Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The "Secret Rape" In The Harry Potter Books?

Yeah, that's a pretty sensationalist headline, but...

I just read on Dolly Mix a theory concerning a "forgotten rape" in "Harry Potter and the Order Of the Phoenix" -- specifically that of Dolores Umbridge, Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.

In the novel, Hermione takes Delores into the forest and "leaves her to the centaurs" when the errant professor threatens to curse Dumbledore.

When next we see Delores, she is hospitalized with no outward sign of injury, just messed-up hair & clothes. When Ron makes the sound of hoofs near her as a joke, she jumps and reacts in fear.

The Dolly Mix poster points out the the mythic lore regarding centaurs is filled with references to rape and as the creatures as rapists. Since J.K. Rowling does such thorough research for her books, the reasoning goes, she certainly would have been aware of this rapey pedigree.

Hence, it's implied in the book that Delores was raped by the centaurs.

What do you think?


  1. Yeah, Umbridge is pretty clear in showing Dolores as a bigot-- it isn't hard to jump to the conclusion that the centaurs might not like her for reasons of their own. In fact, given the loaded racial dialogue present in the exchange, one could counter that the accusations of rape are themselves racially motivated. Which may be stressing it, but all I'm saying is that at some point you have to say "here is crit, here is reductionism" & stay on one side of that line.

    BUT HOW ABOUT A GAY CHARACTER JK? i mean, there isn't even a "wink-wink-nudge-nudge" in there! "Gee, so-&-so seem awfully close!" or "Mister whoever never really took an interest in the ladies." Just outright "There are no homosexuals in Iran. Hogwarts. I mean Hogwarts."

  2. I hope they aren't sharing this theory with any of the legions of children who read the books.
    The whole Potter franchise is remarkably straightforward and I think this is reading far too much into a story about kids who chase magic footballs on broomsticks for fun.

  3. Heck, when a gay relationship loomed in the "fanon" ::belatedly covers "puppyshipper" button with her hand:: it looks suspiciously like JKR took pains to shoot it down, killing one character and marrying the other one off (in a way that *makes no blinking sense! agh!).

    More on topic, I haven't seen many people call out Merope for what she did in book 6 either (love potion doesn't count as consent, hon), but I'd never heard this before. And it does make sense; I mean, the obvious trauma without obvious injury, what are we supposed to think they did to her...?

    Rowling generally has a tendency to go too far in how she treats characters she considers "bad", IMO. Umbridge is totally bigoted and nasty, so we're pretty much invited to enjoy her trauma (the heroes seem to); interviews suggest annoyance if fans see her villains as redeemable, etc...

    And a lot of her fans seem to give her a free pass no matter what... (Okay, I'm getting bitter; I should stop...)

  4. m3q7oI don't know about the Potter books, but the third potter movie had what I took to be an actual textual, but not particularly emphasised, gay marriage between Gary Oldman's character (Sirius Black?) and the werewolf guy.

    What I mean is, I was surprised, after having seen the movie, that those two characters aren't actually a gay couple in the books.

  5. Meant to include, that I'm onside with mordicai. I'd read that as an extended bout of terrifying shoving, amplified by the centaurs unearned reputations.

  6. I read it as a rape when I first read the book. I thought that was what she was getting at.

  7. I think the idea is pretty far fetched.

  8. "Umbridge is totally bigoted and nasty..."

    She also TORTURED CHILDREN, which goes a fuckton past "bigoted and nasty" in my book.

  9. I can see it, but I doubt JKR would have intended such an implication since it would alienate so many of her fans. Also, she did present the centaurs as being the victims of unfounded prejudice; turning them into a bunch of rapists would hardly support that.

    However, I do think there was a strong implication of sexual abuse to Dumbledore's little sister in the seventh book. What else could that gang of Muggle boys have done to a little girl in a short time that would leave her permanently traumatized?

    As for gay characters, I'd point out that aside from some hand-holding and the occasional "snogging," there hardly seem to be any sexual relationships in Harry's world. We never hear about any sex education classes at Hogwart's, and are we supposed to believe that at a coed school with hundreds of teenagers, no one ever get pregnant?

