For this episode, we looked at two texts:
Episode 52 of the Imaginary Worlds podcast – The Sorting Hat
The Last Jedi Killed My Childhood, and That’s Exactly Why It’s Great
This is a clean transcript of the episode. If you would prefer the original, unedited version, please let me know!
Welcome to Marginally Fannish, a show where we aim an intersectional lens at some of our favourite media and their fandoms.
My name is Parinita Shetty and you’re listening to the pilot episode of my PhD fan podcast. In this episode, I talk about the role this podcast plays in my PhD project’s research methodology and the shape it’s going to take throughout this year. I’m joined by my co-hosts Sanjana Kapur and Aparna Kapur and we introduce our different fannish journeys as fans in India who largely consume Western media. We chat about our evolving ideas about fans and fandom, and how much we enjoy critiquing the things that we love. We also talk about how impossible it is to choose a favourite Time Lord in Doctor Who, how terribly biased the Harry Potter books are when it comes to glorifying Gryffindor and vilifying Slytherin, the problematic bits of our favourite Enid Blyton books which we only picked up on as adults, why the term “ruined my childhood” is not always a bad thing (though it mostly is!), and why a Hogwarts in India would require more cross-cultural connections between magical students and Muggle students who are both fighting fascism and trying to overthrow the government.
Parinita: Welcome to the pilot episode of Marginally Fannish. Now before we start, maybe it would be a good idea to introduce ourselves to people who don’t know who we are.
I’ll go first. My name is Parinita Shetty and I’m from Mumbai, India. And sometimes it really feels like I’m living two lives at the same time. And my Indian life is my real life and my current life in the UK is my sort of temporary fake life. And in India I write and work with children’s books and young people in many ways. And I first came to the UK in 2016 to study for a master’s in children’s literature. And I went to the University of Glasgow. And I fully planned that after my master’s I would go back to my real life in India. But when I was shortlisting topics for my master’s dissertation, I discovered this whole new academic field called fan studies where I found out that there are – there’s this group of academics who are fans themselves of different media and they study other fans and they study their favourite media. And this completely blew my mind because I’m a very fannish person but I had no idea that I could bring that aspect of my identity into academia. I had this idea of academia as this sort of ivory tower thing – very serious, doesn’t dabble with popular culture. So this was pretty cool. So for my master’s dissertation I ended up studying two Facebook fan pages of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson – both book series that I love – to research how participation in such online fan spaces develop critical literacy skills among the members. And I loved the project so much and I learned so much from it that I didn’t want to stop studying it. So I decided to come back to the UK – and I never thought I was going to do this – but I came back to do a PhD in Education and I’m currently at the University of Leeds where I’m this really weird researcher who sits in the corner and unlike all the other people in the department who are studying things like pedagogy and educational policy and how to teach English as a foreign language, I’m studying fan podcasts and online fan communities and creating my own fan podcast. So it’s really strange to explain to others how I make sense in that department. But anyway, that’s a longer than I hoped introduction of me. Do you want to go next Sana? Since you were partly responsible for bringing us together?
Sanjana: Yes. I was. With some cheating that was involved which we’ll get to later.
Parinita: [laughs] Yes.
Sanjana: But anyway, so I’m Sanjana as you have just mentioned. Sana to most because we’ll be referring to ourselves as how we call each other so Sana, just don’t get confused, that’s me. I also write for children like you do. And my main job is writing comics. And besides writing and editing and running behind my two-year-old, I absolutely love diving into different universes. I mean it’s like a meditative experience to binge a book or a show. It’s just everything else fades away. In fact, when we were kids, we used to play Star Wars, Star Wars and fight over being Luke Skywalker and like it was just a thing. And we tried sneaking in little things about things we are really big fans of like the book that Paru and I wrote together – Paru being Aparna – wrote together, we had like seven redheads playing around in a garden at some point. So I mean it’s there, it’s throwaway sentence but it’s there. So like we really dive in very well into like whatever we are reading and it just becomes a part of what we are doing in that moment. So yeah that’s a basic, small introduction of me.
Ruckus on the Road, written by Aparna Kapur and Sanjana Kapur
Parinita: By the way, while Sana said that we’re using the names that we call ourselves, everyone else except these two call me Pari. And I refer to myself as Pari. But to these two I will forever be Parinita.
Aparna: Because Pari means fairy and we don’t just want to call you fairy. I don’t think you’ve earned that title.
Parinita: [laughs] Apparently I’ve not earned the title.
Sanjana: Grant us some wishes and then we’ll see.
Parinita: But also Sana, do you want to like –
Parinita: Say –
Sanjana: Yeah so –
Parinita: What the connection between you and Paru is? Because I don’t think anybody who’s not our family and friends actually might know.
Sanjana: Yeah, so Aparna and I are sisters
Aparna: (gasps) What?!
Sanjana: Yeah. Which is why we could I think write a book together because otherwise we wouldn’t have ever been able to do that. I don’t think –
Aparna: It’s also why we became friends because Sana was feeling bad for me at a party.
Sanjana: Yeah this is true. So a little bit about how we became friends because that has a lot to do with the things that we are fans of and all these universes that we share across the oceans now. So our friendship began at a literature festival. We met Parinita and it just took off from there. And which led to a party at a common friend’s house, which was Nimmy. So it was a quiz party, we were doing quizzes and I was the quiz master. And how we actually got together was – so the teams were all different universes. We had Marvel sidekicks – not sidekicks. Marvel arm candy. Comics of the books arm candy.
Parinita: And Lord of the Rings characters I think as well?
Sanjana: Hobbits was one of the –
Sanjana: Yeah. Teams. I secretly slipped the chit to both of you because you both looked like you didn’t have any friends.
Parinita: We didn’t! It was true. We really didn’t. I had accidentally invited myself to this party because I’d only met them the day before so yeah I didn’t have any friends there.
