Small, but I like it - 2003 06 29 - ’ Fortysomething

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Caption : Set : 675303. Image : 675303gf. Photographer : ITV. ITV Archive. ‘Fortysomething’ - 2003 - (L-R): Neil Henry as Dan Slippery, Benedict Cumberbatch as Rory Slippery and Joe Van Moyland as Edwin Slippery. 2003. Categories : Actor, Male, Posed, Studio, With Others, Television Show, Personality. Keywords : TV SERIES PROGRAMMES STILL STILLS

The Girls of Slytherin and Hogwarts


Having just read alice_and_lain's recent post about Millicent Bulstrode, I realize I never have spoken about the Slytherin girls and you know, I really love them. Yes, I know it probably seems like I just like them because if it’s Slytherin I probably like it, but I really do like them. The HP books are just really interesting on the subject of females, I think a lot of which is because despite whatever Girl Power! ideas Hermione and Ginny represent, the books still seem basically very mainstream in their ideas about women—traditional, with a modern sensibility.

They’re very slippery. Okay, so Pansy. The main way she caught my fancy was she seemed (presumably just as Draco did) to be so clearly vulnerable with all her, “Hermione Granger? Pretty? No way! You don’t think she’s prettier than I am, do you? Do you think I’m ugly? I’m ugly aren’t I. I’m pretty than her, though. Bitch.” I can so believe she and Draco being little rotten friends and plotting the untimely deaths of their enemies.

Hermione and OotP!Ginny are both characterized by being essentially non-girlish in terms of interests. Hermione has no patience for silly girls who worry about fashion and make-up. She’s friends with two guys. Ginny, too, is a tomboy—now. She used to be more outwardly girlie but that had to go before she became a big character—and she still doesn’t really have any girl friends, if she ever did (Hermione’s like a sister-in-law). When I was in school I was friends with guys like Hermione is, was the advice person for them, etc. Only when I went to the ball, I didn’t suddenly turn heads. Being the girl who’s the guy’s friend (as opposed to somebody they’re secretly in love with), can pretty much suck. Like when you decide to reveal yourself as a girl, it’s not a given people will really care. 

Hermione, as we know, wows them at the Yule Ball while, iirc, Pansy Parkinson shows up in…pink frills. “Pink frills” is shorthand for “hideous.” Pansy has never been described as pretty but she’s often made remarks about other peoples’ looks. She hangs around with a gang of other girls. She flirts in a hyper-girlie way in PoA. So I think it’s safe to assume she’s supposed to be the girl who cares about fashion and probably make-up. A ball is one of the few places Pansy might possibly outshine Hermione…and yet she looks meh. 

Hermione, meanwhile, displays an incredibly sophisticated handle on makeovers. Not that it’s a makeover exactly—she’s still all natural and no-nonsense. She just also looks great-and not just great for her, but great, period. Unlike many other 14-year-old girls, especially those who don’t have much experience picking out clothes, she’s found an understated dress that flatters her. Also, she’s completely tamed her worst physical feature (beside her teeth which are now fixed, also sort of by herself), her bushy hair. This is a feat that probably takes most girls with bad hair until at least their 20’s.

So what’s interesting here is that the subtly mixed message. It’s bad to be a girl too interested in fashion and make-up because that’s superficial, but Hermione still gets her Cinderella moment. Pansy, who probably took just as long to dress, is the ugly stepsister. Never pretty to begin with, when she tries to look nice she’s ridiculous, overdone. As much as I hate fics that turn Pansy into a hate object for Draco, I can see where the basis in fanfic comes from. Doesn’t canon make a point of letting us know that Malfoy, too, recognizes the wonder of Hermione as he stands beside his own date?

Then there’s Millicent. I love Millicent because she commits the worst sin a girl can commit in her very first scene: she’s big. Bigger than all the girls, bigger than the boys. She’s strong, built like a Mack truck. Oh, the pain for probably every girl like Millicent. nocturne_alley has of course done much for my Millicent love, but what I love about MB is partly that she is so canon. Her face belongs to Janeane Garofalo, who is in no way ugly but is also actually believable as the not-pretty girl in a movie (as opposed to the supermodel wearing glasses while parting her hair crookedly). Plus MB is described just as she is in canon: she’s big. She’s strong. 

We know next to nothing about Millicent in canon, but the way she appears in my mind based on what we’ve seen is that she’s brutally realistic about her looks and how it makes people feel about her. I think she’s earned respect in her house (and that she was therefore picked by TPTB in Slytherin for the Squad) and that any girl who tried befriending her to show how little outward appearance meant would be sorry for it very quickly. She’s nobody’s charity case. Rather than be ashamed of her stature she uses it as part of who she is, whether in a duel in CoS or to subdue enemies in OotP—everything about her says she should be a loser, yet she’s in the house for the *ambitious.* She hates weakness in others (as evidenced by her being disgusted by Hermione’s tears) and allows none in herself. I like to think as she gets older she’ll be known for her presence and so never be thought of as primarily failing to be conventionally pretty. She’s the Warrior Queen of Slytherin and she rocks. (Perhaps her middle name is Bodicae.)

