Transcript – Episode 89

[Show music begins]

Eric Scull: This is Episode 89 of Alohomora! for June 21, 2014.

[Show music continues]

Eric: Hello, everybody, and welcome to Alohomora!, Episode 89. This episode is being released on the 11th anniversary of Order of the Phoenix. Hello!

Rosie Morris: How very appropriate.

Michael Harle: Perfect.

Eric: Super, super cool. And it’s the… well, we’ll get on with that. I am Eric Scull.

Michael: I am a slightly groggy and still pajama-clad Michael Harle.

Rosie: I am Rosie Morris, who has already finished work for the day.

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Rosie: And I am going to introduce my guest, who is another Brit, so fellow afternoon-dweller, and this is Tallie Medalyer.

Tallie Medalyer: Hello!

Rosie: Do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?

Tallie: I’m from London. I am a huge Harry Potter fan, obviously. That’s why I’m here. [laughs]

[Eric and Rosie laugh]

Tallie: And I am a Slyther-puff. I got Sorted twice and the first time, Hufflepuff and the second time, Slytherin. So yeah.

Rosie: Very good.

Michael: Oh, that’s awesome.

Eric: Slyther-puff.

Rosie: We are a very Hufflepuff heavy episode today, aren’t we?

[Eric laughs]

Rosie: All of us have got Hufflepuff leanings.

Michael: Yeah, well…

Eric: Yes.

Michael: … and listeners, you can’t see it, but Tallie totally looks like Tonks.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: From what we can tell. So…

Tallie: I’m so glad you guys said that.

[Everyone laughs]

Tallie: I’m just honored. [laughs]

Michael: And you also said Lupin is one of your favorite characters, as well?

Tallie: He is.

Michael: Oh, it’s perfect! It all just lines up so well. [laughs]

Eric: [laughs] Yeah, guys I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since this book that we’ll be talking about today and every day for the next year…

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Eric: … has debuted.

Rosie: Pretty crazy.

Eric: It seems like yesterday, right?

Rosie: Mhm.

Michael: Yeah.

Rosie: I remember going to the actual midnight opening of this one. I think this was the first one that I went to a midnight opening of. And for it to be eleven years ago is just quite scary. [laughs]

Michael: Yeah. This was my second midnight because Goblet was my first. But Goblet I just went with my mom because…

Rosie: Yeah. [laughs]

Michael: [laughs] … that was still early Harry Potter days for me. But yeah, for Order I went with a group of friends to a very tiny bookstore.

Rosie: The best ones are always tiny.

Michael: They are. [laughs]

Rosie: But, of course, before we start our discussion of the book, we need to remind you guys to read Chapter 12 which this week is “Professor Umbridge.”

Eric: Before we do that we are going to respond and discuss some comments that we have from our previous week’s discussion which was Chapter 11: “The Sorting Hat’s New Song.” Okay, we have a very great comment here to start this off from Erin White, who really just covers a lot of the things that we talked about and offers some really great insight. So Erin’s comment is,

“The original purpose of Sorting seems to have been to see to it that the four founders were equally represented in the student body. Sorting also serves the purpose of dividing the school into teams for Quidditch. However, Sorting is not unique to the wizarding world. Even Muggle students are ‘Sorted’ in a variety of ways when we are in school. Chiefly, we are sorted by our abilities. There are honors classes, and there are normal classes. There are teams, with people who are better at baseball than football, and people who haven’t any athletic ability at all. We are sorted in choir as sopranos, altos, tenors, or basses. In college, people tend to self-sort by their interests – by electing to become chemistry majors vs. art majors, or by pledging for different sororities and fraternities. I’m sure people closer to their school years than I am can come up with other ways in which we are sorted in school, either by the administration or by our own choices.

The Sorting Hat (who happens to be my favorite character in the world of Harry Potter) seems to place some emphasis on both ability and self-selection, but also considers personality factors. We Muggles can use personality to self-sort for the purposes of forming groups of friends. The Sorting Hat seems to be making this decision for the students, at least initially. It’s natural to become closer with people in your house than outside your house, because you are with them more. There is that point each night when no one is allowed to wander the castle, so they have to say cooped up in their common rooms and dormitories with one another. Houses seem to spend more time together, isolated from other houses, and have more time to bond.

Hogsmeade weekends, the DA, and other clubs (wizard chess, anyone?) afford opportunities to do some inter-house socialization, but I think the DA actually gave a better opportunity. Presumably, the official school clubs and Hogsmeade excursions are in some way supervised or attended by adults, whereas the students in the DA have the opportunity to interact and bond without the influence of the school administration. The DA was probably a pretty unique experience in the history of Hogwarts, and this group probably share[s] an inter-house bond that has not been experienced before.

I’m curious about the question of switching houses (like Muggles can switch majors), so I’m hoping to see that addressed on Pottermore sometime. I’m also curious about other things house-related. I’m wondering what happens when there is a year with a bumper crop of, say, Hufflepuffs, but it’s a lean year for Slytherin? Do we have lopsided houses? Do some people just not get their letters that year? Does the Sorting Hat compensate, making sure to balance the house assignments? Or does the wizarding world just not ever produce a year with house-specific bumper crops?”

Michael: Whew.

Eric: Wow. That’s a lot of stuff.

Rosie: I think that wins the award for the longest comment ever. [laughs]

[Michael laughs]

Eric: I wouldn’t have included it if I didn’t think that it was absolutely brilliant.

Michael: No…

Rosie: It was brilliant.

Michael: … it covered pretty much everything that was discussed about sorting last week. I think the big question at the end, of course, about switching houses, I know that was a big question for you guys last week and that is a… I’m thinking, based on things that are said throughout the series, that it’s likely that that is not allowed.

Eric: Right.

Michael: Especially because even when Harry approaches the hat and is trying to look for reassurance that he should have stayed in Gryffindor, and the hat jabs at him that he would have done well in Slytherin. The hat’s not like, [as the Sorting Hat] “I can re-sort you right now if you’d like.”

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Eric: Yeah. [laughs] “Harry, Harry, bring your friends, come. We’ll change it. We’ll make it right.”

[Rosie laughs]

Eric: Yeah, no. I agree with that and for the record, the question – which was asked by Micah on last week’s episode – was tweeted to J.K. Rowling.

[Michael laughs]

Eric: And retweeted by some hundred or so people. So J.K. Rowling, who is now on Twitter daily…

[Rosie laughs]

Eric: … responding to fans. I never thought I’d say that. That’s just the most …

[Michael laughs]

Eric: … coolest thing ever.

Rosie: It is brilliant.

Eric: She has not yet answered, though. So…

Michael: Well…

Rosie: So keep retweeting it. So we’ll get it up there.

[Eric and Rosie laugh]

Michael: Yeah, because she answered that one random question about the Hufflepuff hourglass. So…

Rosie: Which was brilliant.

Michael: Which was great.

Eric: Diamonds, right?

Tallie: Yesterday she answered one about Voldemort’s sex life. Which was… [laughs]

Eric: Oh. I must have missed that one.

Michael: Was that yesterday?

Tallie: Yeah. She basically just responded that even the Dark Lord deserves to have a certain amount of privacy.

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Eric: Wow.

Michael: Oh, la la.

Eric: No, I agree with that. Well, we’re made of diamonds, people…

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Eric: … so I’m pretty happy about that.

[Michael laughs]

Eric: But yeah, regarding Erin’s comment to other examples of sorting in schools, it is true, I think, that… and it wasn’t stated enough on last week’s episode by me or anybody else – that there really is just a lot of separation for the convenience factor, for a logistical factor as well, in groups.

Michael and Rosie: Mhm.

Eric: And that people do tend to get along with people of the like mind, and if you have something like the Sorting Hat – which is the point I was trying to make – that can see inside your head, he’s actually making that. He’s finding people who you’ll naturally, generally get along with.

Michael: Yeah, no. The Sorting Hat, it’s… I was thinking about a lot of… I don’t know if it’s like this over in the UK, but here in America, a lot of workplaces are pretty obsessed with personality types. We get that a lot when we’re doing job applications and quizzes and things like that. They sort… they do like to figure out people’s personality types by asking super bizarre questions that don’t really apply to real life to get a job.

[Eric and Michael laugh]

Rosie: We get a bit of that but not necessarily as strict as America, I think.

Michael: Hmm.

Rosie: They like to know that they’ll get along with us, but they don’t really care if we’re INFP or whatever.

Eric: Yeah.

Michael: Mhm. Yeah, yeah. And I think over here we definitely care about that. So, in a way, if employers had the Sorting Hat over in America, they’d probably love that.

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Eric: Well, I will say that I’ve never been sorted for a work function before. At our school, which was a public school – I believe private schools have houses, or some boarding schools might for much the same reasons – but I never had houses at school.

Tallie: We have houses.

Eric: Yeah?

Tallie: Well, they’re called “forms,” but they’re basically like houses. It’s just your class. You have tutor with them and stuff.

Rosie: Yeah.

Tallie: But it’s not a big deal like it is at Hogwarts.

Michael: Hmm.

Rosie: I think it does depend on the school as well. I’m sure there are some schools in England where you would definitely stick with your own house. And I’m sure it’s the same in other countries as well.

Tallie: But people can change houses and stuff.

Rosie: Yeah.

Tallie: I know in the movies, one kid changed houses. The kid with the dramatic line in Prisoner of Azkaban.

[Eric laughs]

Tallie: He was a Ravenclaw later on, but…

[Michael and Tallie laugh]

Eric: Yeah. You know what? That’s right. I forgot about that. [laughs]

Michael: How is that house split decided for you guys? Is that just random, as far as you know? Or is there…

Rosie: I think so, yeah. It’s not really designed based on personality or anything, as Hogwarts is.

Michael: Okay.

Rosie: It’s more just easier for the teachers to know how it’s done. In the school that I work in, for instance, they’re split into two year groups – well, not year groups. Two groups based on the language that they learned at school, so whether they’re doing French or German, and then later there’s Spanish as well. So it’s just easier logistically to separate them for time-tabling reasons.

Michael: Yeah.

Eric: Yeah. We didn’t have French in my school. I just feel so very deprived now.


[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Moving on. [laughs] I wanted French but I could never take it. Moving on, we have a comment from Hufflepug.

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Tallie: I love that name.

Eric: It’s a great name.

[Michael laughs]

Tallie: It’s wonderful.

