“Potterversity” Episode 2: “Good Trouble”

Rule breaking for the right reasons is featured on this episode of Potterversity.




Katy and Emily talk with Dr. Beth Sutton-Ramspeck about her analysis of rule breaking and creativity in the Harry Potter series. In the early 2000s, some parents wanted the Harry Potter books banned because the students at Hogwarts often broke the rules without consequences. We talk about why this misbehavior may actually point to important moral choices for the students as they understand there are multiple sets of “rules” or principles in place at any given time. Sometimes, the trouble they make is what John Lewis called “good trouble” or evidence of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s concept of “creative maladjustment.”

We examine a variety of apparently maladjusted characters in the series: where they come by their perspective and how it’s useful to them. What constitutes creativity, and why is breaking the rules – and even defiance – a key part of it?

The Death Eaters and villains like Dolores Umbridge and Voldemort are some of the most magically creative characters, but there are critical limitations to their creative expression. We look at the trio’s rebellious behavior as well as the pivotal importance of outsider characters like Luna Lovegood and Dobby, who some see as not only “weirdos” but also perhaps insane. And of course, the Weasley twins bring their own brand of mischief – is it just troublemaking, or does it qualify as “good trouble”?

Racial inequalities and injustice abound in the wizarding world and in our own; sometimes you can’t solve those problems by following the rules. Creative maladjustment to racism provides opportunities to change the system for the better.

Our special “Owl Post” this week focuses on whether Hogwarts ought to banish Slytherin’s name from the school due to his past misdeeds. We share our opinions. What do you think?

We’d love to hear from you! Please send us an email at Potterversitypodcast@gmail.com, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Laurie Beckoff

My Harry Potter journey began in 2000 when I was six and continued through a bachelor's thesis and master's dissertation on medievalism in the series. I'm a Gryffindor from New York City with a passion for theatre, fantasy, Arthurian legend, and science fiction.