A Sirius Play-list

Sirius-sirius-black-7016622-697-470 I felt like doing something silly and light, so here I’ve compiled a list of songs that remind me of Sirius Black. Yes, I do have a playlist on my ITunes called ‘Sirius moods’ (no pun intended), which I listen to when I’m feeling particularly in love with this character. It’s a collection of rather random pieces of music, which fit, in my imagination, with different parts of his life. You’re welcome to try the list and tell me what you think.

Warning: some of it is rather, well, teenybopper and/or angsty. Then again, so much of Sirius’s life is/was angsty, so I think I’m excused.

1)       ‘Prodigal’ by One Republic

Have you listened to the words of this song? It’s all about someone who’s running away. I was in the midst of a pile of running-away-from-home Sirius fanfic when  I discovered One Republic, and I thought it fit so well. Coupled with the fact that he eventually returns to his home (albeit, not willingly), I’ve sort of imagined him as Rowling’s retelling of the Prodigal Son tale.

 2)      What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction

I know, I should be ashamed of myself. Listening to One Direction at my age? It’s true, many of my friends do judge me a little for this (but many of my friends also listen to it on the sly, so clearly I’m not alone). But really, no matter how silly their lyrics (an entire verse of na-na-na?), they have an inability to light up my mood from their sheer inanity. They’re a time machine, taking me back to a time when I thought Backstreet Boys were the coolest and most profound singers I had ever heard. And Sirius does have a way of flipping back his hair (I imagine) that would get me ‘overwhelmed’. Also, you can’t deny that he turns heads when he walks through any door. And he does have an amazing way of lighting up my world. J

3)      Walking in the Air by Celtic Woman

This song magical and dreamy and talks about flying above the world while everyone sleeps below. Is there anything more appropriate for a Potter love-song, or a gentle lullaby while Sirius steers his bike among the clouds? There’s even talk of monsters arising and facing the air-walkers. It’s a gentle song, and the waifish voice makes it even more Potteresque to my ears.

4)      Before the Dawn by Evanescence

This song has, for me, very specific association. I was reading the third instalment of the ‘Sacrifices Arc’ by the immensely talented Lightning on the Wave when I was on an Evanescence backtrack, and came across this, one of their lesser-known songs. ‘Darkness Comes Before morn’ is pretty loaded with Sirius, and the angsty pull of the lyrics, I thought, captured his presentation perfectly. Sirius, whether in the Potterverse canon or its fanfic, is often tortured and bound by the weight of his history and/or blood and much of Evanescence’s haunting music suits him. ‘Even in Death’ is another favourite, encapsulating what I believe Lupin feels post Sirius’s death.

 5)      The Unknown Soldier by Breaking Benjamin

This doubles as my ode to Theon Greyjoy, since it talks about falling apart and yet persisting in the long and determined fight. Both characters fall to pieces, see the world in shades of grey (cue Sirius’s advice to Harry and Theon’s long climb to sanity from his Ramsay-inflected madness), and redeem themselves despite being discarded as traitors. I agree that Theon is actually guilt of betrayal, but hey, his terrible torture makes up for it.

6)      The Way it Ends by Landon Pigg

‘Is this to be our fate?’ Pigg asks at the start of this song. When I think about the kind of boys the Marauders were in Hogwarts, I have no doubt that they are amazed at where their lives led them. There they were, four shining boys, the (seemingly) perfect quartet, and then a little more than a decade later, one is dead, one is on the run for a crime he didn’t commit, one is an out-of-work werewolf and the last is a servant of the Dark Lord. And yet, there’s a sense of defiance in this song, an acceptance that if this is the terrible way things were supposed to go, there’s no regret at the close. Instead, the close is where ‘life begins’, echoing Dumbledore’s assertion that ‘Death is but the next great adventure’.

 7)      Ending (Brokeback Mountain OST) by Gustavo Santaolalla

Calm after the storm of Sirius’s life, I need comforting music when I close the covers of The Order of the Phoenix. This piece provides a quiet close to the chaos of emotion that Sirius’s passing generates in me time and time again. I like to think of him walking away into the sunset, his handsome face no longer ‘ravaged’ in death.

