Connect with us

Analysis

The Ups and Downs of Harry’s Fifth Year

Claire

Published

on

Presented by “Harry Potter and the Reread Project”

When we left the Golden Trio in my last Harry Potter Reread post, Hermione had just suggested forming a secret study group in response to Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic refusing to teach them actual defensive magic. Despite Harry’s original lack of enthusiasm about the idea, Dumbledore’s Army takes center stage in the third of five parts of Order of the Phoenix, giving us not only the joy of Harry as a teacher but his first awkward romantic encounter as well as more nastiness stemming from Umbridge, more Weasley family drama and more angst on Harry’s part.

More Toady Evilness

As I pointed out at the end of my last Reread post, the second part of Order of the Phoenix largely lays the foundations for the rest of the book, making it a bit less interesting. To a certain extent, the same is true of the third part as well: many of the chapters are focused on the everyday and school life of the characters, their classes, the seemingly unsurmountable mountain of homework, and Quidditch practices.

At the same time, there’s a growing sense of insecurity, surveillance and mystery as Umbridge’s power grows while Voldemort remains mostly out of the picture. One way this is achieved is through making Umbridge almost omnipresent. During this part of the book, her inspections of other teachers become more frequent, leading to some hilarious exchanges (for example with McGonagall), as well as the deeply uncomfortable inspection of Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures lesson. During this, Umbridge consistently treats Hagrid as if he was too stupid to understand her by speaking extremely slowly and loudly to him and accompanying her words by gestures. She also immediately shows up on Hagrid’s doorstep when he returns to Hogwarts despite it being the middle of the night to interrogate him about where he was.

This sense of omnipresence becomes even stronger when Umbridge puts a ban on all student organisations that she hasn’t personally approved almost immediately after the first meeting of Dumbledore’s Army. She also attacks Hedwig to read Harry’s letters, hurting the owl and almost catching Sirius when he essentially uses floo powder to facetime Harry.

It’s something that makes Umbridge an incredibly effective villain: she’s always either keeping up with or one step ahead of the protagonists in ways that they don’t anticipate. This is also the case when Umbridge provides the Educational Decree that gives her the absolute authority over the punishment of students who break school rules, meaning that she can issue a lifelong Quidditch ban against Harry and the Weasley twins after he and George get into a physical fight with Malfoy.

Umbridge is also an effective villain because she absolutely undermines the idea of Hogwarts as a sanctuary. Her very presence shows that Hogwarts isn’t save from outside influence. The fact that she can also abuse Harry to the point of leaving actual lasting scars without anyone doing anything about it is even scarier as it shows that the teachers inside Hogwarts are also quite powerless to protect the students. And after she has banned Harry from Quidditch, it gets to the point where he barely wants to return to Hogwarts—a point that Harry never reached in any of the previous books, no matter what was going on.

Conflicting Conflicts

Additionally, Umbridge monitoring Harry’s communication specifically further isolates him from the Order in general and Sirius, the only Order member actually willing to give Harry any information in the first place, specifically. That in combination with the Daily Prophet’s silence and Dumbledore absolutely keeping his distance from Harry means that both the main characters and the readers don’t know what is going on outside of the school.

It’s an interesting contrast to the first fifth of the book that took place in Privet Drive and at Grimmauld Place. During this part, the threat that Voldemort presented to Wizarding society and the effects of his return were a lot more palpable. There is still a basic awareness of the threat that Voldemort presents but it’s something that Harry and his friends are far less preoccupied with than in the first part of the book.

Essentially, Order of the Phoenix contains two main conflicts—the fight against Voldemort and his Death Eaters and the Ministry and Umbridge trying to gain power in Hogwarts—alongside the everyday and school life of the characters. During roughly the first half of the book, the latter becomes the focus of the story, giving both the readers and the characters a sort of respite before plunging them back into the fight against Voldemort.

An Antifascist Study Group

Speaking of the fight against Voldemort, it’s only been during this reread that it really sunk in how gutsy and at the same time kind of sad it is that the DA was formed. After all, most of the characters are between 15 and 17; they should not have to teach each other how to defend themselves against the members of a fascist organization. They especially should not have to risk their school education to do so.

art by hatepotion

Of course one could argue that Dumbledore’s Army is just a study group meant to resist Umbridge and counteract the Ministry’s bad teaching priorities. This is, after all, part of how the characters justify Dumbledore’s Army to themselves. But already during the formation meeting of the group in the Hog’s Head, Hermione explicitly said that the group wasn’t about fighting Umbridge but about preparing to defend themselves against Voldemort.

I also only now realized that while Harry was the teacher, it was Hermione who was ultimately organizing and running the DA. Not only was it her idea in the first place, she was also the one who found people who were interested in learning, organized the first meeting, found a non-suspicious way for the members to communicate with one another and made sure, though in a fairly unethical way, that no one could go and tell Umbridge about the DA. Not to get too into feminist analysis here, but I do think that it mirrors real-life division of labor along gender lines very well. Except that Hermione gets recognition and praise for her organizational work.

Moving into Focus

The DA also allows the narrative to push more secondary characters into the spotlight, especially Neville. Harry first focuses on him because he’s struggling the most, but starts to regularly note his achievements and growing ability. Order of the Phoenix also incorporates what we learned about Neville’s parents (that they were tortured so badly they are mentally disabled) in Goblet of Fire, first by having Neville try to attack Draco Malfoy after he makes a comment about St. Mungo’s having a ward for people with lasting mental damage from spells and then by actually introducing his parents.

Two other secondary characters who become more important in Order of the Phoenix are Ginny and Cho.

art by hazyplanet

Unfortunately, I haven’t done the math but from my fairly subjective impression, Ginny gets more lines and becomes more present with each book: first through occasionally joining conversations when the Trio and often the twins are hanging out with each other in the common room in Prisoner of Azkaban, then having to reject accompanying Harry to the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire, forcing him to ask Padma, and then through actually resolving major plot points, for example when she makes it clear to Harry that he can’t be possessed by Voldemort.

It’s actually a quite clever way of making side characters become more prominent, but it also means that a lot of Ginny’s character development after Chamber of Secrets happens completely off-stage. While Hermione nicely explains some of it to Harry when he asks how Ginny gained the ability to speak around him after starting to date other people, it feels unsatisfactory, especially because we never see her deal with being possessed by Voldemort.

It’s also annoying because Neville’s character development, for example, is done so much better. It’s simultaneously marginal enough to not dominate the story in any way but not so marginal that it’s completely unexpected. Yes, Ginny becoming more prominent is noticeable, but only if you specifically pay attention to it the way I did. If you don’t, it feels a lot like Ginny showed up in Chamber of Secrets as a shy eleven-year-old who was possessed by the Dark Lord, then disappeared for two books and reemerged as a a sassy, sporty, fairly popular fourteen-year-old in Prisoner of Azkaban.

