President Picquery: A Pessimist’s Perspective

When Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them came bounding into movie theaters in November 2016, the fandom hype was, understandably, intense. A new dawn was rising in the wizarding world, and though it’s set in the past, the first movie was produced in considerably more progressive times than the Harry Potter novels. This was and continues to be Rowling’s chance to properly depict an accurate representation of the broader demographics of Western societies. Though the first movie, in many respects when it comes to representation, is still vastly problematic, it made some leaps beyond those of the Potter franchise. However, the major opportunity that Fantastic Beasts had to prove it could represent that which the wizarding world had not successfully done so before was in Seraphina Picquery, and disappointment doesn’t even begin to cover what was achieved.

 

 

Now, I understand why this may prove to be a source of dispute, but from the perspective of a pessimist who went into the movie Ravenclaw scarf tightly wrapped around neck and wand in hand, this needs to be said: As a person, and as a president, Seraphina Picquery was the biggest disappointment of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. While you could argue that she didn’t have enough screen time for one to make such an assessment, those limited minutes made for a glaringly obvious impression of Picquery in my eyes, and it was never for a second positive.

The reality is that despite all the promotion that her character, as played by Carmen Ejogo, received in the months running up to the movie release, Seraphina Picquery has very little to do with the plot. Whether she became a victim of script editing, or a tragedy waiting to happen from the start, the fact that Picquery has such limited screen time, or role within the movie, does not do her character any favors. Although she is the president of MACUSA, Picquery has little purpose within Fantastic Beasts other than to be stoic. And maybe that in itself is a huge flaw of her character: her stubbornness. Picquery’s sole existence within this world was to deny the existence of Grindelwald being nearby and to talk of all the danger America would be in if Grindelwald attacked, even when he was right there in front of her disguised as Graves.

 

 

The ignorance, which had my blood boiling, peaks in my eyes in the world leaders meeting. Picquery takes the opportunity while being disgraced in front of fellow wizarding world leaders to disgrace one of her staff to the same level. She ignores Tina’s attempt to explain the situation that unravels to her, and when things get to the point of No-Maj fatalities, she blames that on Tina’s “silence” and has her imprisoned. Is this fair or just? Of course not, but it happens anyway and truly depicts Picquery’s incompetency.

What we must remember is that, according to Pottermore, this is the woman who was known for being the only witch of her generation to be picked for all four Houses during her time at Ilvermorny. And yet what personality does she represent beyond stubbornness and incapability as a president? None. This is the woman who, despite ultimately choosing Horned Serpent, had wildly valuable assets to Wampus, Pukwudgie, and Thunderbird. And yet she does nothing. Heck, her wand doesn’t even make an appearance. That is how passive she is. How are we supposed to believe that she is such an incredible witch if all we get of her is denial and ignorance yet none of her skill?

 

 

A female president in the wizarding world came onto our screens a matter of days after a certain female candidate lost the US election. It was astonishingly ironic timing. This was the chance, I believe, as a feminist, to rebel against reality and show the possibilities there can be with a female leader. Instead, we got nothing, and in my eyes, having a female Fudge, who to a degree is even worse than Fudge, is wholly disappointing. We can only hope for better in The Crimes of Grindelwald, but for now, I look on with disdain…

  • MagicinmyHazelEyes

    With Graves right there under her nose, she did seem very ignorant and a lot like Fudge. It was very frustrating as a fan, even knowing her actions were for the plot. The formidable president of MACUSA is not at all the leader she ought to be!

  • Agree 100% – she’s the absolute worst. Even worse than Tina. In general FB’s presentation of female characters, with the exception of Queenie, was abysmal.

  • Iain Walker

    I too was hoping for more of Piquery than we got, in both quantity and quality, but I think your argument is a little off base.

    Firstly, while it’s true that her intellect is something of an Informed Attribute here, smart people don’t always peform well under pressure (witness Hermione in the first few HP books). And Piquery is under a lot of pressure, especially given that the society she heads is even more paranoid about Muggles than wizarding culture in general. It’s not at all implausible that this is her first major crisis as President, and we’re not seeing her at her best.

    Secondly, the comparison with Fudge is flawed. Fudge denied that any problem existed; Piquery is well aware that there’s a serious problem and is taking a personal interest in it, except the investigation is being undermined by the very person she’s entrusting it with. Her arrest of Tina along with Newt (or rather Graves’ arrest, with her tacit approval) may be reminiscent of Fudge’s “shoot the messenger” tactics, but reads more as a Scrimgeour move – needing to appear decisive in the face of a major threat. What she’d intended to do next we don’t actually know (possibly sort things out more calmly once she had the ICW out of her hair) because Graves/Grindelwald pre-empts her.

    Thirdly, she doesn’t deny Grindelwald’s involvement at all, because it never comes up. What she denies is that an Obscurial is involved, and given their rarity, she actually has prior probability on her side (just not the actual facts). Let’s criticise the character for her actual failings, not her imagined ones.

    And fourthly, what would the narrative actually gain by making her more competent? A paranoid, stressed-out leader being undermined by her Number Two serves the story; an all-wise leader who always reacts reasonably and effectively does not. Representation matters. It even matters a lot. But at the end of the day, what do you actually want? A Mary Sue or a character who serves the story?

    • Lysander Scamander

      Yes, but she also makes the movie less smooth. It’s just another obstacle serving no ‘greater good’.

      • Iain Walker

        Less smooth from an internal or an external perspective? Internally, from the protagonists’ POV, she certainly contributes to a bumpy ride, but that’s her plot function. She’s the Obstructive-But-Well-Intentioned Authority Figure who eventually comes around, but whose initial agenda and perceptions conflict with those of the protagonists and so help to drive the plot forward. That’s not a bad thing.

        From an external perspective, in terms of the flow of the narrative, I didn’t find her scenes particularly jarring, so this may be a subjective thing.

        And if you meant something else, then sorry – I think I’ve probably missed your point.

        • Lysander Scamander

          I meant the external smoothness, but that’s probably just me.

  • Lysander Scamander

    I definitely agree. Picquery should have either been more involved (and less fudge-like) or not in the film! Right now she just serves as an obstacle with nothing to do with the plot. Although I agree with most of this, I don’t think we’ve seen enough of her to say she’s worse than Fudge. She doesn’t deserve that much criticism.