  10. Isn't the tincture of birth control part of Herbology? Anyhow, while yes, there isn't much in the way of sexual relationships, but there IS pairing. I'm not saying there needs to be much, just an expression of diversity would be nice.

  11. if she WAS raped, she deserved it

  12. It's certainly the first thing that crossed my mind when we got to that scene. I mean, even if it's not what Rowling meant for us to think, it's a pretty stupid think not to think it would imply. Leaving a woman alone with a gang of very angry, very male, very uncivilized characters...
    I mean, come on?
    Why not do a movie where the female Dean of Students pisses off all the fraternities and then finds herself going to one of their doors alone, in the middle of the night, begging for help,
    then the next morning she wakes up on her own front porch looking dishevelled, uncertain but otherwise fine. Then what would you think?

  13. Hells yeah. She had it coming.

  14. I am absolutely revolted at the idea that she "deserved it" or "had it coming." So rape is legitimate as a fate for someone you don't like? I've got some stories from the former Yugoslavia to tell you... And if the centaurs had carried off Hermione instead, that's probably just what Umbridge would be saying right now. They seemed to be considering an "as well" or else killing her and Harry---the centaurs hardly come across in that scene as unfairly-maligned peaceful people. (Which I have issues with too, if Rowling is going for an anti-racist angle; I mean, sure, telling them "thank you" is taking your life in your hands but there's no reason not to like and respect them, right? Because Dumbledore says so it must be true. It ain't workin' JK.)

  15. I think JKR's point in her portrayal of the centaurs was not to show a pretty, kewl mythical race, nor a sub-human one (like the Ministry of Magic believed), but to portray a complex race with a vastly different culture than ours, one that nonetheless deserved equality and respect. They are angry and violent and intolerant, but I would not call them uncivilized. Of course, the centaurs themselves could learn to respect humans, but they get a teeny tiny fragment of pass from me because of the way they have been historically treated.

    I also think, given how proud centaurs are and how much they look down on humans, and the general vibe I got from them, that it would not have occurred to them to rape Umbridge -- I bet the idea of sexual congress with a human would be absolutely disgusting to them. Also, presumably she is a fairly powerful witch; I don't remember what kind of magic centaurs have, would it have been easy for them to defeat hers?

    As for the rape (I don't see what else it could have been) of Dumbledore's sister, that was meant to be a horrible, tragic thing that serves as an explanation, but not, ultimately, an excuse, for Dumbledore's early anti-muggleness. Causing Umbridge to be raped for something as simple as revenge is not something I think JKR would do (at least, I hope she wouldn't).

    Finally, while of course no one deserves to be raped, or ever should be, I have to say I would not feel much sympathy for Umbridge if she were. She did, after all, torture children, and that bothered me far more than any vague notion of what may have happened between her and the centaurs. And unlike Snape, I don't think she could ever be redeemed or portrayed sympathetically.

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  17. If we were dealing with Satyrs you could probably get a clear-cut yes out of the situation. Centaurs are mythologically slightly less rape-y.

  18. The thing about this, for me, is that Umbridge was just so crazy insane with her bigotry that the centaurs wouldn't have even needed to do anything to her to traumatize her. In my mind, they dragged her away and put her in some kind of forest prison cell where her incessant whimpering and screams of hatred drove them nuts, so they just dumped her outside the forest.

    Dolores would no doubt translate being manhandled these sub-human beasts as an intense violation of her person, and so be traumatised and shell-shocked as depicted later.

    And yeah: no-one ever, ever deserves... that. Thinking someone might, that's just sick.

  19. between this and dumbledore's outing, I can't wait for the new series of 'Harry Potter: Uncut' novels rereleasing the original series with all the sex and rape and homosexuality that Rowling deems necessary to point out now :)

  20. Anonymous1:42 AM

    I think that beadgirl's comment makes the most sense, that the centaurs were so offended by humans that viewed them as inferiors that they would have likewise been disgusted by the idea of raping Umbridge.

    On the other hand, the language used by Rowling in that scene sounds very suggestive.