblood isn’t really a thing, as Ron puts it so eloquently:

“I mean, the rest of us know it doesn’t make any difference at all. Look at Neville Longbottom. He’s pureblood and he can hardly stand a cauldron the right way up.”

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As Hagrid says, it might be a good thing not to attack Draco, because Lucius Malfoy might march up to the school OH WAIT he does that later, foreshadowing, circle theory, love it love it love it.

And then Hagrid proves that he is the best.

“Harry,” Hagrid said abruptly, as though struck by a sudden thought. “I’ve got a bone to pick with yer. I’ve bin hearing yer giving out signed photos. How come I haven’t got one?”

C: Hagrid’s a troll.

S: I love that he knocked Lockhart one. He told Lockhart Harry is more famous without trying, and that he’d never read one of Lockhart’s books, at which point Lockhart left. Hagrid also has massive pumpkins outside his cabin, which he has been Engorging with his umbrella wand.

C: I love Hermione’s reaction to that: “halfway between disapproval and amusement.” That sums up her character.

S: Harry: “Very brave and very stupid,” Hermione “halfway between disapproval and amusement.” We also get our first hint that Ginny has been hanging around Hagrid’s, but we quickly get distracted by Ron and his slugs.

Detention time! For the first time in HP history, the detentions lead to something useful. Ron has to polish the trophy room without magic, and Harry gets to help Lockhart answer his fan mail. You know Lockhart thinks he’s giving Harry a treat, getting him out of detention.

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So let’s talk about Lockhart. Every Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher decorates the office differently. Lockhart’s office is just photos of Lockhart! All over the place, smiling! And Lockhart is just rambling on: “Fame’s a fickle friend, Harry.”

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C: I love your Lockhart voice, by the way.

S: Suddenly a plot point arrives. As he is sitting there signing letters, Harry hears a voice. I like the concept of this, but I do have to say that the things the voice is thinking feels hokey.

C: “Rip…tear…”

S: This feels weird! This sounds like Christian Grey’s bedroom talk.

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C: Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. Can you think of how many prolapsed orifices that would lead to?

S: Harry’s hearing a voice whispering kinky and violent things, and apparently he’s the only one who heard it. Lockhart certainly did it. He makes it back to the common room. Ron shows up 30 minutes later, exhausted because he had to buff the Quidditch Cup 14 times “and had another slug attack all over a Special Award for Services to the School.” Which, knowing what we know later, feels rather apropos. Because if you’re going to vomit on anything, it should be on that award.

C: Can you imagine how weird it must be for the people who know Tom Riddle is Voldemort, and to have to keep that in the school knowing who he is?

S: That’s the thing. It seems like not many people must know this. If it was common knowledge, would you leave it? Is this a Robert E. Lee situation? I have to think nobody really knows about Tom Riddle. Which again, is another reason the Cursed Child play is utter shit, because they act like everyone knows everything all the time. Which wouldn’t be the case.

Dumbledore knows, and of course Voldemort’s closest inner circle from back then knew that he renamed himself. I don’t know… you really do have to wonder how many people made the connection.

C: I think most people just can’t know.

S: J.K. Rowling, we have questions. Please answer. We know you listen to our wildly successful and popular podcast. Harry tells Ron about the voice, who thinks maybe Lockhart was lying, when he said he couldn’t hear it, but there’s no way to know.

And it ends on that note of “What the hell, Harry?” Was this like solitary confinement? Your mind started to atrophy being with Lockhart for so long?

C: It wouldn’t surprise me. Speaking of that – portraits can speak. Can photographs?

S: That is an excellent question.

C: As far as I know Harry’s parents never speak out of the photographs, which, you would think that if they could, they would. He would be almost as obsessed with their photos as the mirror if they could speak. I only bring this up to say that if photos could speak, can you imagine the noise in Lockhart’s office as all of the photographs came on to you?

S: That’s terrifying! And an excellent question! I would love to hear what people think about that – if there’s a difference. I do know that one of our readers wrote one of the best fan fictions I’ve ever read – I don’t believe they ever finished, but wrote several chapters of a fanfic that centered largely around portraits, particularly Snape’s and Dumbledore’s, and they had a great knack for capturing what it would be like to be that person’s essence in the portrait and the limits of that. I’ll link to it, because it was great. It had its weaknesses like any fan fiction, but it was worlds better in tone, voice and writing than Cursed Child could ever hope to be.

I think on our monomyth, we have just reached our First Threshold. I believe the moment where Harry hears the voice is “the point where the hero crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.” This is really the first point where we’ve hit real uncertainty. It’s taken a little longer than last book, but that makes it more interesting.

Next time we’ll do The Deathday Party, The Writing On the Wall, and maybe The Rogue Bludger, but proably not. I think we’re falling into a 2 chapter pattern.

C: Who knew we’d talk so much? I thought we’d have trouble, but no, turns out we can’t shut up.

S: The Internet is a useful friend when it provides such fascinating, blitheringly insane material as medieval Christianity.

C: And truck nuts.

S: Until next week, get some rest, recover from our weird discussion of anal prolapse and sentient penis plants – good god, this is one of the weirder episodes we’ve ever done! Until next time, I apologize for any lasting damage we have done, and I am Professor Seraphine –

C: I am Professor Creed –

S: And we’ll see you next time on Advanced Muggle Studies!

Show Notes

Intro music: “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens, performed by Kevin McLeod

Main sources:

Calabrese, Angelica. “The History and Uses of the Magical Mandrake According to Modern Witches.”Atlas Obscura 12 Jan. 2016.

Cohen, Amanda Bess. “Medieval Blood Myths: Christian Readings and Misreadings of Jewish Practice towards Blood.” University of Pittsburgh, 2010.

Wikipedia: “Mandrakes.”

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

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