Harry Potter & Glee: Hoping some boys can save themselves

Shanna Yarbrough, the hostess over at Don’t Turn It Off, and I have been emailing about a whole bunch of things lately: Glee, the New York real estate market, a secret project or seven, and Harry Potter. And, in one of those emails, where we were talking about going from being Harry Potter fans (and specifically Snape fans) to Glee fans, I said in an offhand way, “Well, Severus Snape is the guy we’re all praying Kurt doesn’t grow up to be.” And, even though I hadn’t consciously gone through the list on it at the time, it turns out, it’s sort of really true.

There’s an external perception of gender variance that follows Snape his whole life if you buy the reading in my post of the other day; I doubt Kurt’s apparent gender non-conformity is going anywhere soon.

There’s Kurt’s incredibly sharp tongue, a trait certainly shared with Snape.

There’s the history of being bullied, and the working hard to seem like something other than what he is: Mechanic’s son? designer clothes? trying to fit in at Dalton? Kurt’s perceived status and choices regarding that status can certainly be read as fairly similar to those of the “Half-Blood Prince.”

And, of course, there’s also the obsessive love and the self-restricted sexuality.

Which is sort of why I’ve just got to hope this Blaine thing works out, because a wounded Kurt is a scary thing. And I have to think, even if only from having been such an obsessive HP fan, that if this boy gets his heart broken, or, rather, blows everything up with his own sharp tongue and natural, reasonable distrust of other people, he’s far too likely to go down the road of someone like Snape, or, to keep it in Glee terms, Sue Sylvester. We’ve already seen Kurt have a surprising rapport with Sue on more than one occasion. Arguably, that’s Kurt’s very real generosity and kindness; or it’s Kurt seeing his own nature and seeing the person he’s trying desperately not to become.

There’s always a temptation, I think, in large swathes of Glee fandom to address Harry Potter. The teen protagonists are the right age to care, and once Darren Criss was cast as Blaine, the opportunity for boy wizard references became ridiculously difficult to ignore. Often, this seems forced. And, in particular, Harry Potter seems like a poor fit for Kurt’s pop-culture interests, which, outside of Broadway, largely seem taken from the lives of queer teens in the 1980s.

But now I can’t help wondering if Kurt did read the Harry Potter series and if they even do midnight screenings of the films in places like Lima. I wonder if he read those books and felt like Harry (Shanna recently summarized the plot of the series on Twitter as “Closeted boy must defend himself and those like him from violence and oppression. Do not despair, Harry: It Gets Better.”) or recognized himself in Snape. Did he think of the man’s spying as he went to snoop around Dalton? Did he smile in the dark at the films every time he noticed all the buttons on Snape’s clothes speaking softly to a love of detail and a pride in confinement? If any or all of these things are true, what does it feel like for Kurt every time he looks at Blaine and realizes he won’t become quite the man he always thought, or perhaps feared, he would?

Certainly, especially during this fandom old home week, I am always fascinated by the way fandoms sometimes migrate collectively to new interests. For example, it seems a large contingent of the broken-hearted over Torchwood‘s third season moved to White Collar en masse: No aliens, but the pretty suits and good banter have made a certain amount of sense as a new focus.

So I have to wonder now if there’s a fair portion of us who somehow migrated from Harry Potter to Glee or rather, from Severus Snape to Kurt Hummel, because after the tragedy of Snape’s end (Snake bubble to the head? Really?) it just feels so damn good to watch this very difficult, talented, wounded, and vicious boy who just might be able to save himself.

19 thoughts on “Harry Potter & Glee: Hoping some boys can save themselves”

  1. I’ve loved the Harry Potter series since I was a tiny kid. Now I’m a teen, and I watch Glee faithfully. (Mostly for Kurt. And then Klaine, if I may be so bold as to use their portmanteau.)
    I personally think that Snape is a lot more like Karofsky than Kurt. I know that might seem a bit simple to some people. While the details are totally different in a million ways (apart from the whole wizards vs. Muggles thing), there’s something about the way they act on their feelings for certain people (Karofsky for Kurt, Snape for Lily) that usually leaves them in the wrong somehow.
    I think that Kurt was probably sympathetic towards Snape, once more of his past was uncovered. Maybe in the same way he is sympathetic towards Karofsky. And Kurt might have seen himself in not just Harry, but also Hermione – the smart one who people thought were strange, the one who loved the complete oaf of a friend who kept fucking it up (Finn and then Blaine). I like to imagine that Kurt felt a sense of pride when he read about Hermione strolling into the Yule Ball on Viktor Krum’s arm, and maybe even longing. Maybe he was even anoyed at Hermione for choosing Ron instead of Krum, although I’m sure he has an appreciation for true love and all that.
    Then again, I may be completely ignorant on this topic. School me?

    1. Just wanted to say that as someone who spent a decade obsessed with Snape and who is now a deeply ambivalent Pirate, I think that Snape and Karofsky are in most ways the opposite of one another: Snape is all about control, restraint, reflection and biting cruelty; Karofsky is a loose canon, lacks self control, is unable to come to terms with himself and uses his body and his passion because he has never been able to master himself. Karofsky’s nastiness is the result of privilege he fears losing; Snape never knew privilege, and was constantly reminded of that fact by those around him.