Awkward Teenage Love Stories

Interestingly enough, Cho’s growing prominence happened in a similar way: She first appeared in Prisoner of Azkaban as Ravenclaw’s seeker playing against Harry, then becomes Cedric’s girlfriend that Harry’s crushing on in Goblet of Fire and then becomes Harry’s actual love interest in Order of the Phoenix.

art by jununy

It’s a very typical teenager-y romance subplot, perfectly capturing the deep awkwardness of being fifteen, in love and completely overwhelmed. Harry hasn’t actually thought about how Cho might be feeling or how confusing and terrible the situation is for her. He also genuinely doesn’t believe she could be interested in him, even though Hermione tries to subtly encourage him, and has no idea what he’s doing—he doesn’t even seem to realize that Cho is leaning in for a kiss. At this point of the novel, it’s a bit cringe-worthy but at the same time kind of funny, heartwarming and very relateable even years after my own first awkward teenage experiences.

Additionally, the romance subplots gives us readers one of the most fun and lighthearted scenes of the book, namely Ron, Harry and Hermione talking about Harry and Cho in the Common Room. It’s one of the scenes that best shows the Trio’s friendship and affection, the way they make fun of and are exasperated by one another but also genuinely like and support each other.

The main part of the Cho subplot also takes part immediately before Harry’s vision of Arthur Weasley getting attacked by Nagini at the ministry. It’s one of the most major plot points of the novel and also the moment where the entire book turns. The focus shifts from the events at Hogwarts and Umbridge back to Voldemort and the Order. It’s a thematic shift that’s accompanied by a physical shift as well, as the main characters return to the Order’s Headquarter for Christmas. Juxtaposing it with the funny awkwardness of Harry’s first kiss is a perfect way of making sure that the book does not become too dark.

Snake Bites, Magical Medicine and Ableism

Speaking of Arthur Weasley being bitten by Nagini, I love the fact that this finally allows the readers and characters to visit St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. We only ever got glimpses of magical illnesses and health care at Hogwarts but St. Mungo’s opens up a bigger window into this area of the Wizarding society. Of course, it doesn’t answer all questions. I’m still curious how exactly Muggle and Wizarding medicine can be combined or how wizards treat cancer, but it’s more than we knew before and that’s something I’m always happy about.

Additionally, some of the magical injuries JKR includes in the description of the hospital are just hilarious. There is, for example, a woman who occasionally lets out a high-pitched whistle and has steam pouring out of her mouth in a weird imitation of a human tea kettle and a man whose daughter has wings sprouting from her back and is flapping around his head.

Of course the visits to St. Mungo’s also reveal one of the more disturbing aspects of the Harry Potter world, namely that wizards and witches with lasting spell damage are essentially institutionalized in a specific ward in the Hospital. It’s a depiction that resembles the treatment of many mentally ill people, especially those deemed scary or dangerous, in the real world.

Another similarity to the way mentally ill and disabled people are treated in real life is their constant infantilization, especially by people that are meant to take care of them. Both the healer responsible for Gilderoy Lockhart, the Longbottoms and other patients and Neville’s grandmother behave in this way towards these people, talking to them as if they were little children or even a nuisance.

This made me think about how entirely possible it is to read this as simply a depiction of real life ableism that is meant to again deconstruct the idea that the Wizarding World is inherently so much better than the Muggle world. After all, this is a constant theme running through the books: bigotry exists everywhere and we must take a stand against it to change society for the better. However, unlike in other cases, like the house elves, JKR doesn’t make the characters take an explicit stand against this treatment of mentally ill people.

Gigantic Mistakes

Speaking of real-life bigotry brings me to the giants, a group of people that JKR also uses to mirror the prejudices of the real world. Giants are strongly discriminated against, to the point where they have also been the victims of ethnic cleansing like “giant hunts” that decimated their numbers and forced them to move to mountain enclaves. Literally none of them are able to live in normal Wizarding society anymore, something that is difficult even for half-giants like Hagrid.

JKR’s portrayal of bigotry against them is one the one hand fairly good as she is using it to show how being ostracized can push people towards radical right wing organizations that promise them inclusion and privileges. What JKR doesn’t reflect on in the books is the way these right wing movements often simultaneously present a serious threat to these people despite using them to push their own agenda, but to be fair, I’m not entirely sure how to incorporate it into the series either.

Another thing that JKR does well is show how authoritarian conservative characters like Umbridge tend to be deeply bigoted against not just one minority. Umbridge hates werewolves and pushed legislation that makes it impossible for most of them to find work as a result of Remus Lupin being outed as a werewolf by Snape. As mentioned already, she also treats Hagrid as if he was too stupid to understand normal human speech because he is a half-giant, a fact that she is very aware of thanks to Rita Skeeter. Her conservatism isn’t limited to ensuring that Hogwarts does not become too independent of the Ministry, it also includes her trying to keep marginalised “half-breeds” on the fringes or out of Wizarding society.

arty by meabhd

On the other hand, JKR makes a fundamental mistake in her portrayal of both the giants and the werewolves. In both cases, these groups are analogies for real world minorites—JKR even explicitly confirmed that werewolves are supposed to mirror people with AIDS—and the way they are treated is supposed to show the irrationality and wrongness of prejudices, especially through making members of each group some of the kindest, most helpful and most beloved characters of the book. But at the same time, JKR’s werewolves and giants are both hyper-violent and actually dangerous to both Wizarding and Muggle society. Werewolves like Greyback specifically target the children of people who cross them, for example, and all werewolves do become uncontrollable, deadly creatures if they don’t regularly take their potion. Giants are not just extremely brutal, they are also too stupid to stop being brutal, something that brings them even closer to complete extinction because they can’t stop fighting against one another.

This brutality is why many witches and wizards fear werewolves and giants, something that is supposed to be seen as irrational, an assessment I can’t entirely agree with. If both giants and werewolves were actually quite harmless, it would be accurate to describe being afraid of them living among “normal” humans as outrageously dumb and prejudiced. But making them actually dangerous, especially so dangerous that they can’t stop killing each other like the giants, essentially vindicates these prejudices.

I’m aware that JKR is mostly using stock fantasy creatures and their classical features. Neither giants nor werewolves are new creatures, they feature widely in fantasy, and they usually are anything but harmless. But the fact that something is a fantasy stable doesn’t mean it doesn’t have problems and can just be copied without making adjustments. Another example of this are goblin characters which are often filled to the brim with antisemitic stereotypes, specifically greediness, untrustworthiness and the classical hooked nose. Taking these classic fantasy creatures and changing them around—making werewolves actually quite harmless when transformed or all giants gentle but terribly clumsy—would have been far more subversive. It also would have significantly strengthened JKR’s anti-bigotry message.