Sanjana: Yeah so I sort of cheated them to make friends with each other and … then over the years it’s just been one of those things that you know like Anne would say kindred spirits.
Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.
LUCY MAUD MONTGOMERY, Anne Of Green Gables
Sanjana: So it’s just one of those things where – and we just realised how many things we loved which were just the same. And that we introduced each other to newer things and so yeah. Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, The Last
Sanjana: Airbender – yeah. The Last Airbender. All of this has been discussed to death. This and more. Percy Jackson.
Sanjana: And so yeah that’s basically the groundwork of our friendship. And Paru would you like to tell us –
Aparna: It’s too late! I’ve missed my chance to introduce myself. I’m Aparna. I am known in this circle as Paru. And also Fred sometimes because we give each other character names. And Parinita and I are Fred and George and Sana is Luna. I’m a writer and I’m a picture book editor. And I truly believe that all of life’s questions can be answered in children’s literature. And fiction has been my lens to deal with the world and also most of the friends that I have are imaginary that I have made in fiction. So it is a lifesaver for me.
Parinita: Paru, I’m real. I’m not imaginary. I know we thought this once upon a time –
Aparna: [laughs] We did!
Parinita: But I’m real. [laughs]
Parinita: I said most of my friends.
Sanjana: Just a small thing to add to how much our fandoms that we love and adore play a part in us because when we were backpacking across Rajasthan, we chose to celebrate our birthday by dressing up as different characters from all these –
Sanjana: and roam around. So we did roam around with a towel in our hand because we were part of the Hitchhiker’s Guide –
Parinita: Excuse me! I had committed the most because I walked around dressed in my pyjamas and a bathrobe, if you have forgotten.
Sanjana: Yes. So –
Parinita: I think your costume was – it was great, it was Sokka, the hat –
Sanjana: I wore a woolen hat in Rajasthan’s heat okay please!
Parinita: [laughs] It wasn’t hot! We went in November, how dare you.
Sanjana: It’s right – it’s a desert! It was hot during the day. Anyway –
Parinita: Paru, what were you? What had you dressed up as? I forgot.
Aparna: I don’t remember.
Parinita: Oh no, I do remember! It was Jayne, was it not? Firefly?
Sanjana: Hmm yes!
Aparna: Yeah, yeah Firefly! Firefly.
Sanjana: Ohhh Firefly! Another one of our –
Parinita: Yeah. Which you guys introduced me to.
Parinita: But anyway, now that we’ve talked so much about ourselves and I’m sure we’re going to talk about ourselves much more in the future as well, maybe I can just introduce the podcast and what we hope it’ll be.
Sanjana: Sure please go ahead
Parinita: So essentially, Marginally Fannish is a fan podcast and it aims an intersectional lens at some of our favourite media and their fandoms. And it’s also my PhD project. So I’m exploring the ways in which fandom in general and fan podcasts in particular can raise awareness about intersectionality by providing opportunities for people to express and access diverse intersectional perspectives. So when I had decided that I was going to study fan podcasts for my PhD early last year, and I realised that I really wanted to create my own fan podcast as a part of my research methodology, I knew that Paru and Sana had to be involved. So I’d volunteered them to my academic supervisors even before I’d asked them because I knew they would say yes. So I basically held them hostage to my expectations. But I’m really glad you guys said yes! And we’re doing this finally.
Parinita: And one of the reasons I wanted to create a fan podcast was because I found that much like discussions of intersectionality, fan studies, fandom, existing fan podcasts largely seem to emerge from the US and the UK and the fans are also based in the US and the UK. So I thought that three Indian really fannish women talking about our favourite texts would be a really valuable contribution to diversifying the conversation, not only in academia but also within fandom. So apart from monthly episodes where the three of us are going to co-host and we’re going to rotate hosting duties, I also have a bunch of amazing guests from diverse backgrounds who have volunteered to participate in the podcast. So throughout the year I’m going to have regular conversations with these guests and with Paru and Sana about our favourite media and about our opinions and perspectives about intersectionality and like the diverse aspects of intersectionality. So I’m super excited to be able to do this and learn from all my co-participants about ideas I otherwise would not have thought about. What do you guys hope that this podcast is going to be? Paru, do you have any expectations or – what do you hope it’ll be?
Aparna: So I know this podcast will be immensely fun because it’s the three of us and that’s a given. But I’m hoping that it’ll help me look at things differently. So as a fan I’ve generally evolved a little bit in the last few years. And I’ve started being more critical of the things I love instead of just looking at them with blind adoration.
Aparna: And I feel like this will be some more steps in that direction.
Parinita: No, I think that’s such a good point as well because like you I’ve also evolved like that. And I really find a lot of joy now in critiquing the things that I love. Like it doesn’t take away –
Sanjana: That’s very true, yeah.
Parinita: The enjoyment for me. Like I love critiquing it, if that makes sense.
Sanjana: Yeah this is – correct.
Aparna: I have –
Parinita: Sana, what about you?
Aparna: I have sorry –
Parinita: Oh yeah sorry.
Aparna: One more thing to add which I’m also hoping that it will restore my faith in humanity a little bit –
Aparna: To see how people find a way to tell their stories no matter what.
Parinita: Aww! That’s a very good hope. I hope that happens to me as well.
Parinita: My faith in humanity really needs some … yeah. Sana, what about you? Do you have any hopes for this podcast?
Sanjana: Yeah so just to go back a little bit to say when you asked us, we immediately – like I immediately said yes. Because it just seemed like the absolute right thing to – like it just felt so correct that –
Sanjana: It was something that we instantly – so you were right to just assume.
Sanjana: [laughs] And what Aparna is saying is right is that a lot of the times when we read stuff, we just – we love it at first sight because –
Parinita: Um hmm.
Sanjana: You know you fall in love with the characters without actually looking at anything else.
