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Complete A Black Comedy by nonjon - M

Discussion in 'General Fics' started by nonjon, Mar 3, 2007.

  1. Sataniel

    Sataniel High Inquisitor

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    I've read this recently and as with many older but praised fics it turned out to be heavily overrated.

    I actually have similar feelings in regard to this as to works of Jbern. Good comedy, mostly good characterisation but author for some reasons also try to write story and fails at it. Not to mention questionable setting decision like whole "let's make Wizengamot terrible and talk a lot how terrible is it", or wards, or fidelus or defeating Dark Lords.

    And there is one important final problem - it's too long. This results in the humor getting stale, especially since "serious" side of fic is disappointing and can't back it up.

    5.5/10 (3/5) from me.
     
  2. kwrobes

    kwrobes Squib

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    I'm normally a super big fan of dimension travelling stories since things get to be so different and this story is, even among those, a breath of fresh air. The lackadaisical attitude both Harry and Sirius have lets the story progress super naturally and the ending doesn't seem rushed at all because that wasn't even intended to be the climax of the story. This definitely has a place among my favorites.

    4.5/5
     
  3. Leonard

    Leonard Banned

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    This has aged really badly. It’s very likely that Nonjon is a straight, white, male US citizen over the age of 35 with references like “I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a big, bright, shining star.” This is a reference to Boogie Nights, a sexually explicit film about the 60’s porn industry. It came out in the 1997, which places the author at at least 15 when it came out for it to have been a relevant pop culture reference.

    There is a decent plot surrounding Voldemort, but it plays second fiddle to the shenanigans of Sirius and Harry. Extensive detail goes into the planning and execution of their heists, and some of the best writing in the story details how wards work and how to bring them down. In fact, I give points for how integral magic is throughout the story. A lot of Harry Potter fics skim almost entirely over anything magical in their fics, and in my opinion that takes away from the setting and the atmosphere that drew so many into the Harry Potter universe to begin with. Nonjon not only includes a great deal of spell-casting, he also writes his own immersive laws and limitations of magic, which function quite naturally.

    The plot does reach its own crux and conclusion, but I’d say that the real climax of the fic occurs around the halfway point, and the intended ‘crux’ was rather anti-climactic, as the big bad was taken care of entirely off-screen. Also in this AU Diary!Tom Riddle is apparently quite a nice fellow after all and definitely not a psychopath. It boggles the mind a bit that the happy ending includes Harry supporting Riddle in becoming Minister for Magic.

    But the negatives overshadow the good. Here’s the meat of it. The fic is brimful of awful jokes. We have garden variety sexism, we have insidious racism, we have homophobia, transphobia ….you get the idea. The whole thing has a distinctly Adam Sandler flavour to it, only if Adam Sandler were James Bond in his own movies instead of being a goofy character with a growth arc. If you’re a fan of Adam Sandler movies, this fic may work for you. There are some genuinely funny moments throughout, but if you’re not into dick jokes and punch-down humour then this is an extremely cringey ride. I don’t begrudge anybody the dick jokes mind you. Each to their own on that one. But the thing is – the punch-down humour doesn’t age well. In fact, it ages with all the grace of chicken – toxic to such an icky extent that you just know that no one should be touching it anymore.

    Sexism

    Harry and Sirius’ attitude to women is extremely 90s: Emotions are for girls; sex is for boys. Boys make sure they run screaming from any kind of connection with a woman that doesn’t start and finish with the pointy end. Luckily Harry and Sirius are mysteriously both sex gods – they can’t turn left without some pretty young thing throwing herself at one of them, despite Sirius’ advances resembling nothing so much as the creepy uncle you avoid at Christmas parties. Check out this line Sirius says to a handywoman who comes to connect their floo: “When you finish up with that fireplace, I’ll show you mine. Common courtesy would be for you to show me yours.” This is about the extent of female involvement in the plot, with the exception of Lily.

    There is a running joke of absurdity in the sex, but that’s more to do with the mysterious way all the women they sleep with turn out to be connected to each other in some way, and not because Harry and Sirius are drowning in panties. Sirius sleeps with Amelia Bones the same night Harry sleeps with Susan. Sirius sleeps with this universe’s Ginny Weasley (now Gin), whilst Harry sleeps with Luna. Probably the most eye-roll worthy example – my eyes were in serious danger of leaving my skull – was when Sirius picked up a pair of twins (because siblings love sharing their sex lives), and in the morning it turns out Harry slept with their triplet. The cringe increases when the twins exclaim in surprise that they thought the third girl was gay, and she shyly says “Not anymore.” Yup, you heard it folks. Harry’s magical penis will change your sexuality – he’s just THAT good. And sure, I get it, it’s a power fantasy. Doesn’t mean it isn’t cringe-worthy.

