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The Cursed Child Questions (Spoilers Abound) Part 2

Once again, you have been warned. There are spoilers in this post for JK Rowling’s The Cursed Child. Okay, this particular post doesn’t really contain a huge, plot-revealing spoiler, but if you’re sensitive to spoilers of any kind, SKIP THIS POST.

I mean it.

Really, click away if you haven’t read the play. This is your last warning…

Okay, coast is clear.

So… Professor McGonagall’s childlessness is finally addressed.  I’ve always wondered why the professors weren’t married, and why none had children.  Really?  It seems very strange in the modern world (and a quick Google search tells me that British schools are like American schools in the sense that many boarding school teachers today are married, and often times both people work in the school) to not have one married teacher in an entire school.

Anyway, it was addressed in the worst possible way.  Harry (on page 122) shouts at Professor McGonagall that she doesn’t understand what it means to parent a child because she doesn’t have children.

We don’t have to talk about all the ways that Ron and Harry and Hermione sort of suck in adulthood.  But that moment was such a slap in the face.  While Harry later apologizes for the overall outburst, that line is never addressed again.

I have been on the receiving end of that type of comment, back when I was teaching, before I had kids.  I’ve also been on the receiving end of unsolicited (and, frankly, unhelpful) advice from teachers on how to best parent twins.  So I’ve had it both ways.

And I still sucked in my breath with that line.

Here’s the thing: Until recently, I had a male OB/GYN.  He had never experienced a period or had a pelvic exam, but he still knew more than I did about my reproductive organs.  He was the expert on bodies in general, and I was the expert on my body in particular.  We worked together to best understand my body based on what he knew about everyone else’s body.  No different, in reality, than what a female OB/GYN brings to the table.  Again, she only knows bodies in general, and I still know my body in particular.  It never bothered me to have a male OB/GYN, and I didn’t think I would get anything different out of having a female OB/GYN.

Teachers know children, in general.  Parents know their children, in particular.  Together they bring the macro and the micro together to best reach that individual child.  Both roles are invaluable, and while both can try to do their roles without the other, I think that there is strength in observing the child up-close as a parent as well as far-away as a teacher.

So Harry’s comment is doubly crappy because it not only shits on Professor McGonagall, it dismisses the vital role that teachers play in helping the parent reach their child, as well as dismisses the vital role that parents play in helping teachers reach the very same child.  Two important people coming at the same child from two different angles, with vital information about the child in particular and children in general.

This play, in general, changed how I felt about Harry Potter.  There was just enough space for Rowling to do a lot of damage, but not enough space to clean up that damage and make me love his imperfect self again.  There was no Snape-like redemption.  Just a hollow feeling that we all grow up to become assholes.

Your thoughts?  What did you think about that moment with Professor McGonagall?  Or Harry’s behaviour throughout the play — was he ever redeemed for you?


1 nicoleandmaggie { 08.17.16 at 10:25 am }

Harry turned into an asshole when he hit teenage-hood. Apparently he never grew out of it. Odd since the adults at Hogwarts mostly seemed pretty mature (with a few exceptions), but maybe the Ministry of Magic has a bad culture.

Like I said in the previous post, this is a really tired trope. Harry has to be a bit immature (or overworked and absentee if it’s an 1990s movie) for his son to feel like he isn’t appreciated and be tempted by the Dark Side [of the force] or to otherwise get into trouble wanting to be noticed. If only Harry had gone to more of his soccer games. Disappointing.

Though I guess plucky young abused kids don’t usually grow up to be assholes in literature. So that’s different, I guess. (Not so plucky abused kids grow up to be abusers in literature, but not your Jane Eyres and Matildas and Horatio Alger heroes and so on. Triumph of spirit and all that.)

2 Jess { 08.18.16 at 9:32 pm }

Harry really pissed me off there. I feel like I am often judged as somehow lesser of a teacher because I am not a parent (even though I pride myself on getting to know my students very well and as a special education teacher I see them in smaller ratios). Other teachers or mental health professionals get to say, “As a parent…” when talking about an intervention or whatnot, and all I have is my experience as a teacher, which somehow always feels like less in those moments even though it shouldn’t. So I felt like OH NO, DON’T YOU DISPARAGE PROFESSOR MCGONAGALL!!! I was so mad at Harry. But, at the same time, in some time ripples Harry was more of a dick than others. I feel like these moments (like telling your son you wish he wasn’t your son) sort of made Harry more human, even though it’s the ugly side of human. He may be a wizard, but he’s still got frustrations. He just was a super jerk in that particular timeframe. Grrr. (Also, I don’t mind having a male GYN either, and the one I have now is the best I’ve had, male or female. If you’re compassionate and know your stuff and listen to me, I don’t care if we have the same equipment.)

3 Mali { 08.22.16 at 8:29 pm }

I really like your analogy with your OB/GYN. I’m going to use that, in the future. Thanks Mel!

4 April { 08.23.16 at 9:40 pm }

I think I have a slightly different perspective on McGonagall’s childlessness as a step-parent. She isn’t a parent. Even though she is a teacher, that doesn’t make her a parent. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt her. After all, Rowling has revealed that it was because McGonagall is a widow that she doesn’t have children of her own. just because she is a teacher does not mean she understands all of what a parent feels and thinks and does. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about the kids.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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