Sanjana: And it’s a lot of fun to go back and re-read and then find little things that you probably missed at first glance. So I just feel this will do a lot to add to that little conversation. And I just hope that the podcast will get added to this larger discussion that is happening and from a completely different perspective. Because as you said there aren’t three Indian fannish women talking about reading.
Sanjana: So yeah.
Parinita: And like I think for me that’s so important as well like what you said exactly. I tend to really fall in love with things when I first watch or read or encounter them. And I need some distance but I also need to know what other people are – like I need to know other perspectives as well of that thing. And I need to talk to other – like with you guys, we talk so much about the things we watch and the things we read.
Parinita: And we get more ideas through our conversations. Which is another reason I started this fan podcast because that’s such an expression of how I engage with fandom. You know?
Sanjana: Yeah, absolutely.
Parinita: Yeah. So even though this podcast is my PhD project, I really wanted to try and minimise my control of it as much as possible, even though I’m ultimately in control of it. But to avoid making it an interview where I would largely choose the direction of the conversation, I thought that a discussion group of sorts would be a more democratic method. So before every episode, my co-hosts and guests and I, we’re going to exchange some fan texts or just media texts and this could be fanfiction or fan podcasts or even TV show episodes or memes – whatever. And in the episode, we’re going to use those texts more as discussion prompts than anything else so that they allow us room to talk about things that are important to us. And since I’m studying fan podcasts, I’ll mostly contribute fan podcast episodes. And there are so many brilliant fan podcasts out there. I really fell into this rabbit hole when I discovered fan podcasts in I think January 2019. And as much as I would love to listen to all the fan podcasts that exist, there aren’t enough days, there aren’t enough hours. Like I can spend my whole life and there are new fan podcasts coming out – I just couldn’t do it. So I’ve tried to control my project and control my life. And I’m looking at Harry Potter and Doctor Who fan podcasts because I’m definitely a member of both fandoms. I love Harry Potter, I love Doctor Who. And I’m going to be immersing myself in a selection of Harry Potter and Doctor Who fan podcasts which I’m going to put up on my website. And to shortlist those episodes which are sort of related to the intersectional themes I’m looking at. And the intersectional themes that I’m currently looking at are gender, race, class, ethnicity, gender identity and gender expression, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, national or regional origin, religion, and age. Though of course our conversations won’t be restricted to just these themes and I’m very open to feedback from co-participants or from listeners to this podcast based on which I’ll happily edit or expand this list. And I’m mostly using Harry Potter and Doctor Who, like I mentioned, to make my life easier. But obviously we’re not going to limit our conversations to just these two fandoms because we love way too many stories for that. And in fact among the three of us, only two of us are actually Doctor Who fans. So Sana, what do you actually know about Doctor Who?
Sanjana: Uhhh so I know there is –I know he, now and she, has two hearts. Am I right?
Sanjana: Is this [laughs] is this relevant? Like is there – has ever a Doctor been shot in one heart?
Parinita: I think – Yes. Once there was – the heart was a thing. But it’s not like a huge part of the –
Aparna: Sometimes when you least expect it, it just –
Aparna: Is a throwaway line. Like this only like –
Aparna: People are like, “Oh no! You’re going to die!” And then he’s just like, “Okay, it’s okay. I have two hearts.”
Sanjana: I’m surprised it’s been used only once. I would have –
Aparna: Or like generally he makes comments like, “Just one heart? You humans are so weird.” Like that.
Parinita: [laughs] Yeah. I think with David Tennant, there was like – the hearts played a major plot point but like I have a terrible memory and I haven’t re-watched the series yet for research. Because I get to watch Doctor Who again and read Harry Potter again for research!
Sanjana: Well –
Parinita: I love my project.
Sanjana: Please so if I can tell you what else I know.
Sanjana: So two hearts play an imp – apparently not so important. So they time travel in something called the TARDIS.
Sanjana: And the TARDIS, I believe, works sort of like Hermione’s tents and bags. It’s large –
Aparna: It’s bigger on the inside!
Parinita: It is bigger on the inside. Like Mary Poppins’s bag as well.
Sanjana: Yeah, yeah. Correct. So okay that I got right then.
Sanjana: And I assumed – I don’t know why I have this feeling that there are some evil robots that keep coming.
Sanjana: Am I right in assuming that?
Aparna: There are Daleks.
Parinita: I think – which ones? No, I was thinking of Cybermen. So which evil robots?
Aparna: Oh yeah Cybermen!
Sanjana: Oh! More than one!
Aparna: Are you talking about the ones that say “Exterminate!” [Paru does a great Dalek impression] Because those are Daleks.
Sanjana: Yeah I think that is what because I think most of my Doctor Who what do you call it –
Sanjana: Knowledge comes from the fact that Abed in Community was watching that –
Aparna: Oh my god!
Sanjana: It’s sort of funny that I have my information from a make-believe fan.
Parinita: Inspector Spacetime!
Aparna: Yeah! I was trying to remember the name.
Parinita: [laughs] Amazing!
Sanjana: Okay. I’ve seen an episode here and there. There was one about an artist who … which one … I’m guessing there’s been more than one artist.
Parinita: Was it Picasso?
Aparna: No, it was Vincent Van Gogh. Did you cry at the end of the episode?
Sanjana: I’m not so sure.
Parinita: Ohhh. That was a very sad episode.
Sanjana: The artist saw a demon … some sort of demons, which is why his paintings were the way they were?
Parinita: I think you’re talking about the same episode but I – I can’t remember enough details about it to confirm or deny.
Sanjana: Anyway, so I thought I would ask you guys if you – have I missed something major which I should know? I know there are companions. He/she travels with people.
Sanjana: And they die and get replaced or go away.
Aparna: [laughs] They die and get replaced!
Sanjana: Or they give up the job and somebody else comes in.
Parinita: Nobody gives up their job!
Aparna: Some horrible things.
Parinita: I think somebody did give up their job.
