Of Poc! Characters

As a non-white person, it’s often tempting to reimagine racially ambiguous characters in literature as, well, not necessarily white/Caucasian. For some time, there’s been an idea on various platforms (specifically deviantart/tumblr/reddit) that Hermione Granger, all round badass witch from the Harry Potter series could be black/Indian/biracial, especially given that her skin tone and/or ethnicity has never been explicitly mentioned anywhere in the seven books. I’ve spent a considerable time trawling the interwebs for fanarts that feature a racebent Hermione, and while doing so, I came across this comment from a fellow desi who refutes the theory of Hermione Granger as a PoC (Person of Colour) on a very colonial ground:

“I’ve never bought the depictions of Hermione as non-white. To me, she’s the very embodiment of the white man’s burden. She takes it upon herself to free the house elves, but without asking them what they actually want. In fact, she bases her entire view of house elves on the knowledge that they work in the kitchens without pay or benefits, and on Dobby, who every single elf we meet in canon regards as odd or even heretical. She never bothers to talk to another house elf, but simply assumes that she knows what is best for them. House elves are not a stand-in for any real world oppressed group. We know nothing of how they or their society work, and when Hermione insists that they get sick leave, she does not even know whether house elves fall sick. They are magical creatures, and even though they are sentient, they cannot be regarded as automatically having human wants and needs. Every house elf (including Dobby) states that he or she lives to work, and this may be so. And this is not the only time Hermione is disrespectful of non-humans. When, IIRC, Parvati is gushing over Firenze, she dismissively says, “I’ve never liked horses much” (even if she’s just being catty). She invades the centaurs’ territory despite prior warning not to, to trick them into getting rid of Umbridge for her (though I don’t think she had many choices on how to do that). And while werewolves are non-human for only one day a lunar cycle, in PoA, when she’s telling Harry in the Shrieking Shack that Lupin and Sirius are working together, she tells him that he’s a werewolf in a manner that it seems more likely that he’d be working with a (at that time assumed) Death Eater. There is no evidence that she knows that it’s a full moon that night, meaning that she is denying Lupin’s personhood for no reason but fear. I really think these attitudes are very colonial in nature.”

– Satchit Bhogle

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Thoughts?

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When celeb culture went a step too far (Zoella)

I consider myself an artist. More than that, I consider myself an admirer of art and artists. I hold artistic authenticity and creativity in very high regard (most of us do, I think). Which is why  I feel the deepest desire to put into words what I have been stewing over for the past few days-   Zoe “Zoella” Sugg, Internet star, beauty guru, vlogger, and now, proud “author” of “her” new book.

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Zoe’s book, a chick lit novel titled “Girl Online” quickly soared to the top of Amazon’s best selling list within the first week, dethroning the likes of JK Rowling and Dan Brown in terms of sales. In hindsight, I guess it was expected, what with her six million-strong fanbase, it’s not surprising in the least.

The issue here has nothing to do with the statistics and sales of her book- it’s the revelation that Zoe did not write the book at all, that she had a ghost writer to do it for her, that the book was but another piece of fan merchandise to sell and extract money out of to Zoe, and not a work of creativity and innovation.

I would like to be a writer some day. I’d like my voice heard one day through the written word. And when some twenty-four year old celebrity effortlessly gets the kind of success that I (and millions of other youngsters like me) can only dream of, it’s hard not to despair and feel bitter.

More than the feeling of doom I feel will inevitably descend on mankind eventually if this kind of stupid blind worship of celebrities continues, we also need to talk about how aforementioned stupid blind worship of celebrities lead to the erosion of respect for the writing profession.

When a book purportedly written by a celebrity hits stores, along with other mundane items like coffee mugs, keychains, t shirts, coasters, mousepads, or (in Zoella’s instance) a makeup range, fans of the celebrity will start viewing a book as something that takes as little effort to create as a keychain or a t shirt, consequently resulting in masses of young people thinking of a book as not a work of art, but as yet another item that can be bought off a store shelf.

Do we really deserve this kind of nonchalance towards the work we do? Do we really need people to further contribute to the notion that writing is a breeze?

Emblazone tea mugs and clothing and jewellery and makeup and posters with your name- I don’t care. Rake in thousands through sale of your ridiculously overpriced merchandise- I don’t care. But to have a book written by someone else and slapping your name on it and lying to your millions of fans is not cool at all- it’s downright disgusting. Claiming someone else’s art as your own is not only a moral low, it also entails your young fans believing their idol is a superhero capable of anything and everything.

Celebs need to stick to the traditional merch and leave out stuff like books and music CDs out in their pathetic attempt to add more $$$s to their already burgeoning bank accounts. Writers and other artists have a tough life trying to carve a niche for themselves in a market characterised by heavy competition, as it is- we really don’t need celebrities to make it more difficult for us.

‘She is not like other girls’

 

She wasn’t like other girls’. How many times have we heard that phrase? Be it in YA novels, or in a cheesy chick lit movie, or in every day life?

‘She wasn’t like other girls’ seems to be the society’s conscious effort to show young women what a girl ought to be; it seems to reject notions of superficial qualities and places stock on other qualities like intelligence and wit and appreciation, which is apparently what every young woman ought to have.

So what exactly makes her unlike ‘other girls’? Or in other words, what does she have that ‘other girls’ don’t have?

Pop culture and trashy novels seem to propagate the idea that the life of every young girl revolves around makeup, clothes and partying. That every girl goes gooey-eyed at the sight of a boy, and that they are not in possession of grey matter.

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Hence why ‘our girl’ is so different. She isn’t like every other girl, because every other girl is vapid and mindless. Our girl reads Bukowski unto the early hours of dawn, drinks chamomile tea unlike the other girls who drink only expensive, unpronounceable drinks from Starbucks, and seems content to wear an old cotton shirt and ratty overalls instead of shopping at Zara and Abercrombie.

Who is this strange girl and why has she come to define the very ideal of feminist utopia? Why are young girls pressured into feeling that they’re a failure if they enjoy shopping instead of reading James Joyce’s Ulysses even if they don’t understand a single word?

Is it really such a shame that girls enjoy conventionally ‘feminine’ activities like dressing up and doing their hair?

Buying into this Mary-Sue-esque ideal of a woman not only further strengthens patriarchy, it also deludes a woman into thinking that everything she enjoys doing is something to be ashamed of. It is not. Let me make that extremely clear, in case there is a young girl reading this.

The literary ideal of what a woman ought to be is a messed-up, unrealistic ideal. It rarely exists, if ever. It matters not if you read Archie’s comics or Culture and Anarchy or prefer to not read at all. It does not matter if you wear a thong or a t-shirt or a tutu skirt. It doesn’t matter if you date excessively or prefer to remain single. It DOES NOT matter if you like One Direction or the Ramones. It does not matter. Does it make you happy? Do it. No questions asked. What you like and what you do in no way contributes to you as a person, I can guarantee that. Your IQ has nothing to do with what plays through your headphones when you take the bus to school. It has nothing with the amount of makeup you own. It has absolutely nothing to do with the length of your hemline.

You don’t have to look and act and think in a certain way for you to be accepted. You do not have to make the society happy by abiding to its norms. Just remember that.

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Note: Ahh I finally updated my blog! Apologies for the long absence; I’ve been facing a serious lack of inspiration and coupled with long hours at college, I’ve just had no motivation till now. This topic has been discussed ad nauseam, but a close family member of mine has been facing insecurities because of this very reason and I thought I should discuss this. Thanks for reading, and please feel free to drop in a comment!

Xo