Harry Potter Defense Squad Part II

I already expressed annoyance at how significant parts of the fandom see Harry as whiny or annoying in Order of the Phoenix despite the fact that he is a deeply traumatized fifteen-year-old who went through a whole bunch of terrible stuff that no one should have to go through. Additionally, Harry has absolutely legitimate reasons to be angry: he spends much of his summer isolated and completely in the dark about a war that deeply affects him only to learn that he is simultaneously under surveillance.

After he returns to Hogwarts, his anger takes a backseat as he tries to just live his life, but it does make a return when Hermione first suggests that he teach others Defense against the Dark Arts. He is confused why they’d even ask him in the first place which makes Ron and Hermione list his achievements. When he reacts defensively and tries to point out how much help and luck was involved in all of these situations, they start smirking, making Harry feel like they aren’t taking him or the situation seriously. This makes him lash out and yell at them:

You don’t know what it’s like! You – neither of you – you’ve never had to face him, have you? You think it’s just memorising a bunch of spells and throwing them at him, like you’re in class or something? The whole time you’re sure you know there’s nothing between you and dying except your own – your own brain or guts – or whatever – like you can think straight when you know you’re about a nanosecond from being murdered, or tortured, or watching your friends die- they’ve never taught us that in their classes, what it’s like to deal with thinks like that – and you two sit there acting like I’m a clever little boy to be standing here, alive”

It’s a gut wrenching, massively emotional scene and one of the first time Harry actually expresses just how scary and traumatic fighting Voldemort in the graveyard actually was for him. While it’s not pretty and certainly uncomfortable for Ron and Hermione, it’s also super understandable that it makes Harry angry that they just sit there, smirking at him and listing his achievements, ignoring him trying to explain that a lot of it had more to do with luck than with his own skill or cleverness. It becomes even more understandable when you take into account that he spends a lot of his time being treated as a liar by many of his fellow students and even one of his teachers who also uses this as an excuse to physically abuse him. Harry consistently feels like people aren’t taking his experience of being almost murdered by Voldemort as seriously as they should, largely because people genuinely aren’t, and his best friends seemingly doing the same thing is deeply painful.

art by davinciblr

Of course Ron and Hermione recognize that they were wrong, apologize and the Trio makes up. Harry spends some comparably angst-free and even happy weeks, training the DA and kissing Cho until he witnesses Arthur being attacked. It’s another really scary moment for Harry as he first fears that people aren’t taking him seriously while Arthur, one of his father figures, is bleeding out and dying somewhere and then receives absolutely no explanation for what just happened. Even worse, the person he mainly sees as a mentor figure still essentially ignores him.

When Harry then also feels like attacking Dumbledore in the one moment when Dumbledore isn’t ignoring him, things get even more confusing for him. He already feels like it was him that attacked Arthur Weasley and is worried about what this means, so this only makes him more worried that Voldemort might be possessing him.

The only person he does share this fear with, Sirius, tries to reassure him but it only makes Harry feel dismissed and ignored. This is when he overhears Moody suggest that he might be possessed, something that seems like the most logical explanation for the situation. Because he’s immediately convinced that this is true and worried he might hurt his friends and almost-family, he isolates himself. And because Ron has the emotional range of a tea spoon, he tries to give Harry space instead of talking to him which makes Harry feel like his friends believe that he is possessed, making him resentful and isolating himself further. When he considers running away, Dumbledore orders him to stay at Grimmauld Place but gives no further advice or explanation.

Harry’s reaction is probably a bit immature: he automatically assumes the worst possible scenario is true without fact-checking it at all. But Harry is also a panicked 15 year-old. He’s already looking for an explanation of what just happened to him and not getting one and struggling to separate what he saw happening from himself when he hears Moody say that he might be possessed. It’s the only explanation he’s being given which makes it even less surprising that he immediately latches onto it.

Let’s also not forget that Harry is an abuse victim who is used to anything that goes wrong being blamed on him and being held responsible for things that have nothing to do with him. Even people who aren’t his abusers did blame him for pretty terrible things happening to him, like becoming a champion in the Triwizard Tournament. It would have been out of character for him to not assume that he’s somehow partially to blame for what happened to Arthur.

Order of the Phoenix is an incredibly intense book for Harry specifically because bad things constantly happen to him. Essentially every time it seems as if thinks are going well, something else terrible happens. When he finally gets out of Privet Drive, the threat of expulsion from Hogwarts hangs over his head. When he isn’t expelled and can return to Hogwarts, Umbridge is there, trying to make his life specifically hell. When he has managed to make it through detention with her and formed the DA, he gets banned from Quidditch. When he realises that Cho returns his feelings, he witnesses one of his father-figures getting attacked, almost dies, something that he feels responsible for and that leads people to suspect he might be possessed by Voldemort.

And of course, things will continue to only get even worse.


Claire is a student with a focus on English literature and a bit of Linguistics and Anthropology on the side. Harry Potter remains her first and probably most intense obsession, followed by cute animals and caffeine.

Advertisement
Comments

Analysis

Are We Ready to Admit that Thor: Ragnarok was a Hot Mess?

Kylie

Published

on

By

I didn’t watch Thor: Ragnarok in theaters. Actually, I hadn’t seen anything post-Ultron and was fine being free of the MCU for a few years. Then Black Panther came along and I found it so compelling that it washed away any Marvel fatigue I had been feeling. When the opportunity arose to watch the third Thor movie on an airplane, I hit the play button with genuine excitement.

Going into this, I had heard almost all positive things. I knew there were some similarities to Black Panther in the central themes, I knew Jeremiah gave it a glowing review, and I knew it was supposed to be exceedingly funny.

I was also no stranger to the Thor standalones. I felt his introductory movie was a bit silly, but did what it could with a superhero that well…lends himself to silliness. It’s a Norse god in a contemporary setting, after all. The result was a slightly boisterous fish-out-of-water tale with compact development and a pretty solid foundation on which we could understand his character. Thor 2: Dark World was absolutely odious as an artform, but I loved it anyway, much for the same reason Attack of the Clones is my favorite prequel. It was ironic enjoyment, but if you can’t be enthused by Natalie Portman running around in squeaky rainboots with her Science Machine™, then I can’t help you. Plus, it was Thorested Development.

Was I expecting some gaps in my knowledge given me sleeping on Civil Wars? Yes. Granted, those same gaps existed for Black Panther, and shockingly I was still able to fully understand his father’s death, as well as what Agent Ross meant to T’Challa and what their relationship was like. But I promise, I turned on Thor 3 with all the right intentions, and what I consider to be fairly measured expectations.

I turned it off wondering if I had a fundamental misunderstanding about the concept of a movie.

Two Plots, No Payoff

If I had watched Thor: Ragnarok on VHS in the 90s, I probably would have begun to wonder if someone taped over the entire middle portion with a completely different Thor film. Because it’s not just that there were two major plot threads, it’s that there were two different tones. Hell, there were almost two different genres when you get down to it.