Sanjana: I think we talked about them giving up their job once. So I’ve been part of several Doctor Who conversations on WhatsApp.
Aparna: This happens to me with Grey’s Anatomy.
Parinita: Yeah that’s true.
Sanjana: So anyway. Okay.
Sanjana: So this is as much as my knowledge goes I think. Yeah.
Parinita: Yeah that’s pretty good. Do you know how many Doctors there were? So far.
Sanjana: Twelve? Thirteen?
Parinita: Like I don’t know the exact number either because I –
Sanjana: Thirteen. So –
Parinita: My Doctor started from the –
Aparna: It’s thirteen.
Parinita: Christopher –
Aparna: Thirteen Doctors.
Parinita: Oh yeah the Thirteenth Doctor yeah. Oh yes, yes.
Aparna: She’s called thirteenth! How are you confused about this?
Parinita: Because my memory is very bad. I couldn’t remember whether it was eleven … whether it was twelve …
Aparna: So there was a War Doctor no in between. Remember?
Parinita: Yeah, yeah.
Aparna: So technically –
Parinita: So that’s fourteen no it should be?
Sanjana: So I have a couple of questions okay which helps me understand this a little more.
Sanjana: If you guys would oblige.
Sanjana: Who’s your favourite Doctor? So that I know when he/she comes up and –
Parinita: Oh no! What a terrible question that is!
Aparna: This is not a throwaway question that we can answer. We need an entire episode.
Sanjana: Okay. So we’ll come back to it.
Parinita: That’s – that’s such a complicated
Sanjana: Which –
Sanjana: Which –
Parinita: Heartbreaking question!
Sanjana: Oh my good lord. This has opened up so many emotions. I apologise. I apologise for the question. But I will come back to this question … Or maybe you love too many?
Aparna: Yeah, too many.
Parinita: I love them all!
Sanjana: Top three?
Parinita: Uhhh …
Sanjana: Would that be easier to answer?
Parinita: That’s even worse somehow.
Sanjana: Okay. I have –
Parinita: Top three? What about the other two then? This is terrible.
Sanjana: Alright. So okay I have another question.
Sanjana: Which of the Doctors is most like a Slytherin?
Parinita: I think it might be Peter Capaldi.
Aparna: Yeah even I was going to say that.
Parinita: Or maaaybe – yeah I think it would be Peter Capaldi. Even though like just some Slytherin qualities.
Aparna: Yeah, very few.
Sanjana: Good enough.
Sanjana: Uh –
Parinita: I think there are companions who have more Slytherin qualities than the Doctor really.
Aparna: That’s true.
Sanjana: Well. No wonder they keep getting changed.
Aparna: Oh god!
Sanjana: I don’t know why I have this notion that the companions move a lot faster than the –
Aparna: Not always okay.
Sanjana: Who’s had the most number of companions?
Parinita: I think it was Matt Smith?
Aparna: Did he really? They stayed for a really long time. Amy and Rory.
Parinita: Yeah but then he had Clara.
Parinita: And did he not have River as well at some point?
Aparna: Oh that’s – Clara was the one who spilled into the next Doctor.
Sanjana: Alright. Similarly I want to know who the most uh Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw and Gryffindor are.
Aparna: I feel like the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, was most Gryffindor ‘cause he would just charge into things.
Parinita: Oh really? I feel like he was more Ravenclaw. Because he seems – like didn’t he have that line about books as well? And he seemed more, to me, cerebral and Christopher Eccleston seemed more Gryffindor to me because he always –
Parinita: But like yeah, different interpretations.
Parinita: Matt Smith, Hufflepuff.
Aparna: Matt Smith, Hufflepuff.
Sanjana: I was very sure you guys would –
Aparna: No brainer.
Sanjana: would say that.
Aparna: He is just Hufflepuff.
Parinita: He is very Hufflepuff. What about Jodie?
Aparna: He makes people want to be Hufflepuff.
Parinita: I think Jodie is also Hufflepuff.
Aparna: I think she’s a bit Ravenclaw.
Parinita: That’s true. She could be a RavenPuff! Like me!
Sanjana: Oh we are – we are
Aparna: We have moved on to RavenPuffs, I see.
Sanjana: Okay, moving on, like you said, like you moved. What houses were you guys Sorted in?
Aparna: Uh so –
Parinita: By ourselves? Or by like a website?
Sanjana: Yeah, a website. By Pottermore.
Parinita: I have always been Sorted as Ravenclaw in any website quiz that I do.
Sanjana: Oh well.
Parinita: What about you, Paru?
Aparna: So I always believed I was Ravenclaw. But I was very firmly Sorted into Gryffindor. So much so that my … what’s it called … the animal? Sorry!
Sanjana: The Patronus?
Aparna: Patronus was also a lion. Which I think is overkill.
Aparna: But anyway. I do think I’m a little bit Gryffindor. I’ve come to adopt that.
Sanjana: I –
Parinita: What about you Sana?
Sanjana: If anybody wants to know was Sorted into Slytherin. And I’m owning it. Because after being a bit distraught that I couldn’t take – you can’t take the quiz again and like try and be in another one. So I –
Parinita: Can you not?
Sanjana: No, I don’t think –
Aparna: No, you can’t.
Sanjana: That is – arey! You cannot change Houses once you’re Sorted.
Parinita: [laughs] That was a very Slytherin thing of me to say.
Parinita: Like oh try again! What’s there?
Sanjana: Anyway, so I am owning it. I –
Parinita: Yeah you should.
Sanjana: Have many Slytherin qualities. Qualities.
Parinita: Like what? What do you think is Slytherin about you?
Sanjana: Hmmm – I um … huh. I don’t know whether I should be so upfront as to tell you what my qualities are. It’s better –
Parinita: Yeah, you’re definitely a Slytherin. [laughs]
Sanjana: It’s better that you don’t see them coming. And if you’re asking this question, then I’ve been masking them well. So I think I’ll just –
Parinita: I mean listen, as much as it feels like we’re just talking to the three of us, hopefully there’ll be other people who listen to our podcast and it’s not just our friends and our families. So –
Sanjana: Yeah, this is true.