8)      Paradise by Coldplay

I know the song is about a girl, but the theme is pretty universal and no-gendered. Someone has a crappy life that doesn’t fulfil any of their expectations, so when they dream they go away into a personal paradise. Sirius’s life is pretty crappy. I would imagine he expected the world when he was young, only to have it fly out of his reach when he grew older and things fell apart so spectacularly. This song not only constructs a world to escape to, it always evokes, for me, an image of Sirius getting on his bike and riding off in a storm, hallooing across the billowing waves.

 9)      Are We Human or Are we Dancer by The Killers

 Yet another goodbye-to-life song for Sirius Black. I do need a lot of uplifting music to get over the end of Book 5. It’s a little disturbing.  It’s much more upbeat than the others I’ve listed and different from them in that it questions the idea of Sirius as ‘human’ at all, as a real person, instead bringing in the notion of him as a character whose ‘sign is vital’ but whose ‘hands are cold’. Are characters real if the book they’re housed in is not read? These are very profound questions that I’m not in a mood to answer. Sufficeth to say that I like the idea of a ‘dancer’ who moves through his host pages, twirling emotions and ideas in his wake.

10)   You’re Still Here by Poets of the Fall

When everything fades away, there’s still the stories we tell and the characters we celebrate. Come rain or shine or hailstorms of despair, the characters we love are always there to shine a beacon of hope, of inspiration, be a comfort. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve turned to a familiar book to hold myself together when particularly upset, or smelled its pages to remember ‘yesteryear’. As evident from my blogposts, Harry Potter is one of the series I’ve dipped into more than once, for various reasons. Yes, every re-read yields something new, but it also acts as an anchor, a reminder that the more things change, the more some things, including great stories, remain the same.

The ones we love never truly leave us.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Growing up Potter: A Little Ambition Never Killed Nobody

It wasn’t until I passed through college and into the portals of post-graduation that I realized how demonized ‘ambition’ was in Rowling’s universe. An entire house is set up for those whose overarching trait is their desire to ‘get somewhere’ in life, who will use ‘any means’ to achieve their ‘ends’ (I’m quoting the Sorting Hat here). And that house is that one which produces all the ‘bad wizards’, if Hagrid is to be believed: ‘There wasn’t a wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin’.

Rowling is not the first author to equate ambition and cunning with the snake. The equation was set up way back in Genesis, where Eve was tempted to ‘disobedience’ by the wily serpent. Milton elaborated further in Paradise Lost, where ambition became the reason Satan fell from Heaven in the first place. ‘Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven’ has become one of the most out-of-context quoted lines in literature, and Satan and his bastard court in Pandemonium are the greatest exemplars of Pride and of course, burning ambition.

It seems only expected that most fantasy authors take their cue from this trope, as Tolkien, Lewis and Jordan (whose Lanfear is certainly a Satanic figure) have done. Samit Basu problematized the easy acceptance of ambition=recipe for Dark Evil Overlord in his Gameworld Trilogy, as has Martin. Rowling, however, has more or less accepted the premise of ambition=unscrupulousness=snake in her world, and it’s this that I’ll be examining in the following post.

Image First off, it’s strange that an entire house is devoted to kids who are ‘ambitious’. Are we saying that the other brave, intelligent and loyal kids are not? Or are these just the kids who were not any of the other things (besides being pureblood-crazed) and hence were labeled ‘ambitious’? What resources are they supposed to use in their quest to prove their ambition, if not bravery, intelligence or loyalty?

Oh, wait. I forgot that the Sorting Hat already gave me that answer: cunning.

So Slytherin is the House for all those who are ready to slime their way up the professional ladder, using old money connections, family networks and other suitably ‘cunning’ means. It makes sense, then, that the one weapon that Snape excels at using is Occlumency, which relies on mentally lying to someone who is reading the person’s mind. It demands intelligence and bravery to hold up, yes, but more than anything, it requires smoke-screening and deft sleight-of-hand with thoughts and emotions, something that a cunning, slippery Slytherin would know how to do.