The first is what I have to assume is the “main plot,” since it’s what the movie sets up in the first acts, and closes in the third. This is the story about Asgard’s legacy and reckoning against the threat of Hela, the Goddess of Death.

Thor is told by some demon guy that his dad isn’t at home anymore, so he goes back to Asgard find Loki pretending to be Odin. Then a random wizard tells them both that their dad is in Norway (yes, I know it’s Doctor Strange, but I’m talking about this movie on its own merits). They go there, but Odin is all sad and about to die, which means that his true heir—his firstborn daughter Hela—will escape from the prison he set up for her. You see, she’s the Goddess of Death and had been the leader of Asgard’s armies for Odin when he apparently conquered the Nine Realms, but she became too ambitious for his taste. What, a tenth was a bridge too far for Daddy Imperialist?

Whatever, he dies.

Thor and Loki go to confront the now-released Hela, she breaks Thor’s hammer, they get chased off, she takes over Asgard with the intention of more conquering, most people think she sucks so she raises dead zombies and a giant wolf to fight for her instead, and then Thor and some random friends come back to fight her again. He realizes he can only save his people, but he can’t save Asgard itself from Hela since she’s too powerful. He evacuates everyone, mainly with Heimdall and Loki’s help. Hela stabs Thor’s eye out and Thor levels up his lightning powers, but it’s still not enough to do anything about her, so he summons that demon guy from the beginning to have him destroy Hela…and all of Asgard. But it’s fine; he’s the King because Asgard is a people and not a place. Odin even pops in a vision at some point to tell him that.

This is a fine story. There’s things in it that could be explored, especially Thor reconciling with Odin’s savage, imperialistic legacy. It’s a bit hamstrung by Odin himself pooping out of the narrative entirely after dropping the plot bomb into Thor’s lap (seriously, am I alone in thinking this is one of the least effective death scenes in movie history? Certainly in MCU history?), and it’s a bit formulaic in the sense that the “bad guy” is more the concept of implacable evil.

I personally struggle with the messaging and execution of it. It’s not that coming to terms with the fallibility of your Kingly father and his decisions made while ruling your country is a weak narrative choice. That, you know, was the entirety of Black Panther, and what made it significant was the way in which T’Challa defined his duty on the throne in a way that made sense for himself and the changed context of the world. It was a meaningful shedding of idealization while coming into his own as a ruler.

This movie should have been that for Thor, but his realization about “Asgard is a people” was just sort of beamed into his head by Odin. Literally, Hela was choking him out, and he flashes to a vision of Odin telling him what to think of Asgard as well as his own powers. 

Then, what does that say if it’s Odin’s words Thor’s living by? That he does still respect this guy and want to follow in his footsteps, despite learning that he was a literal conqueror? That even asshole imperialists can have some good points? (Why does this keep happening?) Or was that Odin coming to the realization when he came to Thor, and he had reached this epiphany off-screen in the afterlife? It was like, “Oh hey I didn’t need to do all that conquering, because my duty was to my people and not the glory of this place.” 

It didn’t even seem like Thor came to the conclusion that destroying physical Asgard was a necessary thing given the place’s legacy and bloody history—just given the situation and how there was some lady with a dead army they couldn’t beat. It was a decision made in the heat of battle when the day was lost, but now he’s got his eyepatch and his people and a spaceship, so he’s ready to fill Odin’s shoes. You know…the shoes that we learned shouldn’t have been worn in the first place. Because imperialism. 

Also the requisite, “crazy over-ambitious woman couldn’t listen to her father when to chill with all the killing” complaint. Cate Blanchett saves it a little, but it’s there.

So yes, for all the weighty subjects floated in this plotline, none of them were actually given significant narrative weight, or exploration, or anything really. I suppose Hela’s claim to the throne and history with Asgard made her more of a meaningful threat; she was a monster of Asgard’s making, not to yet again call back to the film that pulled off all these concepts with actual dexterity and significance. But even with that, she was just evil. She didn’t have any nuanced points, or any compelling reason for anyone to follow her. Just that Odin had once been cool with her, but that stopped.

There was also nothing remotely familial or personal about her dynamic with Thor or Loki since she didn’t actually know them or seem to care about their general existence, and her abilities were never well-conveyed to even give the fight might grounding. We may as well have had Mjolnir shooting through multiple portals again.

That’s not to say these things couldn’t have been done or executed well. This was a long movie and whole lot of time to flesh out Hela’s relationship to our protagonist, or Thor’s relationship to his conception of governance and his home, or the Asgardian commoner point of view, or even to seed the demon guy that eventually brought the cataclysm just a wee bit better than the opening joke did.

No, it was far better we spent it with Thor rolling his eyes and debating the semantics of “crown”

It’s just that instead, the movie spent the bulk of its time seemingly uninterested in the main plot. Because there was ~junk planet antics~ to be had.

And yup, there’s plotline #2: Thor is in yet another wacky weekend adventure that he has to get out of! Which I don’t hate as a concept. I will happily pop some corn kernels and plop down with either of the Thor standalones, because they’re somewhat doofy fun. Just don’t stick me in the middle of this thing after setting up something rather serious and weighty. (And maybe don’t set up that serious, weighty thing by having a wizard warp two main characters to Norway.)

As a brief, brief summary, after Hela throws Thor and Loki out of Asgard, he finds himself alone on a junk planet called Sakaar. He’s captured by some lush played by Tessa Thompson who just so happens to be a former Valkyrie, a member of an Asgardian all-female elite warrior group that had fought Hela before her imprisonment. She sells him to Jeff Goldblum, who rules (?) Sakaar. So Thor is enslaved, literally has a controlling device thing in his neck, and is forced to fight in a gladiator ring. The ultimate Sakaar champion he goes up against is…the Hulk, who has somewhat-permanently hulked out. They fight and Jeff Goldblum cheats to let the Hulk win, which isn’t really worth talking about, though it takes up about ten minutes of screentime so it must be important to someone. Oh, and Loki’s there and Jeff Goldblum’s friend because it’s working to his favor at the moment.

After the fight, Thor quasi-escapes to the ship the Hulk arrived on, there’s some recording of Natasha on it that de-Hulks Bruce Banner. At some point Loki forces Valkyrie to see a vision of her past trauma (her fellow soldiers dying to Hela) so she decides she wants to help Thor get back to Asgard, and then everyone escapes Sakaar by inciting a slave uprising and stealing one of Jeff Goldblum’s ships.

I have spent longer than I care to admit trying to figure out how this possibly relates to the rest of the movie. And I should note, Sakaar takes up well over half the runtime, so it’s not like it can be dismissed as this ancillary plot cul de sac necessity to get Thor and Bruce to run into one another. Like, this had to have meant something, right? Was Jeff Goldblum meant to be contrasted with Odin? Was this system of injustice that Thor witnessed supposed to be the reason why he summoned the destruction of Asgard in the end, and the writers simply never felt the need to explicate this in any way?