Parinita: You know maybe other people might want to know what Slytherin qualities you’re owning. I think you’re ambitious.
Parinita: I think that’s one –
Sanjana: Hmm. Okay.
Parinita: Slytherin quality. Yeah.
Parinita: And that’s a good quality, I think.
Aparna: Yeah and she is also – she likes to plan things.
Sanjana: What – what details! [laughs]
Aparna: So instead of like confronting someone, she will come up with a cunning plan to –
Sanjana: This is true.
Aparna: Get them to –
Aparna: Admit something.
Sanjana: Yeah, this is true. I am very conniving. Without the other person realising. So I think I’m – yeah. This is true.
Parinita: Ahh! Okay.
Sanjana: The other person won’t see it coming.
Parinita: You own it. You own your Slytherinness.
Sanjana: Yeah. So anyway.
Aparna: Yeah so Sana wears her Slytherinness as a badge of honour. But there is definitely a bias in the way the books are written.
Parinita: Yeah. Absolutely.
Aparna: There is– yeah, so like most people’s reaction to being Sorted in Slytherin is that, “Oh I don’t want to tell you what I’ve been Sorted in.” Is the kind of reaction that I’ve seen people giving me. Or they like overplay their Slytherinness or something. But usually it’s just something that people don’t discuss.
Sanjana: No, but this is true. It took me a while to own Slytherin until –
Sanjana: You know you guys convinced me to like say that, “Ohhh Slytherin has great qualities!” And I was like, “Hmm!”
Parinita: But no, it’s like the books themselves, they are so Gryffindor focused. Like –
Parinita: Even if you don’t identify as any of the qualities that Gryffindor has, but – because they’re written from that perspective – like in school, I was in the Red House. Like we had like four houses. And so the Red House – Gryffindor obviously. And I was so proud of that and I was so – I was like “Yes! We’re Gryffindor!” and I used to look at Green House very suspiciously because you know Slytherin. And it was only in fandom when I – because otherwise Yellow House is just like miscellaneous. Like you know they don’t really –
Parinita: There’s no like whatever qualities that seem to be really a part in the protagonists or anything. And Ravenclaw okay, smart house. But there’s no depth to that. It’s just like the smart house.
Parinita: So Luna Lovegood is such an interesting character. Like I love Luna.
Sanjana: Um hmm.
Parinita: And even like in the first book, like do you remember? I think it was in other books as well. But when Slytherin loses the House Cup, all three Houses – like it’s not just Gryffindor.
Aparna: Everyone cheers!
Parinita: Yeah! Which like can you imagine it – that happening to you like everyone seems to hate you so much that they’re standing on their feet, stamping and cheering and –
Parinita: I mean no wonder they hate everybody and they’re so grumpy.
Sanjana: No, but so the books were also preceded by the fact that they had been winning the House Cup for aeons like uh they had –
Parinita: Okay! Theek hai like still.
Sanjana: Theek hai na! So I mean it’s not only because they – I think they would have cheered enough even if it was someone else winning the Cup. It’s just the – they –
Parinita: Okay so but –
Sanjana: Just wanted someone else to win
Parinita: Okay no so like one of the fan texts that we looked at – the three of us looked at this week, for this episode – was an Imaginary Worlds podcast episode called The Sorting Hat which I’ll link to in the show notes. And in that it a really interesting point was brought up which – in the seventh book, during the war when like the Hogwarts battle, the Slytherins are all taken like … they’re all what locked in the basement or something? Just because –
Parinita: The teachers and all don’t trust them – that they don’t trust that they’re going to fight on their side. And the person in the podcast made a comparison to the Japanese internment camps in the US. Which I thought was really interesting. Had you guys heard about the Japanese internment camps before?
Sanjana: No, no I hadn’t.
Aparna: No, not in detail.
Parinita: Like I also know very little about it. But like from what I know it’s through like the internet and like through other passing references. But essentially during the Second World War, after Pearl Harbour was bombed and – don’t quote me on this – but like this is what I’ve gleaned from just the internet conversations – is that they had built camps in the US and like Japanese-Americans and Japanese citizens were bundled up into these camps because they thought that the citizens who were staying there would betray them to Japan. And so that was why the comparison here I thought was so powerful almost because it was – yeah like why would you just assume that the Slytherins don’t – will not be on your – sure, some of them yeah because their parents are Death Eaters. But surely you can’t expect all the Slytherins – all their parents are Death Eaters? Like then what does that say about the series? The house?
Aparna: Yeah. And also just like the fact that all Death Eaters were Sly – like there was –
Aparna: No evil character other than a Slytherin.
Parinita: Well there was Peter Pettigrew. We should have said spoilers in the beginning. But yeah.
Aparna: You should have a blanket spoilers –
Parinita: You know he’s Gryffindor but yeah you’re right. Everyone else is a Slytherin.
Aparna: Yeah. But in general, what is your take on the whole Sorting thing? Like they discuss this in the episode as well whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. And what do you guys think? Is it something that helps build camaraderie or is it something that is more divisive than not? What do you guys think?
Parinita: Hmm well I actually really liked the Sorting. And even when I was in school, I liked having that sort of community because I’m not a really very competitive person in general.
Parinita: But I like that sort of you know like in sporting events, just shouting – it’s almost like –
Parinita: Donning this cloak of competitiveness for that time being and you know just for the – it doesn’t really matter to me in the end. But it’s fun to just cheer and like be a part of this community and like have this group feeling where we’re all working towards the same thing.
