Stephanie M.

Stephanie M.

I'm a content writer and novelist who loves books, writing, theater, and my cat. I have published two novels and traveled to London and Paris.

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    Latest Topics

    4

    Television and the Resonance Factor

    Those of you who have seen my profile and work on The Artifice know I’m a Oncer. Of course, Once Upon a Time ends next week, and of course, the fangirl in me is bummed about it. But I recently came across some interesting cast interviews, where Lana Parilla, Ginnifer Goodwin, and others talked about the "resonance" of OUAT. According to the cast, OUAT was a hit and ran for seven seasons primarily because it resonated with its audience. This got me thinking – what exactly is "resonance" in the television world? What other shows have achieved it, and are there different ways to do so? How do you know when a show has achieved the type of resonance that will ensure a multi-season run, a broad and loyal fan base, and overall endurance? Discuss.

    • This sounds like a very interesting topic, especially when comparing the producer's intentional and unintentional factors. – inkski 4 days ago
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    • Oof, resonance. I agree with inkski in that producers play a role in, I suppose, sustaining that resonance. I think good TV shows recognise their influence and will strive to prolong their on-screen stay. The biggest example of resonance I know of is from Doctor Who, whose influence can be derived from one of the greatest ideas in television history: the constant return of its titular character via 'regeneration'. I think Doctor Who's stories of life, death and how you spend the adventures in between, are what resonates with its loyal audiences. Though in sustaining resonance, I'd say there needs to be constant growth in the story. I haven't watched OUAT in ages but I'm sure it still resonates because it expanded beyond Storybrooke, in the same way it expanded on characters. Doctor Who constantly expands on the nature of the Doctor. I'm interested in how you tackle this topic, not only in how 'resonance' can be identified, but captured and sustained. – Starfire 3 days ago
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    4

    Suspension of Disbelief: How Far Should We Take It?

    Many of today’s most popular stories require some suspension of disbelief to be enjoyed, and yet there are some who believe there is a line that suspension of disbelief shouldn’t cross. I’m not sure where that line is, but I have found my suspension "breaking" and disrupting the story sometimes. This is especially true for children’s and YA novels. For example, I love A Little Princess but as an adult, I find myself questioning, "Isn’t Sara’s rescue extremely contrived? Am I, a modern reader, supposed to believe this to any extent?" Same for Harry Potter–the adult side of me continually says, "Deep cover or not, how did Severus Snape ever manage to keep his job? Has Hogwarts never heard of ethical hiring practices or HR?" Same for Narnia–"You’re telling me these four children maintained what is essentially a double life for years, and then just died/disappeared at the end of The Last Battle, and no one said a word?"

    Of course, many of these books, and adult books too, are fantasies and can play by looser rules in terms of disbelief suspension. But even in those cases, questions remain. Even today’s children are reluctant to suspend disbelief because they know more than ever about how the world around them operates. My big question is, has the amount of information and analysis we’re privy to in the modern world made us too cynical to enjoy a story that demands we suspend disbelief? Have we suspended it too much or too little? How can an author do suspension of disbelief well? Discuss.

    • The concept of suspended belief I think also needs to be considered from the intended audience, for example the children's literature you outlined I think only needs to meet the suspended belief of its age group. However, I would also add that both Tolkien and Lewis had a lot to say about the importance of accepting the genre as part of suspending disbelief - as in that by accepting it is a fantasy genre means that real life concerns should be overlooked. Yet I too agree that I struggle with this at times, yet less often in literature where I am more likely to allow an author "literary license," but rather in film I struggle with this when I feel they are stretching beyond the "realistic." I think too with the visual we are so aware of what visually something looks like in real life, or should fit the parameters of, that it is harder to suspend disbelief. Added to this is most people's understanding of costuming, make-up and CGI. In regards to the second point it is worth acknowledging that different genres have different levels of suspension, and then target audience may influence this. However, at the end of the day I think most of the time it is good writing and an amazing narrative that carries you through. – SaraiMW 3 weeks ago
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    • Suspension of disbelief is also a core theatrical convention that implies a level of cognitive dissonance from the audience; they know there are lighting rigs and stage doors and one space within which the action occurs, but leave this knowledge at the door. Conversely, actors imagine a "fourth wall" between themselves and the audience who subsequently become flies on the wall. That is true of realism. Other non-realistic styles of drama shatter this convention and want the constructed elements to be made as overt as possible to achieve the desired audience effect. In this way, suspension of disbelief may be seen to be a function of specific genres. Didactic, "Brechtian" theatre does this well through direct audience address, placards, non-linear narratives and costume changes on stage. Such conventions work to enhance the experience of the story and can also apply to novels. In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughter House, the convention of a linear narrative is shattered. The audience embrace this as fundamental in conveying the disenfranchised, mentally ill central character. Can audiences of movies and readers of literature rather embrace the "gaps" in suspension of disbelief? – danielleraffaele 3 weeks ago
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    Published

