July 23, 2009

Britain's Half-Blood Prince: J.K. Rowling's "Story of Race and Inheritance"

My new Taki's Magazine column considers some overlooked reasons for the popularity of the Harry Potter books and movies.

Read it there and comment about it here.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

31 comments:

Guts Strongman said...

Basically, Harry Potter is just a fay British version of X-Men.

I wonder: how would Voldemort do against conventional, muggle weapons? Has anybody ever tried, say, shooting him?

Simon said...

Potter and X-men both seem overtly racialist in their concerns. X-men's focus on the Ubermensch mutants' conflict vs the mundane humans; Potter's Ubermensch wizards conflicted over whether to tolerate or oppress the muggles. Arguably Star Wars' Jedi fill the same role.

Watching the X-men movies I always find myself siding with the poor outmatched mundane humans. Guess I'm not the target audience.

Anonymous said...

Great piece overall, but my 11-year-old son who read all the books when he was 9 and 10 has told me that while the movies are indeed multiculti, the books are not.
He said no non-white character shows up until the 4th book when a black boy crashes and is hurt and out of the race in the Quidich (sic) match. Then in the 5th book, there is a black boy who is a bad sort who is a friend of Ron Weasley and his brothers. Finally, in the 7th book a radio program with a black boy speaking out in revolting against the evil Voldemort (sic) is popular at Hogwarts.

Anonymous said...

Never read a Potter book, haven't seen the movies either, strenuously avoid mainstream books and movies and websites that discuss them; this post is gibberish to me, YMMV.

The Last Man in Europe said...

Interesting, though the genetics would have to somehow account for Squibs (people born to wizards who are not magical).

In a situation with this type of genetic distribution, there would be a giant war between wizards and Muggles, one group born with magical abilities (the haves) and the have-nots, struggling to reconcile their inborn differences.

Harry Baldwin said...

Steve writes, "Ironically, when Obama was crushingly rejected for not being black enough by black voters in his 2000 primary challenge to Rep. Bobby Rush, he finally realized that white voters would better appreciate a Half-Blood Prince."

I think it would have been shrewd of Obama to express his white side in the Gates vs. police episode. Continuing to try to prove he's black enough is not going to cut it on the national stage. I think the Half-Blood Prince really stepped in it this time and the odor is not going to stick with him.

albertosaurus said...

Yes Harry Potter is like the X-Men and also like Heroes, and Watchmen and all the other super heroes. These are the genetic heroes. Most of these are post Watson-Crick.

Except for Superman the DC Comics and most of the Marvel comic characters acquired their powers environmentally. Spiderman got bitten by a radioactive spider, the Hulk got exposed to a nuclear blast, the Fantastic Four got exposed to some space radiation.

All these are rather old characters from when everyone worried about nuclear energy and bombs - early fifties. Now we worry about the environment (God knows why it seems fine to me).

I suggest a hero for the modern world. A young boy accidentally eats too many trans fats. Bingo - TRANS MAN.

Whiskey said...

STeve, being a man of a certain age, and far removed from women of today, you fundamentally miss WHY Rowling's books are so popular. It is not about race so much as about Princes and Princesses.

Women go nuts for princesses, princes, hereditary rule, nobility, hierarchical relations. Look at any random picture of Harry Potter book or movie fans lining up. What will you see? Mostly, somewhat overweight and plain women and girls who wish they lived in a magical world of real princesses and princes. A return to nobility. All Harry Potter is really, is a male Cinderella. It's also why the books go on and on and on about relationships and stuff -- women love that.

Agreed with Simon, and I'll add that both Batman and Superman feature male oriented, non-hereditary rule themes. Batman wants to avenge his father's death by cleaning up Gotham and terrorizing criminals -- he does not want to rule. Superman adopts his adopted Kansas farm family values and America, he intervenes because he can, but explicitly sets rules and limitations for himself and won't rule -- he wants to be and live as an average man.