I think Rowling realized she needed an easy punching bag full of bullies and obnoxious, over-privileged kids and decided that the snake would be a fitting mascot for the House they belonged to. And what trait can you link to a snake? The Ravenclaws have already snapped up intelligence so that leaves the Satanic staple: ambition.

Now let’s look at those in the Potterverse who are ambitious. There’s the classic Slytherin, Tom Riddle, who uses his good looks, intelligence and native skill with spells and research to make himself near-immortal. His career prospects as an Evil Dark Overlord are dampened by a Prophecy, of course, and it’s an everyman with an extraordinary capacity for ‘love’ that brings him down, not someone, say, as driven or career-oriented as Hermione Granger. Though she does contribute a great amount to the downfall of Voldemort, it’s Harry who walks away with the lion’s share of the praise, as is, in the context, fitting.

Then there’s Percy Weasley, the one red-head who makes noticeable, nerdy effort to better his situation and climb the power ladder at the Ministry of Magic. Percy sticks out like a sore thumb in the Weasley clan because, unlike his brothers and sister, he thinks his dad’s desire to settle down in the back-end of the Ministry is a mistake, one that he himself will not make. This, of course, makes him a thoroughly unpleasant character in Rowling’s hands. Instead of complicating his presentation, she makes him out to be a pedant and a bore, one whose academic and extra curricular achievements are outclassed by his need to read books on the lives of Hogwarts prefects, whose ability to run an entire Department one year out of school is eclipsed by his inability to tell that his superior, who was largely absent for most his tenure, was under an expertly-cast Unforgivable curse. Percy gets no slack even in Book 5, where he is made to sympathize with Dolores Umbridge and instigate Ron to turn away from Harry. It is telling that the one Weasley to ever question his family’s blind adoration of Dumbledore gets ‘schooled’ and made to beg forgiveness, while the rest of his emotionally immature siblings sit around claiming credit for who put the most parsnips in his hair.

Even if Percy makes some wrong choices (and I’m not saying he doesn’t), he comes back and apologizes for them, unlike Sirius or James who are never made to say, on screen, that they are sorry for their treatment of those less fortunate than themselves. But we are made to understand implicity that Sirius and James are good people, unlike the boring Percy. They are glamorous and ride motorbikes and play sports; all Percy does is work hard, be responsible and strive for a ‘boring’, influential position in the Ministry.

With her research- and book-honed intelligence, Hermione possesses a skill-set similar to Percy, but her ability to make the correct decisions (unlike Percy and even the young Dumbledore) sets her apart in the category of ambitious characters. You can’t deny that Hermione is ambitious, that she’s aiming to do the best she can in school, better than anyone else in her year. Even after Hogwarts, we are told that she joined the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, campaigning and overturning many restrictive laws used against House Elves, Goblins and other magical beings. If changing the world, one law at a time, doesn’t show ambition, I don’t know what does.

Because of her insistence on using it to define the ‘evil’, snakey House, Rowling has perpetuated the Western literary tradition of seeing ambition as a negative quality, with characters like Hermione being the exception rather than the rule. Never is it stated straight out that Harry is ambitious, or Neville, or Ron. All of them are fairly laid-back characters, content to react rather than act, except in the last book, where Neville steps up and takes on the hero’s burden. In this matter, Rowling differs considerably from Jordan who questions the accepted legacy of ambition=disaster in characters such as Egwene al’Vere and Elayne Trakand. While their world too harbors megalomaniacs, there is a clear distinction between those who strive to reach the top to do good and those who covet power for its own sake.

Perhaps if Rowling had had more Hermione type characters, driven, focused individuals who were shown to possess traits other than the unscrupulousness that defines Voldemort and his ilk, I would not be so uncomfortable with the portrayal of ambitious people. The fact remains however that Hermione is a sole voice of reason among her fellows, who all too often seem to forget that there are more ‘important things’ like ‘friendship, bravery’. Perhaps I too am being unfair in expecting her to shuck centuries of literary weight from the symbol of the serpent and set it gleaming in a new, positive light. We are bowed down by the canon’s weight, as Bloom would argue, and even the best of us cannot hope to carve new meanings for our devices with just seven books to stand against the ceaseless batterings of Literary Convention.