      While I agree that both men made egregious errors in their lives, and both men are chiefly motivated by their self-loathing, how they got there, and how they express their rage is very, very dissimilar.

  2. They do midnight screenings and release parties in my small town (11,000 residents, give or take). So I would think they’d do so in Lima, or possibly Westerville.

  3. I’ll be honest … It could be because I’m having a depressive, weepy, emotional day, or it could be because my life is just really fucking hard right now, or it could be because I’m SO freaking emotionally tied to both Harry Potter and Glee (Kurt in particular), but whatever the reason, I sobbed through the entirety of this post.

    You consistently make good points about everything, and they are consistently things that I have never thought about before, and I love reading your blog because it always makes me go, “YES. Of course. So obvious… Why didn’t I think of that before?”

  4. I think that your line of thought on this is the only thing that might get me to ship Klaine next season.

    My mind gets hung up on the COLOR of Kurt vs. the DARKNESS of Snape. I like the Sue analogy for that, though — the idea that while Kurt won’t turn to black cloaks (although, if he moves to NYC…) so much as monochrome track suits, that the bright spectrum of color he is now would not fade to grey, but be distilled to a single, brittle hue…

    What Kurt has, of course, that we are led to believe Snape lacked, is a supportive, loving, and involved parent. Kurt has been cared for, and indulged, despite having lost his mother, and that is not something he is likely to lose sight of, even if romantic love fails or damages him. We saw a little in Grilled Cheesus that Kurt without his father was a nastier, pettier, hermitic and less accepting person (cough: SNAPE): I like to think that the call to life that is Burt Hummel’s love (and one day, his memory) will keep Kurt “the most moral, compassionate person” Blaine’s ever met.

    I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that both Snape and Kurt have been known to wear a ladies’ blouse…

    1. Kurt has a ton of advantages Snape always lacked, absolutely. But like any teenager, he doesn’t always know it. I’m hoping for some drama with Blaine’s parents in S3 to bring that home to him again (especially when he’s likely to be battling his dad a bit because of stuff related to spending time with Blaine).

      Also, I didn’t think to note this in the post, but I always felt there was a certain sexual ugliness to the “Snape’s Worst Memory” scene in HP, which draws a tighter parallel to Kurt’s treatment from Karofsky, than just “hey, bullying.” I know not everyone reads the scene that way, but I always felt like Harry got pulled out of the memory before he saw the worst of it.

  5. I really need to watch Glee as opposed to getting bits here and there from you and from other friends as well as from YouTube and the like.

    But I would hope that Kurt – who while I agree shares some Snape-like traits from what little I know of him, also seems to have some vastly different personality traits as well – if/when the break-up with Blaine occurs, would react very differently than Snape. Because we all know that the majority of high-school relationships are not “the one” in terms of with whom a person will spend the rest of their life. At least in my not-very-educated mind, Kurt seems more willing to be open and vulnerable? I could be completely wrong, though.

    While the fairy-tale possibility of Kurt and Blaine always being together is very appealing (especially to us romantics, believers in soul mates, those wanting to see non-hetero relationships portrayed in a positive light, etc.), I have to cast a vote for the far more realistic future of them being together for a while and then growing apart/breaking up and finding other people. Because that’s really the norm for high school.

    1. I’m with you and then some: I actually get a little grossed out by the idea of someone being with their high school sweetheart forever. It just seems awful to me — who remains who they are as a 16-year-old? I married at 32 and by 40 I’m already having to build a bridge to communicate with my husband because I am in a very different place than I was then.

      I think what we above are talking about when we hope that Kurt is not wounded by romantic love is something more fraught than a “growing apart.” I mean, Snape drove the love of his life away because of his own weakness and hunger to prove he was WORTH SOMETHING, and then she ended up in the arms of his enemy. That was bad enough: then he became the instrument of her death and had to spend the rest of his life in the castle where his worst memories were born.

      While I can’t imagine a scenario in which something that catastrophic plays out for Kurt, I think our fear is that should life shut him down in all the ways that matter to him — picture him being betrayed by his love, failing in NYC, unable to escape Lima, getting a job as a drama teacher at McKinley… It could be pretty bleak for him, and if he were left to stew in a place that held bitter memories…

      Not to be too literal. We just don’t want Kurt to end up thwarted, unable to achieve his goals, unable to hope or move forward, and shut off emotionally from everything but rage!

      1. I also think that as much as fandom may write a lot of “happily ever after” for Kurt and Blaine (I’m guilty guilty guilty), what most of us want from canon is really only “happily on to college.” If we don’t get that NY spin-off a lot of us are fantasizing about, I think a lot of us just want to see them get through graduation still together and intending to try to stay together through university. What happens then is up to us.

        1. I can totally see (and agree with) that (I am a romantic, after all) – but getting to see the character development coming out of a break-up might be interesting as well. I’d especially like it if we could watch an evolution from “breakup-I hate you” to “hey, we can still be friends.”

