The Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 12-13: The Pink-Clad Kitten-loving Devil Incarnate

After Gretchen’s delightful Christmas at Hogwarts post, we move on to some crazy-ass chapters. Christmas is over, guys. It’s December 27th. Shit is getting real. It is time for frustration, brainwashing, and teen angst. First off, let’s establish where I stand on “Moody Teen Harry”: I love him. He is so real. And guess what? You were a whiny shithead with emotional issues when you were a teenager too. Trust me, you were. Plus, you had way less pressure put on you than Harry does. At least you didn’t have an entire civilization simultaneously berating you and needing you to save their lives. Perhaps we all hate our teen selves a little, but I mostly feel sorry for mine. I still relate to her more than I probably should at 30 years old, but there you have it.

Dolores Umbridge. I hate that chick. We all do. If you don’t, you might have been reading the wrong book. I hate her more than I hate Voldemort. Why? Because we go along, thinking the Ministry of Magic are the good guys and then, all of a sudden, those who are supposed to have our best interests at heart turn into the bad guys and start brainwashing everyone because they are wizard-supremacist cowards. Remember who the enemy is, people. This, my friends, is the face of pure evil:

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Here we go. Hold on to your butts.

CHAPTER TWELVE: PROFESSOR UMBRIDGE

Ugh

Ugh

Oh, Seamus. One of the Ministry’s brainwashing victims. Way to stand by your friends, dude. Since when to teenagers actually listen to their parents and stay away from friends they deem a bad influence? The teen years: you’re doin’ it wrong. Meanwhile, in the girls’ dormitory, Hermione has been telling off Lavender Brown as well. She probably should have slapped her. Oh wait, I might be projecting things onto Lavender from Book 6. They are, however, eclipsed by Percy’s incredible assholishness, but that’s a story for another chapter.

After Seamus runs out of the dorm like a little twit, Hermione finds the first advertisement for victims testing subjects for Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. She immediately lets the power of being a prefect go to her head and rips the poster down, declaring that she and Ron need to lecture his older brothers, an opportunity he, of course, jumps at immediately. Oh wait. The other thing.

Hermione has better ideas throughout this chapter. She is full of the knowledge, as per usual, declaring the importance of “inter-House unity” and reading the Prophet because “it’s best to know what the enemy are saying.” Plus, she schools Ron about interfering in Harry’s potential love life. Damn. That girl is so SMART. And Reasonable. She’s kind of like Jiminy Cricket but more badass.

Cho comes by without her gang of gigglers, but Harry manages to make her sad about Cedric and Ron does that thing extreme sports fans do where he accuses her of being a Tornados bandwaggoner. So, that’s another successful encounter.

tumblr_inline_mnd9a0QyZ21qz4rgpIn this chapter, the gang goes to all of their more unfortunate classes. Nothing particularly noteworthy happens until they get to ... dun dun dun… Defense Against the Dark Arts. Like all things carefully regimented by the government, this class has been transformed into something incredibly boring, strict, and ultimately unhelpful. The lesson plan now consists of reading chapters and copying simple notes. They really needed a teacher for that. During this scintillating lesson, Umbridge makes plain the Ministry’s position on Voldy. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they are going to plant their heads firmly in the sand, ostrich style, and hope that nothing bad happens. Not only that, but they are going to vehemently deny that there is any danger, actively working against the safety of the wizard population. Excellent plan.