Eric: So Hufflepug has a comment regarding Luna and some of the other discussion on Luna that happened both last week and on the comment thread here. And Luna’s… it says,

“Your post made me think of a book called The Psychology of Harry Potter that discusses Hogwarts’s dismal approach to scientific inquiry in the first chapter, which is actually all I’ve read of it so far since I’ve been knee deep in work. But a great deal of it is on Google Books, and I bet you would like it very much if you haven’t already read it! As for Luna, you make a great point that theses need evidence to be valid. It goes without saying that that’s why Luna’s classmates laughed at her for thinking Nargles and Wrackspurts were real. Her leaps of faith can be a flaw and could cause her to waste a great deal of time, but like SpectacularlyHypothetical said, they are wise in a world that’s ruled by irrational forces. Logic is VERY important, and the fact that Luna uses it in some situations shows that she is able to apply it to her beliefs if she chooses to… but logic can hardly explain the complexity of love, evil, and human nature, things [that] are better observed through an interdisciplinary perspective that includes simple human experience. The thing with Luna is that even if she only proves herself right 5% of the time she has still contributed something that nobody else would have previously considered. I’m not necessarily referring to scientific inquiry here but rather to her more practical proposals like flying on Thestrals or determining people’s thoughts from their expressions. Maybe the argument shouldn’t be whether she’s logical vs. illogical – she has obvious instances of both – but rather whether her tendency to ignore logic is more of a flaw or an asset. I firmly believe that humanity requires many types of intelligence, and Luna is a wonderful example of this. She is the believer and the proposer of ideas, whereas people like Hermione are the ones who use logic and reasoning to test those ideas. You see Luna using logic, and you see Hermione taking leaps of faith (she didn’t HAVE to believe Harry about Voldemort’s return), but if those two types of people work together and use their respective strengths then they can teach each other how to see from a different perspective as well as improve the quality of whatever they’re researching.”

So that, I think, is a very important comment as well.

Michael: Oh yeah, no. Because I think the discussion about Luna stemmed from actually a few weeks ago with her introduction.

Eric: Mhm.

Michael: And I was… When I was leading that discussion on Luna, I was going towards questioning Luna’s role in the Harry Potter series as far as just how… I actually asked everybody “if you ran into Luna in the hallway, do you think you could actually be friends with her?”

Eric: [laughs] Yeah.

Michael: And I asked it because Luna – despite all of her little nuggets of wisdom that she drops every once in a while – she’s severely awkward and in the case of the book, not the movie – and I think this is something we forget about Luna – she is very much at odds with Hermione, who is a character that we love…

Rosie: Yeah.

Michael: … and, as we’re going to see in these next chapters – especially this book – Hermione’s logic just shines in this book. She’s the only one who’s paying attention to anything.

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Michael: So it’s interesting to – at that same point – to introduce somebody like Luna who, as Rowling once said about her beliefs, “ten impossible things before breakfast.”

[Eric and Tallie laugh]

Michael: And just refuses to take in Hermione’s logic.

Rosie: I think she’s also important as a new kind of underdog because by this book, we had Harry, Ron, and Hermione, who were all underdogs in their own way…

Michael: Mhm.

Rosie: … but by this book you’re so used to them that you’re expecting them to win all the time.

Michael: Mhm.

Rosie: So having Luna introduced as a new kind of oddball who needs that extra bit of understanding just adds that new dimension to the kids that are feeling like that when they’re reading it in their own high school lives. If you are a Luna, that’s okay as well. You don’t have to be a Hermione or a Ron or a Harry all the time. You can still be odd and also amazing.

Michael: Yeah.

Eric and Michael: Mhm.

Eric: I think it’s certainly important to have a character like Luna, and – having not known anybody particularly like that in real life besides maybe myself – I think we have Luna in all of us really, our tendency to believe the unbelievable…

Rosie: Mhm.

Eric: … from time to time for whatever reason. But I think it was really important to have that type of character – as you were saying – especially in a book where we’re supposed to be believing what we’re told specifically from the government.

Michael: Mhm.

Eric: But we have our final comment here from thegiantsquid. It’s always nice when thegiantsquid graces us with their presence, leaving comments.

[Michael and Tallie laugh]

Eric: And a little bit creepy.

Michael: I’ve always loved the image of the actual giant squid on a laptop or something just typing comments to us.

Eric: Yeah. It would need a giant…

Tallie: Who knew the Black Lake had Wi-Fi?

Eric: Mmm.

[Eric, Michael, and Rosie laugh]

Eric: It’s the mermaids. He hacks the merpeople’s network.

[Michael, Tallie, and Rosie laugh]

Eric: But anyway, thegiantsquid says, and this is going off a very old discussion on Alohomora!, so I’m sure a lot of listeners will appreciate this,

“Again we see an ugly bad guy in Umbridge. She’s toad-like, squat, has pointed teeth, weird little stubby fingers, and her voice is irritating. I wonder if she was better looking, would everyone have such an immediate negative reaction? Parvati and Lavender probably wouldn’t dislike her so much right away. There is, as has been discussed before with the Slytherins, a tendency for bad guys to be ugly. Tom Riddle of course was handsome, but as he becomes more and more evil he becomes ugly. I know his situation kind of represents a physical show of how choices are what matters (Harry and he are both orphans. Harry makes good decisions and doesn’t turn into a scary snake monsters; Riddle makes bad decisions and becomes ugly to show the internal rot, etc., etc.), but I am really curious about this. What if Umbridge was thirty, slim, beautiful, and gave the same speech?”

Michael: Huh. Entertaining that idea for just a moment because if I went too much into it, I’d have qualms with that. But if we just say, “Okay, yes, Umbridge is slim, thirty and beautiful,” I do have the feeling that maybe some of the younger students at Hogwarts might take more notice of her. They probably wouldn’t actually still hear what she is saying.

Eric: Mmm. [laughs]

Michael: Hermione certainly wouldn’t care either way.

Eric: Right.

Michael: I don’t know, though, that that would necessarily mean she has more… Part of it, I think it’s still the character. If we’re saying still, though, that she has the same exact character traits, I still think there’s something to be said for that. If she’s going to make you write out lines in your own blood… [laughs]

[Tallie laughs]

Eric: Oh yeah, well, I think, too, part of what colors this coming chapter – which is titled “Professor Umbridge” – is, though, these grotesque descriptions, like a fly buzzing around her face or something and she’s got a short wand, which we know means that she’s not very powerful and…

Michael: Mhm.

Eric: It really is a lot of how Harry’s viewing her that colors, I think, very much what the situation is.

Rosie: Yeah. Do you think it would make her even more sinister… Umbridge is a very sinister character in what she does in terms of punishments…

Michael: Mhm.

Rosie: … but it’s okay to hate her because she’s so hateable in so many ways.

Michael: Mhm.

Rosie: If she looked gorgeous and if she looked like she should be a good character…

Michael: Mhm.

Rosie: … and then was as evil, would that make her feel even more dangerous and even more horrific as a character than her looking ugly does?

Michael: Well, the thing that comes to my mind, actually, when I hear this… I don’t know if you guys knew this, but for the Wizard of Oz, when they had first cast it, Gail Sondergaard was cast to play the Wicked Witch of the West, and she was a drop dead gorgeous 30’s beauty, and they wanted her to be beautiful because they were modeling the Wicked Witch after Snow White’s Wicked Queen.

Rosie: Right.

Eric: Mmm.

Michael: So she was actually really beautiful. She had heavy eyelashes, and she was gorgeous. And then somebody on the production team was like, “No, the Witch has to look like the Old Crone from Snow White, not the beautiful Queen.”

Rosie: Hmm.

Michael: So then they did her up all ugly and then she didn’t want to play the role any more.

[Michael, Rosie, and Tallie laugh]

Eric: But…

Tallie: I never knew that.

Michael: Yeah, and so there’s that kind of element there of… I guess what… Rosie, that’s also definitely a valid point, that what kind of evil character do you want to portray? And what’s the first impression – I guess – because – as much as, perhaps, we hate to admit it – first impressions do come from appearances.

Rosie: Mhm.

Michael: But also appearances can be deceiving.

Rosie: Yes.

Eric: And then, again, there’s the example of Rita Skeeter, for instance, who – I’m not quite sure if she’s described as being physically unattractive in the books – but in the movies, she’s Miranda Richardson, who is pretty.

Michael: She’s Miranda Richardson.

[Michael and Tallie laugh]

Eric: Yeah, she’s Miranda Richardson, who is quite pretty, but we do see her, from the get go, ignoring what Harry is saying, and being very forceful, and journalistic, and the fact that she continues…

Michael: Mhm.

Tallie: She has ugly clothes, though, so…

[Eric laughs]

Tallie: Her hats…

Eric: What’s that?

Tallie: I said that her outfits are quite ugly. They’re very garish green, so…

[Eric laughs]

Michael: Yeah, if we’re thinking about the books, it’s funny because she’s not necessarily described as ugly, but Harry notices the more uncomplimentary traits about her. He goes right to her teeth…

Eric: Mhm.

Michael: She has a gold tooth or something, doesn’t she?

[Eric laughs]

Tallie: Yeah.

Michael: And he points out that her fingers are short and stubby.

Tallie: Mhm.

Eric: Again, that’s magic, though.

Tallie: That’s quite ironic, though, because Rita points out the unattractive things of people in her articles, so Harry subconsciously notices the unattractive things about her appearance…

Michael: Mhm. Yeah.

Rosie: Very interesting.

Michael: Mmm.

Eric: And right…

Tallie: … before the better things.

Eric: So my whole attempt at bringing up Rita was to show a character who we still dislike, who is clearly judged for her actions more than her…

[Rosie laughs]

Eric: … appearance…

Michael: Mhm.

Eric: Although, apparently Harry was quite mean in describing her. I hadn’t remembered that.

Michael: The only other person I can think of who – the only two, maybe – who might factor in here are Narcissa and Bellatrix.

Rosie: Yeah.

Michael: Because Narcissa is…

Rosie: Narcissa – I think – is the most interesting one because she’s meant to be very beautiful.

Michael: Yeah.

Rosie: But then she turns out to have good moments as well.

Michael: Sure.

Rosie: Like all she does for Malfoy, for Draco.

Michael: Mhm.

Rosie: So yeah, there are issues with these characters, and being ugly does not always equal being bad, and being bad does not always equal being ugly. But, in terms of children’s books and in terms of making caricatures and the English edition of the Twits, the Roald Dahl characters…

Michael: Yeah.

[Tallie laughs]

Rosie: … where you’ve got these little characters being very ugly, and Umbridge just fits right into that.

Michael: Yeah, definitely. I was going to actually reference that, Rosie, the Roald Dahl things…

Rosie: Yeah.

Michael: … because I know you guys have talked about that before, that that’s the tradition that Rowling is culling from here.

Rosie: Yeah. Definitely.