    Antagonist-Centered Stories: What Can We Learn?

    Everybody loves a story from the POV of the hero–the one whose moral compass points due north, who sacrifices him or herself for others, who puts others first. Most can’t resist the appeal of an underdog or a comeback kid–i.e., the geeky kid who gets bullied in Chapter 1 but kicks the bullies’ butts in Chapter 10 because by then, they’ve discovered their inner strength and gifts.

    Despite these truths, there is a definite explosion of antagonist-centered stories out there, whether in movies, books, or television. The trend isn’t new; you can find it in fairytale spoofs like Seriously, Cinderella is SO Annoying! But lately, antagonist-centered stories are far more developed, giving their evil (or formerly evil) protagonists real development and character arcs.

    Look at some examples of this phenomenon, such as Disney’s Descendants, the character arcs for Regina, Hook, and Zelena in Once Upon a Time, etc. Do certain genres lend themselves more to this type of arc, and why (as you can see, it’s huge in fairytales–but why)? What does it take to do this kind of story right? Do you believe antagonists or villains always need their own stories, or should we be content to let them be evil (and in what cases should we leave them to their evil)?

    • Try and find some more obscure examples of where antagonist-centred stories work and where they don't work, don't just stick the mainstream titles. This might help either prove your case or highlight why it might not work (depending on which way you go with this) – AidanGuagliardo 7 months ago
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    7

    Do We Always Need to Know What's Next?

    The media loves sequels. Name almost any popular action, animated, or other movie from the last decade and you can pretty much bet it has a sequel or is getting one this year. The same is true for television shows. For example, Fuller House serves as a sequel to Full House, although it’s something of a reboot, too. Books that were not meant as series also get sequels. The wildly popular Wonder (a personal fave) has some short story sequels from the POV of other characters besides Auggie.

    Sequels are great, and there’s obviously a huge market for them. But do we always need them? That is, do we always need or want to know what’s next, or can we be content to let characters live happily ever after, as it were? What about writing our own sequels – besides being a ton of fun, do fanfictions and headcanons fill some sort of creative void? Discuss.

    • I like this, so long as the focus is on the creative merits of sequels, rather than a look at the financial incentives to produce them. The two are inexorably linked, but the latter topic has sort of been done to death. – John Wilson 2 months ago
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    • The media loves sequels? No! The production companies love sequels to swell their bloated bank accounts and, in my opinion, have been (and still are) guilty of pumping out any old garbage because they know there are fans who are desperate for more and so will even accept something that doesn't come up to the originality and/or quality of the first. Conversely, I have no problem with genuine sequels taken from source, or imaginatively created sequels that stay true to and further explore the world of the first, but when we get to the point where a James Bond sequel is based on an idea based on a novel that Bond happened to be reading in one of the original books, I despair! It also makes me wonder why some fans of a certain film or TV series can't simply accept that the story ends here - why do they need a continuance? One example I can use is a You Tube comment in response to the 2012 anime film 'Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki' (released in the West as 'Wolf Children'); she wanted to know what happened next. Why? The story is complete as it is and had she been paying attention to the story then she would have understood that there is no need for a sequel. – Amyus 2 months ago
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    Locked

    What Exactly is Happily Ever After, and Why Does it Matter?