    When Harry or Sirius experiences any kind of concern or anything bordering on genuine emotion, the other makes sure they know they’re ‘being a woman’. One genuinely touching, affirming moment between these two in which they talk about how important the other is to them, Harry wraps up the conversation with, “Now do us both a favour. Act like a fucking man, you little bitch.”

    Or in the final chapter, they’re having a conversation in which Sirius is worried that Harry may not spend as much time on heists with him anymore. Literally that’s the extent of the emotional investment in this conversation, but apparently that’s still too many feelings.

    “I have a hypothetical question.” Sirius was doing a poor job of concealing his concern. “How much justifiable jealousy is permitted before I turn into a woman?”

    Harry arched an eyebrow at his godfather. “If you have to ask, you’re a woman.”

    When later in the conversation Harry notices Sirius still looks concerned he says, “What’s got sand in your vagina now?”

    I just love constant reminders of how the absolute worst thing is in this world you can be is feminine.

    Homophobia & Transphobia

    In true 90s fashion, being gay is gross, even though Harry & Sirius are obsessed with penises. Some examples:

    – They briefly share a broom, and immediately have a gay panic moment about having to touch each other.

    – Sirius puts the ‘evilness’ of dark wizards down to ‘uncontrollable homosexual urges’.

    – They insinuate through second hand stories that Draco and Snape are gay or trans and express disgust and a desire to throw up. If I were being very generous I would say that the disgust is only because Harry hates both of these characters and not because of the possibility of their being gay, but it’s worth noting that Draco and Snape do not receive the benefit of their redemption scenes in DH because of the author writing pre-DH release, so it assumes they’re both evil, thus throwing ‘gay’ and ‘evil’ in together as heavily connected if not synonymous.

    Male Rape

    Harry & Sirius decide that Lupin isn’t getting enough sex, so they get him pass-out drunk and facilitate Bellatrix Lestrange having sex with him whilst he’s asleep. To top it off, she’s trying to get pregnant from the experience. And you know, the whole thing is just SO hilarious because male rape lol. Though at first horrified, Lupin eventually decides he likes it because hey, he’s a man and it’s sex, right?

    Ableism

    There is also a side scene in which Harry punishes Sirius, Kreacher and Remus by transfiguring them into people with dwarfism and forcing them to interact with children in a public park. Harry calls it “Midget detention”, and it’s very much a throwback to the use of people with dwarfism being used as circus side shows or for general slapstick humor.

    Racism and House Elves

    One of the worst moments of the fic is the second heist, in which Harry and Sirius stun a house elf upon entering the manor (fair enough, you don’t need the elf implicated or raising the alarms), He takes everything from the master’s bathroom except for the toothbrush. He then sodomises the unconscious elf with the toothbrush, takes a photo, then leaves it for the unwitting master to brush his teeth with later. This is apparently fine and hilarious. Had Sirius done this exact same thing to the death eater master of the house I might have found it funny, but the fact that it’s done to a slave of the household felt underhanded and gross.

    This author seems to have a very problematic view of slavery. And by that I mean he seems to be totally fine with it. Harry winces when Sirius tells him what he’s done to the elf but says nothing. Whilst house elf magic plays something of a role in the story and the mechanics of the magic are interesting, no one in this universe has any problem with house elves being slaves, including Harry.

    Even James and Lily have a house elf named Nappy, and she is one of the most problematic elements of the fic. There’s no getting around it – Nappy is written as a Black American slave. This insidious, perhaps even unconscious association that slaves = black people is the reason why I’m pretty certain the author is white. Not all the house elves speak like Nappy does – Kreacher and Dobby retain their canon voices – but at least one other OC elf in the fic does speak like Nappy, so this is a pattern, not a coincidence. Check out this little gem:

    “Yes’m, Massa,” Nappy replied as she appeared. “I din’t mean fo’ choo t’hear dat. Iza sorry, Massa.”

    “Are you okay?”

    Nappy nodded her head.