Michael: And what’s great about – I’ve said many times before with Order – what’s great about this book is that this is really – I think – this is the book in the series where that starts to break down, those caricatures.

Rosie: Mhm.

Michael: And the usual tropes you see in children’s writing, because this, really, is the first book in the series that, almost all the way through, is not necessarily for children any more.

Eric: Mmm.

Rosie: Yeah.

Michael: So I usually see – at libraries and bookstores, especially libraries – that we will file Order of the Phoenix through Deathly Hallows in… We’ll put an extra set of copies in the teen and adult sections. The rest won’t be there, the first four, but [Book] 5 and up will be.

Eric: Mhm.

Tallie: I’m actually writing an essay on that for my GCSCs about why Harry Potter… it’s not just a children’s book, and it has a lot of deeper levels. And so far it’s still a work in project, but everyone who’s read it has been like, “Wow, I had no idea!”

[Eric and Rosie laugh]

Tallie: So I’m enlightening people to J.K. Rowling’s stuff.

Eric: That’s cool man, spreading the word!

Michael: That’s good!

Tallie: Yeah [laughs]

Eric: That’s important, it’s carrying the message. So thank you everybody for those great comments on last week’s general show, and now we’re going to focus on the Podcast Question of the Week from last week, which was all about Umbridge which is going to lead pretty much directly into our chapter this week, but from last week:

“In this chapter, we meet Ministry of Magic Senior Undersecretary to the Minister Dolores Umbridge – who has just been appointed as the new DADA teacher. She gives quite the ‘illuminating’ speech to staff and students alike. What was the speech to accomplish? Whom was she most speaking to? What did she expect to get out of it, if anything?”

So we had some great responses, I wanted to… we got thegiantsquid back here, typing with their tentacles…

[Rosie laughs]

Michael: … and thegiantsquid says,

“Umbridge is awful, so I immediately wanted to attack her for being a selfish jerk, but then I remembered the discussion about her and casting a Patronus. Patronus casting requires purity of heart, and Umbridge genuinely, sincerely, wholeheartedly believes she is doing the right thing. She is addressing the student body to perpetuate the idea of the Ministry being the ultimate, competent authority in these confusing times, and the indirect slights toward the school administration stems from her genuine belief that they are wrong and trying to spread propaganda in the student body. She usurps Dumbledore’s speech as a way of demonstrating the authority of the Ministry over the authority of Hogwarts and Dumbledore, but Dumbledore’s polite reaction almost nullifies this intention. I am sure she hopes that the other professors will rally with her by sticking to the ‘facts’ of the matter and showing that the Ministry is really stepping in and ‘caring’ about the education [at Hogwarts] th[r]ough how she says this is interesting. I noticed on this readthrough that she begins her speech with very positive (though probably revolting-sounding) statements to the students about how they’ll all be friends. I think she sincerely believes this. I think she really believes that her teaching career will be a huge success and that the students will like her for restoring order. After she says this, her voice takes on a ‘dull learned-by-heart sound’ and she makes the textbook speech about Ministry involvement in wizarding education. Why does she sound this way, I wonder? I think Umbridge is much more complex than I’ve previously considered, and I’m interested to learn more about her in this read through and the Alohomora! discussions.”

Well so are we, thegiantsquid, just as much as you are…

[Eric laughs]

Michael: That pretty much covered all the bases, but I wanted to see what you guys thought about this particular comment.

Eric: I’ll definitely be paying a lot more attention to Umbridge as this book progresses. But I think regarding this comment, and her believing what she’s saying, I think that’s very true and I question whether or not that absolves her of some of the… well, her actions, based on her point of view. It’s kind of a tough call because we, of course, love to hate her throughout this whole… no, I don’t even think we love to hate her, we just hate her.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Yeah, so it’s kind of an interesting thought that she believes she’s innocent and even at the very end of this book, which, even though we all know what happens, I don’t really want to say it, we just know that she… everything that she has done throughout the course of this book, and will continue to do, is in some form of best interest for the person of persons that she serves.

Michael: Mhm. Well, and along with that, because that was probably one of the most debated parts of Umbridge’s speech on the main site with this question was, is she really… does she really believe in this purity that she believes everything she is saying? Does she also really believe that she is going to be friends with these kids? Do you guys think she sincerely meant that, or did she… or was she just saying that to get them on her side or… ?

Rosie: There’s nothing in her teaching style which will appeal to children.

[Everyone laughs]

Rosie: I’m just thinking, if she did think she was going to find friends, there would normally be something that would be the hook, that would get kids interested. Maybe just a very select type of kid, like normally you would think you’d get the Hermiones of a class interested if you were trying to force everyone to actually do work.

[Eric laughs]

Rosie: But even Hermione is against Umbridge, and there is so much in her lessons, well, the lessons that we see, that really doesn’t appeal to any kids, so I guess the Inquisitorial Squad is the one that she is aiming towards later on…

Michael: Hmm.

Rosie: … but we’ll get to that, obviously, when that is formed in a few chapters time. But yeah, no friendship.

Eric: And what were you going to say Tallie?

Tallie: I was going to say, firstly, that when it’s this whole “her voice took on a sort of dull tone”…

Michael: Mhm.

Tallie: … the first time I read it, which was years ago, I thought that she was maybe under the Imperius Curse.

Eric: Oh.

Michael: Weird.

Eric: That would’ve been quite the twist.

Rosie: Mhm.

[Eric laughs]

Tallie: Also, I think, with Umbridge saying about friends, it’s sort of like, “I’ll be friendly to you so long as you don’t disobey me.”

Eric: Mhm.

Michael: Yeah.

Tallie: Like how Draco Malfoy is very much in line with how Umbridge wants to run things…

Eric, Michael, and Rosie: Yeah.

Tallie: … and so she favors him and his friends…

Eric, Michael, and Rosie: Mhm.

Tallie: … and hates Harry because he, and Ron, and Hermione, rebel against her.

Michael: Yeah.

Rosie: So it’s less of a chummy-chummy thing, and more of a warning, like…

Tallie: Yeah.

Rosie: … be friends with me or else face my wrath.

Tallie: But of course at the time we don’t realize that because of the way she looks, like all the pink cardigans, and giggles, and yeah.

Eric: Well yeah, and the narration makes clear that because of her appearance a lot of the students haven’t even really decided what to think of her yet. Most of them, by the midpoint of the speech, have just brushed her off as uninteresting at the most. But the interesting thing I wanted to point out from PuffNProud was that PuffNProud mentioned that they believed that,

“Umbridge’s appointment is meant [to] gather evidence to remove Dumbledore and further control [Fudge’s] message from students back to parents. Thus, Umbridge’s speech is meant to ingratiate herself to the students and staff (I believe she has no intention or desire to be friends with the students; they are [a] means to help her gather evidence and gain her end).”

Michael: Oh.

Eric: So that… I wasn’t sure because, as thegiantsquid pointed out, she seems to genuinely be saying something about the friends thing, and the she goes into her learned-by-heart speech, as you mentioned, Tallie. But she…

Michael: But she’s trying to lure people in so that she gets dirt on Dumbledore?

Eric: Mhm.

Michael: That’s an interesting terrifying idea.

Michael: Well and with the learned-by-heart bit, that comes up in this response by WizardorWhat, which…

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: [as Hagrid] Are you a wizard or what?

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: [as Hagrid] Are you a wizard or what, Harry?

[Tallie laughs]

Michael: But WizardorWhat says,

“I think we might be giving too much credit to Umbridge in assuming that the speech was her idea. I think that the speech has been instigated by Fudge as his message to Dumbledore, the staff, the pupils, and (indirectly) the parents and thus the wizarding world. Up until the speech, for all anyone knew, Umbridge was just there as a DADA…”

DADA, I never say that, but I’ve said it.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: [pronounces “dada”] DADA.

Michael: That’s a [pronounces “dada”] DADA teacher.

“… teacher in the face of Dumbledore’s inability to find a suitable candidate. Umbridge’s speech establishes a few things for the very first time:
a. that she’s more than a DADA teacher, that her mission is to change the fundamental direction of the school.
b. that she’s not there in a personal capacity – she’s there to represent the Ministry/Fudge,
c. that the ministry [is] interfering at Hogwarts.
Why would she/Fudge want this to be established? Two reasons: Firstly, since they want the kids to spy for her, they need to establish her credentials as a senior ministry operator (otherwise, what’s the point in them coming to her with anything). Secondly, she wants staff to obey her – again, this needs her to have credentials beyond being a mere stand-in teacher. People have rightly pointed out that she threw down the gauntlet by interrupting Dumbledore’s speech. I think that she did this to emphasise that she was opposed to Dumbledore and that she had authority of her own.”

So do you think that she crafted this speech with Fudge or that this was all her own doing?

Eric: I think it was very much her own doing, and the only reason I say that – of course I said I wasn’t going… well, I said I wasn’t going to talk about what happens at the end of the book that we find out actually happens at the beginning of the book – but she’s known to go off on her own and do things, so that she thinks is good for her own… I mean, if she can… oh, I’ll just say it. If she can order Dumbledore, she can order Dementors to Little Whinging, then she can certainly write a speech that portrays the Ministry’s intentions in such a sweet and rosy way.

Rosie: I think…

Eric: No offense, Rosie.

Rosie: That’s okay. I think that is the issue, though. She’s crafting a speech based on conversations that she’s had with Fudge…

Michael: Hmm.

Rosie: … she’s deliberately layering in those kind of objectives and yeah, I definitely agree that she’s challenging Dumbledore’s authority by making her own speech at this point, and also stating that she is a Ministry official at this point.

Michael: Mhm.

Rosie: She’s putting that in there for her own gain, and as Hermione points out, as the only one that was actually listening to the speech, it’s proof…

Eric: [laughs] In the whole school.

Rosie: … that’s the Ministry is interfering at Hogwarts.

Michael: Yeah.

Rosie: So yeah, it seems to have worked.

Michael: And the interesting thing – because I actually am kind of in agreement with WizardorWhat that she did craft this with Fudge because the thing that I didn’t see that noted in everyone’s responses that I was kind of… that I always feel when I read Umbridge’s speech is there is this kind of issue of accountability. Like, she’s actually laying out exactly what she’s about to do to everybody.

Rosie: Mhm.

Michael: And so it’s like she’s… but she’s covering it up with all these kind of pretty words, big words that you know don’t really mean anything because… and actually this was recently talked about… and I’m trying to… I can’t actually remember the name of that comedian who worked with Stephen Colbert, but he did that whole thing about net neutrality, that big thirteen minute video that everybody’s been watching. And he basically said you know everybody… the government is covering up all the issues about net neutrality with pretty big words that don’t actually mean anything because they bore the public to sleep, and then nobody cares. And I think that’s exactly what Umbridge is doing here. She’s laying out the plan and saying, well if this happens, you let it happen because nobody stopped me. So really in a way…

Eric: [laughs] That’s a good Umbridge.