    So the other day, I’m surfing the Internet looking at Harry Potter writings (I’m a recent Potterhead and enjoying the addiction). I came across someone complaining about The Cursed Child and the Deathly Hallows epilogue, saying that they were too "heteronormative." In other words, this person wanted to know why it was always necessary for our favorite characters to get married (to a heterosexual, but I guess really to a person of any gender) and have kids to be happy.

    Now, I’m a sucker for what TV Tropes calls Babies Ever After, but that post made me wonder. Why is marriage/babies held up as the ultimate happy ending? Is it the only one? What works can you name where this didn’t happen, but the characters were still happy and fulfilled? How has the concept of "happily ever after" evolved? Discuss.

    • I would say read Madame Bovary as it works as an antithesis to the traditional happily ever after. The character of Emma Bovary originally wanted nothing more than to get married, but soon starts desiring other things in life and becomes frustrated with the mundanity of married life. I don't want to give away too much here as it may spoil the story, but the idea of marriage and being a parent as the ultimate form of happiness is challenged in that story. You may also consider different gender perspectives in the happily ever after or "Babie ever after" trope as a lot of feminist literature likes to point out how what makes a female happy in marriage may vary for males. And for the LGBTQ community, it may because marriage and adoption is something that is legally denied to them in many countries. This theory has a lot of layers to it that need qualifications. I personally like stories that end with this trope as well, but I'm also aware of how it was used to keep females in a secondary position and treated them as a prize to be won. Though it is not to say that males did not desire as well. A good example of a male protagonist that wants desires this trope is Sanosuke Harada from the Hakuori Shinsengumi visual novels. – Blackcat130 2 months ago
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    • A couple of things to consider: The happy ever after (babies ever after) is a pacifier that stems from an industry pushing an 'aspirational' social value. Keep the status quo rolling along by showing us what we should want. Secondly, the romance novel industry dictates a happy ever after ending as it is expected. Queer romance sells best when it is HEA, but there is also a place for happy for now. – sheena 2 months ago
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    Taken by hitesharora (PM) 1 week ago.
    17

    Discovering Harry Potter: Does Age Matter?

    This is a fairly personal topic I’d like to write myself, but will leave to more experienced Potterheads.

    I was ten when the first Harry Potter book came out. I grew up in a moderate, but still observant Christian family who considered it too much of a risk to expose me and my then-six-year-old brother to a series that contained any form of witchcraft. I didn’t read the books then and later, got too busy with other books. Besides, I didn’t want to be labeled childish for carrying around HP paperbacks in, say, high school.

    As an adult, I’ve finally gotten around to opening my Hogwarts letter and starting the series, and it’s been a lot of fun. However, I can’t escape this fact: I’m a thirty-something woman. I have a different HP experience than the average 11-year-old.

    And so I’m curious to see an analysis of this phenomenon. Does age matter when you’re discovering HP for the first or two hundredth time? How do children and adults view the series differently? Are there less or more "mature" ways to interact with it? Or, as I suspect, has Harry Potter bridged age gaps in a way other book series can only dream about doing? If yes, how did J.K. and Harry do it?