    “But you screamed.”

    “Yes’m, Massa. Iza sorry fo’ dat.”

    Lily tried to sound gentle. “Why did you scream?”

    Nappy looked embarrassed. “Choo know Iza like pickin’ cotton.”

    Are you cringing yet?

    I wondered a number of times when I was reading this story if I was just being too sensitive. Is it up to me to call comedy better or worse according to whether or not it offends me? Does humour have a responsibility to punch up? The short answer is probably not. It isn’t up to the author to please me. He has a right to write whatever he likes. There are obviously loads of people who find A Black Comedy hilarious, so I can’t be a gatekeeper about what is funny and what isn’t.

    I will say that the comedy here is written for and by straight white men, and that’s almost certainly the only audience who will think this fic is amazing, since it inherently if not explicitly exalts this group at the expense of everyone else. Personally I haven’t found that kind of comedy funny for a long time. The fic certainly had some strong points to it, but they were kind of drowned out by the vicarious power trip. I really struggled to bring myself to the end, and honestly would not recommend it to anyone.
     
  4. brad

    brad Third Year

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    I think you are too sensitive; but that's relative to my own standards, of course. I roll my eyes these days when I hear about 'sensitivity readers'; you may well think they are a necessary part of the editorial process to shield today's readers from the horror of glimpsing some offensive words.

    It is, of course, up to you to measure comedy according to standards of offence, if that's what you want to do when you rate your own enjoyment of comedy.

    It's very easy, of course, to apply today's woke rules to works of the past. Like shooting fish in a barrel. 'Punching down'?

    I thought the sex stuff in A Black Comedy was over the top too. Quite gross in places, Harry and Sirius seemed to often think of nothing else. But the characters, story and the humour - especially that Nonjon humour! - made my perusal well worth while. Overall I enjoyed the novel very much, and I'm always up for an occasional re-read.

    But I imagine others who can't filter out the 'offensive' parts might have a much lower averaged rating for the work.

    Nonjon is one of the prominent authors of my own personal 'silver age' of HP fanfiction, and while I thought A Black Comedy was a bit extreme in its raunchiness I nonetheless thought it was a great story and well worth the (re)read.
     
  5. Drachna

    Drachna Professor

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    I came here to get offended, but this is actually a very well written and considered review, bravo. You've inspired me to give A Black Comedy a reread. A lot of fanfiction classics are very dated in retrospect, but I would imagine that the quality of Non Jon's writing lets it hold up better than most, especially when read with the context of the time it was written in in mind. Putting that aside though, as a straight white man I fall straight into the fic's target demographic, so I doubt my sensibilities will be all that offended,

    As for whether comedy has any responsibilities other than being funny, I think that's between you and your sense of humour.

    Anyway, I'll come back to give my updated thoughts on the fic whenever I get around to rereading it.
     
  6. Oldking01

    Oldking01 Muggle

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    It's American humour. Sex and poop and crime and race, like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I wouldn't say it's any less funny. Not that It's Always Sunny is very funny. Shock = funny, that's the entire gimmick of humour like this and in that sense, it does exactly what it sets out to. Everything is shit, and that's funny. Congratulations, you have a degree in scatological humour. De Sade would be proud.
    Saying that it's dated is obviously untrue as long as things like Family Guy and It's Always Sunny exist. The shit political/social takes on any degree of the political spectrum are irrelevant, as they're never subtle in this kind of work. And in the same vein, referential humour is also very much enjoyed by idiots who consume this type of media.
    I will say that it's fairly clever in some scant spots, but then it slips back into vulgarity without subtlety.

    For me it's a 2/5, only because giving it a 1 would undermine the ranking for the truly bad fics.
     
  7. Rubicon

    Rubicon High Inquisitor DLP Supporter

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    I guess I’m also in the target demographic, but I’m personally tired of authors who couldn’t write a realistic female character if their life depended on it.
     
  8. Innomine

    Innomine Alchemist ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I found it pretty cringe when it was first released, even if I did enjoy it, so I shudder to think about how it's aged.
     
  9. Jax

    Jax Groundskeeper DLP Supporter

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  10. J22

    J22 Seventh Year

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    This used to be a fic I'd re-read every few years. I still find it enjoyable but last read through I did find myself rolling my eyes more than a few times.

    Still very well written, original and clever in it's own way but, for me at least, its time has passed.
     
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