Michael: [laughs] Thank you. But in a way she’s putting the accountability on the students and the staff, and kind of challenging them to see who will stop her.

Eric: You’re right, it is kind of a bit like a pre-confession, you know. I’m about to hurt you if you disobey with me.

Michael: Yeah, she lays it all out, she lays the groundwork out right in front of them. But yeah, it’s all their fault because they let her do it, so…but

Eric: Wow.

Michael: … thank you all for those wonderful comments this week. I did want to shout-out to AccioPotassium!, Andrew Handel, dustcharm, GingerPuff, Hufflepug, Jeff Downing, Mama_Slytherin, Olivia Underwood, QuibbleQuaffle, and Resonant Curse. You all left great comments as well that I was not able to include. If you would like to know what they were saying about this question of the week, make sure [to] head over to the Alohomora! main site.

Rosie: Which nicely brings us all to the chapter discussion for this week, which was, of course, Chapter 12.

[Order of the Phoenix Chapter 12 intro begins]

Hermione: Professor, I wanted to ask about Chapter…

Umbridge: Students will raise their hands in my class. Yes, Miss Granger?

Hermione: I wanted to ask a question about Chapter 12.

Umbridge: There will be no need to talk.

Harry: Professor Umbridge…

Umbridge: 10 points from Gryffindor, Mr. Potter.

[Order of the Phoenix Chapter 12 intro ends]

Rosie: So to start off, we’ll do a quick chapter summary, and it is the morning of annoyance as Harry is basically seething over the argument that took place within his dormitory last night. And Ron and Hermione are feeling the brunt of his anger as he picks on them as we have seen him do at the beginning of the year. Even Hermione kind of says you know, stop it Harry, stop picking on us. We are fed up already. Let’s just… we’re on your side. Let’s just be friends and he does finally realize, which is nice. But the pair actually have their own issues as Hermione wages war on the twins’ advertising venture. They are trying to get the first years involved in testing their products, and it comes up to the point of what will win, prefect pride or brotherly bonds with Ron fighting back or standing his ground, and who against. Will it be against the twins or against Hermione? Hermione also reminds us of the warnings that we’ve received since the end of last year, so she tells us all about Dumbledore’s speech and also the song the Sorting Hat gave reminding us about friendship and trust and House unity and all of these things that are going to be important. We’re still wondering where Hagrid is, but Quidditch is a great distraction. And Angelina is now Captain with Keeper tryouts around the corner, and we all know what’s going to happen there. Hermione is still getting the Daily Prophet under the idea that we should all know our enemy and know what they’re saying about us. And from one piece of paper to another, we are also given out our timetables, and it’s going to be a very stressful OWL year, and we’re wondering how long the twins are going to stick around. Ron definitely doesn’t understand girls as shown by his argument with Cho Chang, who is trying to find out some information about Harry and trying to get him on side and chat [with] him every now and again. But as Hermione points out, Ron just doesn’t understand, is completely tactless, and has the emotional range of a teaspoon. Trelawney gives them all dream diaries in her class and Harry tells us that he is yet again dreaming of graveyards and we all know what that means, both as a recollection to the last book and also a look towards the end of this one. And as usual, Snape is picking on Harry. Not really much more to say there. It just happens every time.

[Eric and Michael laugh]

Eric: It does happen every time. Snape, that’s his attitude.

Michael: Snape has got to get a new act, you guys.

Rosie: He really does.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Yeah, no. That’s totally Harry’s attitude, too, that this always happens to him.

[Michael laughs]

Rosie: He’s getting meaner, though. He’s actually removing potions that he’s making now…

Eric: Yeah.

Rosie: … something is getting Snape’s back up and it’s only the first day of school.

Michael: This is not a good year for their relationship.

Rosie: It’s really not.

[Michael laughs]

Rosie: So thinking about this year and thinking about the things that are going on in this chapter, I thought we could discuss quickly the warnings that Hermione reminds us about. The ideas of friendship and trust and unity and Dumbledore’s speech, and the Sorting Hat’s speech, and even to an extent Umbridge’s speech…

Eric: Mmm.

Rosie: … ideas that we’re going to need to work together in this book to make it through. And I was wondering what you guys thought about why this message is being force-fed so much at the beginning of this book?

[Eric laughs]

Rosie: Is it so important in Order of the Phoenix or is it perhaps laying the foundation for both Dumbledore’s Army in this one and then the foundations for the Battle of Hogwarts and things in later books? Is this where it all starts where we need to start working together?

Michael: Well, I mentioned this two weeks ago and I’d love to hear more about what you guys think about this…

Rosie: Sure.

Michael: … but the thing about this book – as you said, Rosie – spoon-feeding us constantly this message of, “Work together, everybody is friends, we need to unite,” but we also get this dual message that eventually in this book, Harry has got to go it alone.

Eric: Mmm.

Rosie: True.

Michael: And I’ve just been fascinated by the Harry Potter series as a whole because throughout the series it gives you this dual message. Every time Harry tries to go out on his own, Hermione and Ron stop him and say they’ll go with him. So I’ve never really been sure what Rowling wanted to leave us with in that particular case.

Eric: Yeah. No, that’s very interesting. I think, going back to the general point, which I had a prepared answer for…

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Oh, go ahead, Eric.

Eric: … and then Michael throwing the wrench in… no, I don’t know what to say. I like that. I think it is a mixed or dual message, as you said, which may be opposites. But Dolores Umbridge – as we find out in this chapter – has a really… she has a fundamental disagreement with Harry because she does not believe or is not admitting to Voldemort’s return. And one of the things that she says, at the end of this chapter to the class, is that if each of them hears somebody else saying that Voldemort has returned, which is a nasty lie, they should contact her. And it’s that sort of authority assertion – her turning students against one another…

Michael: Mhm.

Eric: … as we know that she later does when she finds out about Dumbledore’s Army for sure, torturing students and all this stuff – is exactly the opposite of what the Sorting Hat is saying. And so Umbridge, by dismantling student organizations as well, is grasping for control in a totalitarian way. But she is completely undoing this inter-house unity; she’s squashing it. So she is everybody’s mortal enemy here because she is doing the exact opposite of uniting everybody. She’s asking them to go behind each other’s backs and spy on each other for her and later she’s just asking for everybody just not to unite at all; not to get together anywhere outside of the classroom.

Michael: Hmm. Tallie, I’m wondering what your thoughts are on this.

Tallie: It’s all really freaking sad.

Michael: [laughs] Well, because the thing that I was… yet again referencing outside sources… I hope you’ve all seen The Lego Movie. If you haven’t, change your life right now…

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: … but one of the important things about The Lego Movie, which I think is fascinating in how it constructs its plot, is that…

Tallie: Constructs.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Brick by brick, everybody.

Michael: You’re welcome, Lego Movie. I hope my check is in the mail. But the way that it – I’ll say it again – constructs its plot is that it initially goes with the idea that the individual is the most important thing; that individual creativity, individual ideas, are the most important. But eventually the main character calls all the other individuals into question because he says, “Well, you’re all great on your own, but you’re not working together harmoniously because you’re all prioritizing your own thing.” So you actually have to work together and become part of the homogenous whole if you want to be successful. And the movie questions this balance between the individual versus the group and how that plays out and what’s for the best. And I guess we get that later with Dumbledore and Grindelwald and the idea of the greater good, and really, is it the greater good? And versus the individual and the good of the individual, and needs of the individual, etc. So I guess there’s not really a concrete answer to this idea of the house unity because in the end throughout the books… and they will say it a lot in this chapter, “We’re never going to work with Slytherin; that’s just not compatible.”

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Yeah, Ron says that. I think the people who need to most be listening to the Sorting Hat’s words are Harry and Ron. Maybe a little Hermione, too, a little bit, but Ron is the one who says, “Never going to get along with the Slytherins.” His prejudice is just too great and it’s possible that the Slytherins feel the same way about Gryffindors. But Harry is still, as you mentioned, Rosie, biting down Ron and Hermione’s efforts to… I mean, they’re at each other’s throats, sure, a little bit; they’re just quarreling and he gets sick of it and tells them off I think twice in this chapter. Once from Hermione and then once from Ron in Divination…

Rosie: Mhm.

Eric: … he is told off and made to feel, it says, ashamed. But it’s a little too mild, I think. For all his jumping down their throats he should really feel a lot worse about what he’s doing because he is in a way isolating himself…

Michael: Mmm.

Eric: … and he’s not uniting even with his best friends who understand him and are there for him as they continually assert.

Michael: Yeah. No, I think Hermione’s basic point isn’t even getting through to Harry at this stage, which is just that, “You have to trust us first and then maybe you can start working on everyone else after that.”

[Everyone laughs]

Rosie: And I really don’t think he actually gets that point until he loses Ron in Deathly Hallows.

Michael: Hmm.

Rosie: The idea that perhaps he does have to do this on his own in some respects but it’s just better to do it with friends…

Michael: Mhm.

Rosie: … and to have their support even if you are having to do something on your own, and to have people around you who you can trust and who you can enjoy their company.

Michael: Yep.

Rosie: You don’t have to focus on the bad things. The good things can outweigh them.

Michael: It’s just like going to the movies or podcasting. It’s better with friends, you guys.

Rosie: It really is.

[Everyone laughs]

Tallie: Well, it’s like Dumbledore said. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think it was at the speech at the end of Goblet of Fire after Cedric died; the “We are only as strong as we are united,” or something.

Michael: Mhm.

Eric and Rosie: Yeah.

Michael: Absolutely.

Tallie: So a lot of this section of the series is all about being united and overcoming prejudice.

Michael: Mhm. Well, and what I was saying before with the Slytherins – and I’m sure we’ll go into this all the way through Order and even farther off – but it’s just interesting to me that the Slytherins never really ever get on board with that. I always thought that that’s what the series was coming to but in the end it’s not, and Rowling even confirmed that after the fact. She was like, “Yep, the Slytherins all ditched when the Battle of Hogwarts started. They were out of there like…”

[Eric and Rosie laugh]

Tallie: All of them?

Michael: Yeah, she pretty much said all of them. The ones who stayed were on the bad side anyway. So it was just fascinating to me that she never really fixed that.

Rosie: Brought them back in.

Tallie: Yeah.

Michael: And of course she’s been dealing with the collateral damage of Slytherin and Hufflepuff ever since.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: She did recently say – I think it was about Hufflepuff – that that house produced the least dark wizards.