    • Oh, this is a really good point. I grew up with HP and participated in fan culture while it was still going on, but recently met someone who never got involved until last year. We both love the series, but we have vastly different interpretations and relationships with the HP universe. Partly because of age, sure, but I think also because of our relationship to the fandom/culture surrounding it. – Emily Esten 8 months ago
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    • A nice idea for a topic, Stephanie. I have to confess to having a little bias in favour of the HP books as I was an extra on the last HP film, but having said that, I too discovered the books shortly afterwards. So, at the tender middle-age of 49 I started reading them. As an adult, what I discovered was a remarkably consistent form of storytelling that also matured and darkened in its subject matter as its young readers grew up. One thing I will credit Rowling with is encouraging a generation of children to do what successive UK governments had failed to do - namely to read for pleasure! I enjoyed discussing the stories with my nephew as he grew up and trying to solve the great puzzle, so in that respect alone it helped to connect the young and the not so young in a shared literary experience. It also opened up a few interesting discussions with other adults who saw me reading the books on the Tube; those who, perhaps under different circumstances, I might never have spoken to. – Amyus 8 months ago
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    • I grew up with the Harry Potter series so it's an important part of my childhood. I was actually too young when they first came out, so my mom would read them to me as bedtime stories instead. It turned into a bonding experience as my mom became almost equally immersed in the wizarding world as I was. I'm sure it was a different experience for her than it was for me. Since I was a child and the Harry Potter series involves a "coming of age" narrative, the human issues I was reading about were mostly on par with my own experiences growing up. The books and my life could co-exist side by side. For my mom, it perhaps provides a bit of nostalgia. It takes her back to when she was younger and makes her feel like a kid again. Feeling "like a kid" again while reading the books and actually being a kid while reading them is obviously a completely different perspective. Perhaps, for adults, it provides a mini-vacation from a world that seems to have lost a bit of its magic. It reminds you of an innate sense of curiosity and wonder we often lose as we get older. For kids reading them, there is perhaps less of a barrier between the wizarding world and our own. After all, Harry Potter incorporates our own (Muggle) world and the wizarding world within the same universe. The wizarding world seems like an undiscovered realm that we're too oblivious to realize is hidden right under our noses. The capacity for human ignorance can be astounding, so why can't there be a bit of magic we've failed to notice? Our entire existence is both a miracle and a mystery. Maybe J.K. Rowling is a witch herself! She certainly cast a spell on several generations worth of readers. As to how she did that so successfully, that's a more difficult question to answer. Audiences tend to like the ole' good versus evil storylines. Its voices aren't solely adolescent ones either, which separate it from YA that almost exclusively focus on kids' perspectives. I also greatly admire anything that's relegated to being mere "children's entertainment" which is instead handled with maturity and depth and acknowledges kids' capacities for awareness and intelligence that exist outside of adult comprehension. – aprosaicpintofpisces 8 months ago
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    • Speaking from personal experience, the way my twelve-year old brother and I experience the books completely differently. The Harry potter series is indisputably fascinating and entertaining to most readers, but age is usually required to see the broader themes of discrimination (blood purity) and class struggle (sacred 28) in the wizarding world, ideas not really important to younger readers. – JoanneK 3 months ago
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    • I didn't experience the Harry Potter book series until I was in high school, and only watched the movies as a kid growing up. When I finally did read the books I was pleasantly surprised by my ability to interpret and appreciate it, feeling as though I would have missed out on a lot of understanding had I absentmindedly consumed it as a child. I still grew up with Harry Potter, just in a different way. That being said, I think Harry Potter does transcend certain tropes that people can appreciate in all woks of life-- whether they are currently experiencing the struggles of growing up or relating to them in our past. It truly is a phenomenon. However I think a large part of it might have been the widely accepted exposure of such a developed fantasy world is mainstream media. Harry Potter was something we could share with others and through social interaction our connection to the franchise grew even deeper. Sharing is caring. – Slaidey 3 months ago
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    • Harry Potter has the ability to inspire and excite both adults and children reading it for the first time - however, in vastly different ways. Being someone who first read the books at age 8, I have an entirely different relationship with the story and the characters than my mum did when she read them mid-40s, and even my best friend who has just read them age 20. I think that a child's mind is so much more open to wonder and magic, so can really imagine that Hogwarts and the wizarding world could be real. I felt excited when learning about magic, and I felt scared when Harry faced Voldemort. I felt happy when Gryffindor won the House Cup, and I COULD NOT WAIT to find out what would happen in the next instalment. The events in the story and the emotions that they produce have more of an impact on a child, who view the story as a thrilling adventure that they may never have experienced before. Along with this, being a similar age to the characters, children will automatically have much more of a connection, and an ability to understand and relate to what the characters are going through themselves. An adult, however much they enjoy the story, accept it as being just a story. I think age does matter when it comes to Harry Potter; not that it cannot be enjoyed at any age, but I do feel glad that I had the experience I did with Harry Potter, because I don't think I would have the same love and appreciation for it if I hadn't read it until now. – nicnac 4 weeks ago
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    • @nicnac: I've noticed the same phenomenon you mention. It really makes me regret that I didn't read the series as a kid, or at least ask my parents for permission. It can feel a little awkward, being a brand new Potterhead in your thirties. But then, I do like how all the thoughts and feelings I have about it are new. As in, I haven't grown up with HP and known everything there is to know about it for as long as I can remember. So each discovery is like a new surprise. :) – Stephanie M. 4 weeks ago
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    6

    Disney Remakes Cinema Needs

    Disney has already remade several of its animated classics for the live-action medium, and there is no end in sight. This trend birthed plenty of controversy, since some people love the remakes and others despise the idea of changing animated classics in any way. Whether you’re a remake-lover or a naysayer, the question remains: which remakes have made the best and smoothest transitions? Which have positively influenced cinema and Disney, and which will continue to do so for years after their releases?

