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The Banality of Evil (feat. Dolores Umbridge)

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by CareOtters, Jul 9, 2018.

  1. CareOtters

    CareOtters Dark Lord DLP Supporter

    Jun 8, 2010
    I came across this article, and thought it might be of interest to DLP: it has a fascinating look at how the mundane nature of Umbridge's 'evil' is actually a rather rare thing, and how that has helped to bring her to be such a memorable character.

  2. Zombie

    Zombie John Waynes Teeth Moderator DLP Supporter

    Apr 28, 2007
    I do seem to remember having a hatred for Umbridge that was greater than her characterization in the books. If anything, JK. did a great job making a character that I wanted to hate unconditionally. Her very nature created to set me on edge and make me despise her interactions.

    I've noticed it with other people, and honestly think she's more popular as a character bash than even Snape is, when she's featured.
  3. Solfege

    Solfege Headmaster DLP Supporter

    Nov 21, 2008
    East Coast & the South
    Couldn't agree more --- her petty banality reminding especially of the frustrating adult-in-the-room whose capriciousness to abide by is what makes her so despicable. As someone who spent formative years reading voraciously, not to escape into fantasy lands but rather to learn the ways in which he might envision conducting himself, I've developed a rather conscious sense for narrative incongruences with reality. So this part of Umbridge always stuck out to me as a sorely obvious element.

    To Stride's point on drama --- no, I don't actually want to read about caricatured villainy. I want to read about grey little men in grey little offices (think Cryptonomicon). What's more, I want commentary on their dull, obstinately clueless little lives, particularly on the mundane power politics well beyond their understanding that sweep them inexorably into ruination or stagnation. Or, what's rarer, being at the right place and at the right time, to descend into greatness. Rarer even to ascend mastery, requiring unusual preparation, perception, ability; rising to a certain insular circle of influence, where one's best advantage is knowing how to converse, and eloquently, with real table stakes.

    I ultimately gave a pass on so much of HP because I just didn't see the use of it (book one remains my perennial favorite). But Umbridge sticks.

    The challenge is blending these qualities with the usual fantasy moods (I've yet to read Iain M. Banks' Culture series, which more is sci-fi). It is still, after all, these relatable human dramas, done better or worse, that make for such textured experiences despite embedding in cartoonishly medieval worlds as SOIAF.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
  4. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

    Jun 17, 2008
    I think Umbrifge worked so well because even as children/teens we recognised her form of petty evil as something we had experienced on some level.

    Voldemort is a fantasy form of evil, far removed from recognisable reality, especially for an 11 year old. Snape is more lothesum but he is still a caricature. As much as it might have felt it at times few of us had teachers that actually had a multi-generational personal vendetta against us and focused on making our lives miserable.

    Umbridge on the other hand was the exact low level nasty that even kids have come across. She's the teacher that delighted in small evils and the power she has over you. The one that spoke sweetly to your face in a way that was pure poisen underneath. The one that would put you down to get a laugh from the class. She provoked a much more viseral reaction because few of us have been subjected to the kind of grand vendettas Harry Potter has but all of us have met an Umbridge.
  5. Chengar Qordath

    Chengar Qordath The Final Pony ~ Prestige ~

    Apr 12, 2008
    High Score:
    That's definitely part of it. I think just about everyone has some experience with an Umbridge-like figure. Someone who has power over them, and uses it in the pettiest, most mean-spirited way possible.