Episode 18: Roaring Anachronisms and Where to Find Them

image of Newt Scamander tickling a Niffler
Image source: Miss Nobody on tumblr

Greetings from the Roaring Twenties, witches!

In this excitingly lengthy new beast of an episode, Marcelle and Hannah are joined by your favourite Guy with a Film Degree: Neale Barnholden! Your hilarious hosts FINALLY talk about that new venture into the Wizarding World by money machines JK Rowling and Warner Brothers: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!

Get cozy, because this episode is fantastically long!

Download this roaringly cute episode

The jazzy interlude rounding out our six minute CW conversation comes to us from bensound.com

6 thoughts on “Episode 18: Roaring Anachronisms and Where to Find Them”

  1. Hey everyone!

    Great episode! I have been dying to hear your thoughts on the film since it came out. Really love your discussion of appropriation and especially the discussion of certain casting choices.

    Just thought I would add re: your discussion of the muggle vs no-maj that the word muggle was already a slang term in the US at the time! It was a 1920s and 30s term used mostly in Jazz circles as a name for cannabis – a cannabis user was called a ‘muggle-head’ and there is an actual Louis Armstrong piece called “Muggles” (10/10 would recommend listening) – I really do wish there was a cute lil reference to this in the film which could have happened if the Harlem Renaissance was actually addressed (but probably not because children’s movie and whatever).

    Also, love the idea of Queenie and Tina as a couple pretending to be sisters, however as a (grey)ace/aro person I immediately saw Newt and Tina as aces, especially when seeing their interactions played against the overt affectionate-ness of Queenie and Jacob. Newt in my mind is also genderqueer (many of these characters are much more exciting in my head than they actually are because they’re all probz str8s and cis).

    Lastly, did you guys feel the queer foreshadowing of the obscurus narrative as much as I did? I am wondering if ol’ Dumbledore’s queer identity is actually going to be openly addressed in the later films because this repression arc just feels like it is setting up for a gay narrative… What do you guys think?

  2. I really enjoy listening to your podcast, but your commentary on Jewish characters has made me uncomfortable. I am a fan of your podcast, and I hope you will understand my comments.

    In this episode, one of you said: “I read all Jewy people as Jewish.” For a podcast that takes terminology and identity very seriously, I am surprised by this comment. “Jew Watch,” while sometimes funny, can also be uncomfortable. I wonder if the same segment would still be funny if it were “Muslim Watch” or “Black Watch.” And I get that the point of the segment is to show how few Jewish characters are in the book, but how are we defining Jewish anyway? I don’t have a clear sense of why it is important to either of you to identify Jewish characters in the series. I don’t like the idea that it comes in purely as a joke.

    You suggest jokingly that you know Jewish people when you see/ read them. Even the term “Jewy,” whatever that means, is making it acceptable to stereotype Jewish people. I’m sure you realize that not all Jewish people are white and from New York. (One of you asked: Why did you read Jacob as being Jewish. The other said: Being in New York.) Usually, your podcast takes pains not to stereotype other groups. I am surprised and confused by your statements. I just want to make you aware of it from my perspective as a Jewish listener. From all the episodes I have heard, I would imagine that to both of you calling something a joke isn’t an excuse.

    You also made the statement that Queenie is a nice Jewish girl who could only go for the good Jewish man. (“As the good Jew, she would only be interested in another Jew.”) But everything you liked about Queenie had to do with her independence and uniqueness of character as a ’20s “New Woman” flapper. Why then do you assume that she holds the traditional value of marrying a Jewish man. Nothing else about her character depicts her as orthodox or religious in any way beyond her last name. Otherwise, what is particularly “Jewish” about any of the characters portrayed in this movie? (Do they speak Yiddish? Do they practice Jewish rituals? Did they immigrate from places with Jewish populations?) On the other hand, can we accept characters as Jewish (or black, or gay) if they have no characteristics of those groups whatsoever? Does it matter?

    This makes me think back to your discussion of color-blind casting. So often on the show, you remind your listeners that characters don’t have to be written as a certain ethnicity or identity in order to be imagined as so.

    Maybe it’s time to retire “Jew Watch” and instead discuss diversity in a different way. We don’t need Jewish characters for the sake of diversity. (Even if Rowling claims there are Jewish or Muslim characters, can we make the discussion more interesting?) Jews have been seen as outsiders in their history. It would be interesting to explore their “outsider” status within the wizarding community. There seemed to be no conflict for either Queenie or Tina in their being Jewish and being wizards. How will this play out with future Death Eaters and Nazi-like values?