      2. I can agree with all of that, as far as wanting good things for Kurt. But then, I want good things for all people, so that’s not surprising. Despite reality, I’m always horrified and shocked and disappointed when I see hatred and bigotry and cruelty and all of that because I just can’t understand it, why we can’t just love each other. Yeah, my head’s weird that way,

        I have known two couples in all of my 42 years that were in fact high school sweethearts. One couple has been together 20+ and the other 40+ years. So it does happen, sure. But not often – I don’t want to see all happy endings in relationships in my media, that’s for sure.

      3. Also, this? “We just don’t want Kurt to end up thwarted, unable to achieve his goals, unable to hope or move forward, and shut off emotionally from everything but rage!”

        This made me cry… because this is me. Me, a thousand times over. This is my life. And I’m 42, and it’s too late now, and in many ways, I hate myself

        Many of the reasons I’ve stayed away from Glee are tied deeply into how hard I know it’s going to hit me emotionally. But I suspect I really need to watch it.

        1. I don’t know your situation and people who say “No, no, everything in your life can magically transform” are assholes. You’re a little bit older than me, and I had my transformative moment a few years back (and that’s not that everything’s perfect now — it’s not, I’ve got a lot of struggle I wrestle with in ways ungraceful at best), but I thought I was done. I thought I was all out of choices and possibility and joy. So I had my Snape things — viciousness and ambition and it was a good enough life; I’m good at those things. But I think the world is rarely done with us, even when we want it to be. I won’t tell you that all things are possible, but many things are, some of them very possibly for you.

          1. I didn’t want to just leave this unanswered, but neither did I want to suddenly have the dam burst here on your journal and 42 years of stuff which you have no interest in spew forth. Thus the lag in response

            I *do* appreciate what you said, very much.

  6. Sorry, I can’t comment on Harry Potter as I have neither read the books nor seen the films (I have trouble relating to fairy tales/fantasy/science fiction as I find real life surreal enough), but I can understand from what many of you have said that there are plenty of parallels between the HP characters and Glee’s. However, I have trouble with the suggestion or fear that Kurt will turn to evil instead of good. One of the most compelling and accurate things about Glee, for me, is that the young characters embody all the flightiness/resolve, cruelty/kindness, pettiness/integrity of adolescents everywhere. It’s their developmental job to be like this as they test out emotional and psychological waters brand new to them. They’re going to try out all kinds of different roles, attitudes, behaviours, until they find one that fits, at least for a while. That for me explains why Kurt can be so obsessive and bitchy one minute and then turn around and be generous and kind. Or…is it the script’s famous inconsistencies??! Hard to tell sometimes… Also, what Kurt has that others lack – what will help him save himself – is a strong accepting healthy family and this will always bode well for those of us struggling to resolve these teenage dichotomies, and other big issues as Kurt is. The scenes with Kurt and his father I find the most moving: you see the character as genuine and raw, not a kid pretending to be adult by being arch and bitchy and precocious, but a real kid unafraid to tell his real feelings to a parent who reacts with love and validation. We should all have been so lucky. I wasn’t, but I have since found people who do. And to Anastasia, I also say, “it is never too late to grow”. I am 55 and still trying to figure out how to be my best self.

  7. Kurt is my favourite character now. Snape was my favourite character then. I would have never thought to connect the two but now that you have, it just *clicks* for me a little too well. I could – though -definitively see that oddly compelling Kurt-Sue connection, and I’ve always liked that nasty sharp edge Kurt has when he seems determined to push people away through sheer force of will, even when he seems so vulnerable, so so close to falling apart. I’d be interesting to see how Blaine copes with that Kurt – we haven’t really seen much of that since Duets.

    — still, what I love best about Kurt is that his story just seems so hopeful to me. Perhaps it’s because Chris Colfer got his own Cinderella story thanks to getting the role, or because I just *believe* that Kurt and Rachel will get a good future and make at least some of their dreams come true, even if they won’t necessarily be the grand dreams of stardom they have now. So I feel tempted to mentally sort Kurt into Gryffindor – cause, you know – “courage”. 🙂

  8. I am getting the feeling that I’m going to have to check out this Glee thing, if only to see how a high school drama from the misfits’ POV works as a show. That, and I am recognizing that while a sharp tongue is a great defense mechanism, (and let’s admit it, it is also fun and to some degree pleasurable to use), in the long run it backfires by driving people away. Folks feel uneasy around someone who makes them feel like an idiot. Why yes, I am a “Sherlock” fangirl, why do you ask?

    While I am still good at refraining from things I know I would not be able to take back, I am afraid of someday spitting out the “nuclear option”. I am just really frustrated b/c I feel that while vulnerability gets others intimacy and help, all it does for me is get me trouble. I did have something of an epiphany once where I was relating to a 3rd party how one person once again said the worst thing to me when I least needed it. When asked why I didn’t say I was hurt, I spat out, “Why, and show them how to hurt me?”

    I have to say the silence that followed was quite loud…

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