Sanjana: No and going by that I really love having something to root for like –
Sanjana: You know I like saying that yes, I’m rooting for this team or character or something. And that sort of maybe did that to what the Sorting held. And we through our school years, it was something that I immediately identified with as you were saying. We were also – we also had Houses all through school years. And so it was something that – it was very you know like, haan, yeh toh – It’s correct. So –
Parinita: Do you think the House systems that our schools had was like a leftover of the British education system?
Parinita: Because I went to a Catholic school like I went to a convent school. So mine was very clearly – like our Houses, it was red, yellow, blue, green. But they each had saints’ names and I don’t remember what saints.
Sanjana: Yeah toh we also had red, yellow, blue, green. And we were
Sanjana: Yeah we were scientists in one of the –
Sanjana: We changed schools a lot so we had Aryabhatta and –
Aparna: Hey, no I thought we were Edison.
Sanjana: Raman house, Edison yeah. Edison was Blue House.
Sanjana: Yeah we had those and – no but in one of our schools, we also had –
Sanjana: Chanakya and Ashoka. So –
Parinita: Oh! Hmm.
Sanjana: There were kings at some point.
Sanjana: Yeah and we went to non-convent schools. But the colours were pretty standard I think.
Parinita: What about you, Paru? What do you think about the house systems?
Aparna: So if it’s as random as when we were Sorted into houses in school – not Sorted [laughs] just assigned houses. But the Sorting seems very personality dependent. And I feel like maybe that’s not a great idea to like Sort people according to houses based on some qualities that they have.
Parinita: But that’s what I really liked in the episode that they brought up which was that even though you think that Gryffindor is all like all the brave people go into Gryffindor and all the … evil people apparently go into Slytherin. But it’s actually – so in that episode, how that person talked about, that there are qualities that Gryffindor would need more of. So, for example, Hermione brings the Gryffindor – Ravenclaw qualities to Gryffindor.
Parinita: And Luna brings Hufflepuff qualities to Ravenclaw. And Ron brings Hufflepuff as well.
Sanjana: This Sorting Hat is a rather you know –
Sanjana: Genius, yeah.
Sanjana: Sitting there, talking, and hmming and hawing, but yeah. Very smart.
Parinita: I think I would love a Sorting Hat in real life. Like you know just to put it on people’s heads and so I don’t have to figure out whether this person is good or not. Just let the Sorting Hat do – but I suppose good is relative and like you can’t really judge.
Sanjana: Yeah. You just went right back into the Slytherin –
Parinita: No, look, some of my best friends are Slytherins! [laughs] I like Slytherins.
Aparna: So in general, the way that British literature has influenced our lives, I want to talk a little bit more about that. Like we grew up completely on Enid Blyton and British literature was the only literature we read for a long time. So for a long time we didn’t even realise that things like what Enid Blyton would have at a picnic, that food was more fascinating to us than whatever we were getting. Everyone at picnics would want to take like lemonade and sandwiches and cucumber sandwiches and whatever.
Parinita: Hardboiled eggs with a twist of salt.
Sanjana: Which in real life is quite drab.
Parinita: Yeah, no, honestly, it is! And like I read later that – so she was writing right after and during the Second World War, right? And after that, in the UK, they had rationing, like they had shortages of food and stuff. So she was really trying to make all the – like the heavy focus of food in her books?
Parinita: Was sort of a response to that. But it was also simple food. So it wasn’t anything that was fancy. But like she was sort of almost exoticising the simple like and to get kids to –
Parinita: Yeah like her readers to be happier I suppose with their lot.
Sanjana: Just be happy with your boiled eggs.
Parinita: Yeah. [laughs]
Aparna: I don’t know if it worked for kids in the UK, but it certainly worked on us.
Sanjana: Yeah, definitely.
Parinita: When I first came to the UK, like I was on an Enid Blyton adventure. And again, like even the pronunciation – so Paru, I noticed that you said Enid. And I grew up saying Enid as well [pronounces Ehn-id]. But here, in the UK, everyone says Enid Blyton [pronounces Een -id]. And like now it’s this sort of mixed thing in my head. Like what do I pronounce? Because one of my biggest fears is returning to India from the UK with an accent. So I’m like very concerned that I’m going to develop an accent and come back so I’m like always on my guard against that. But even like Enid Blyton now or Enid [pronounces Ehn rather than Een] Blyton now is considered super unfashionable because of some of her ideas about –
Aparna: Which –
Parinita: the anti-foreigner, and like racist. Which we never even picked up on.
Aparna: Yeah, exactly. For a long time, we didn’t. And now when we go back to it, if I go back to some of the old books, sometimes I find so many problems in it.
Aparna: Like how did I not see this as a problem while growing up?
Sanjana: But this is where the whole thing of how we change as fans comes in you know.
Parinita: But even the gender politics and stuff like was so problematic.
Sanjana: Absolutely! Yeah.
Parinita: In the thing yeah it’s –
Aparna: Actually, growing up, mostly I’ve always identified or wanted to be more the the –
Sanjana: Boy characters.
Aparna: Male characters in the books. They just seemed to be having more fun all the time. Whenever I would pretend to be a character in my mind, which is what I do when reading a book, I would always either make up a new character and insert her into the story or I’d just identify most with one of the boy characters in the story. And –
Parinita: Yeah because like the girl characters were always sort of relegated to like doing housework and you know like Anne in Famous Five, poor thing –
Parinita: Had to always look after the food.
Sanjana: They were the ones boiling the eggs and packing up the lunch.
Five On A Treasure Island, written by Enid Blyton
Parinita: And the only girls that were having fun wanted to be boys. So there was like George and Jo. They didn’t want to be girls.
Sanjana: Absolutely. Yeah.
Sanjana: Which we didn’t question so like …
Parinita: Ooh I read a really very interesting fan theory or at least fan interpretation of George being actually a trans boy. So that was her way of sort of dealing with her identity.
Parinita: Which I thought was very cool.
Aparna: Yeah, that is very cool.