Moody Teen Harry is understandably angry about this. He fires back at Umbridge and gets sent to McGonagall’s office for his trouble. As punishment, McG gives him a cookie and tells him to keep his head down and not to draw more wrath from the Ministry. Duh, Harry. Listen to Hermione, would you? She’s your Jiminy! Come to think of it, Pinocchio didn’t really listen to his…

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: DETENTION WITH DOLORES (AKA THE SHIT GETS REAL)

 Hermione yells at Fred and George, who are testing their Skiving Snackboxes on some gullible first years. This time, it’s the c13--detention-with-dolores
Fainting Fancies, which, if you think about it, could be incredibly dangerous. Ron chickens out and opts not to scold his brothers, but Hermione uses the only weapon she has in her arsenal, and threatens to write to Mrs. Weasley. This temporarily stops their exploits. For about a day, anyway. After she finishes with them, she goes back to knitting wooly bladders to set the house elves free. This is actually the first time I get to talk about S.P.E.W. in a post! I think that Hermione’s heart is absolutely in the right place and her indignant stance against slavery is honorable, but she goes about everything having to do with S.P.E.W. in precisely the wrong manner. First off, tricking house elves into freedom? I think that’s actually pretty despicable if you think about it. It is the height of hubris to believe that you know what is best for someone else, and even more so to foist it upon them without their consent. Any successful effort to free the house elves would need to take place at a grassroots level for it to work. Occasionally we hear Hermione lecture a house elf about freedom, but she never actually listens to them. What do the house elves want, Hermione? Anyway, that’s my sidenote on S.P.E.W.
It’s good class, bad people day, where they have all of their more interesting classes, but they mostly have them with the Slytherins and various brainwashed people. Harry is fairly fed up with it all by the end, but there is this delightful moment where Luna walks up to him and declares that she believes him, without preamble or even greeting.
I believe He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back, and I believe you fought him and escaped from him.
Oh Luna, you are the coolest. Even after she diverged into talking about the Blibbering Humdinger and the Crumple-Horned Snorkack, at which Hermione promptly turned up her nose. Hermione has a surprisingly closed mind and imagination for someone who received a letter at the age of eleven telling her that not only did witches exist, but that she was one of them.
Later, Angelina storms up to Harry, channeling Oliver Wood, and yells at him for getting detention. Apparently, being Quidditch captain makes you nutty.
Well, you can just go straight to her and ask her to let you off on Friday… and I don’t care how you do it, tell her You-Know-Who’s a figment of your imagination if you like, just make sure you’re there!
Of course, he can’t do that. I’m surprised he even tried. And now, the moment we have all been dreading. Detention with Dolores.
tumblr_liwbndw5Sb1qa70c7o1_500

This gif makes me incredibly dizzy if I watch it too many times.

She sits him down in a chair and tells him to do lines with her “special quill” and no ink. Turns out, the words “I must not tell lies” CUT THEMSELVES INTO THE BACK OF HIS HAND WHILE HE WRITES THEM OVER AND OVER IN HIS OWN BLOOD. I’m sure the Geneva Conventions outlawed that shit. That is some incredibly disturbing punishment. Very brainwashy and torturous. This is another way in which Harry Potter reminds me of Matilda. Umbridge is Miss Trunchbull, doling out punishments so awful, no parent would actually believe them. She is so bad, Harry theorizes she is being controlled by Voldemort. Nope. Just a psychotic bureaucrat. In between torture sessions, we get the feeling Harry just sort of escapes into making up his homework assignments and distances himself from his friends. The “I must not tell lies” lines are so disturbing that he can’t bring himself to even tell them about it. That shit cuts deep.

And on that note, we end this disturbing set of chapters, which set things up quite well for what’s to come. These mark a distinct shift in the tone of HP. It’s not all magic and Quidditch now, people. Now, it’s politics and torture. And it may just be life and death.

27 thoughts on “The Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 12-13: The Pink-Clad Kitten-loving Devil Incarnate

  1. Kevin O'Shea says:

    I just have to repeat what I said earlier; they may not have cast someone who -looks- like Umbridge, but she captures the -spirit- so perfectly that it’s even better. Her Umbridgeosity is through the roof.

  2. Dan says:

    UMBRIDGE!!!!!

    Never have I wanted to set a fictional character on fire as much as her. Never.