This is why the fanbase is so male -- look at who shows up to Dark Knight or Superman movies.

As for the secret Orphan destined to unite feuding factions? You could just as well point to the mysterious outsider (Beowulf, Shane, Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns and Dirty Harry) come to clean up the town/place, or everyman who becomes the hero (Odysseus, Die Hard, Jimmy Stewart movies, North by Northwest) as significant themes.

Particularly since most of Western history post-Roman Empire has been the destruction of rival dynasties and factions, not co-opting them.

/testing99 also

Anonymous said...

Totally OT:

Steve, look at this article

"When Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn ruled on Wednesday in a Justice Department lawsuit that New York City had discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants to the Fire Department, he argued that the entrance exams used had little relation to firefighting.

The two tests, administered in 1999 and 2002, involve dozens of multiple-choice questions that appear to evaluate reading comprehension, the ability to look at buildings from one angle and visualize them from others, and specific knowledge about things like in what order firefighters should put on their gear in an alarm.

But lawyers for the Vulcan Society, an organization of black firefighters that is part of the lawsuit, argued successfully that those sorts of questions could not measure the skills necessary to become a good firefighter.

“The specific skills firefighters need cannot be tested in written tests,” one of the lawyers, Richard Levy, said at a news conference outside City Hall, adding that some questions required applicants to read at a level “way too high for the job” and that they were “not conducive to finding out who has certain abilities.”

In addition, he said, the tests used criteria, like reading for comprehension and writing prose analysis, that disfavored minority applicants. Blacks and Hispanics tend to fare worse on those kinds of tests, he said, because they have less practice in school or for other reasons. “When you do test for things like integrity, physicality, teamwork and cooperation, the adverse impact is much reduced,” he said.

Here are the two tests, versions of which were used until 2007, when city officials created a new exam that they have yet to make public but that they say is much different. They point to a higher minority success rate as proof."

Can this ruling be challenged? The Ricci case had known victims. It looks to me that the victims of this ruling will be faceless.

I feel so strongly about this that if someone organizes a legal challenge of this case, I'd contribute a few hundred bucks towards the cost. I'm sure I wouldn't be alone in this.

Whiskey said...

Albertosaurus -- you touch on the creative collapse of the Comic Book world, with no real new heroes being created out of Marvel or DC post 1960's Silver Age nuclear anxiety.

The only exceptions are the 1970's era vigilante the Punisher, who is nothing more than a Marine re-fighting the Vietnam war against street criminals. He has no superpowers and basically detests those who do, viewing them repeatedly (a favorite theme in the comics) as disdainful and removed because of their powers from ordinary people. And the same essential characters: DC's "the Demon" and Marvel's Ghost Rider, both demons bound to humans who punish evil-doers. A reaction no doubt to fetishized helplessness of Liberal politics.

FWIW, the "Anti-Potter" fantasy books by Glen Cook, feature a fantasy Raymond Chandler-esque private eye in a world dominated by Potter-like sorcerers, nearly all of whom are terrible people, ordinary people trying to avoid contact with them at all times. They don't sell on the level of the female-oriented Potter books but do fairly well. Twelve books in all have been published.

rob said...

Guts, I think there was a movie called Wizards where the evil wizard got shot.

Albertosaurus that was super funny., lots of those exist, but not cuz of trans fat, and I don't think they have super powers.

Anonymous said...

To the first Anonymous, either you're lying or your son has poor reading comprehension. There is no Quidditch match in the fourth book. However Harry and Ron do take British Asian(Indian) girls as their dates to a ball in that book.

There are a few non-white minor characters from the beginning of the series, including Dean Thomas, the black boy Ginny dates before dating Harry.

Testy the Fill-in-the-Blank said...

Whiskey said...
STeve, being a man of a certain age, and far removed from women of today, you fundamentally miss WHY blah blah blah


Oh, boy. I'd satirize him again, but why bother? He satirizes himself.

Anonymous said...