Aparna: Oh another change that I’ve seen in myself as a fan is that I used to be very exclu – I used to not want to include people. Like if people would say “Oh I’ve only watched the Harry Potter movies,” then I would judge them very harshly. Or if people would say, “Oh I only started watching Doctor Who from the Eleventh Doctor onwards,” or something, then I would be like, “Oh you don’t – you can’t have an opinion on so-and-so.” But in the last few years, I feel like I’ve become more inclusive, in that anyone is entitled to be a fan of anything and have an opinion on it. And it’s just such a friendly space – it can be such a friendly space. And I feel like that’s one of the changes I’ve noticed in myself. What about you guys? How have your fan journeys changed?
Parinita: I think for me that sort of like I gatekeeped – gatekept – I don’t know what the past tense is. But I was a gatekeeper to myself more than anything. Like I feel like I needed to prove to myself that I was a fan by being a completist. So I was like I have to like, like you’re saying, with Doctor Who or with anything else, like I have to know everything about the world to then consider myself a fan. And if I don’t know everything about Harry Potter, or if like I don’t know all the references and whatever or don’t remember them, then like of course, I can’t be a true fan. And now just even the term true fan is so abhorrent to me because –
Parinita: Everybody is a true fan! It doesn’t matter like how you know – And another way I think I’ve changed is that like earlier I would be very much on the writer’s side, I think, when I was younger. Or the creator’s side. And now I think that if you’ve created something that’s so popular and it’s so beloved by so many people, it no longer belongs to you. Like if you want to be the only person who decides the interpretations and decides you know what’s allowed and what’s not in your world, then you don’t release it out into the world. You know –
Parinita: You just sort of keep it to yourself. But like once it’s out there, so for example –
Aparna: It belongs to everyone.
Parinita: Yeah! Like J. K. Rowling – now she’s done and said some really problematic things which have really made some fans upset. And I’m sure we’re going to talk about that in later episodes. But I understand why fans are upset and I understand why they feel like it’s like this huge shock to their childhood and childhood memories. But for me, I really firmly believe that it’s no longer just hers. It’s everybody’s. And even if she is sort of – like you don’t have to like her to like the books and to like you know what they did to you when you were a kid or even now.
Sanjana: Yeah, you’ve made some great points there because I found myself nodding quite vigorously.
Aparna: There’s this one very interesting article I read on a website that I follow quite religiously called iO9.
Parinita: Um hmm.
Aparna: And it was after The Last Jedi was released and the headline was quite dramatic. Of how The Last Jedi killed my childhood. But when I read it, it was just such a mature take on how the author felt because he’d grown up watching the Star Wars films, so he said it was like the end of an era for me because all the work that Luke and Leia and Han had done, to build up like the whole story that I watched and worshipped for so long, it actually meant nothing because the Dark Side was still there and has come back more powerful than ever. So in that sense it feels like a lost childhood. But just seeing all these new characters and just the way the story has changed and the whole new medley of characters, it gave him such joy to see that now people who are starting to watch Star Wars through these movies will get a whole new bunch of people to look at the way he had Luke and Leia and Han. And it won’t be just like his story. You know what I mean?
Aparna: Which I found – it was a very interesting way of looking at it.
Parinita: No, it was a really good article. And again, I’ll link that –that was another of the texts all three of us read and I’ll link to that in the transcript. But what that made me think of like he also talked about how the term “ruined my childhood” can be such a contentious one –
Parinita: Because you know?
Parinita: And I was thinking of that especially in terms of when like Harry Potter like I said because a lot of people do feel like their childhoods are ruined and you know like I can completely understand where they’re coming from. But on the other hand, there’s also the Doctor Who fandom. And luckily, I haven’t really been a part of the more toxic bits of that fandom. Just –
Parinita: Because of the spaces that I inhabit and the sort of people that I talk to about Doctor Who. But I know that there are places online where people are really upset at the increasing diversity in Doctor Who. Like not just –
Parinita: Not just Jodie, the Thirteenth Doctor, but also like the companions now and the themes that they’re exploring – there are more black, brown faces. And they think that it’s just trying to be progressive and trying to be diverse –
Parinita: As a political like thing. But like diversity isn’t a political issue. Like it is now but why like – surely diversity is just, like, life? Like you know like marginalised people who don’t recognise themselves in mainstream media, they do exist. Their existence is not a political point. But it seems to create such a sort of political stance that oh if you think diversity is good, you must be like you know a certain – like you must be left-wing
Parinita: Or you must be progressive. And it’s said in such a – it’s almost an insult. Whereas like diversity is – it’s good. And like Paru was saying, with the article and like Star Wars, I would not want to go back to Doctor Who, the original. Like you know the one that came out in the 60s and 70s. I tried. I watched the first few episodes. And it just – I couldn’t engage with it at all. And like that was when I was like no I need to complete – like watch the old Doctor Who series to then start watching the new series, and then I was like, look, life is too short.
Aparna: Yeah, yeah.
Parinita: I can’t do this! I can’t go through –
Aparna: The same thing happened to me.
Parinita: So – and like the new show, like not just the one that started like with Christopher Eccleston, but with Jodie, it’ll draw so many new people into –
Parinita: So many new kids and adults. And why should that be a bad thing? It’s like you know so “ruined my childhood” – they think that diversity ruined their childhood. Or becoming left-wing or political for the sake of becoming political. But like yeah. So that’s I think a term that can be done away with in most contexts.
Aparna: Correct. Yeah.
Aparna: So one interesting – during the discussion leading up to this episode, both you and Sana brought up in different ways, is to imagine what Hogwarts would be like in India. So what are your thoughts on that?
Sanjana: I for one don’t think we would have had to wait for – when does Umbridge come? In the fifth book no?
Parinita: Yeah, yes.
Sanjana: Yeah I don’t think we would have had to wait till the fifth book for an Umbridge situation to appear on the scene in India.
Sanjana: I feel that the decrees –
Parinita: I think that Snape was also a pretty terrible teacher.
