Monday, 8 April 2013

Ambition is not a Dirty Word

AN: This rather long post isn't actually about HP. I'm merely using HP as a platform to rant about society...

As I may have mentioned before, while I do agree mostly with Rebecca's love of the HP-verse, I have some rather large gripes with it. Today I'm going to talk about how JK Rowling apparently couldn't be bothered to stick to her own rules. I'm not quite sure how this doesn't get mentioned more - I mean, it's a rule usually given specifically for fictional magical systems, but it tends to apply to the story in general too: (paraphrased) "Create your rules, tell the reader what they are, and then stick to them".

You might be wondering at this point what the flying chickens I'm going on about, and so I should probably tell you (or just give up blogging, seeing as if I don't I surely believe you're telepathic, in which case I wouldn't need to write at all): the House system. Each House had their own trait - Gryffindors were brave, Hufflepuffs were loyal, Ravenclaws were smart and Slytherins were ambitious. Ambitious. Did I miss ambition becoming synonymous to "being a stupidly-evil-but-loyal-to-their-master mook"?

Seeing as I'm on Slytherin - but don't worry, I have enough on the other Houses too - I'll point out some gross misplacements for a hat that's supposed to never make a mistake. Crabbe and Goyle... when did they ever show a whit of ambition? Their purpose was to follow Draco around like (heavily muscled) lost puppies. They were loyal (at which point Hufflepuff starts jumping up in the air and waving it's figurative arms around) but they were not in any way ambitious. Draco himself also didn't really show ambition, except to be getting higher grades than Hermione (hi Ravenclaw!) but that's easily explained away with the other Slytherin traits of aloofness and sneakiness (two things Crabbe and Goyle wouldn't understand if they ironically hit them around the head with a baseball bat) and belief in "blood purity" (something that I also don't believe Crabbe and Goyle showed all that much of). And also explainable by what must have been a rather large desire to go into Slytherin due to his family. Yet that he got sorted into Slytherin pretty much as soon as the hat touched his head? Hmm... I'm sure the hat should have in some way mentioned to him the possibility of Ravenclaw. I can't really say much about anyone else, due to a lack of focus on them in the books, though I will just point out that anyone who later sided with the Death Eaters (bar Pettigrew and Quirrel) were just unceremoniously thrown into Slytherin... ambition indeed *kaboom tsh*. On with the show!

I mentioned my belief that Crabbe and Goyle should have gone into Hufflepuff, at which point someone probably had an aneurysm and was mentally screaming at me "but Hufflepuff is light-sided!". But why is it? Where in the Hufflepuff ethos as such, does it say Hufflepuffs must be loyal to the light? The Slytherins mocked the Hufflepuffs for blind loyalty when in reality the Slytherins in the HP universe were very very Hufflepuff-like as they were, following a leader who didn't even conform to the values they purported to follow (at which point I'll add in that there's a rather interesting argument which compares Voldemort to a certain dictator, as much as I actually really disagree with it, but I digress). The Hufflepuffs themselves - Cedric Diggory. He was brave. Entering the Triwizard Tournament in the first place was either a brave or stupid (or both!) thing to do, and Cedric Diggory was clearly not stupid. He told people to stop wearing the badges supporting him and degrading Harry, he actually got up the courage early on to ask out the girl he liked and had he had the chance, it was obvious he would have helped fight back against Pettigrew and Voldemort.

Ravenclaw! (Gosh we're getting through these quickly...) Actually I don't have much to say about Ravenclaw, I am left wondering why they were classed as a neutral-dark house when their defining trait was the pursuit of knowledge, but hmm... Oh! There's a question - Luna? What on earth was she doing in Ravenclaw? She was undoubtedly intelligent, but was she really all that focused on it?

You're getting bored, I'm getting bored, so we've saved what is almost the best to last! Gryffindor! (Loudly exclaims the sorting hat...well not for me it doesn't - I took a ~200 question personality test which sorted you into a HP house once and apparently I'm a Slytherin. My friends tell me this makes a great deal of sense :P). Bravery! Really? Really!? Hermione? Yes, she had a silent strength of will that I guess made her brave, but it wasn't really her trait. But we'll skip past her as she requested (I do believe) to go into Gryffindor above Ravenclaw. Parvati? Lavender? Seamus? Brave? When!? That said, where else would you place these people? One might argue that they were all in the DA (even if Seamus was late) but none of them would have bothered trying anything like it if it wasn't for our lovely Golden Trio. Plus there were plenty of people from other houses in the DA too so the point is moot. But they all sided with the light in the end and were uninteresting enough to not take the spotlight off of the main protagonists for the first few books, so hi Gryffindor!

Something I've been somewhat skirting around is this: All four of these traits can be positive or negative depending on how you use them. Villains tend to be ambitious, but so can extremely benevolent people - does anyone really think Live Aid and stuff like it such as Children in Need would occur without ambition? Loyalty again depends on what you place your loyalty in - "good" causes makes loyalty a desirable trait, "bad" ones make it an undesirable one. Intelligence too - without it we would be safe from nuclear bombs, but at the same time intelligence led to really useful things like medicine too. And lastly, heroes are always seen as brave, but what about bullies? Oh yeah, there's a certain twisted bravery in that too. People's traits shouldn't matter, it's their actions which count - and that's another thing: for a series which rabbited on about how it's your choices which define you, why was Draco seemingly the only Slytherin who was redeemed in the end? And even he was redeemed in a tail-between-the-legs way.

And as pointed out, people aren't a single trait. They are a volatile cocktail of them. Ghandi was brave, yes, and you could definitely say he was loyal to his cause, but he was intelligent and ambitious too. On the other side (I'm sorry if I offend anyone here!), most historically notable dictators you could call ambitious (I'm not so sure about intelligent - that tends to have come from other people) but they also tend to be was brave (in the bullying way) and loyal to their own causes too.

As is in the title, ambition, like any other trait, is not a dirty word. And we need to stop using it like it is.

See you next time,

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