Michael: Yep, and she said that they all stayed at the battle.

Tallie: Proud.

[Michael laughs]

Eric: Yeah, proud. Puff and proud. [laughs]

Rosie: But I think that’s partly a good thing as well. I mean, if everything had turned out perfectly at the end…

Eric: Right.

Rosie: … if all of the Slytherins had suddenly changed sides and gone against Voldemort, it would have been a bit too easy.

Eric: That’s true.

Rosie: The problems in it make it feel more realistic.

Michael: I’ll just put a cite point down at the bottom and just put Slughorn there because he’s always our poster child Slytherin.

Rosie: [laughs] Yeah.

[Michael laughs]

Tallie: Snape in the end was on the good side. It’s debatable.

Michael: Yeah, but overall his…

Eric: Yeah.

Tallie: But the debate with Snape… all I’m really going to say is being on the good side doesn’t necessarily make you a good guy.

Eric: Yep.

Michael: That’s a perfect summary of that. Put that in a box. Save that for later. [laughs]

Tallie: Yeah. [laughs]

Rosie: Speaking of Snape…

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Rosie: … this chapter is one of the most school day chapters that we have ever had.

Michael: Indeed.

Rosie: We get a little snippet of every single class and it is officially the worst Monday ever.

[Eric and Michael laugh]

Rosie: You have Binns, Snape, Trelawney, and Umbridge filling your day.

[Michael laughs]

Rosie: And you have to really wonder, thinking about it, is there actually a lesson at Hogwarts that Ron enjoys?

[Michael and Tallie laugh]

Eric: Lunch.

Rosie: Just lunch? [laughs]

Michael: Break time.

Rosie: But I mean, you’ve gone to school at Hogwarts. Every person I know would love to go to school at Hogwarts. Every Muggle would love to know magic and these kids just sit there and complain the whole time about every single subject.

[Michael laughs]

Eric: Yep.

Rosie: Is it just the teachers or is there something actually going on here? Why isn’t Hogwarts more enjoyable?

Tallie: I think it’s partially the teachers, but also, Ron grew up in the magical world; he’s used to it.

Michael: Yep.

Rosie: That’s true.

Tallie: It’s like how if I complain about school, my parents are like, “Oh, in other countries where they’re poor, people would love to be in your school.”

[Michael laughs]

Tallie: So it’s like that. Where we’re so used to normal school as maths and science and English, we’d all love to go to Hogwarts.

Michael: Mhm.

Tallie: But for them it’s just regular.

Rosie: True. Yeah, okay.

Eric and Michael: Yeah.

Eric: Not even the prospect of having a ghost teacher could interest any of these kids to even read their history books.

[Tallie and Rosie laugh]

Michael: Well, and that’s what I love about Binns, and Rowling has talked about Binns more on Pottermore and his inspiration. But she said that he was literally inspired by a teacher she had who would just drone on with his eyes closed.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: And I was like, “Yeah, I’ve had teachers like that who just… they’ve got it all…”

Tallie: There’s always a teacher like that.

Rosie: Mhm.

Michael: Yeah. Years of memorization; they’ve done this before. They just stand up, say what they need to say, and then the hour is up.

[Tallie laughs]

Michael: So yeah, this is just an unfortunate day where Harry has got a crop of teachers who are either not at all passionate about what they are teaching, or are so passionate that they find Harry’s lack of passion offensive.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Yeah. But something occurred to me and it fits right along with Rosie’s point here. First in History of Magic, when Harry is… I think he’s staring at the page and something… it’s like he has read the same sentence six times without getting past the first three words. It’s either that or it’s also in Umbridge’s classroom when she asks them to read the Magical Theory book.

Michael: Mhm.

Eric: It’s both times in this one chapter. Harry is staring at the page unable to keep his attention on the subject that he is meant to be studying, and it occurred to me: At least Harry, and other Muggle-born people at Hogwarts; they really only have a fourth grade reading level.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Is it possible that they actually don’t understand these words that are on the page? Is it possible that the words are simply too big for their reading level?

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: It’s kind of funny but I’m really trying to ask the question here. What if the book just uses too big words? I know the first time I opened Lord of the Rings, I couldn’t do it because I was simply too young to appreciate…

Rosie: That’s true. You forget how young these characters are.

[Tallie laughs]

Michael: Yeah. I think realistically, I don’t think that’s… okay. Just going from Rowling’s standpoint, I don’t think that’s the issue of her writing, but I think if we were looking at it realistically, it’s a possibility that some of the students don’t get it because that goes back, Eric, to Umbridge’s speech and her using very colorful, big…

Rosie: Big words.

Michael: … authoritative words that the students, she knows, won’t understand.

Rosie: But then thinking about the book lists that we’ve got… History of Magic; perhaps they wouldn’t understand all of the words in that, and you’ve got those boring history textbooks where you’ve just got words on a page and you literally can’t find the interesting bit in the paragraph.

Eric: Yeah.

Michael: Mhm.

Rosie: But then you’ve got things like Standard Book of Spells, Book 1, Book 3, Book 3, depending on your year. You’ve got potions books that are graded per year. So I do think that would have been taken into account that they are age appropriate books for the year of study, and they would grow with the children in terms of complexity of language as well as complexity of skill.

Michael: Well, and having played the… and it’s so hard to take this into the canon because it’s a bit of a mixed bag with that, but the Book of Spells of course is written by Rowling, and if we’re going to assume that everything has a touch of Rowling’s writing in it, all these books within this world…

Rosie: Mhm.

Michael: … they are definitely very colorful and very interesting and engaging.

[Eric, Michael, and Rosie laugh]

Eric: There’s no reason for Harry to be staring at the page unable to make it past the third word.

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Eric: He’s just a bad student.

Michael: Well, and we’re also going… we probably can also safely assume – because I think Rowling has discussed this before – that all the students of Hogwarts, most of them have been home-schooled by their parents. So, they probably have learned to read in that respect and some of them probably better than others.

[Rosie laughs]

Michael: But yeah, I think they’re all keeping up… certainly.

Tallie: Well, being the same age now as the characters are at this point in the series, I feel like they learn the things they need to know that we would learn in regular schools in their subjects. For example, chemistry would be in Potions class.

Eric and Rosie: Hmm.

Tallie: Like yeah, the potion exploded. Why did it explode?

[Michael laughs]

Tallie: It exploded because this reacts with this.

Michael: Mhm.

Tallie: Do you get what I’m saying?

Michael and Rosie: Oh, yeah.

Rosie: Definitely.

Michael: I’d love to assume Snape teaches that way.

Tallie: Yeah.

Michael: Although his answer would be, “Because you’re an idiot, that’s why.”

[Michael, Rosie, and Tallie laugh]

Tallie: Okay. Well, Slughorn would teach that.

Michael and Rosie: Yes.

Michael: You’re right, he probably would.

Tallie: So the older generations like the Marauders knew a lot of chemistry; Snape doesn’t.

[Rosie and Tallie laugh]

Tallie: He just doesn’t teach it.

Michael: Yeah. There’s perhaps more practical applications in these lessons. We’re just not seeing them because that would be boring.

Eric: Well, I’m glad you mentioned Snape though, Tallie, because Snape in particular… in his classroom when Harry’s potion is not up to speed here…

Michael: Oh… yeah.

Eric: It’s a darker smoke versus Hermione’s, which has followed all the steps and is a light, wispy gray…

[Michael, Rosie, and Tallie laugh]

Eric: Snape is able to point out, almost without even looking at the book, where… what exact step was missed.

Tallie: Yeah.

Eric: He’s able to look at the potion; judging by its color he knows exactly which ingredient was not put in at which time; he knows exactly which step it was that illustrates that point, and he’s able to berate Harry all the more easily because of his amazing ability to… we know this. He gets Potions, okay.

Michael: Yeah.

Eric: Snape is the Half-Blood Prince, for crying out loud.

[Michael laughs]

Tallie: He practically wrote the Potions book. He’s the Half-Blood Prince.

[Michael, Rosie, and Tallie laugh]

Eric: Right. He probably has better instructions for each one of these things that he’s getting them to make, so that’s impressive. But just the fact that somebody in this world can exist with such great knowledge, which is Snape, and in this chapter he’s such an opposing force to Harry. But you look at what he’s doing, and it’s really quite brilliant that he’s able to look at that. Look, I get it. He’s taught Potions for who knows how long now, but you know what I’m saying? It’s just the knowledge is there, the capability of divining the knowledge from the teachers.

Michael: Mhm.

Eric: You can actually be a good student at Hogwarts.

Rosie: Yeah.

Michael: Yes.

Eric: The fact that Harry and Ron are copying off of Hermione’s…

[Rosie laughs]

Eric: … History of Magic notes, but that is the only thing…

[Tallie laughs]

Eric: It’s credited in this chapter as being the only thing that allowed them to scrape a passing grade so far. The fact that Hermione is able to listen and pay attention and that her notes are passing Harry and Ron shows that Professor Binns is actually teaching information…

Rosie: Yeah. They’re just not listening.

Eric: … as well.

Tallie: If you can listen.

[Michael laughs]

Eric: If you can listen.

Eric: If you can get over your…

Tallie: If you can listen… which can be very difficult for young people to listen to someone like Binns.

[Michael laughs]

Eric: It’s a shame that so few people are moved by his teaching style enough to be effective…

[Rosie laughs]

Eric: … but you get the idea that the knowledge is there. Snape is not incompetent and Binns, while his teaching style could use an adjustment, is not entirely incompetent. And I’ll raise a similar question about Umbridge when we start talking about her more, but really, I think it’s Harry’s own individual, personal feelings and goals and everything that’s going on with him outside the classroom that is interfering with his ability to be a decent student, and really, that is very true for even my own schooling era. You’re always concerned with what’s going on with you, but you have and blow this wonderful opportunity for education, which is basically handed to you when you’re that young.

Michael: Well, and it’s kind of perfect with what Tallie was saying about Ron being jaded because he’s grown up with magic. But then you go on the flip side and Harry hasn’t, but he’s also pretty blasé about his classes…

[Rosie and Tallie laugh]

Michael: Because Harry’s coming from the same perspective generally that we would be if we were to go to Hogwarts, which is that we haven’t known magic for oh so long, and then suddenly we get a message that we get to go. So I don’t think I would have exactly the same outlook as Harry, but I imagine, yes, if you actually did have to sit there and write these essays out… Ron lists all the homework they get on the first day.

Eric: Mhm. Oh, twelve inches on… from Snape, of parchment? It’s not just word count, that’s…

[Michael laughs]

Eric: … that’s filling parchment with… I assume students would just have bigger handwriting, but it’s pretty grueling.