    Along with this, consider the reams of Disney animated films that are slated for remakes or haven’t been touched yet. Of these, which are the ones we truly need, and why? Are there any that should never be remade, and again, why?

    • Why are remakes necessary at all? Disney's appear to slavishly recreate their source material. – BallardianGorse 4 months ago
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    The Effects of Iconic Roles on an Actor and His/Her Career

    Most actors play a plethora of roles in film and on television shows. Some actors though, are best remembered for one or two iconic roles, even after the film has been out for years or the show gets cancelled. Examples include Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, best known for their portrayal of Michelle Tanner, Jaleel White (Steve Urkel), and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter). More examples: Juliette Binoche (Vianne Rochet, Chocolat), Julie Andrews (Maria Rainer, Mary Poppins), and Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack Dawson).

    Does being associated with an iconic role help or hurt an actor’s career? Does it make a difference whether the actor was a child or adult at the time of the role (s) in question? Do viewers prefer that actors stay in iconic role "molds," or would they rather actors create new characters/avoid typecasting? Explore these and other questions, as well as any examples you might choose, to determine the positive and negative aspects of associating actors with very specific roles.

    • The best actors would tend to belittle any type of impact, I would say. Take my childhood idol Clint Eastwood: traded his spurs for a holster, plays good guy or bad guy with equal tact; and still going strong in politics of all things--makes it seem as just matter of dusting off the layers of script material and moving on to the next being thing (nothing to it). Not convinced? Then, there is Arnold Schwarzenegger: Mr. Universe, Mr. Titanium, and Mr. Dream Teacher; still turning heads in politics. Positive and negative in Hollywood, not these guys. – LFreire 8 months ago
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    • Yet another interesting topic suggestion from Stephanie. I suppose there are examples of iconic roles that have helped an actor's career and others that have hurt a career. Off the top of my head I could mention just how long Sean Connery took to shake off the '007' tag, as some people actually confused the actor with the role, but he has gone on to more interesting roles, even if he did revisit Bond in 'Never Say Never Again' (1983). Conversely there's the controversial 'unsimulated sex act' that Chloë Sevigny performed in 'The Brown Bunny' (2003), which she will no doubt be forever remembered for and appears to have damaged her standing as a serious actress. Remaining in an iconic role certainly helps with the bank balance, but doesn't stretch an actor in any way - the actor Adam Woodyatt, who plays the character, Ian Beale in the long running British soap 'Eastenders', lives a few miles away from me and is often seen around in his Maserati (No, I'm not envious!...Well, maybe a little). The locals all refer to him by his on-screen character name. However, for me, the best example of someone who has never let the grass grow under his feet is Sir Patrick Stewart - perhaps best known for Captain Jean-Luc Picard in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation', who has since returned to his Shakespearean roots with vigour as well as delivering one the best performances as Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1999 version of 'A Christmas Carol'. – Amyus 8 months ago
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    • I think being strongly associated with a role is probably harmful for an actor in terms of their future career prospects. It's difficult to be type-cast and if an actor is type-cast than I suspect it would be very displeasing for them to have to struggle to break into new roles and in new genres. That being said socially it's probably neat for them to be strongly associated with a type of character or genre which would be cool if it didn't also impact what casting agents and directors think of them. – LucianoTheWriter 7 months ago
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    • This is actually an interesting discussion when you consider the discussion around the death of Heath Ledger. The industry is actually starting to look at improving the mental wellness of actors and the support network required for them. Consider also the anorexia issues of the Olsen twins. Actually an interesting discussion when considered also from the lens of mental health. – SaraiMW 5 months ago
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    Latest Comments

    Stephanie M.

