Tag Archives: Divergent

No Good Guys in Slytherin: YA and Box-Putting

Hogwarts crest

The Sorting Hat has run off with the Scarf of Sexual Preference, so we’re just going to put everyone who looks like a good guy into Gryffindor and everyone who looks like a bad guy into Slytherin.

A Very Potter Musical Act I

I admit it—even though I’m not a self-described Harry Potter fanatic, it did capture my heart when I was younger and yes, I did create a self-indulgent fantastical scenario in my head and a little bit on paper where my friends and I went to study at Hogwarts. Frankly, I wouldn’t have lasted a day among the moving staircases and giant spiders (then again, having lived in Australia, maybe I’d just take such things in stride), but it was still fun. There was, of course, the big, crucial question of what house I’d end up in, as there somehow often is when it comes to fantastical or sci-fi series aimed at young people. I grabbed at straws and decided I was bookish and got good grades so I stuck myself in Ravenclaw.

Thinking about it now, I value my sense of loyalty over my smarts, so I’d be more of a Hufflepuff person, but they always kind of seemed like The Other Ones among the much more majestic houses, even when they did give us the occasional major character. Their emblem is a badger, for heaven’s sake. Lion? Badger? Weigh it up. Hell, even a snake is cooler, and those are the bad guys. Well, technically if you’re in Slytherin all it means is that your dominant trait is your cunning, but that’s the trouble with putting characters into groups, isn’t it? We come to associate them and their ilk with certain connotations.

To be fair, Slytherin also favours pureblooded wizards, so by extension they’re also all a bunch of racists. That can’t be true for every member of the house, though. What if you’re a cunning, self-serving little dude who’s also smart and brave? Would the Sorting Hat freeze up? Surely there have been Divergent style Hogwarts students who haven’t fit neatly into one house because they have more than one outgoing attribute, or students that have wanted to transfer halfway through because their personality changes and develops as they mature into young adults? Shock and horror, YA characters not fitting into boxes. Usually it’s cause for revolution, but not always, but either way it’s an interesting trend to look at in media aimed at young-uns. Continue reading

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Dystopias: Not the End of the World

Divergent movie poster

Are those pants comfy enough to change the world in…?

A dystopian future, a corrupt system of ruling, and a teenager that’s destined to bring it down. Sound familiar? ‘Course it does, my friends. Dystopias are everywhere you look, mostly dominating the YA market. This is not me griping about everyone’s unoriginality, because let’s face it, there are only so many plot frameworks that exist in the world and writing something that isn’t ‘new’ is not a problem if it’s done well. What I am wondering is what exactly this obsession with terrible future governments and the kids that take them apart says about us as writers and consumers.

It’s not as if this is a modern trend—people have been coming up with dystopian stories for as long as there have been governments to satirise or comment on, from totalitarian visions like George Orwell’s 1984 to William Gibson’s brand of cyberpunk. As one of my friends is fond of reminding me, The Hunger Games is in no way revolutionary since the exact same idea is played with in the ‘80s movie Running Man and the Japanese novel Battle Royale. So no, nothing about this love for crappy systems pitting characters against each other is very new.

The fact that it’s emerged so strongly in the young adult section is interesting to me, though. There could be a lot of reasons for that: seeing children affected drives home how horrible things really are in this imagined world, young people have always been associated with revolution and new ideas, and we all have an instinctive fear that teenaged girls have the power to destroy us. Well, fair enough. Continue reading

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Filed under And I Think That's Neat, Archetypes and Genre