The revolution will be liveblogged
ETA: please give proper credit if you cite this or any of meta, cos this stuff takes time and effort y’all.
So yesterday when I made this post, many people wanted to know why Voldermort’a pet snake being named ‘Nagini’ was racially problematic. I was surprised that people hadn’t considered this, but then again desi issues/culture are hardly visible in mainstream media. But today I kept getting anons either professing complete shock about Naagini’s* significance, OR telling me that my interpretations were wrong. So I decided to write this meta on Naagini, the HP verse and mythological snake symbols. But first I’m gonna give some you some backstory about why Naagini bothers me so much and how Rowling seems to have missed out on some cultural context.
One of my favourite stories as a child was the one about Buddha and Mucalinda, the Snake King. Shortly after attaining enlightenment, the Buddha is travelling through a forest when he gets caught in a terrible storm. The great serpent, Mucalinda, shelters the Buddha by spreading it’s vast seven-headed hood over him, and permitting the Buddha to sit on his coils. Many statues depicting this scene are found throughout Sri Lanka. There was one at the junction close to my school that I would always stare at. The sight of the Buddha serenely meditating under the protection of a huge and powerful cobra is a striking one that captured my imagination as a child. Years later, I’m still moved on a deep, wordless level by this image.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very well read in terms of the histories of certain cultures. I’m not qualified to give commentary and it’s 4am so I probably shouldn’t attempt intelligent discussion anyway. But, yeah, I’m going to anyway.
In terms of representation, how many character’s have their cultural backgrounds and the implications of this discussed in the books? A lot of characters in the book could be of any race, nationality or colour you imagine them to be. Under representation seems to be more of a problem in the films.
As for the cultural background of Nagini’s name (and this is just my opinion), if we must over analyse, perhaps her subjugation is a representation of globalisation and how different cultures are taking on more and more aspects of Western culture. A part of Voldemort’s soul is attached to Nagini, he relies on her as an extension of his life force. The West is reliant on other cultures for our consumerism (for things such as cheap manufacturing, imported goods, oil, raw materials). Neither us nor Voldemort actually NEED these things.
J.k Rowling might not have been able to fit the cultural origins of the name and why Nagini is named Nagini into the book because maybe it just didn’t fit in anywhere. I’ve never written a whole book, I’ve not studied higher level English Lit, but I should imagine that it is pretty damn hard to keep everything straight in 7 books with so many characters, places, underlying themes and events and sub plots and each character’s emotions and reactions to each other and their reactions to each other’s reactions and. . you get the point.
I am in no means saying that it wouldn’t be interesting to read about why Rowling chose the name, I would love to hear why. But maybe there just isn’t a reason. A lot of authors pick names because they sound good rather than because of what they mean. Especially in children’s books, most of the readers aren’t going to know the meanings and cultural origins of names, much less look them up. I admit, I didn’t know about the significance of Nagini’s name until now, I hadn’t really put much thought into it.
On that note, I think I’ll leave this be because I’ve probably either made no sense or insulted someone (there’s always someone, somewhere who will be insulted by everything).
If you’re not well read then why are you attempting to shut down irresistible-revolution who knows their own heritage and culture better than you? what can you possibly add to this discussion beyond your own hot air?
representation in harry potter is laughable — there are no POC characters beyond secondary characters with no arcs of their own and who do not contribute to the story in a significant fashion. it’s a problem in the books and the movies—why are you trying to sugar coat it? or rather deny it?
saying they “could” be is not the same as it being canon. don’t conflate the two, and accept the fact that rowling wrote a story saturated in whiteness and appropriated narratives about racism for white characters—that’s just not cool.
Your opinion? Over-analyze? Why the fuck are you even rebutting irresistible-revolution if you supposedly don’t care that much? Why are you going out of your way to admit your own ignorance, and yet you’re still talking? Why aren’t you taking this moment to learn?
your red herrings about how supposedly vast and intricate and how hard it must be to keep everything straight is incredibly inane, trivializing, and oh yes, completely unnecessary and is nothing but a weak attempt to derail and invalidate irresistible-revolution. stop it. that’s not cool.
also your premise that ~*~ maybe there just wasn’t a reason ~*~ is bullshit. authors choose what they choose of their own free will, for their own reasons. There was a choice involved, and unfortunately, rowling made her choice rooted in racism, her own privilege, and her own ignorance.
whose fault is it that rowling chose to make such a horrible choice? Rowling’s. That’s the thing about racism and appropriation — it becomes seen normative, taken as by the by, instead of for what it really is: a deliberate act of erasure.
that’s why it’s so insidious and that’s why irresistble-revolution’s meta is so important—and that’s why it’s incredibly rude of you to talk over irresistible-revolution even though, by your own admission, you don’t know much about it. Why are you twisting yourself into a pretzel to defend Rowling when you could be learning about why what Rowling did was problematic by sitting down, shutting up, and listening so that you yourself do not participate in and perpetuate this system of oppression?
Rowling fucked up. accept it. don’t apologize for it, and listen to people whom she has marginalized in her narrative.