I can’t get there. Even the very minor twist of “Loki almost betrayed Thor at the end of the Sakaar sequence, but then comes back and saves Asgard” did not need to be rooted in this setting, nor was it even particularly necessary to the overall story or relationship of the brothers. Thor caught onto Loki at the beginning of the movie when he called him out as fake!Odin—we can see he already learned from Dark World. Loki is the God of Mischief, but that doesn’t mean his usage should be God of False Narrative Conflict In A Desperate Attempt To Inject Last Minute Tension. Because that’s a mouth full.

Maybe it’s my own problem that I was waiting to get back to the plot of the movie during every Sakaar scene instead of realizing this is the plot now. It’s just that normally when movies have a lengthy and pointless side-mission, especially one that cannibalizes this percentage of the runtime, they’re not viewed particularly favorably.

But hey, at least Thor wasn’t learning about systemic injustice and the strength of compassion on a casino planet that tied immaculately into the thematic thrust; that would have ruined everything.

Character Arrested Development

I couldn’t help myself with The Last Jedi fandom dialogue shade. But I do think that’s actually somewhat relevant here. Because I don’t really care that ~not enough happened~ overall or that Finn and Rose had a “pointless” (it was really more fruitless, and that was the point) side-mission. What I cared about was that what happened on our screen worked together towards a meaning, and that characters grew as a result of them. The Last Jedi may not have thought through implications perfectly, or executed things in as refreshing or satisfying a way as possible, but it’s exceedingly hard to argue anything was ancillary given how every single damned character had pretty tight and clear growth.

Thor: Ragnarok had barely anything.

If I could be really generous with Thor himself, he accepted the leadership of Asgard in a way he rejected it from the first movie. But also, his dad’s dead, so necessity makes for strange kings, you know? There’s also nothing that occurs within this movie that particularly leads to him wanting to take on that mantle. At best, it’s that he learns his power isn’t derived from his hammer, but controlled through it, though he learns that through Divine Daddy Almost-Death Vision. So he kind of starts off thinking he’s this awesome lightning god, and ends the movie thinking the same thing, but for slightly different reasons and with means that might look different in a fight.

I mean, I guess leveling up is technically character growth…

There’s also Thor abandoning Asgard, but nothing to indicate it has anything to do with him being upset about Odin’s imperialist rule. If that was meant to be the framing, there’s just nothing that occurs onscreen to back it up. Loki complains that Hela is growing stronger every minute she’s in Asgard and Thor repeats Divine Daddy Vision point #2 as justification. Hell, when Hela and Thor meet for their final fight, Thor quotes Odin while sitting on his throne.

It should be noted that Divine Daddy Vision was the final push Thor needs to overcome the antagonist.

Odin (still in Norway, or King’s Cross Station, or something): Asgard is not a place. Never was. This could be Asgard. Asgard is where our people stand. Even now, right now, those people need your help.

Thor: I’m not as strong as you.

Odin: No… You’re stronger.

Does Thor seem like someone who’s having trouble reconciling his father’s legacy, or is it someone who’s still taking advice from the guy, but oh yeah that murdery spree he went on a while ago was unfortunate? And again, what Thor says about Asgard’s destruction has diddly squat to do with its legacy:

“Surtur destroys Asgard, he destroys Hela, so that our people may live. But we need to let him finish the job…”

I had to look up what the prophecy specifically was, since it was told to us by Surtur (the demon) in a very jokey early sequence that Thor didn’t even bother taking seriously, so why were we supposed to have? It’s just that Surtur will lay waste to Thor’s home. No motivation or anything.

My point is, Thor doesn’t really come to any realization about himself, or Asgard, or even Odin. He learns things, he likes Odin’s pithy governance lesson, but he doesn’t contextualize anything for himself or really grow because of it. He just figures out battle odds and gets a haircut. That’s his arc.

There’s the vague character growth that Thor doesn’t let Loki trick him again, again, again, so I can give him that. I don’t believe this is the context it needed to happen in, or that Thor’s way of exposing Loki at the start would have been too little to that thread, but okay. That continued.

Meanwhile, Loki has absolutely become the Game of Thrones Littlefinger of this universe. He instills chaos in his own plans for chaos’s sake (that is his thing), and how convenient that it lines up to plot demands. Thor kind of calls out this character stagnation to him, ironically ignoring his own:

“Oh, dear brother, you’re becoming predictable. I trust you, you betray me. Round and round in circles we go. See, Loki, life is about… It’s about growth. It’s about change. But you seem to just wanna stay the same. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’ll always be the God of Mischief, but you could be more.”

So I guess it’s a sign of growth that Loki does go back and try to save Asgard with Thor. Even in the very end, Thor mentions how he believes Loki’s presence to be a trick, but Loki is actually there, physically. Maybe he’s…“not so bad.”

Hero shot!

It’s just, this guy’s scripting has been all over the place, and there’s no particular reason to believe his decision is the sign of any lasting change. He teamed up with the prisoners to get out of Sakaar in what’s most easily read as self-preservation, and even when he returned to Asgard, he was calling himself the “savior” and trying to milk his contribution. Maybe, just maybe Loki grew in this movie for the sole reason that he got sad when Thor called him the “God of Mischief.” Because that’s all that would have spurred this. Not the stakes of the situation, not Loki’s own guilt over Odin’s death, and not even Loki wishing he could rectify his poor public image on Asgard. Just, his brother is very disappointed in him.

Yeah, that could be an arc. Though I can’t call it one that’s particularly well-done.

The one that is executed best is probably Valkyrie’s. She’s hiding from her past, clearly both traumatized and guilty over how the fight with Hela turned out. It’s strongly implied someone took a mortal wound for her (no clue how she got away herself), and she’s now got this despicable job where she’s miserable and drinking herself into a stupor. Thor himself showing up clearly affects her and makes her squirm, but it’s not until Loki forces her to relive that trauma that she has a full change of heart.

“Look, I’ve spent years in a haze, trying to forget my past. Sakaar seemed like the best place to drink and forget, and to die one day.

…But I don’t wanna forget. I can’t turn away anymore, so if I’m gonna die, well, it may as well be driving my sword through the heart of that murderous hag.”

This tracks just fine. Loki’s memory home video powers are convenient, but definitely within the framework, and it makes sense that thinking back to that could instill some sense of duty, or passion in her, especially given that Thor is literally trying to get back to Asgard to save it.

The only issue with this is that it’s completely disconnected from the thematic thrust. This was actually pointed out to me as an anonymous message on social media (I may have been ranting), but doesn’t her arc do the opposite of what this movie purports to do with Asgard and its legacy? She’s been a slaver for years, which isn’t even given the space to be hand-waved—it’s just not addressed. Then she gets all back in touch with being a Valkyrie, and re-donning that great Asgardian armor, and having a resurgence of love for her home where she can talk about how much she hates the prophecy about its destruction and everything.