    Why do we hate Umbridge more than Voldemort? Simple: Dolores Umbridge is the face of real evil. We’re probably never going to come face to face with a noseless, spider-fingered albino in a cemetery. But, we know what small-minded, corrupt, bureaucratic tyranny looks like. We know what it looks like when scared people in positions of power use the law to make the things that frighten them go away. That’s why Umbridge makes me so angry.

  3. ladysugarquill says:

    You were a whiny shithead with emotional issues when you were a teenager too.

    Actually, I wasn’t. And neither was any of my friends. The “whiny teenager” in an invention of the media, and the adults who simply don’t want to understand teenagers, and prefer to lump their very real issues into “teenage moodyness”.

    And in fact, I have a problem with the idea that Harry here is “moody!Teen!Harry”.

    Harry is not moody, HE’S SUFFERING FROM PTSD.

    If you remember, he was kidnapped, tortured, witnessed a murder, was almost killed himself, and had to fight his way back holding the corpse of another teen. And if you check the symptoms, they match eerily.

    Also, every adult in his life, and most of the other children, were being complete idiots. That never helps.

    • Jen says:

      Good for you? Harry might have been PTSD’d, but I relate to general teen angst. Not like a teen in a sitcom, but I felt a lot of empathy for Harry’s general attitude toward his friends. I felt upset and misunderstood a lot as a teen. I don’t think I had PTSD, either.

      My classification of Harry as a moody teen is reactionary to everyone I have heard complain about his attitude in this book. I think it’s actually totally called for because of everything he has gone through. I am defending against this “moody teen” box people put him in.

      I think I agree with you, but you didn’t understand what I was saying. I’m basically just inclined to be annoyed with this comment and the way it is SHOUTING AT ME.

  4. Kat says:

    First off, tricking house elves into freedom? I think that’s actually pretty despicable if you think about it. It is the height of hubris to believe that you know what is best for someone else, and even more so to foist it upon them without their consent.

    I totally agree! Hermione, your white privilege is showing.

    • Jen says:

      Totally, and the concept of Hermione thinking up SPEW feels very real. As much as I would like to think I wouldn’t have joined SPEW at her age, I might have. I definitely didn’t have the education or perspective that I do now.

  5. Valerie Anne says:

    Luna is so wonderful. I also loved how Harry wasn’t sure if it was helpful or not that Luna believed him.

  6. Ashley says:

    This is it, people. The chapter responsible for me throwing a book across a room. After Harry’s detention, I stood up, threw the book (not very far, I’ll admit, it’s heavy) and screamed at Umbridge that she was a bitch. I do believe that was the very first time I ever used that word.

    • Dan says:

      This is the only book I have ever thrown in anger (there is one that I threw in disgust). It is also the only book I have ever yelled at, loudly, while threatening it with violent, physical harm.

    • Jen says:

      I threw it too! Also, I read slightly faster than my then-boyfriend, now-husband, and I think my exclamations of shock and dismay were annoying him as we read this in the same room after the midnight party.

  7. Jennie says:

    You know, it doesn’t matter how many times I read this book, Umbridge just gives me the flesh-crawlies. She is absolutely terrifying, much moreso than Voldemort, because you know what to expect with Voldemort. Who would have expected this detention-torture??? WHAT THE EVERLOVING FUCK, ROWLING?

    • Jen says:

      I was really excited to get this chapter, but when I got to the torture part, I could only yell helplessly about the injustice of it all. What is there to say other than What. The. Fuck.???

  8. Susan Khalil says:

    Umbridge is perhaps the most evil character I’ve had the misfortune to read. She compares and maybe even surpasses Joffrey, and that is saying something. The character was perfectly cast in the movie and I now cannot think of Umbridge without thinking of the actor who plays her. Imelda Staunton owned that role, like Alan Rickman’s Snape. For me, one goes with the other.

  9. Reading about Harry’s detention punishment makes my hands physically ache and tingle. I mean, it is both cruel AND unusual punishment.

    • Jen says:

      Totally. I want to see what the wizarding laws have to say about that. Also, where did she get that quill? Sounds like dark magic to me.

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