Revenge Wears Prada

Do you remember the time when Andrea Sachs told her draconian boss (yes, the one played by Meryl Streep) to ‘Fuck off’ in the middle of a Parisian fashion show?

Yeah, I was sure you did. If nothing, you can recall Anne Hathaway throwing a cellphone into a fountain after a one-night-stand-gone-bad with the Mentalist guy.

Apparently Andy’s abrupt departure didn’t sit too well with Miranda, and ten years later, she’s about to serve her former junior assistant some cold revenge.

BLACK_RevengeWearsPrada_Cover_gl_4apr13_pr_b_320x480

‘Revenge Wears Prada’ is the saga of said comeback. Andy and her new BFF Emily (the same girl with the plush British accent in the movie) run a luxury wedding magazine called The Plunge, are married to rich and handsome men and live in style on the Upper East Side. Andy’s husband is Max Harrison, the CEO of a media company, and he’s everything she (or her female readers) have ever dreamed of. Everything looks perfect, except, of course, it doesn’t last.

Enter Miranda Priestly, now Editorial Director of Elias Clarke (and not just Runway). She makes Andy and Emily an offer for The Plunge and all hell breaks loose, with Emily and Max raring to go for it and Andy resisting with all the strength she can muster. Will Miranda win out, as she usually does, or will Andy manage to be the one who gets away for a second time running? You’ll have to RAFO.

I really enjoyed this book. I read the prequel a few months ago (refer to my post, Strapping on that Prada), and found it, while not the most elegantly written of texts, refreshing, entertaining and surprisingly thought-provoking. While the ‘revenge’ here seems a little too long-boiled (meaning, it takes forever for Miranda to enter the scene, and even when she does, she’s annoyingly brief), and hardly the most earth-shattering, the world that Weisberger recreates is arresting enough to compensate for the glacial pace of the storyline. Plus, we get to meet old favourites like Lily, Alex and the ever-flamboyant Nigel and see where the decade has taken them. There’s even a short encounter with, dare I say it, the oh so sexy Christian Collinsworth.

Andy’s journey in Revenge is obviously very different from her experience in the first book. Here she’s an established editor, one who has definitely arrived on the New York fashion scene, handling her own team of (and I snorted here in understanding) entitled young twenty-somethings. Despite her success however, she remains a relateable, girl-next-door type of character, one who cannot dress well enough to impress Emily, who is not ‘posh’ or ‘appropriate’ enough for her snooty mother-in-law, who prefers to snooze under the covers rather than head out to the gym. A jarring difference from the first book is the shifting of perspective–where Devil stuck in first-person, Revenge is told from a third person limited perspective, namely Andy’s.

To put it simply, Revenge does not accomplish much as a story, but what it does do is take your mind off things for a little while by presenting you the world of the rich and famous, replete with fairytale weddings, jilting actresses and closet-fuls of designer clothes (and designers). So if you want a fun and fabulous read, please do go ahead and get your hands on it. Let’s all pretend to be more glitzy than we really are. At least for a couple of days.

Poor Little Rich Boy

What do Jaime Lannister and Sirius Black have in common? A lot, it turns out. They’re both very rich, from proud, aristocratic families (which are very powerful in their respective worlds), firstborn sons with great talent and wit, and, of course, wonderfully handsome. They also turn out to be parental disappointments, trust the wrong people and suffer terrible trials that cause them to question the very foundation of their worth. And yes, they have ‘sons’ who know nothing about them for a very, very long time.