Michael: Yeah.

Eric: It seems harsher than a word count, to have an inch count on how much space…

[Michael laughs]

Eric: … on the page you have to take up.

Rosie: Although, then it’s basically just two sides of A4.

[Eric and Michael laugh]

Rosie: That’s all that’s asking. But magic is still…

Eric: Well, it’s been about seven years since I’ve seen A4 paper, but I’ll take your word for it.

Rosie: Okay. [laughs]

Michael: But it’s a lot of … it’s still work, so…

Rosie: It is still work.

Michael: And the funny thing, too…

Rosie: I find it interesting that we call all of the teachers professors or teachers, but Snape is the only one that’s a master. He is the Potions Master.

Michael: [laughs] [as Snape] “Potions Master.”

Rosie: I don’t think we even call Slughorn master…

Tallie: Maybe they call him master because he’s so good at it, he’s the master.

Rosie: Yeah.

Tallie: It’s like, “Yeah, that’s Snape. He’s so good at Potions, he’s the master.”

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Eric: Maybe he’s certified. Maybe he took a deeper certification, and then…

Rosie: Yeah, maybe he actually had a master’s qualification in Potions.

Eric: Or a PhD, if he…

Tallie: I wonder if there’s further education in the magical world. Because unless you’re going to train to be a Healer or an Auror, which we know the training for that exists…

Eric: Uh-huh.

Tallie: … it’s never really explored. Like, what do they do? You just turn seventeen and you leave Hogwarts, and they’re like, “See you!” Or …

[Michael laughs]

Rosie: Which is a perfect segue into our next point.

Michael: Yes, it is.

Rosie: It’s actually about the fact that they have a conversation about life after Hogwarts. We have careers advice coming up, and we have the idea of the OWLs and needing qualifications to go out into the world. And this is really one of two or three small glimpses into the fact that these characters do actually have future plans that aren’t about dying in a war.

Eric: [laughs] Which is also when … we’ll get to that.

Rosie: Hermione says… sorry, go ahead, Eric.

Eric: Oh… I said, which is all that some will get to do sadly.

Rosie: Yes.

Michael: Bummer.

Tallie: Fred planned to get married.

Rosie: Yeah, let’s not talk about Fred.

[Eric and Tallie laugh]

Tallie: I’m sorry. There’s a line in Deathly Hallows, “Ah yes, when I get married I’ll tie mum up in a body bag till it’s all over…”

Rosie: Aww…

[Eric and Tallie laugh]

Tallie: It’s so sad.

Rosie: Anyway, Hermione says that she would really like to do something worthy in the world. She wants to maybe continue something like SPEW. She wants to go out there and make a difference. Harry and Ron kind of think about it and say, “Oh, you know, being an Auror would be pretty cool.”

[Eric laughs]

Rosie: And there’s really… we’ve only had very few ideas of what jobs are actually available in the wizarding world. We don’t really get to know much more than Auror, Healer, teacher…

Michael: Hmm.

Rosie: … Ministry official. That’s pretty much all there is.

Tallie: It’s a bit disconcerting how many of the jobs in the wizarding world are owned by the government.

Rosie: It really is.

Michael: Yes. Definitely. Well… yeah, because even…

Tallie: If you’re a Healer, St. Mungo’s is run by the Ministry and…

Rosie: Shop owners have their own thing.

Tallie: Hmm.

Eric: Yeah, I guess.

Michael: Well, they’re still … even then though, they’re still…

Tallie: Hogwarts doesn’t have business studies, so…

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Yeah, how do you start up a business?

Eric: They have no experience in how to do that.

Michael: Probably have to go get it approved by the Ministry.

Rosie: Or get an injection of funds from your friendly…

[Eric laughs]

Rosie: … Hogwarts Triwizard champion.

[Eric and Rosie laugh]

Michael: If you’re ever so lucky.

Eric: This may be the first time that it is stated that Fred and George either weren’t going to come back for their seventh year or are considering leaving early – the notion that you could leave early…

Rosie: Yeah.

Eric: …that somehow the seventh year is extraneous and not needed and all of that…

Michael: Mhm.

Eric: And they say that a lot of it is because they’ve already got their gold and… they don’t say gold but everybody thinks that…

Michael: Yeah, Hermione catches that on really quick.

Eric: Yeah, really quickly.

Michael: Impressively so.

Rosie: Well, it really echoes the English schooling system. So you’ve got… once you have your GCSE, you are allowed to leave before doing A Levels, before doing that kind of further qualification which would be the NEWTs. That has actually changed since these books were written, so if Hogwarts was reflecting the English school system they would now have to do sixth year and so the twins would not be able to leave in this book. Actually, they are doing sixth year in this book, aren’t they? So they would have to complete the year before they could leave.

Eric: Huh.

Rosie: But yeah, it definitely…

Tallie: They were supposed to complete the year anyway. The Weasley twins just sort of up and leave, so…

Rosie: Yeah.

Michael: Mhm. Yeah, they…

Tallie: It wasn’t really allowed; they just did it anyway.

[Michael laughs]

Rosie: I think it would have been allowed once they got their OWLs; they chose to go back for the NEWTs.

Tallie: Yeah.

Michael: Hmm.

Rosie: But it’s interesting that for the trio at the moment, there’s no thought about sixth and seventh… they’re definitely going to go. That doesn’t change until the mission really starts.

Eric: Right.

Michael: I think that is… as an American reader, this focus for all of the characters on jobs at the age they’re at is fascinating to me and was at the time because American students aren’t really ingrained with that bug to start thinking about jobs until college. So, it would be post Hogwarts age and…

Eric: Oh no…

Michael: … over here…

Eric: I mean, my experience at school… well, they first started drilling college in maybe before junior year, before sophomore year, so fifteen or sixteen, right around this time period. And college is introduced as being whatever you want to be when you grow up you go to school for it in college.

Michael: Mhm.

Eric: So there is an extra four years that doesn’t appear to exist in Hogwarts…

[Rosie laughs]

Eric: … in society.

Michael: Yeah. See, that’s the part that’s fascinating to me, that there is no in-between Hogwarts and going out into the world for a job.

Rosie: Yeah.

Michael: There’s no… I mean, unless of course we’re thinking there is some way that Snape managed to get a Master’s degree in Potions.

Eric: Mhm.

Michael: But yeah, there’s no interim where you really… because college – at least in America – the idea is you get out of high school, you go to college, college trains you for jobs, and then you go get a job. And that is how the world works.

Eric: Well, an alternative to college is like a technical school or interning at some of the sort of hands-on positions/jobs. But it is further training…

Michael: Yeah.

Eric: And as you say, business studies, too, would be an interesting course, an important course, because we’re seeing… part of what you were saying, Tallie, about the government being involved in a lot of the jobs is, I think, due to the lower population of the wizarding world.

Tallie: Yeah.

Michael: Hmm.

Eric: We have a small population where it is… it’s big enough to need to be managed but not so big that most of the people aren’t still spending their time managing it and being part of the government that keeps it running.

Tallie: Yeah. But given how corrupt and often inept the Ministry is…

[Michael laughs]

Eric: Mhm.

Tallie: [laughs] … if I was a wizard, I’d be a little bit concerned.

Michael: Yeah. No, for sure.

Tallie: Or a lot. A lot.

Michael: Well, I also think it’s… what I also found disconcerting about this particular moment in the chapter is that Ron and Harry kind of say that they like to be Aurors almost because there are no other options for them.

[Tallie laughs]

Michael: I get that sense.

Rosie: They have no other idea.

Michael: [laughs] Yeah, Ron’s like, “I guess an Auror would be cool.” And Harry’s like, “Yeah, that would be cool.” And Hermione’s over there like, “I’m going to go into law.”

[Rosie and Tallie laugh]

Michael: And she’s already got… of course Hermione’s already got plans, but it is disconcerting the only job they can think of is pretty much the only one they’ve ever been told about or been exposed to.

[Rosie laughs]

Michael: And…

Tallie: I can understand why Harry says “being an Auror” because Little Crouch tells him in the last book, “You’d make a good Auror.”

Eric: Mhm.

Tallie: [laughs] Sorry for that bad impression there.

[Michael and Tallie laugh]

Tallie: You know, he’s sort of destined to be this whole kind of hero thing.

Michael and Rosie: Yeah.

Tallie: So, even if he wanted to settle down and be a greengrocer…

[Michael laughs]

Tallie: … it’s kind of… he literally has to save people.

Eric: Yeah, it’s just…

Michael: I just think it’s kind of funny that Ron brings it up because of course, we know from last year that when Moody was praising Hermione and Harry, he wasn’t saying anything to Ron.

Rosie: Aw, poor Ron.

Michael: And Ron was just like, “I’m going to say something smart.” And Moody’s like, “That’s right, you are.”

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Yes.

Michael: He kind of gives him a little pat on the head, and of course now Ron’s like, “Moody said I can be an Auror, too. I’m going to be an Auror just like everybody else.”

Eric: Yeah.

Rosie: I find it really fascinating that Harry never considers Quidditch.

Eric: I do, too.

Rosie: Especially after meeting Viktor after last year because it’s a massive thing in fan fiction. They’re either going to be Aurors or…

Michael: Quidditch stars.

Rosie: … or going to be famous Quidditch stars.

Michael: Yeah.

Rosie: It’s either or; there’s nothing else. Which is interesting in terms of J.K. Rowling’s tweets again, that we recently had the whole wizarding and Quidditch World Cup where Ginny was a reporter.

Michael: Mhm.

Rosie: Which I love that she’s basically writing her own fan fiction there.

Michael: Yeah.

Tallie: I love that so much.

Michael: It’s happening right before our eyes.

Tallie: Especially because she said “Ginny Potter.”

Michael: Yeah.

Tallie: And all the Hinny shippers were like, “Oh my God, they’re married.”

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Tallie: Because them having three children wasn’t enough.

Rosie: Yeah.

Tallie: Their own thing.

Rosie: It’s just that confirmation of that name.

Tallie: Because now it’s Ginny Potter.

Michael: [laughs] It’s in print on the Daily Prophet, you guys.

Tallie: Yeah.

Rosie: But that’s another career, isn’t it? But again, that’s one that we’ve already seen. We’ve seen journalist. That’s another tick in the box that we knew about.

[Eric and Michael laugh]

Rosie: No other careers exist. [laughs]

Eric: Well, the interesting thing, too, about Harry and Ron wanting to be Aurors is it’s even pointed out here that that actually takes some good exam grades.

Rosie: Yeah.

Michael: [laughs] Which they don’t have.