This is fine in its own right, but didn’t we just find out Asgard has been an imperialist superpower? It’s good that someone with clear PTSD is trying to sort through her trauma and reclaim a sense of identity that she’s tried to dismiss for years, but it simply doesn’t fit with what we learned about Odin, which is what calls forth this entire conflict. If it were some more abstract external threat to Asgard, then sure a kind of “I’ll fight until it’s rubble” attitude would have some impact. But Asgard was built on a whole lot of blood and Odin was an active revisionist who covered up artwork depicting that. It’s an odd choice for her, let’s just leave it at that.

I’m trying to think if anyone else grew through the course of this movie. Heimdall stays as prescient and morally upright as ever. Bruce Banner gets de-Hulked, which is important to the MCU I’m sure, but it’s via a recording of someone not in this film, based on a relationship not in this film, so it’s kind of hard to argue there’s an arc here. It’s more that we learn how the Hulk is comfortable spending his free time. And truthfully without having seen Civil War, I can’t tell you whether his sacrificing of Banner to free the Hulk at the end was character growth, or just situational necessity again.

I guess Skurge has a character arc. He goes from being self-preservationist to finally hitting a breaking point with Hela and sacrificing himself for Asgard. Frankly he’s a delight any time he’s on the screen, so even though it’s admittedly thin and formulaic, I’ll give that all the points.

Really, what my main issue comes down to is that it’s blindingly obvious what character these stakes should have instilled growth in, and that’s Odin. Except he’s dead, so he never has to reconcile with anything. Hela has no relationship to Thor or Loki (she doesn’t even know about them), but she does to Odin, and frankly as the dude that imprisoned her, he’s kind of the one that should be going face-to-face in some capacity. What makes a family drama compelling is the fact that the family has a history together, after all.

Now, in Black Panther it was T’Chaka’s crappy decision that sort of “created” Killmonger, a decision that T’Challa hates and feels is wrong at his core, and cannot rest until it is righted. So it was the protagonist’s father’s actions that created the situation with a family member he didn’t know at all. It worked in that movie, so why not here?

Well, probably because Thor didn’t really react to learning that Odin had conquered the other realms. So it just made an already emptyish dynamic between Hela and Thor feel even weaker, since the one thin thread that connected them—Odin and their feelings about him—were only half-explored. Hela felt rejected by Odin and pissed off about that, while Thor felt…not as powerful as him? Happy to quote him?

Maybe I’d have fewer issues if Odin hadn’t just been like, “I’m in Norway now, so that means I’m dying. Bye and have fun with your sister you never knew about!” It’s just that his death was so unceremonious, that the mess of his damn making felt out of the blue and sort of incidental. Then, we cut back and forth from the Goddess of Death taking over Asgard to Thor trying to ignore how big the Hulk’s penis is. Seriously.

And that brings us to our final problem.

That’s not how jokes work

Humor is subjective. Napoleon Dynamite is so hideously unfunny to me that it used to make me angry.

I will say right now that I don’t know if it was the plane flight, I don’t know if it was my mood, or I don’t know if it’s the underlying type of comedy here, but I did not once crack a smile at Jeff Goldblum in this movie. I’ve liked him as a comedian before, and I’m sure I will again. I did not like him here.

I also did not enjoy Valkyrie’s played-for-laughs alcoholism. That trope is pretty grating to me at this point, and even though they kind of painted it as tragic, they also…didn’t. She was quirky and fun because she could down a bottle before Thor finished talking, and when Thor actually suggested drinking heavily might be bad for her, we were supposed to laugh at her telling him she wasn’t going to stop. It’s nothing against Tessa Thompson’s performance, who frankly stole every scene she was in. But that’s just how I reacted to the character.

I did massively like Taika Waititi as Korg, Karl Urban’s Skurge was wonderful (especially opposite to Kate Blanchett chewing the scenery), and there were times that Thor and the Hulk’s back and forths were amusing. So it’s not like I found nothing funny here. But to be sure, a lot of the comedic thrust didn’t land for me, and if it had, maybe I’d have a very different reaction to this film.

That said, the humor of this movie is really the best praise I hear about it. I’m just not entirely sure why that’s a good thing. I’m all for a boisterous, fun Thor romp, but if that’s what this was supposed to be, then why the hell even introduce Odin’s imperialism in it? Why have Thor’s best friends murdered here?

Levity can be powerful in dramas. There were jokes in Black Panther, not to beat this already dead horse, but it didn’t make for a full tonal clash. When M’Baku said his people are vegetarian, it was a great way to cut the tension of the moment and further characterize him. However, we never cut back and forth from Killmonger murdering Andy Serkis to T’Challa doing something ~wacky~. The more jovial scenes, like Shuri’s lab, were before the plot really picked up, and the humor that took place during serious scenes (the car chase, for instance) was sparing.

The stakes of Thor: Ragnarok are literally the destruction of the world. And also the destruction of Asgard’s connection to the other realms. The central conflict is born out of an imperfect, revisionist colonist ruler who is the protagonist’s dad. How are we supposed to be treating this with any kind of seriousness when the own narrative can’t even manage to give as much focus on Asgardians fleeing to their Helm’s Deep as it does to Thor’s haircut?

All the humor (or attempted humor in my case) managed to do was heavily undercut the dramatic tension. Even if I had been in stitches during Sakaar, it wouldn’t have helped me get more engaged with the central conflict. It just might have made my flight go faster. And if the central conflict was not as interesting to the writers as the jokes, then fine, maybe this isn’t the movie for that. But for god’s sake, don’t float that giant imperialism matzo ball if you’re not going to be able to actually do anything with it. Was it just there for color? Odin’s not perfect, ya know…now here’s the Hulk!

Stuff Happens, Don’t Question It!

It’s no secret if you’ve read any of my previous articles that I’m not the best at enjoying fun, colorful action sequences for the sake of fun, colorful action sequences. That is, unless I know it is pure silliness, like with Thor: Dark World. It’s ironic enjoyment, sure, but that doesn’t make it any less real. If I had gone in with that attitude for Thor: Ragnarok, I think I would have liked the ride.

But frankly, that’s not the attitude anyone seems to be holding about this movie. Maybe it was the counterweight to Civil War that the MCU needed, maybe if I had watched it before Black Panther I’d have a more favorable view…maybe it’s that elevated an experience in theaters. For me, I can only see two half-completed scripts stitched together, resulting in a whole that’s weaker than the sum of its parts. It’s fine to celebrate it as a joyous romp for those that felt joy and romped, but I can’t call it a good movie. A good viewing experience maybe, but not a good narrative.

In other words, it’s a Thor movie. Wow. I guess maybe my expectations had been too high.


Images courtesy of Marvel

Continue Reading

Analysis

Fandom Meme Disease, and What Should We Do With It?