What’s even more interesting is that these two girls are essentially the feminine face of Slytherin—and what does that mean? Millicent, in particular, seems like somebody we’re supposed to laugh at without anyone wanting to come out and say that larger girls are grotesque. As Dustin Hoffman says in Tootsie: I see what y’all really want. You want some gross caricature of a woman to prove some idiotic point like power makes women masculine or masculine women are ugly. Well shame on you and any woman that let’s you do that.” Hee. At the same time, though, it’s not that Millicent should be *good* like a PSA. I’m glad she’s allowed to be a villain and not the sad, big girl who shows us how nice some other, prettier girl is. I like that Millicent is in the house with all the anger because when I think of her stereotype it seems like she’d either got to be sad or angry and angry is much better.

We’ve never seen the two Slyth girls interact in canon, exactly, but I can believe they’ve got a good working relationship since a) they don’t encroach on each other’s territory and b) neither of them is really successful. I guess sometimes the point of Slytherin is supposed to be that they’re so mean and bitter because they want to be beautiful and adored but really they’re the ugly kids. Unfortunately my natural reaction is to like them for it. And yes, I realize that none of the other girls are described as really pretty either. Ginny seems to be, but Hermione’s got bushy hair and she cries about her teeth, yes. Neither of them is described as primarily a knock-out, I know. Still. 

What is it about Slytherin? I guess that’s the question. In OotP Hufflepuff’s house seemed to change from the house of loyal hardworkers to the “everyone’s valuable” house. Slytherin went from “ambitious” to “House of Old Families.” But what really is going on in that house? What is it that binds them all together? What do its females say about it, as Hermione and Ginny say about Gryffindor? (Oddly Ravenclaw is represented by Luna—whose personality makes sense but it still seems odd Ravenclaw is the house that’s been systematically ganging up on one girl for 4 years—and the painfully ordinary Cho and Marietta.)

P.S. Read the comments in the original source!

Vimes blinked. His brain had finally given up. There was nothing left anymore. He wasn’t certain he could even stand up.
He remembered a word.
‘Fat,’ he said blankly.
‘Aha. The Fifth Elephant. Are you sure? There’s some good iron now. Iron makes you strong. Fat only makes you slippery.’
‘Fat,’ parroted Vimes, feeling the darkness closing in. ‘Lots of fat.’
‘Well, certainly. The price is then Ankh-Morpork cents a barrel but, your excellency, since I have come to know you, I feel that perhaps-’
‘Five cents a barrel for grade-one high-rendered, three cents for grade two, ten cents per barrel for heavy tallow, safe and delivered to Ankh-Morpork,’ said Sybil. ‘And all from the Schmaltzberg Bend levels and measured on the Ironcrust scale. I have some doubt about the long-term quality of the Big Tuck wells.’
Vimes tried to focus on his wife. She seemed, inexplicably a long way away. ‘Wha’?’
‘Er, I caught up with some reaching when I was in the embassy, Sam. those notebooks. Sorry
‘Would you beggar us, madam?’ said the King, throwing up his hands.
‘We may be flexible on delivery,’ said Lady Sybil.
—  The Fifth Elephant; Sybil Vimes Appreciation Post (part 4/4)
Power, on this show, is appealing. It makes those who have it appealing. And this simple but potent formulation is enough to fill its world with all the moral impasses, impossible choices, and slippery slopes a TV show could ever need. Its extremely smart characters regularly cross the line, not because they are monsters, but because they are human. There is no show on TV with a darker message than that.
—  The Good Wife is cynical, thrilling, and grown-up. It’s also TV’s best drama.
I know you want to leave, babe, I know you do. We get each other going like jackhammers and your hands go over your ears when I start talking so you can’t hear the important bits, like when I tell you “I love you” between all the white noise I pad my sentences with. I’m not very good with heaving my heart onto my tongue, it’s heavy enough, and sometimes trying to gets me all choked up so the sentiment’s muffled but it’s there, I swear to god baby it’s there. If you’re not afraid to push your sleeves up and fish it out of my throat, you’ll find my heart, raw and slippery but still beating for you. It’s easier to take a boat out to sea and call out to you standing back on the shore, hoping the promise of a catch is enough a reason to walk on water. I guess I’m yet to stop believing in miracles, and I have to let you take part of the fault because you came along when things were beautiful and when they got ugly, you’re the only thing that stayed beautiful. I have a hard time believing that, though you’re the closest I’ve come to believing in anything, a light in the distance, the sailor’s star system of a religion. It’s for the boy behind the man, the tender bruise behind the bitterness, the concern mistaken for a chokehold - but you wouldn’t pick up a drunk call, not now, not after I starting drinking just so I could call. We’re a handful and I only have one hand free, the other busy pushing you away. It’s okay, don’t hesitate to walk away. I may stumble a lot, but I’ve braced my ship-fitter’s body, I got this - my defence is nearly as good as my offence.
The Twelfth incarnation remains compellingly spiky. He’s still an elusive figure, a little slippery in the morals department and prone to moments of snarly unpleasantness that would make anyone think twice about sharing a police box with the old bastard. But there are moments of charm, too, like fleeting sunlight through a gloomy Glasgow sky: witness Capaldi’s deeply Doctor-ish delight as he discovers the dimensional shift bomb, or his marvelously awkward reaction to Saibra’s hug, as if he’s just received an innoculation jab.
—  from Nick Setchfield’s  "Time Heist" review for SFX

Dedications | Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events