Image

Jaime and Sirius are shining examples of that up and coming trope, the Poor Little Rich Boy (or PLRB, for short). Shae defines the trope better than I ever could; in Episode 10 of Season 2 of Game of Thrones, she snaps at Tyrion: ‘I’m a poor little rich boy and no one loves me so I say funny things and pay people to laugh at my jokes’, she mocks. Tyrion looks appropriately chastened.*

The PLRB, in my opinion, is popular culture’s response to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, painting a picture that few ‘real’ men could ever hope to live up to. Movies, books, TV shows are rife with this character- just sit in thought for a few moments and you’ll be reeling off a string of names: Chuck Bass, Christian Grey, Gawyn Trakand, Evan Chambers … While the details of their insecurity and weakness might differ, they share some traits including the notion that they have and will always continue to disappoint someone in the course of their (seemingly) empty, worthless lives.

Of course, this is remedied in the case of Chuck and Christian, but poor Gawyn damns himself and Egwene because (spoiler) he can’t get over his Rand-inflected inferiority complex. As for Evan, he was left alone at the end of GREEK, the only character who had nothing specific to look forward to.

In this post, I will examine what makes the PLRB such a compelling character, especially its manifestation in the form of Jaime and Sirius. Certainly a great deal of their allure comes from the fact that they have all that is normally associated with a ‘successful’ person: they’re rich, handsome, smart and very good at what they do, whether it’s swinging a sword or firing spells and planning pranks. At the same time, they are enormously vulnerable, whether because of love, lack of it, or their spotted, not entirely deserved reputations.

Sticks and Stones May Break my Bones, but Words Will Sorely Wound Me

Let’s begin with Jaime. When we meet him in A Game of Thrones, there seems little to like about him. He’s ‘golden’ and handsome, true, but he’s also the treacherous ‘Kingslayer’, the man who slew the ruler he was sworn to defend. A few pages after he rides onto the scene, he throws a six year old boy out of a tower and cripples him for life. After this he disappears, returns to wound honourable Ned Stark, and then is only seen again when in chains before the righteous Young Wolf.

If you came to A Song of Ice and Fire as I did, fresh from a world where characters in fantasy books were good or evil, no doubt your head spun when you reached A Storm of Swords and found yourself listening to a man you had decided to hate two books ago. When I first read ASoIaF, the TV series wasn’t even a whisper on the horizon, and so my experience of Jaime (in those first two books) was in no way as well-rounded as that of readers who came to him through the show. In A Game of Thrones , producers and scriptwriters don’t stay inside a few chosen characters the way Martin does—they present a more omniscient perspective, and so we get to see a less than wholly evil Jaime right from the start.

Instead, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays a man who wears his spotted reputation with a mixture of pride, resignation and a careful layering of carelessness. He ends the famous declaration ‘There are no men like me. Only me.’ with a half-grimace, underlining the character’s peculiar solitude and consequent loneliness. Coster-Waldeau presents a Jaime never entirely certain of his father’s regard for him, the scene in Tywin’s tent is Season 1, episode 7 (‘You Win or You Die’) being a great example. This scene does not take place in the books (at least, we are never witness to it), but serves, in the show, to begin building the figure of a man who is not entirely inhuman, even if he does do some monstrous ‘things’ for ‘love’.

It’s this lingering sense of honour, of idealism that sets Jaime apart from his twin and his father and makes him similar to Tyrion. For all his devil-may-care swagger, Jaime does set some store by what others think of him—how else does one explain the bitterness that coats his words every time he speaks of ‘honourable’ Eddard Stark and his quicksilver judgments? The strange ‘honor’ that Jaime possesses, that he slowly builds upon in the course of the books, emerges when he is divorced from his family and forced to confront the seamier, less than gilded side of Westeros. Once he is disowned by his father and heads into the riverlands and back to the warfront, the transformation of Ser Jaime is nearly complete.

Image

Post-capture, Jaime begins to lose some of his swagger and thus begin his journey to ‘likeable’ character in the books.

Black as He’s Bred

Just like Jaime, Sirius too is brought up as the firstborn son and heir of a rich and powerful house, one that holds certain beliefs that often seem to put it at odds (at least, in the years the Potter books are set in and make extensive reference to) with the rest of the wizarding world. To the Blacks, duty to family and bloodline is above all, as enshrined in their motto, ‘Toujours Pur’. Sirius’s breaking of Black family tradition via Sorting into Gryffindor house only marks the beginning of his stated (and canon-supported) rebellion. At the age of fifteen, he famously runs away to join another family (though he never formally changes his name), marking his clear emergence on the ‘right’ side.