Angelina

Published

on

A fandom meme disease is this thing that happens when creators absorb fandom-born memes and integrate them into their work.

(And so, first things first: sorry that for the duration of this article I’ll use “meme” as if this were a legit term.  It is controversial to say the least, but it is shorter to say “meme” than “any idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”.)

I’m not implying that the creators who do this are somehow bad, or that fandom is somehow bad. Moreover, I don’t believe that fandom-creator interaction is bad. What is bad, then? Let me explain how I see it.

Fandom Meme Creation

Any given fandom is, in my opinion, born when some people contact any given media and start using it as a source of inspiration. Not just a purely artistic inspiration; people may be inspired to write meta-analysis, or to engage in discussions, or to wage a flame war against opponents. All this is normal human reaction on something inspirational. Even flame wars are somewhat natural (still wicked, though; human nature can be wicked, too).

And while acting on their inspiration, people deconstruct the original source and use its metaphorical bricks to build their own work, be it a meta, a fic or an art. The result may be perfectly in line with the original, but usually it is not. It resembles the original, that’s true—but as it went through processing in one’s creative imagination it came out a bit different. Thus, fandom meme is born.

There are millions of those floating on the Internet’s vast expanses. Some of them are soon forgotten even by those who first gave life to them. Some are more resilient than others, so they spread and multiply their kind. Those memes become known as fanon. Other fandom memes stay in this gray area between a headcanon and “this weird idea I share with some friends”. Still, all those are memes.

But I digress.

 How The Internet Changed Things

Nowadays the creators have a unique opportunity to exchange views with the fandom. Not that it was not possible before; the letters existed, the fanmail was a really important thing, and the conventions started long before the advent of Internet, but still the scale was different.
What’s more important, the speed was different.
Back then the creator had to wait for quite a time to get a sufficient amount of feedback from, well, fandom. Now a minute past the release there is a ton of articles, metas, fanart, fanfiction—etc. There is fanart and fanfiction about characters who are announced only/had a brief screen moment in trailers or even teasers. There are metas about them, too!

And all this is actually great. But any great thing has a flip side.

In this case, it is this little fact that on average, an interested person is much more exposed to fandom memes than to canon memes. Because the original version is a meme, too—but a meme that is spread and multiplied on much lower rate than fandom memes are. And the thing with memes is, more exposure usually means more absorption.

The sad truth is, creators are interested persons, too.

When Creators Absorb Fandom Memes

Basically what happens is, being constantly exposed to very bustling fandom life, the creators not only have an influence on it, but are influenced by it. This influence may be different.

While there are certainly those who treat fandom memes as a discussion point only, they are not the only ones. Some creators consciously decide to follow a fanon as a means of pandering to their fandom. Other creators use their work to basically say “your fanon is wrong, don’t follow it”. And then there are some creators who genuinely absorb the meme and spread it in good faith. The latter thing is especially typical for multi-author franchises.

Thus it happens that when a next installment is out, it suffers from fandom meme disease.

What Is Not a Fandom Meme Disease?

  • FlanderizationIt shares one notable similarity with fandom meme disease—namely the fact that a character or event becomes increasingly simplified and defined by their/its most obvious trait, and it happens as the franchise or series progresses. But the difference is that the fandom has no part in this creative decision, just some lazy writing. FMD is not a sign of deterioration—it can happen with something that is otherwise pretty good and very much alive and thriving—while Flanderization is usually a red flag signalling that this media is dying.
  • Retcon. It is, again, very similar to FMD in effect (something or someone is no more the one it once was) and timing (also occurs with some new installment), but the key difference is, retcon acknowledges that something has in fact changed, it just asks us to pretend it hasn’t. FMD doesn’t acknowledge any change and acts as if things were always this way.
  • Any other case of real or perceived OOC. It can be a case of fandom meme disease only if the sudden shift in the original is consistent with the fanon or directly opposes it, but contradicts the earlier version.

Notable Victims

fandom meme disease

Not pictired: a badass warrior who overthrew a whole patriarchal system to learn how to fight

Yeah. I really hate what the otherwise pretty good Legend of Korra did with Katara. A decent half of her personality suddenly disappeared in the thin air, leaving us with the fanon Mommy Healer Katara whose only life goal is to care for her child-husband Aang and bear children for him. Sure, that was a widespread enough idea (and pretty sexist, too), but did the creators forget that they themselves wrote her as very proactive and never content with staying away from action?

Not pictured: a traumatised child-soldier, deeply anxious about her underperformance in all things “feminine”, haunted by things she had to do yet always caring and empathetic towards others

I had a tough time picking a poster person for the very…peculiar way in which Game of Thrones treats George R. R. Martin’s characters. The problem is, only some of them suffer from FMD; others are rewritten to fit into D&D’s own narrative.

The thing with Arya (and Sansa; and Sandor) is that sometimes it is not hard to point directly towards those fan discussions that were a basis for the creative decisions turning the original character into something very, very different.

If I could pick an event to illustrate the FMD…Game of Thrones would never disappoint! Do you remember that Robert’s Rebellion was built on lies? That’s the most blatant case of FMD I’ve ever met. It is ripped from fanfiction and wishful-thinking style metas and even the idea that Robert’s Rebellion is all about Rhaegar and Lyanna is pure fandom meme!

fandom meme disease

Not pictured: a tormented soul, devoid of all emotion due to being consumed by Dark Side, a sorry creature that is ever a puppet of his masters

See, this one is tricky. FMD mostly tortured Vader back in the old EU, but I think Kieron Gillen’s comics are not free from its fair share of Over Powerful Unstoppable Cool Awesome Guy Vader We All Adore. He has his good moments when he actually catches the other part of being a Sith, but mostly it is right here. This Vader is really cool, he is fun to watch, he is wisecracking, he is never truly challenged and never has to doubt himself. He beat the ancient dark Jedi without breaking a sweat, for good’s sake. That’s really too much.

The ultimate Manly Man of the franchise—though of course Rogue One gave us an even more blatant example of purest fanon possible on big screen.

And There Are More

I didn’t want to use Hermione Granger from Cursed Child because it may cause misunderstanding, but what about the movies? What about Princess Leia and her sorry fate throughout the old EU? What about loads of characters I don’t know, but you certainly do?

And what about sexism that is suspiciously ever present in any case of fandom meme disease?

Girls and women are pigeonholed by their tomboyish/feminine attitude, with tomboys stripped off all feminine traits, while girly girls devoid of all courage, right to be angry and right to be rational, as those things are associated with masculinity.

All the while “cool” male characters are carefully stripped off any sign of human nature, emotion or just simply weakness. Tell me it happens by pure chance.

So… What Can We Do?

We can talk about it. Raise awareness. Point out the bad tendency of sexist fanons to creep on big screen and on book and comic book pages.

If this exists, it can be beaten, after all.