    Precisely. I once heard someone say, “If you hear, ‘it’s a nice little story,’ don’t smile. That’s not a compliment.”

    Harry Potter: The Importance of Antagonists
    Stephanie M.

    @purplelight71: Ah, the eternal question, is Snape a hero or a horrible person, a sinner or a saint? And you’re absolutely right – he’s both. And yes, now that you mention it, I don’t think J.K. quite understood that when she was writing Snape or even talking about him. I love that Snape is morally gray, because it means he’s human and realistic. Yet I wonder if J.K. left some things out of his character, or if she was quite fair to him. Frankly, I kind of want to take Snape, Lupin, Tonks, and a lot of the other characters away, wrap them in warm blankets, give them tea, and tell J.K., “You can have these back when you learn to play nicely!” 🙂

    Harry Potter: The Importance of Antagonists
    Stephanie M.

    @jillianw: Great point. Yeah, I might have done better to focus on the Dursley parents (hindsight 20-20 and all that). But I’m going to stick with Dudley as the first antagonist, since he was the “easiest” for Harry compared to the rest of them. To me, Dudley is kind of like the first level in a super-hard video game – still formidable, but easy enough to give you a confidence boost.

    Harry Potter: The Importance of Antagonists
    Stephanie M.

    As do I, but of the antagonists, Snape will always be my favorite. Oops, see what I did there?

    Harry Potter: The Importance of Antagonists
    Stephanie M.

    Quite possibly. I can sympathize with her for a total of two seconds, considering how obsessed she was with Voldemort and how he was never going to return her sentiments.

    Harry Potter: The Importance of Antagonists
    Stephanie M.

    @Reyn: Debate, maybe, but you’ll get no debate from me. I don’t know if Dumbledore *meant* to become an antagonist, but that’s exactly what happened. Harry, Snape, Lily…there’s probably not a single person in the Wizarding World he didn’t manipulate in some way, even if indirectly. For instance, don’t get me started on the favoritism he shows to Gryffindor over Slytherin. Case in point: Harry’s first year, Slytherin legitimately wins the House Cup, but Dumbledore gives Gryffindor a load of extra points so they win. That’s…okay, I guess, especially if you’re a kid (b/c you think Gryffindors are the good guys anyway, so you automatically root for that house regardless).

    But what gets me is, Dumbledore does not take Harry and Co. aside to tell them about the changes privately or hold off on announcing the winner until *all* points were awarded. Instead, Dumbledore publicly lets Slytherin think they won, and then proceeds to rob them in front of the entire school. (Wow, when you put it that way, Snape’s favoritism toward Slytherin is practically negligible…)

    This kind of thing continues on throughout the series, along with a lot of other questionable behavior (i.e., Dumbledore disappearing for months on end so *he* can engineer *his* personal plan to defeat Voldemort, and not being there to protect Harry. But THEN, Dumbledore is like, “Oh, Harry, you’re too young to know, you’re just a kid…” Like fish he is. Albus, if you had just told him half the stuff he needed to know when he was eleven years old, Voldemort could’ve been defeated much more quickly and without all the unnecessary rigamarole, including unnecessary death.

    I think I’m gonna start calling the guy Dumbledork, honestly.

    Harry Potter: The Importance of Antagonists
    Stephanie M.

    Not a Taylor Swift fan, but to paraphrase: I knew she was trouble when she walked in. I despise that woman. Hope she’s having fun with the centaurs…

    Harry Potter: The Importance of Antagonists
    Stephanie M.

    @Savage: I don’t make a habit of comparing fictional people to real ones, but you raise some extremely valid points. The further I got into the series, the less I liked Dumbledore. He presents as this kind, wise mentor, but nine times out of ten, he’s out for himself. He uses Hogwarts and Harry as pawns so he can be the hero who gets much of the credit for Voldemort’s defeat. Snape was right – Dumbledore raised Harry like a pig for slaughter, for seventeen years. Given the choice between the two professors, I’d take my chances with Snape. At least you know where you stand with him.

    Harry Potter: The Importance of Antagonists