Aparna: Yeah he was a terrible teacher.
Sanjana: He was a terrible teacher. But then he had stuff going on. I think.
Parinita: Well please! I mean okay, no need to take it out on poor Neville who is just trying to life his life, trying to look after Trevor.
Sanjana: Chucked into Gryffindor, trying to be brave and he’s like, “Should I have been here?”
Aparna: So sad.
Sanjana: Anyway. I feel like we would have had a lot more decrees nailed to the wall a lot sooner if it was in India.
Parinita: I think it also depends on when – like what era of India is Hogwarts like are we looking – oh or not Hogwarts I guess, an Indian magical school, whatever it would be called. If it’s happening now or if it’s happening when the Harry Potter books happened which I think would both be really interesting but also really terrible because the 1990s are not a really great time – early 90s –
Parinita: In India. And currently also it’s not a great time.
Sanjana: Not a great time, yeah. So I was going to ask you, when would have been a great time to put it?
Parinita: I think both. Actually both times would have been a great time because like this bunch of students getting together secretly to resist fascism and to overthrow the government.
Image courtesy batsaboutcats from a December 2019 protest in Azad Maidan, Mumbai, against the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act
Parinita: You know?
Sanjana: I think the Harry Potter like a Hogwarts in today’s scenario would be very helpful.
Parinita: Yeah! I mean like they could collaborate with the Muggles and you know like the Muggles and you know the Muggle students and the wizarding –
Parinita: Like one of the things I think in Harry Potter, which I didn’t realise at the time when I was reading it, but now through conversations in fandom and stuff, like the hierarchy like they talk nicely about like egalitarianism and all are – all people are equal and you know like oh yeah Mudbloods are people too and things like that. And giants and house elves and everything. But still Muggles are still much lower on the hierarchy. Like there’s – like there’s this really paternalistic attitude like wizards and witches are –
Parinita: Better than Muggles and you know?
Parinita: So maybe in the Indian sort of scenario, there could be more cross-cultural links between Muggles and like whatever they would be called in India. Because I know in North America, they’re called No-Majs. [snorts]
Sanjana: Yeah that’s a terrible one. I’m sorry but that’s terrible.
Parinita: No, no you know what is terrible? It is – what’s more terrible – well, maybe not more terrible but equally terrible is that in the Cursed Child, whose kid?
Parinita: Was it Parvati’s kid?
Sanjana: Yes! Oh my god yes!
Aparna: Why do people think those are the sort of names we have?!
Parinita: It’s not even a real name! I mean like what? Is he – is the father from Punjab?
Sanjana: Like if –
Parinita: Like is it a nickname? What’s happening?
Sanjana: It was Ron’s kid! It was –
Parinita: Was it?!
Sanjana: Ron’s kid! Ron’s kid.
Parinita: You’re right! It was an alternative timeline.
Parinita: Again spoilers.
Sanjana: Yeah. But I just would like to say that this means terrible – like even if you had blinked an iota of a research, you would have found a better name. Like it’s like –
Parinita: But that’s like –
Sanjana: It has got to be on purpose.
Parinita: No but remember the Neil Gaiman’s book? I forget the name
Cinnamon, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Divya Srinivasan
Parinita: Cinnamon! Like yeah that’s what we name our children in India. Cinnamon!
Sanjana: Yeah like ice creams.
Parinita: Like what would you name them in the UK? It would be like naming a kid Fish And Chips or something. Like or Haggis, I don’t know. Like it’s just so ridiculous!
Sanjana: If there was an Indian Hogwarts we would have like people, like we should have like a little roll call of the Indian things and have the foreign students’ names just for kicks –
Aparna: I actually would really like to get to know someone called Haggis.
Parinita: [laughs] I’ll try and work on that.
Aparna: Thank you.
Parinita: Like put out a call on Scottish Twitter: “Hello! Any Haggises around?”
Sanjana: Anyway I think this brings us to –
Sanjana: The end of our –
Parinita: Um hmm.
Sanjana: Our –
Aparna: Episode. Next week we’re going to be talking about race.
Parinita: Yes. And lots of different sort of aspects of race –
Sanjana: Yeah sort of.
Parinita: Among us and in India.
Sanjana: And sort of taking off from our last discussion of Hogwarts, I think we would like to dive a little more into that in the next episode. So –
Sanjana: Yeah. So.
Parinita: So hopefully this was a helpful start to introducing what the podcast will be about. And I’m really excited to talk to you guys about – and be angry about things that we hate in the things that we love.
Sanjana: We shall do this.
Parinita: So I’ll talk to you next time.
Aparna: Okay, bye!
Thank you so much Paru and Sana for being a part of this PhD experiment with me and for always being there when I need to discuss shocking plot twists or geek out about my new favourite thing. I had so much fun chatting to them that I nearly forgot I was doing this for Proper Academic Research. And a huge thank you to Jack McInally for helping me with the editing!
Since this a PhD project in Education, as a researcher I’m really interested in the process of creation, that is how as a podcast newbie, I’m learning on the fly by experimenting and playing around. So please bear with the awkward bits – I hope we get better as time goes on! This is also why I haven’t edited out my inadvertent mention of the term Mudblood though I’ve felt guilty about saying it ever since we finished recording (and I don’t think that feeling will ever go away – slurs in fictional worlds only make me think of their real-world counterparts and fill me with unbearable shame).
I’d love to hear from you and talk to you – so any feedback, comments or critiques are very welcome! Get in touch with me on social media, leave a comment on my blog, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to follow the podcast or the PhD project, visit my website marginallyfannish.org where you’ll find both the podcast episodes and the blog. You can also receive updates on Facebook or Instagram at Marginally Fannish or on Twitter where I’m @MarginalFannish. If you enjoyed the podcast, please share it with anyone you think will enjoy it too.
Thanks for listening! Tune in again next time for all things fannish and intersectional!