Noble savage + Christ Figure = instant box office success. This story has been told thousands of times throughout history and is probably due to some ingrained bit of human psychology, since it seems to be one of the most persistent memes. Christ himself, far from being an archetype of the genre, was just another example -- there were many similar stories floating around the Middle East at the time.

Anonymous said...

This is an infinitely better analysis than the "young 'uns are all worthless bums that think they're special" interpretation over at the execrable Big Hollywood blog. This rules.

Posec said...

Watching the X-men movies I always find myself siding with the poor outmatched mundane humans. Guess I'm not the target audience.--Simon

One would think that the readers of this blog would not object to literature that had hereditarian/hierarchical overtones. It is liberals who wish to keep the playing field artificially level and effect societal homogeneity. I could understand siding with the outmatched humans in these genres in order to keep the story interesting but I cannot say that I would harbor any visceral dislike for the "ubermensch". At any rate, this disdain for the exemplary stemming from conservatives broaches a potentially fascinating topic.

Anonymous said...

"STeve, being a man of a certain age, and far removed from women of today..."

I agree with one of the previous posters: it's a priceless quote. Steve is married, while testy has been boring everybody about his inability to get close to "the women of today" (or of any age) for ages.

Truth(er) said...

So Obama is:

BARRY POTTER?

You read it here first!!!

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Christopher Booker's The Seven Basic Plots will clear this up for y'all.

Anonymous said...

Magical folk are clearly bigoted against and contemptuous of normals in Rowling's universe, as is Rowling.

Only the gifted ones are invited to the magic school, no AA or quotas for the normals.

Magic folk care not a whit for the danger their world poses to normals, they're too concerned with keeping their world secret from the normals for that (to the extent that they will magically tamper with the minds of normals to erase any memory of magical creatures or phenomena without hesitation or a hint of remorse).

If I didn't know better I'd think Rowling was out to sabotage the Regime.

~Svigor

LemmusLemmus said...

Failing to show that Joanne K. Rowling is obsessed with race, the article instead suggests its writer is.

bgc said...

Rowling's implicit politics is actually standard, Old Left equal opportunities meritocratic - pretty much the same as most of the founders of IQ testing - see A. Wooldridge, Measuring the mind: education and psychology in England, c.1860–c.1990, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK (1994).

In other words Rowling's idea seems to be that you should judge people by what they can *do*, not by their 'blood'. (But ability will _not_ be equally distributed through the population.)

The early IQ pioneers devised the test to pick-out bright kids from poor and deprived backgrounds to give them an academic education.

I summarized a couple of early papers here:

http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2008/09/pioneering-studies-of-iq.html

Their new IQ tests did not much depend on 'culture'; and some very high scores were obtained by some children from the poorest families who had only minimal schooling and came from intellectually barren home environments.

The goal of these equal opportunity Old Leftists was equality of opportunity *not* equality of outcome.

The reason that the New Left intellectuals adopted equality of outcome as the goal, was that the smartest ones recognized that equality of opportunity had all-but been achieved by about 1960 - so the left had no further part to play. Their job was done.

However, the left also knew that early IQ research has shown that there was a gradient of IQ across social classes. They knew (by the late 1920s) that the higher social classes were almost entirely composed of high IQ individuals (because the jobs were IQ screened), and that the lower social classes had a lower average IQ but also included a small proportion of high IQ individuals.

The Old Left meritocracts also knew (again by the 1920s) that IQ was hereditary - so that equal opportunity for all classes led to un-equal outcomes for classes. The meritocrats were happy with this because their ideal was an efficient society.

If the left had been honest, they would have wound themselves up by the mid-1960s - instead they dishonestly changed, almost overnight, into a party of equality of outcomes and affirmative action - denying class differences in IQ.

The New Left - the modern, mainstream, post-sixties leftist politics - is therefore built on a lie about IQ, and Always Has Been.

This is why current left parties cannot *ever* accept IQ science, whatever the evidence - it would be political suicide, because it would remove their basic reason for being.

