Not following either JKR’s accounts or the Pottermore, I learnt that Rowling had written some new pieces about Hogwarts from Twitter links about it – meaning, I became aware there was a polemic about “Magic in North America
” far before reading the piece myself. I read that people were outraged about her incorporation of Native American myths into the HP universe, and that she was accused of being not careful at all in her world building. That she was not, in other words, politically correct enough to satisfy certain corners of the internet.
Now, you probably now that I haven’t been overly enthusiastic about many of JKR’s declarations after the official ending of HP. I am only mildly curious about The Cursed Child
, I haven’t read The Tales of Beedle the Bard
(yet) and maybe wouldn’t have even read “Magic in North America
” if not for the criticism. I wanted to see it for myself, so in the end I downloaded and read it.
I must say, first thing, that I’m obviously not American (I’m Italian), not tied in any way with Native American culture, and vastly ignorant about it. This said, the first half of Magic in North America didn’t seem to me deserving of such an acrid polemic. I liked how she tied the Animagi to the Skin walker myth, I found it clever and amusing. Probably no one would have criticised it, had it been in a fanfic.
About cultural appropriations, I can only repeat how much of the human culture, worldwide, was built around appropriating ideas and concepts from other cultures and mixing them together. We would not have the great majority of world literature if it wasn’t for cultural loans and adaptations. And on a personal level, if I had to start a polemic every time Italy and Italians weren’t portrayed “correctly” by someone else I wouldn’t be doing anything else with my time. I read somewhere that Mrs. Rowling shouldn’t be talking about Native Americans because they are very much alive, and the way she writes about them makes them some legendary/past figures like Vikings, samurai, etc. Well, I can assure you that stereotyping concerns almost every population on the world, dead or alive. The way Italy and Italians are portrayed in (even greatly successful) books and movies is often laughable, but – personally – I find that lashing out a twitter campaign, say, against something like “Eat Pray Love
” for their stereotyping would be even more laughable. I have something worthier to do with my time.
On the other hand, what I found truly disconcerting in Magic in North America
was not the object of criticism (at least, by the articles I read). What I really found criticisable was the treatment of Dorcus Twelvetrees in the section “Rappaport’s Law.”
Rappaport’s Law, which I believe was mentioned somewhere in the canon HP books (thought I don’t remember in which occasion) was “designed to create total segregation of the wizarding and No-Maj [Muggle] communities.” We are informed that the need to pass the law originated in the misplaced love the daughter of the Secretary of Treasury, Dorcus Twelvetrees, felt for a man who belonged to a family of Scourers (witch hunters). Dorcus revealed this man the secret location of the Magical Congress of the United States (MACUSA) and other things she ought never have spilled out. MACUSA was forced to deal very harshly with the consequences of Dorcus’ actions, and from then on “being ‘a Dorcus’ was slang for an idiot or inept person.”
I find this depiction of female’s indiscretion far more disturbing than the adaptation of Native American legends. What is called a political “catastrophe” is generated by a silly woman’s indiscretion, caused by the fact she was in love. It is generated not by political intrigues, plots, manipulations etc, but by a misplaced love, of a woman unable to keep her mouth shut. I was in disbelief, while reading. Or I shouldn’t say in disbelief: after all, Rowling has proved already many times how much closeted misogyny she hides in herself. I was in disbelief she had done it again. After Merope Gaunt (Voldemort’s mother). After Helena Ravenclaw (a.k.a. the Grey Lady, Rowena Ravenclaw’s daughter that got killed by the Bloody Baron). Another woman victim of a misplaced love causes a problem of far greater proportions, that she doesn’t solve herself but has to be dealt with from outside. After the fall, Dorcus “ended her days in seclusion, a mirror and her parrot her dearest companions.” (a nod to Flaubert’s A Simple Heart
What do you think? Did you, too, find Dorcus’ role more problematic than the Native American legends?