Image

Fan art representation of Sirius Black

Like Jaime, however, the stain of Sirius’ blood/actions never quite leaves him in the text. Misapprehended as the Secret Keeper for the Potters, Sirius is jailed for twelve long, harrowing years and publicly maligned as a traitor of the worst kind. He is never exonerated during his lifetime, forced to hide and ‘escape justice’ for three years on the run for a crime he never committed. The chief reasons for the easy tarnishing of Sirius’s reputation lie, I believe, both in his family’s reputation and his own actions in Hogwarts. As Severus Snape bites out, ‘Sirius Black proved he was capable of murder at sixteen’. Though it’s never stated in the books outright, I believe this was a reason, however slight, for Dumbledore, McGonagall, indeed, most clear-thinking characters’ easy acceptance of his ‘guilt’.

O Brother, Where Art thou?

Another factor that constitutes a large part of both characters’ portrayals  is their relationship with their younger brothers. Both Jaime and Sirius ‘abandon’ their forebears’ definition of family duty to pursue their own goals: Jaime as a member of the Kingsguard and Sirius as a fighter for the ‘blood-traitors’’ side. As stated earlier, at the start of the books, Jaime does not come across as anything other than a dutiful son (chiefly because we do not actually get to look into his head in this section of Martin’s saga). He loves his brother, his worry for him driving him to recklessness and sparking off violence in the heart of King’s Landing. Tyrion himself often thinks of Jaime fondly in the first three books. The regard comes crashing down only when Jaime reveals his own part in the tragic tale of Tysha. At this point, Jaime has already broken from Tywin; this act leads to a schism in his relationship with his brother, one that I am not sure they will ever be able to repair.

Though barely glanced at in the text, it is implied that Sirius too failed Regulus, abandoning him to the manipulations and overbearing nature of his parents. Sirius speaks of his brother with bitterness in The Order of the Phoenix, implying that he was a low-ranking coward who didn’t even have the sort of twisted bravery that would carry him through his chosen service with the Dark Lord. We have no way of knowing whether he ever tried to persuade his brother to abandon the Black beliefs after he ran away from home, but given the Marauders’ general attitude to Slytherins and Sirius’s overwhelming bitterness towards his family, we can assume that whatever attempts he might have made were feeble and, above all, unsuccessful. At least as far as Sirius knew.

‘There are no men like me, only me’

Yes, I’ve already referenced this quote earlier, but I think it’s a perfect summation of the presentation of both Jaime and Sirius in their respective universes. Is there anyone quite as handsome, as well-bred, as good with a weapon or as misunderstood? James Potter may have stood in close competition with Sirius, but the former’s early removal from the series ensures that all we have of him is hearsay (and the occasional jaunt down Pensieve-lane). Besides, the ‘Potter’ name doesn’t seem to have quite the power and dark magic that ‘Black’ has attached to it, the same way ‘Lannister’ sounds a deal more heavyweight than ‘Tyrell’ in Westeros.

Jaime and Sirius’s life choices ensure that they do not follow the ‘conventional’ paths, i.e., marry and settle down to produce equally wonderful children. However, they both do have ‘sons’ (and in Jaime’s case, a daughter as well): Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella for Jaime, and a godson, Harry, for Sirius. Neither of them is there for their children for much of their lives. For Jaime, this is a safety issue, where his very life, his sister’s and the children’s depends on the continued belief of the masses (and the king) that the children are Robert’s. For Sirius, this is because of his being locked away in Azkaban. Even later, however, Harry reflects rather ungratefully (in a throwaway line in Deathly Hallows) upon how ‘reckless’ a godfather Sirius was, hoping that he himself will not be such to Teddy Lupin. Personally, I found this reflection rather astonishing, given Harry’s immediate reaction to Sirius’s death was to blame himself for his own hastiness and willingness to succumb to Voldemort’s trap. The reading of his death as a result of his own recklessness was something I would have assumed Dumbledore would make, not Sirius’s beloved and adoring godson.