Simon said...

Simon: "Watching the X-men movies I always find myself siding with the poor outmatched mundane humans. Guess I'm not the target audience."

Posec:
"One would think that the readers of this blog would not object to literature that had hereditarian/hierarchical overtones..."

Well I think it's more I see the mundanes as 'us'. I'm not too keen on being ruled by alien elites. >:)

Wade Nichols said...

My absolute favorite Harry Potter article is this one from 8 years ago, about French Marxist Pierre Bruno's analysis of the works of JK Rowling:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/
europe/french-marxist-attacks-bourgeois-harry-potter-704598.html

Comedy gold!!!

Anonymous said...

This is why current left parties cannot *ever* accept IQ science, whatever the evidence - it would be political suicide, because it would remove their basic reason for being.

It maybe in the UK that they are laying the groundwork for their reinvention as the party of equal opportunity. Left/liberal education policies are increasingly succesful at destroying the life chances of poor (and not so poor) children with high IQ. Soon there will be a whole new class of people sidelined by meritiocracy. The whole process can then start again.

Seamus said...

The striking title certainly didn’t hurt.

Yeah, but it would have been nice if the movie had bothered to explain the title. (Yes, we learn at the end that Snape is in fact "the Half-Blood Prince," but we never learn why he's called that. I understand that when you adapt a book for the big screen, you can't include everything, but the title shouldn't be one of the things that's just left hanging in space.)

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
To the first Anonymous, either you're lying or your son has poor reading comprehension. There is no Quidditch match in the fourth book. However Harry and Ron do take British Asian(Indian) girls as their dates to a ball in that book.
There are a few non-white minor characters from the beginning of the series, including Dean Thomas, the black boy Ginny dates before dating Harry.


Ha-ha!
My son scoffs at YOUR memory and I'm annoyed with your boorish manner.
My son says anyone who has read the series knows that the Quidditch tournment is a central feature of the fourth book, that the girls Harry and Ron take to the ball are only Indian in the MOVIE and that a couple of passing remarks by a non-white character along the lines of "Hi, Harry!" can't be thought of as meaningful to the non-white head count in the series.
He stands by all his statements.
YOU have some reading to do instead of movie watching it appears. Oh, and learn some manners!

David Davenport said...

... everyman who becomes the hero (Odysseus, Die Hard, Jimmy Stewart movies, North by Northwest)

But Odysseus/Ulysses is the hereditary king of Ithaca.

Glaivester said...

... everyman who becomes the hero (Odysseus, Die Hard, Jimmy Stewart movies, North by Northwest)

But Odysseus/Ulysses is the hereditary king of Ithaca.


And Odysseus isn't Everyman, he's Noman.

Anonymous said...

"explain the title"

"Prince" is a surname and the title is a play on words.

Eileen said...

Steve said: "On the other are the evil Nazi purebloods—such as Voldemort and blond Draco Malfoy, Harry’s archrival from Slytherin House—who denigrate wizards of mixed-ancestry as 'mudbloods.'"

As well as the concern over being pureblood or not, the bad guys in HP (in the films, anyway - I haven't read the books) are also concerned, in a very English way, about class. Draco Malfoy in one of the films (can't recall which) expresses disgust at the Weasley family, a pureblood family, because they are so common. Of course, it doesn't help the Weasley clan that they are happy to mingle with 'mudbloods' and the like.

Steve said: "The student body of Hogwarts is strenuously multiracial, yet strikingly monocultural—in these tributes to two centuries of English children’s fiction, whatever their ancestry, they’re all very British."

Except for the Irish kid, Seamus Finnigan. Again, in very English fashion, he's singled out as the butt of jokes, i.e. Seamus keeps blowing things up in most of his classes. It's funny, of course, but it's not any of the Black or Asian wizards/witches that blow themselves up in class. (The other nincompoop, at least early on, is English: Neville Longbottom.)