    Also, this film could have tackled the many immigrant communities present in New York at the time. (New York wasn’t all Jewish!) Obviously assimilation was a big issue for immigrants in NY, and yet all the characters are so Americanized. Giving characters last names such as Goldstein and Kowalski isn’t enough to make them Jewish and Polish, respectively. Just as it wasn’t enough for Rowling to claim that Dumbledore was gay. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have wanted Dumbledore to be coded as gay in really stereotypical ways that would have diminished him and turned him into a token character. Characters’ identities shouldn’t just be added on to appease diversity-seekers. If included, they should be part of their unique and individual identity.

    I hope you understand my comments. I still enjoy listening to your podcast, but I would enjoy it so much more if you could discuss Jewish characters in a more nuanced and interesting way, not just whether or not they (in their most stereotypical version) are present.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Jessica. There are a couple of issues at hand here. One is a question about black humour and identity politics; I would certainly never tell Marcelle that she can’t make jokes about Jewishness, just as I wouldn’t tell a black co-host that they couldn’t have a segment called “Black Watch.” I know she’s been pondering how to respond to these concerns, and I don’t want to put words in her mouth, so I’ll leave it at that.

      What I will respond to is the difference between being able to imagine characters as people of colour, which is a resistant form of reading in the context of white dominance, versus writing so-called “diverse” characters without marking them as in any way different. This isn’t to say that “real” Jewishness — or any kind of identity — is only that which can be regularly perceived by others. The point, rather, is that imbuing supernatural characters with racialized features while keeping your protagonists as ethnically unmarked as possible is another way of furthering white dominance. It’s EXACTLY that whole “Dumbledore is gay, gay people look just like us” thing. Yes, some gay people are not coded stereotypically; but many gay people don’t “pass” and don’t WANT to “pass” as straight. Privileging representation of those whose difference is illegible or unreadable is, for me, a way of reinforcing whiteness and heteronormativity as “normal”. I’m not interested in tokenistic representations of diversity, but I am very interested in real, meaningful difference finding its way into our fantasy worlds.

      1. Just want to add a different perspective. I don’t think I’m a typical Witch Please listener, as I’m not a Harry Potter fan, and also I have no background at all in activist or radical culture. I’m a rabbi who listens to Witch Please because I’m reading Harry Potter to my kid at night, and the in-depth critiques of Witch Please are the only things which make me actually enjoy the books.

        “Jew Watch” was one of the segments which I really liked. Some of the Witch Please political thought/background is not my own and that’s fine, but Jew Watch always felt really homey in a way, same with use of words like Jewy, I feel I got exactly what you meant.

        I hope you don’t feel stressed or discouraged.

  3. Hey hey!

    Here’s just a little thought…

    It struck me that JK maybe has no idea about how inappropriate she around the Thunderbird (not that this excuses her in any way). I’m originally from the UK, and now live in Australia. It’s only in moving here that I’ve begun to understand the deep-rooted and ongoing impacts of coloniality.

    I’m not sure how many average British cinema-goers would have thought deeply into the Thunderbird at all. They probably just think of it as a ‘fantastical creature’…not something which is important and connected to First Nations People. Colonialism is missing from the UK schools history curriculum…definitely in a way which still explores its ongoing existence and impact. It’s just not something that British people deal with or feel affected by, or even think is still relevant (huge generalisation there, but I stand by it!) I don’t think JK considered First Nations Peoples at all in writing about the Thunderbird…I’m not sure it was even on her radar to do so. Pretty messed up, hey!

    This is part of a far deeper issue in how disconnected Europe is from the realities of colonialism and coloniality.

    (It’s really interesting listening to interpretations of Harry Potter by people who are not from the UK as well. There are a few things you guys have said which are jarring to you which make total sense to me as a Brit. I can’t remember everything across all the episodes, but I think you talk about the train station at the beginning of the Half Blood Prince movie not looking right, but it does look like a London suburban junction station…and Harry, in Surrey, is in the London suburban bland sprawl. I also find the Jew Watch segment very tough, living in countries with small Jewish minorities. I think it would be different listening to this if I grew up in the US, and I’m not sure about the Jewish population of Canada, but definitely as someone who has had to hide/downplay my Jewish identity on many occasions, Jew Watch is quite triggering!)

    PS – Check out Hot Brown Honey, I think you’d love them! 🙂

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