Images courtesy of HBO, Viacom, Disney

Continue Reading

Gaming

Keeping Kosher In Monster Hunter World

David

Published

on

By

Monster Hunter World is the best selling game in its series, with over 7.5 million units shipped. There are many reasons for this: The game is more accessible for new players, it’s not just on a handheld console anymore, there was actually some marketing push for this game…the list goes on.

However, I personally think one of the reasons the game is so popular is its food eating cutscenes. Before you go on a hunt, you can eat a meal at a canteen that gives you buffs. You’re also treated to an adorable and very tasty looking cutscene of the Palicoes (a cat like race that helps you hunt monsters) making your meal. The details are so lavish and the end product looks so good I couldn’t help thinking about it off and on for weeks. And one question that kept recurring was, “Would any of this food be Kosher?”

Kosher foods, for those of you who may not know, are foods that conform to the Jewish kashrut (dietary law). The word treif describes any food that does not abide by this law. Determining what foods are Kosher or not can get complicated since different groups of animals have different rules. At its most basic though, there are three groups of animals: land, flying, and fish (invertebrates as a rule are treif). Conveniently enough, most monsters in Monster Hunter World could fit under the same categories. We’ll go through each category and examine a few monsters from the game to decide if any (or all) of them can be Kosher.

Before we begin though, I’d like to give major props to one of our editors, Gretchen. Before I wrote this article, I knew next to nothing about what makes a food Kosher or not. Gretchen not only educated me, but did a lot of the heavy lifting, and for that I am grateful.

By Land

The first monster up for discussion is called Uragaan. Uragaan lives mostly in volcanic regions and is identifiable its large chin, its shiny, lustrous golden hide, and the spikes along its back. It consumes mostly bedrock and those large spikes on its back are actually crystals. It produces a sticky, tar like substance on its stomach, which it uses to attach explosive rocks to itself as a means of defense. If someone were to knock down or kill Uragaan, they’d be able to mine the vast mineral wealth on it’s back…but they wouldn’t be able to eat it, as Uragaan isn’t Kosher.

Not Kosher

In order for a land animal to be Kosher, it has to meet three basic requirements. First, it can not be a carnivore or a scavenger. It can not eat meat. Second, it must have a split hoof. Horses aren’t Kosher, but animals like cattle and sheep are. Finally, the animal must chew its cud. Pigs have split hooves, but they don’t chew their cud and thus are not Kosher. Uragaan meets the first rule, but fails with the second and third. As such, Uragaan can never be Kosher.

The next monster up is Kirin. Kirin resembles a unicorn or (more accurately) a Chinese Qilin. It has a single large horn growing out of its head, with a white mane and tail that seem to stand on end from static electricity. It’s body appears to have fur, but those actually are scales. Kirin also seems to crackle with electricity as it walks. Looking at the picture we can see clearly that it has a split hoof. The game doesn’t tell us what it eats or if it chews its cud, but if we extrapolate what it looks like and compare to say, an antelope or a deer (both of which are Kosher) we can safely assume that Kirin is Kosher as well, right? Wrong.

Also Not Kosher

Kirin fails to be Kosher not by the quality of the animal, but by the quality of its behavior. You see, Kirin belongs to a group of monsters called Elder Dragons and these monsters, in addition to being tougher the ordinary monsters, are immune to traps and tranqs unlike other monsters. This presents a problem, as in order for meat be Kosher, the butchering must happen in one swift action using a sharp knife. Shooting the creature with an automatic repeating crossbow is not the way to do it. Kirin, unfortunately, is not Kosher for this reason.

We come now to the last land based monster in this article: The Kelbi. Kelbi, unlike the monsters mentioned thus far, are not aggressive. They are small, and the males are usually green in color while the females and juveniles are blue. Males also have large, prominent horns while female horns are smaller. In-game, Kelbi horns are medicinal, and players make potions out of them. I’m also happy to report that Kelbi might be our first (possibly) Kosher monster.

Kosher! (maybe)

Like Kirin, Kelbi has a split hoof. We also know that Kelbi are herbivores, but it is unknown whether or not Kelbi chew their cud. Extrapolating and comparing them to real world deer and goats though, we can have more confidence that Kelbi are, in fact, Kosher.

By Air

Now we will discuss birds. According to Jewish tradition, animals that fly and are not insects are birds. Thus animals such as bats are ‘birds’ in regards to Kosher rules. The rules for birds themselves are fairly simple. They can’t be predatory or scavengers. This rule immediately rules out the next monster on the list: Rathalos.

Not Kosher

Rathalos is known as the “King of the Sky” and is the male counterpart to Rathian, another flying monster.  Rathalos are bipedal wyverns, primarily red in color, with sharp, poisonous claws that they use to hunt with. In addition to that, they have a flame sac that they use to produce flaming projectiles from, and their long thick tail has a club at the end of it. But as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, no birds of prey can be Kosher.

The next monster on the list is one of the oddest in the game. Pukei-Pukei resembles at first glance a giant chameleon with frog like eyes, wings, and green scales covering its body everywhere except around its wings and neck, where it has feathers. The Pukei-Pukei is an herbivore and it will eat poisonous plants so it can produce a poison to defend itself. Despite all of these peculiar traits, Pukei-Pukei appears to be Kosher.

Kosher! (Surprisingly!)

I was surprised to hear Gretchen tell me this, as I thought there would be no way a monster as weird as Pukei-Pukei could be considered Kosher. But as she laid the case out it began to make more sense. Despite some reptilian traits, Pukei-Pukei has more avian traits, and that classifies it as a creature of the air under the kashrut. As a creature of the air, it has to meat a few specifications. It does not scavenge like a vulture, nor does it hunt like a bird of prey. Thus, Pukei-Pukei meets the requirements.

And By Sea

There aren’t very many sea monsters in Monster Hunter World sadly. Only one of them really seems like it would count. And this one is Jyuratodus. Jyuratodus resembles nothing more than a bipedal coelacanth fish. It has two dorsal fins, two pectoral fins, two pelvic fins, and a long, thick tail that it can use to defend itself. It also covers itself in mud and other ooze, to act as another layer of defense and to possibly keep its gills and scales damp. Fortunately for us, practically the only water based monster in this game is also Kosher.

Kosher, and think of all the sushi.

For a sea animal to be considered Kosher, it must have fins and scales that can be removed. This generally means that the stereotypical fish is allowed, but not animals such as eel, lobster, squid or crab. Jyuratodus, despite its size and aggression does have fins and scales and would be Kosher.

The Hunt Goes On…

So what are we left with from this list? Two monsters that could be considered Kosher, three that are not, and one that might be, if it chews cud. And this is only a small sample of the monsters in the game. Not only that, but Capcom has plans to release more monsters as free DLC over the upcoming months. When the PC version of the game is out, I might revisit this article and expand on it. Until then though, happy hunting and bon appétit!


Images Courtesy of Capcom

Continue Reading

Trending