The Annapurna stack of nonsense written against the Harry Potter series just grew a inch or so higher with this lamebrained piece in The Awl by Maria Bustillos, whose attempts to turn author J.K. Rowling into a limousine liberal and secret spokeswoman for class privilege are the literary equivalent of a barroom drunk swinging at the air, imaging he’s decking everyone in the house. This, in Bustillos’ mind, is the haymaker:
. . . it is a horrible thing to be teaching children, that you have to be “chosen”; that the highest places in this world are gained by celestial fiat, rather than by working out how to get there yourself and then busting tail until you succeed. If the “special” and “chosen” and “gifted” automatically receive all the honors there are, then what would be the point of working hard to achieve anything? So it is really terrible to hear these twelve-year-old kids so smitten with the idea that fulfillment would literally fly to them out of the sky, via owl.
Rowling is a self-avowed liberal who gave a million pounds to the Labour Party in 2008, but her values are Tory through and through. In her books it is the hoary old white guys who run everything; women are popped in here and there for liberal flavor. The tokenism is unbelievable.
Bustillos is referring to the fact that Harry’s knack for surviving encounters with Voldemort and the Death Eaters have fellow witches and wizards calling him The Chosen One, to the hero’s great embarrassment. Even the laziest reader is aware that the title has an ironic twist: Harry was literally chosen by Voldemort, who in attempting to murder the infant Harry created his own nemesis. But Bustillos, like that drunk, doesn’t let a little thing like running into a wall keep her from throwing more punches.
It takes a real effort of will to ignore the fact that the worst characters in Rowling’s universe deem themselves elevated solely by virtue of their pure wizarding pedigrees, or that Harry and his friends are expected to work on and hone their innate gifts, that Hermione Granger achieves her skills through relentless work and study, and that the wizards who advocate co-existence and even admiration for the Muggle world are the heroes of the series. Midway through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, both book and film, the statue at the entrance of the Ministry of Magic is changed to show the great mass of lower-borns crushed to support the weight of the privileged few — a dandy visualization of the self-image of our would-be Galtian overlords. If Rowling is to knocked for anything, it’s missing the trick of showing a Ministry of Finance where investment bank wizards conjure non-existent assets that evaporate once the fee has been paid, with Gringotts demanding bailout gold because in the wizarding world, it’s definitely too big to fail.
It’s pretty hard to take someone seriously who quotes Ann Althouse as anything but the butt of a joke, but Bustillos may soon be angling for a perch in the online winger aviary. She even takes a page from Dinesh D’Souza by revealing a little-known biographical datum that serves (jab! swing!) as the key to Rowling’s character:
Rowling named her first child after Jessica Mitford, the lefty Mitford sister (as opposed to the Nazi-sympathizing ones). Rowling often says she read Mitford’s Hons and Rebels at age fourteen, and that it affected her profoundly; this book in fact provides a perfect illustration of Rowling’s political disconnect, because Jessica Mitford was the daughter of the second Baron Redesdale, a “terrific Hon,” as the Mitfords would have said. She was a super-blue-blood with rebelliously liberal views. It’s exactly this privileged, elitist compassion-from-on-high that Rowling admires and has consistently depicted in the Potter books. But the liberal values, the openmindedness, the diversity, are all fake.
Wow! So Rowling’s another one of those Kenyan anticolonialists we’ve been hearing so much about!
There are other aspects of the article that would benefit from quality time with a mop and bucket, but I’ve already given the thing more time than it deserves. Read it if you like, but bear in mind that you’ll end up learning very very little about J.K. Rowling, and more than anyone with a life needs to know about Maria Bustillos.