Monday, 8 August 2016

Is Cursed Child CENSORED?

Just when you thought it would be safe to return to the Pewter Wolf and read things un-Cursed Child related, nope! Not happening. As much as I want to keep the secret and wait quietly in the corner till I see the play in late September (where my opinions will either change for the better or for the worse), there's one or two things that I can't let lie.

This post started life as something completely different. Something I will touch on and will remain within the posts core, but after watching someone's reactions on YouTube (which I won't link now because SPOILERS!), this post changed so it's two themes merged into one.

So, like before with my Did The Cursed Child [CENSORED] The Fandom post, if you have not read the script or seen the play I request you don't go any further in the post. Spoilers ahoy! Page break coming! You have been warned!

Question: is Cursed Child feminist?

"Oh no!" I hear you scream. "A man is going to mansplain feminism! RUN FOR THE HILL!".

No, I hope not. I believe I am a feminist. I try to be a feminist. But I am going to be admit that compared to other people, my knowledge might be lacking hugely. So, if I get something wrong or am preaching, comment and tell me off, ok?

Feminism is the movement to give women the same, equal rights as men. Equal pay, equal education, equal rights. Because women are equal to men. Something some people don't get. I know I am making it seem simple and a bit-flippant, but it's quite complex. Wiki explains this in more depth but if you want to chat to me on Twitter about feminism, I can point you to some cool people who can explain this far better than I can. (sorry if I let the side down).

But is Cursed Child a feminist play?

In all seven of the Harry Potter novels, both male and female characters are complex and rich in character. JK Rowling wrote strong female characters, which are equal to or superior to their male counterpart. We have Hermione, Ginny, Luna, Mrs Weasley, Aunt Petunia, Professor McGonagall, Professor Trelawney, Tonks, Cho Chang, the Patil twins, Lavender Brown, Bellatrix, Narcissa, Lily, Fleur. And this is to name a few.

But does this richness of female characters continue into the play?

Well, let's look at the female characters and see if they are equal to the male characters. In the play, we have three main female characters (Hermione, Ginny and Delphi) but we have nearly double main male characters (Harry, Ron, Draco, Albus and Scorpius). But, if my memory serves me right, the play has more female minor characters (Lily, Rose, Professor McGonagall - am not counting McGonagall as she only appears in a handful of scenes compared to other characters) than male. (I might be wrong, and I know this is a complex topic so please forgive me if I've made mistakes.)

But let's look at these characters. Let's start with Ginny. Ginny's role seems to have changed the most compared to the novels. Yes, two decades has past (and we have to admit that we are not the same person where we once were twenty years ago), but Ginny has mellowed. She's no longer the brave, head-strong character she was. She's become a mother and, because of this, we see her as the carer. When Harry starts having nightmares, Ginny's there to soothe. When she see Harry and Albus trying (and failing) to connect, she gives them space. When Albus goes missing the first time, she turns his room into a shrine (something Harry coldly remarks on later when Albus disappears the third time. He apologises immediately, but a loss of a child is something you should never remark on lightly. Basically, Harry is a bit of a jerk in this play). When the trio and Draco discover a second Time-Turner, Ginny immediately comes (but this could be seen as reckless as she and Harry would be leaving two of their children behind to save a third).

There are only a few times we see her act like her younger self in the books. There's a scene in Act Three when Albus and Scorpius are about to Time-Turner the second time and Harry, Ginny and Professor McGonagall discover this, Ginny remarks "Haven't we been here before?" before turning on Harry and saying, as an accusation, "What did you say to our son, Harry?". When Harry asks, "... you think I've scared him away again?", Ginny reacts by saying, "I can forgive you for one mistake Harry, maybe even two, but the more mistakes you make, the hardest to forgive you it becomes." (pages 230 & 231 in UK edition). She apologises later in the play, but for me, this is the first solid time in the play that Ginny in the play is the same character as Ginny in the book. Yes, she is reacting like a mother, but her temper and her ability to stand up to Harry shines.

Let's start on Hermione. I love Hermione in the books and in the play, she is the same. Out of the trio, Hermione is the character I love. In the right time line, she is Minster of Magic. She is a badass politician who works hard and is respected as a politician. She makes some mistakes which is very out of keeping with her character as she is, as we are told throughout the book series, the smartest witch of her generation (she hid the Time-Turner inside a library that told riddles?! Hermione, WHY DIDN'T YOU DESTROY IT!? - yes, we get why later, but why not put it in a vault? Why hide it in your office?!). And in the second altered Time-line, Hermione is the head of Dumbledore's Army, fighting against Voldemort and trying to save the School. She helps Scorpius correct the mistakes he and Albus created and, when Ron can't run away from the Dementors, she stays with him and fights them.