Eric: The emphasis is placed by Snape, by Umbridge especially, and even Trelawney says that she doesn’t really believe in high marks for… if you have the Sight, it doesn’t matter what your grades are. But she’s still going to do an exam. And this is… after all, this is what school is about, isn’t it? Sitting exams. And the fact that the OWLs are coming should intimidate Harry and Ron to pay a little bit more attention, but even in History of Magic they’re going… Binn’s lecture is on giant rebellions. They’re wondering where Hagrid is.

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Eric: They won’t stop asking where Hagrid is.

Rosie: Yeah, that’s obvious.

Eric: That stuff is important, and you could probably learn a little bit if you’d only pay more attention. So they say they want to be Aurors, but they’re really just not there, and it’s very fortunate that they’re the central characters in the story because otherwise, they would be taking years over again in school…

[Michael, Rosie, and Tallie laugh]

Eric: … and they’d be – I don’t know – cleaning the windows at the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes shop.

[Michael laughs]

Tallie: Conveniently enough, as it gets to the end of their education, Harry’s like, “I defeated Voldemort. What more qualification do I need?” [laughs]

Eric: Yeah. “Here’s my CV.”

Tallie: He would have the greatest CV.

Eric: Yeah. His CV is one page. Centered in huge font, “I defeated Voldemort.”

Michael and Tallie: Yeah.

Eric: Or no, all it is is “You’re welcome.” That’s all his CV says.

Michael: [laughs] And Ron’s…

Tallie: And he goes to a job interview. He just walks in. All the other applicants just go “Uh-oh.”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Yeah. And Ron is in the back jumping up and down going “I helped, I helped. Give me a job.”

[Eric and Tallie laugh]

Tallie: “I helped.”

Rosie: Okay, speaking of lessons, going back to that idea, we do of course have this chapter, which is called “Umbridge.” And it’s all about… well, not all about, but the end of it is all about this lesson with Umbridge where she introduces herself, and we realize that our favorite lesson, Defense Against the Dark Arts, is no longer as interesting and fun as it had always been. Now it will be theory only. And she starts the class with this massive speech about how all of the teachers [who] came before her were either raving lunatics…

[Michael laughs]

Rosie: … or dangerous or casting forbidden spells on them and even the kids go…

Eric: She’s right, though.

Rosie: Yeah, but that’s the boring thing. She is perfectly right that these teachers should not be teaching these things to kids and should definitely not be experimenting on them, but the kids are like, “Yeah, but we learned loads.” So it really does tell you something.

Michael: Oh, yeah. I love that Dean Thomas even sticks up for crazy Mad-Eye Moody.

Rosie and Tallie: Yeah.

Michael: Because “he was crazy, but he taught us things,” so there’s something to that. [laughs]

Eric: Well, I think this scene with Umbridge really… in the book, especially, you can really tell how it’s a perfect domino effect working against Umbridge. She has really good intentions. I think a lot of the things that she says are grounded in a real solid version of reality. I mean, their training… even if Mad-Eye, the crazy Mad-Eye – a.k.a. Barty Crouch, former Death Eater, current Death Eater – taught them stuff, it was uneven. And there is something for sure to be stated about a natural progression of one thing after the other so that you get the fundamentals down and actually truly understand things. I mean, if we’re looking at Harry’s education in terms of [which] spells he’s learned in Defense Against the Dark Arts or the creatures that he’s had to work with, it is super uneven. He learned the Patronus [Charm] before he learned nearly any other spell, and the Patronus is… some adults can’t even do it. But at the same time, he doesn’t have these basic, more defensive understanding… an overall understanding of the theory behind why it even works in the real world. And I think…

Rosie: You’d think the first thing you’d learn in Defense Against the Dark Arts is the Shield Charm.

[Michael laughs]

Eric: Right.

Rosie: Surely that’s No. 1 thing to learn. [laughs]

Eric: Is…?

Michael: Yeah.

Tallie: When do they learn that?

Michael: I was going to ask, “When does Harry learn [the Shield Charm]?” Does he actually learn that outside of the lesson?

Rosie: I think he does. I think he does that in the Dumbledore’s Army.

Eric: But it is a charm.

Rosie: He teaches that to others.

Eric: Yeah.

Rosie: True, that is Charms, not Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Michael: That could be true, yeah.

Rosie: But it’s still a charm that repels stuff, so…

Tallie: You’d think that’d be one of the first things people learn.

Michael and Rosie: Yeah.

Rosie: You really would.

Michael: Well, and too, I got to take a moment to throw in some Lupin love here.

[Rosie laughs]

Tallie: Yay, Lupin love.

[Michael and Tallie laugh]

Michael: I think we can safely say – I hope nobody would debate that – that Lupin was the peak of a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, what it should be. And his lessons were the most consistent. Snape even tries to deconstruct his lessons as being bad and inconsistent, but all the students were like, “Nope, he’s teaching us correctly. He’s going by the book, but he’s also being practical.” Lupin…

Rosie: It’s true that he was a very good teacher, but he focuses on creatures. There’s no spell…

Michael: Well, yeah, but I thought we decided that year that that was just ostensively the focus of the year from the book material. Because it’s in the book that he focuses on. We’ve had that debate before about who decides the curriculum at Hogwarts.

Rosie: Yeah.

Michael: Is it the higher ups…?

Tallie: Who does decide that?

Michael: Well, and that’s what we haven’t been able to figure out.

Eric: I would assume it would be the Ministry, but just like this… in 6th grade or 7th year in school, I learned… it was the year where everybody learned marine biology in science class. We had a science class every year, but we particularly focused on marine animals and marine life in Year 6, and that was just what we did for the year. The interesting thing that occurred to me while reading this chapter was that Umbridge and all the teachers before her, even Snape but also Lupin and all the other Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers… they teach… she’s the only Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. She teaches all years of school. All students in all grades. And so really, my question or something that came out of really just thinking about this is that Umbridge’s approach isn’t… I don’t even think it’s bad for Harry’s year, if it weren’t for the fact that Voldemort is out there and is going to reduce the school to rubble in two years’ time. Her approach is solid and sound, and furthermore, I think it would be even more appropriate for fourth years, third years, second years, first years… the book stuff. Really, Harry’s rebellion against this is the fact that Defense Against the Darks Arts class is the only class he can really get his rocks off and blow stuff up.

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Eric: So it’s his own personal issue with the way the class is traditionally taught in addition to his very personal issues against Voldemort. But if we can take the Ministry’s stance against Voldemort out of this, Umbridge is completely not terrible here. And I think…

Rosie: And I would agree with you if it weren’t for Hermione’s reaction.

Michael: Yeah, I…

Rosie: The idea that even Hermione, who loves learning, can’t sit there and simply read a book, and she doesn’t feel like she’s learning enough from the instructions that she’s given proves that that teaching style isn’t perfect.

Tallie: That was shocking.

Rosie: She needs to have that practical experience to make sure these spells work. Because I mean, we see in the DA that they need to have this practical practice for them to actually do the spells well. And that is exactly what Neville needs. And we see Neville grow so much in this book because of having that freedom to practice and without the scary teacher telling him off all the time when he does something wrong.

Michael: Well, yeah, and with… I think one of the things that I love about this scene… because this is such a difficult scene to get through because Umbridge is twisting everybody’s words to her advantage so well. But one of the great moments is… of all the people to speak up, Parvati says that they need to have to practice the spell, they actually have to do it because they’re going to have to actually show it during their OWL exams, and Umbridge claims that if they… and this is where Umbridge, I feel, gets a little BS…

[Rosie laughs]

Michael: … with her little speech. And this is where she just shuts down people because she doesn’t have a true answer is [as Umbridge] “Oh, well, if you’ve studied the books enough, then you’ll be able to do it right.” And that’s not necessarily true.

Eric: No, it’s not true. And especially if you’re following the movies, it’s a little squiggle of the wand here…

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Eric: … and a little “Wingardium Leh-vee-OH-sah, not Leh-vee-oh-SAH“. It’s very, very, very specific as to your body movement, your… or if you play the video games, you have to run the joystick in a circular pattern, then zigzag.

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Eric: There really is a huge, practical important sort of choreography that goes along with every spell. So it’s not just the incantation. And I think it’s really…

Tallie: Which…

Eric: … yeah.

Tallie: It’s also very specific in the Book of Spells even though that’s just charms as opposed to Defense Against the Dark Arts. It was written by J.K. Rowling. So…

Michael: It counts.

Rosie: Yeah.

Tallie: … it’s her word. It goes.

Michael: Yeah, yeah.

Rosie: Which… all of that leads to the question of “Can the Ministry really want a generation of wizards [who] are unable to perform this kind of magic in a practical way?” Surely, if they’re going to train Aurors and all that kind of thing, for their own protection, they’re going to need to have to teach these young wizards some form of practical magic, which is an awesome movie.

[Eric, Michael, and Rosie laugh]

Eric: I think… is that the one with the man with two different colored eyes?

Michael: No, that… is it?

Rosie: Umm…

Michael: It’s the one with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman.

Rosie: I think… yeah, Sandra Bullock and what’s-her-name.

Eric: Never mind.

Michael: Nicole Kidman.

Eric: Sorry for bringing that up.

Rosie: Yeah, it’s a good movie.

Michael: Thanks. But anyway.

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Rosie: The idea that, yeah, they’re afraid that Dumbledore is creating an army, but surely they’ll still going to need some magical ability in their wizards. Otherwise, they’re just going to have a generation of Squibs.

Eric: [laughs] I think, though, a lot of what happens in this chapter and some of that discussion was really pulling this to the furthest kind of overshooting that… I don’t think it’s that harmful for the younger students, for instance, to learn the basics, the theory. I mean, what did Lockhart teach? If we can go back to sort of the former…

[Rosie laughs]

Eric: I mean, Lockhart… again, as a kid, in second year, I’m sure you can get by because his bragging about how to defeat certain creatures is enough to inspire…

Rosie: You mean the charm Peski Pixie Pestanomi is not useful?

[Eric, Michael, and Tallie laugh]

Rosie: But I learned it so well.

Eric: If it inspires…

[Michael laughs]

Eric: I’m sorry, Rosie.

[Rosie laughs]

Eric: If it inspires the kids to learn more about defensive magic and to read their book, then it’s good. But Lockhart, for instance, I don’t think would have been anywhere near as competent in teaching fifth years, sixth years, seventh years.

Rosie: That’s Umbridge.

Eric: Or perhaps, I mean, maybe if he did Memory Charms one year, that’s another thing.

Rosie: [laughs] Yeah.

