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Jun 12 2012

Blogathon for SSA: Obliviate

Time for a nerdy post! There’s something that’s bothered me for some time about the Harry Potter books. It’s the frequency, and casual ease, with which characters in the book use the Obliviate charm to erase people’s memories.

A case could be made that we are our memories. We are what we remember, and what we do with those memories to make choices. When people have brain damage and lose significant parts of their memory, they become significantly less who they are. To non-consensually eradicate someone’s memory is almost a form of murder.

In my mind, Obliviate should be the fourth unforgivable curse. At the very least, it should be a “desperate last resort only” curse. And wizards/ witches in the Potterverse use it like they were handing out candies: casually, like it was no big deal, for their own convenience. Fuck that.

This post is part of my blogathon for the Secular Student Alliance. Donate today!

I’ve posted some quotes talking about why the Secular Student Alliance is so awesome, and why they deserve your support. If you have a story or a comment about why the Secular Student Alliance is so awesome — post it in the comments, and I’ll post it in the blog! Along with kitten photos, of course. Support the SSA!

6 comments

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  1. 1
    Nurse Ingrid

    I forget; did they use it on other wizards and witches, or just on Muggles who inadvertently witnessed magic?

    This is also, of course, why Willow and Tara broke up on Buffy.

    I don’t believe the Men in Black suffered any moral crises about the Flashy Thing though.

  2. 2
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I wasn’t aware that the Men in Black series had enough moral depth to sustain a crisis.

  3. 3
    Switchhttr

    Try Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels, especially the ones late in the timeline (The Chronicles of the Deryni, The Histories of King Kelson and forward). The Deryni mages alter memories too (because getting caught using their powers for any reason can get them killed), but they do at least think/talk about what a bad idea it is. One cleric in particular has it happen several times because of his job assigned to the sacristy of a cathedral with a very special importance), and the mages speculate on the damage they’re likely doing, but it is better than killing the guy or repeatedly knocking him out.

  4. 4
    Katkinkate

    Of course the biggest application is on muggles, who according to the wizards, are practically animals anyway, so who cares. That whole universe has some peculiar philosophy behind it. Like it was invented to tell a story without any deep thought about consequences or consistency. Things just got tacked on to carry the story forward. ;) Actually it’s my favourite fandom at the moment. I’m addicted to HP fanfiction. I love reading about how people choose to justify some of what Rowling did. It’s a very cartoonish universe, but I’m seeing that more often recently. I’ve become aware of just how much of our performing arts, especially movies and many books (and of course comics), like to keep to stereotypes. Not to the extreme of Japanese Go theatre, but along the same lines. Very two-dimensional most of the time.

  5. 5
    TooManyJens

    And then there’s Retcon on Torchwood. At least they made a tiny effort to consider the ethics of it, but it was Torchwood, so not much came of it.

  6. 6
    Janee

    I always look at it as, they’re not erasing their memories they’re reshaping them without certain people or events. Like, Hermione erasing herself from her parents. She’s not erasing all of their memories with her, she’s reshaping them without her.

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