But it's the Hermione in the first altered timeline that is seen as the most anti-feminist and the most out of character. In this Timeline, due to Albus and Scorpius accidentally meddling, Hermione is a teacher at Hogwarts and she is bitter, angry and cruel to her students. She becomes a Snape-like character. We are then told that she and Ron went to the Yule Ball together, but during the Ball, Ron started dancing then dating Padma Patil. Which is completely out of odds with the Hermione we know. Hermione, who is strong and is comfortable in her own skin and knows her own self-worth within the books, no longer has these traits. Within this timeline, she is a bitter childless spinster because her life is incomplete with a man? So, is the play saying that a man is needed in a woman's life to make her life complete?

There is a line that Harry says to Professor McGonagall, which is linked to the above, actually. In this altered Timeline,  Harry orders Albus to stay away from Scorpius and he tells McGonagall the same thing: keep these two apart. McGonagall refuses, saying he is making a mistake in doing this. Harry throws this line at her - "With the greatest respect, Minerva - you don't have children -" ("Harry!" Ginny reacts) "you don't understand." Even though McGonagall has been a teacher since Harry's birth, has been a parent-like figure in Harry's life, who Harry used the first Unforgivable Curse when a Death Eater spat at her, Harry throws the insult that because she doesn't have children, she can't possible understand. I'm sorry, WHAT?! Why is it that if women decide they don't want children or can't have children, they are deemed less of a woman? This is what Harry is doing in this moment. He deems her less - and that is unforgivable.

Sorry for that rant. But I can't forgive Harry in that moment. I believe he does apologise, but not for a good part of that act.

Let's look at Delphi. Delphi is an interesting character. A young woman who, when you get to the heart of it, just want to meet her parent. Note I said parent, not parents. She only wants to meet Voldemort, not Bellatrix (who is also dead - Mrs Weasley killed her in the Battle of Hogwarts). And this is where I get a little stuck on (this and the horrid idea that Voldemort and Bellatrix had sex and had a baby. Though, if we compare Voldemort to Hitler [which some of you guys do], this would make sense as there are rumours that, before the end of the Second World War, Hilter did have a secret lovechild so this is in keeping with history...).

While this character is a complex female character, Delphi is a bit problematic if we class her as a feminist. She has daddy issues and this is the root of why she does the things she does. But the problem with here is that she believes what Rodolphus Lestrange says. She believes it outright, no questions. He could have lied to her - she could be his daughter but Rodolphus wanted nothing to do with her so he told a lie to get rid of her - if this is the case, the lie backfired. Didn't she check? Didn't she do a DNA test? Or was she so desperate to be loved, she believed this without a second thought? As for the prophecy, there is nothing to state that the child of the Dark Lord will save him. It states "when children murder their fathers" which is reference Albus and Harry.

And also, Delphi comes across as a smart and powerful witch. And yet... there are problems with this. If she was so smart and powerful, why didn't she just go after the Time Turner herself? She could have done - she had Polyjuice potion. How easy would it have been to Polyjuice herself, go into the Minstry, get the Time Turner and change history? No one else needed to be involved. And yet, she Confunded Amos Diggory to badger Harry about Time Turning to save Cedric, befriends Albus and Scorpius to help her get the Time Turner and let's these two teenagers go back in time to fix the past, and when that goes wrong and they correct it, she throws herself and the teens into the third task to stun Cedric. When that feels, back to 1981 to stop Voldemort from killing Harry. She could have done this all by herself - why involve anyone else? This is never explained - we don't know if she was too magically weak to do it by herself. We don't know if she just enjoyed hurting people and using them the way she did.

In these moments, these strong and complex female characters come across as weak, and needing a man to save them, complete them and help follow with their plans.

So, is this play a feminist? Up to a point, but beyond that... er... I think some people might be insulted over how the female characters are treated and, up to a point, are sidelined to make way for the male characters and the importance of father/son relations.

But why? Is it because the play was written, primary, by a man? Is it because these characters are 20 years older than their book self and this shows us that they have grown and developed? Is it laziness/lack of respect to reflect women as complex and have their complexities are pushed away for the sake of storytelling? Or are we, the readers, taking this too personally and taking this out of context?

I think it's a mix. There are some things I could be going too in-depth and am probably over-analysing. But there are others and I can't sit back and say nothing. They sit uncomfortably on me. Hermione in the first altered Timeline is a huge problem for me - she's bitter because she doesn't have a man in her life?! And have McGonagall been told she doesn't understand because she doesn't have children? Bull on both fronts. Both these situations would never EVER happen if these character were male, so why are they tolerated?

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