Eric: But really, it is that kind of a question where these teachers really do all [of] the years of school at Hogwarts. So what works for one year might not work for the other. And we’re seeing that their teaching styles are so vast and different that I don’t think it’s totally wrong just from a philosophical perspective to get back to basics or to get back to a book that is structured. I mean, just because some kind of structure would be nice. But what the Ministry is doing by essentially disarming these children is, I think, more of an act of self-preservation than it is of actual saving of the… preservation of… preventing what’s to come.

Michael: Oh yeah, I think that impracticality that you pointed out, Rosie, that they’re going to leave a whole generation unequiped, even if it’s to the Ministry’s disadvantage, is the oversight of their plan, in a way. It’s like this is showing how insane the Ministry has gotten by this point, especially Fudge.

Rosie: True, yeah.

Michael: It’s that he hasn’t thought things through, and he’s just acting out of fear. 1) That his position will be taken by Dumbledore, and he will be usurped and 2) that Voldemort will come back and take over, and he doesn’t want that, and he thinks that Umbridge is somehow preventing that.

Rosie: So it’s really just a sign of his eventual downfall.

Michael: Yes.

Rosie: He’s so paranoid, and this is the first step in what causes the rebellion, I guess, and the creation of the DA.

Michael: Yeah. He’s shooting himself in the foot.

Rosie: Yeah. They wouldn’t have formed the DA if this hadn’t happened in this way.

Eric: That’s true.

Tallie: I feel like Fudge’s thing was he doesn’t think about the consequences.

Michael and Rosie: Yeah.

Tallie: He tries to put things off.

Michael: Yeah.

Tallie: For example, like when he was denying Voldemort’s return. He wasn’t thinking about – oh – in the future when he does return. He was just thinking about “Well, he’s not here today. He’s not here killing people. Then he’s not back.”

Michael and Rosie: Yeah.

Rosie: Sticking your head in the sand.

Tallie: So it’s the same with putting Umbridge in charge. He doesn’t think about – oh – in the future when they’re all going to not know how to do magic and flunk their exams.

[Rosie laughs]

Michael: Well, and as far as…

Tallie: He’s just thinking about now. Well, they can’t raise an army if they can’t do magic.

Michael: Yeah.

Rosie: True, yeah.

Michael: And as far as the theory goes that Umbridge is teaching, I don’t agree, Eric, in that I feel that she can have them read the book on their own time. To me, that’s inappropriate that she’s having them do full-on reading and no practical… I don’t think that that theory, even without Voldemort as a threat, would really work in the magical world, as we’ve seen from other books. I do think there needs to be a practical element, and the fact that she’s completely refusing that… like I said, maybe it’s because I have a bias, and I would much rather sit in on Lupin’s class…

[Rosie and Tallie laugh]

Michael: … but yeah, I do think that there is… and of course, the thing that we’ve all brought up without explicitly saying is that Defense Against the Dark Arts, in this case, is a very special case because there is a curse on the position, and we haven’t had a consistent teacher…

Rosie: That’s true. [laughs]

Michael: … for the last… since Voldemort placed the curse. So perhaps there is a constant lesson plan, but we just haven’t had one for this part.

Eric: Well, that’s my view, too, is that it won’t be so bad that a whole generation of Hogwarts kids will graduate without having learned magic because Umbridge is only going to be there a year, and this is not something that anybody could have prepared for unless they knew and believed in the curse. But really, it’s not so much that the stakes are way terrible because she is only going to be instructing them [for] a year. All [of] the kids will have had the lessons from the previous and the future DADA teachers.

Rosie: So Dumbledore knows about that curse. Do you reckon he hired Umbridge to try [to] get her out of the way?

[Eric laughs]

Rosie: Is he hoping for another death?

Eric: I’m sure he wouldn’t have brought her in of his own will, but…

Tallie: I feel like that is why he hired Lockhart.

Michael: He did.

[Rosie laughs]

Tallie: Because Dumbledore is clever. He must have known Lockhart was a fraud.

Michael: Oh, yeah, actually, Pottermore explicitly states that he knew it, and he…

Eric: But that’s dangerous to put a fraud in a school.

Tallie: I know.

Eric: That’s really…

Tallie: I feel sorry for the poor people [who] had him for OWL year or NEWT year.

[Michael laughs]

Eric: Exactly, yeah.

Tallie: They’re all doomed.

Eric: Well, and that… we’ve discussed that on the show before, but that certainly speaks to Dumbledore’s overarching plans, and he does essentially use the school as a guinea pig from time to time, which is definitely dangerous. But of course if he didn’t, we wouldn’t have any fun reading it. So it comes down to that in the end.

Rosie: So to close up this chapter, we see Harry getting more and more frustrated with Umbridge. You get this whole argument going back and forth between the two. Harry really stands up and talks about Cedric’s death for the very first time, and the whole class sits there staring at him in almost awe of this. 1) Of the actual standing up and talking back to a teacher and 2) of the actual situation that he’s talking about because it’s the first time that they’re understanding what happened in the graveyard to some small extent. And we also get to see Umbridge’s style of punishment for the first time. She gets out her little pink slips. She writes a note to the head of year figure, the senior staff figure, and Harry gets sent to McGonagall, who, as our favorite teacher in the school right now, just says, of course, “Have a biscuit, Potter.”

[Eric laughs]

Rosie: And it’s brilliant, and we love her for it.

Michael: Thank you, McGonagall.

Rosie: And that’s all that needs to be said. [laughs]

Michael: Perfect ending from McGonagall, right?

Rosie: It really is.

Tallie: McGonagall sassing Umbridge is the best… it’s one of the best things about Book 5.

[Michael laughs]

Rosie: It really is. It’s great.

Michael: And actually, thinking about McGonagall and her response to Harry in terms of what happens in the Defense Against the Dark Arts class, that leads perfectly into this week’s Podcast Question of the Week. This is something that I have pondered through pretty much every read of Order of the Phoenix that I will now present to you, the listener. And my question is “In his first Defense Against the Dark Arts class of the year, Harry cannot stop himself from addressing Umbridge’s lies head-on, despite warnings from both Hermione and McGonagall to be tactful and keep his head down. As we will see throughout this book, Harry continues this course of action, mainly to his detriment and in disregard of constant advice to the contrary. What, if anything, [do] Harry and the Hogwarts community gain by his continued goading of Umbridge? Do the benefits of Harry’s outbursts outweigh the consequences, or is he simply shouting in vain?” So if you guys have an answer [to] that question, if you know what Harry is up to and if there’s a means to the end here, make sure [to] visit the Alohomora! main site, and leave your comments on that Question of the Week, and we will read them on next week’s episode.

[Rosie’s cat meows in the background]

Rosie: I need to go feed my cat.

[Everyone laughs]

Rosie: So just to finish off – with my cat meowing in the background, so apologies for that – we’d just like to say a massive thank you to Tallie for standing in on very short notice. You’ve been a brilliant guest. I hope you’ve enjoyed your time on the show.

Eric: Yes.

Tallie: I have. You guys are so welcome.

Michael: Absolutely excellent, Tallie. Thank you so much for helping us out here. We really appreciate it.

Tallie: Thank you for having me.

Michael: And you had great points to boot, and you’re from London. [laughs]

Tallie: Woo!

Eric: And you like Lupin!

Michael: And you like Lupin!

Tallie: Woo!

Michael: Lupin love. And you look like Tonks.

Tallie: Lupin love!

[Michael and Tallie laugh]

Eric: If you would like to be on the show, just like Tallie, but preferably with more notice…

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: … head over to our website and check… what you guys don’t know is that Tallie actually joined the show 15-20 minutes before we recorded. We had a guest fall out, and Tallie picked up. We did a tweet on Twitter, and Tallie, just without doing it, without any preparation, just jumped on and said, “Yes. I love Harry Potter. I can’t stop talking about it. I would love to be on the show.”

Michael: Yes, and leave her – on our main site – leave her all of your digital hugs and kisses, please. [laughs]

Eric: Yes, absolutely.

Tallie: Aww, thank you.

Eric: They are extremely well deserved.

[Michael laughs]

Eric: But to find out how you can be on the show, head over to our website,, and check out the “Be on the Show” page, where we have some instructions for you there.

Michael: And if you have any complaints about the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher…

[Rosie laughs]

Michael: … or in general would just like to get in touch with us, you have a lot of ways to get in touch with Alohomora!. You can tweet us at @AlohomoraMN. You can find us on We have a Tumblr: mnalohomorapodcast. You can also, actually, give us a call: 206-GO-ALBUS, the actual number being 206-462-5287. You can subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. We love to hear what you think of the show and how much you hate Umbridge. Follow us on Snapchat, at mn_alohomora, where Michael Platco is doing some amazing Snapchats for us. And as always, we have an Audioboo account. We haven’t been getting very many messages. We’d love to hear your messages on Audioboo. Leave us a message directly on, and it could be played on the show. It’s free, and all you need is a microphone and a great hatred for Umbridge. We would love to hear your Umbridge hate all over.

Eric: Wow, you really want some Umbridge hate.

Michael: I do because I… the complete opposite of Lupin love is Umbridge hate, so…

[Michael and Rosie laugh]

Eric: Perhaps, perhaps. Well, there is also the Alohomora! store. We want to thank everybody for their feedback. Recently, we asked what you would like to see more of and less of in the store. We want to thank you. New items will be coming soon. The store can be accessed on the Alohomora! website as well, and in the meantime, we do have ringtones, which are free and available on

Rosie: And we also have our app, which is available worldwide – prices do vary. And there are transcripts, bloopers, alternate endings, host vlogs, and more on there. This weekend is going to be a very special vlog from Kat and Caleb, and if you’ve been following them on Twitter this week, you might get an inkling as to what that might be. So definitely do check it out.

Eric: Diagon Alley!

Michael: Choo choo!

Rosie: Shh! It’s a secret.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Oh, it’s no secret for anybody…

Rosie: No, it’s not.

Eric: … who has been anywhere near…

Michael: It’s all over Twitter! [laughs]

Eric: Yeah. Well, I believe that does it. It’s been lovely speaking with you all. I am Eric Scull.

[Show music begins]

Michael: I’m Michael Harle.

Rosie: And I’m Rosie Morris. Thank you for listening to Episode 89 of Alohomora!

Michael: [as McGonagall] Open the Dumbledore, and have a biscuit.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: That was awesome.

[Show music continues]

[Michael’s alarm clock rings]

Michael: Oh, hold on. [laughs] My alarm clock just went off.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Oh. I was expecting that to be the chapter intro to this, talking about it.

Michael: Oh, and it’s one of those intense ’80s songs. That was perfect. Okay, sorry Rosie.

Rosie: That’s okay.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Rewind. Strike that. Reverse it.