Speaking of recklessness, can we forget Jaime’s impetuous wounding of Ned Stark? Or indeed his shoving of Bran out the window? Both are the result of his ‘unthinking’ quickness, a characteristic that Cersei laments and Tyrion cannot afford. Jaime is ‘reckless’, he stabs first and thinks about it later, he cannot be ‘serious’ about anything precisely because, up until his maiming, things come so easy to him. In the world he inhabits, he does not have to wonder about his ability to succeed. Neither does Sirius. This is why they are able to treat combat and perilous situations the way they do: with a laugh, a jest and a casual grace that others cannot hope to achieve.

And yet, we still love them

They have everything, as I’ve no doubt underlined multiple times. They have everything that would make for unparalleled success in any context. And yet, they don’t find it. And that’s why they work.

I had the misfortune to brush through a terrible ‘fantasy’ novel some months ago, where the protagonist was a well-toned, intelligent, handsome man who ‘fought’ to find release. Within a few sentences, I hated him. He was too self-confident (even while being presented very obviously as a flawed and under-confident being), too successful, too together. No one wants a hero you can’t sympathize with, especially in a fantasy novel, where everything else is supposed to be sort of alien anyway.

So what makes these particular near-perfect characters, Jaime and Sirius, work? One reason, I think, is because they are not the main characters. Though Jaime is a viewpoint in A Storm of Swords and the books that come after, he is one among many voices and, he is not one we have been with from the start, as in the case of Jon Snow, Danaerys, or Tyrion. The Harry Potter books, of course, are written primarily from Harry’s point of view, and Sirius ranks far below characters like Ron and Hermione and Neville in terms of screen-time. We don’t see too much of either of these figures, a fact which, I think, makes them more attractive and less jealousy/cringe-inducing as was the case with the earlier mentioned character.

Besides, Martin and Rowling are far better writers than that guy was.

Second, I believe the manner of their introduction has a huge part to play. Both Jaime and Sirius are presented first as ‘bad guys’, and it’s only later that we learn the stories behind their supposed crimes. The readers’ initial dislike or negative impression of them is slowly corrected only after surprising and thought-provoking revelations, which raise complicated questions about duty and loyalty. It turns out, surprisingly, that these guys were placed in hellish situations (especially in Jaime’s case) and tried to make the best of what they were offered. I think our surprise at their ‘good guy-ness’ and the revelation that we, the judging readers, have also condemned them without hearing the whole story, does a lot to help us forgive them their Rich Boy angst. We are now eager to make them understand that we are different from their dense, unmoved peers. We hear them, we see their ordeals, we appreciate what they’ve been through. We are now there for them, heart and soul.

This finally, is what makes characters like Darcy, Christian Gray, Jaime and Sirius tick—the readers’ desire to be forgiving and benevolent, to hand out comfort to those who are otherwise misunderstood by their own society. We are all a little bit like Sansa Stark in that way—these ‘monsters’ won’t hurt us because we know their weaknesses and unlike the rest of the mileu, we understand them.  We know the real Jaime Lannister, we see past the glamorous exterior of Sirius Black, we really have the power to forgive them their stupidities and mistakes.

I think it’s that, really, that makes these characters so seductive. The idea that, no matter how perfect they are, they have weaknesses that only we as readers are privy to and can forgive. It’s hard, if not impossible, to exert the same kind of power in real life—all the glamorous, powerful people are not waiting for you to come to them and assure them that everything is okay. Neither would they be supremely grateful for it. But these guys—they’re all ours to forgive and love. And everyone knows that in fantasy, it’s the forgiver who’s the real hero at the end of the day.

Image

Frodo taught us well.

* I haven’t included Tyrion in this definition because he does not have the same physical and social advantages that these Rich Boys have. He’s a Poor Little Rich Boy with a lot more problems than these guys could ever dream of.