The Importance of Being Bellatrix Lestrange
It is odd the way that The Guy and I have these conversations…or maybe it is a sign that we watch our Harry Potter movies too much, but one night while viewing HPatHBP for appoximately the nonillionth time I turned to him during the Unbreakable Vow scene at Spinner’s End, and began the following thought train (all quotes should be presumed to be “air quotes”):
Me: You know, all of Snape and Dumbledore’s plans would have been shot if anyone at all would have listened to Bellatrix.
The Guy: No kidding! She never trusted Snape. Look at how she taunts him!
Me: It’s because everyone dismisses her as just being “insane”, you know.
The Guy: Because she was in Azkaban, you know, and it has “driven her mad”, so she obviously doesn’t know what she is talking about.
See, I am not in anyway advocating for Team Voldemort or something. There is a great discussion on racism that can be had about the antics of the Death Eaters (and the dynamics of having that point made from a primarily White PoV) in another post, but more interestingly to me right now in this particular post is that Bellatrix was completely right in her mistrust of Severus Snape and his position beside Lord Voldemort. Her feelings go much deeper than mere jealousy (but why shouldn’t she be jealous, since she alone stood proudly, unafraid of the consequences of supporting Voldemort when others did not?) to a practical mistrust of someone who seemed to benefit all to much from a convenient and literal get out of jail free card.
We know that Bellatrix was described as having a personality that bordered on displaying psychopathic tendencies* (from a lay perspective), in that she showed little to no conscience. We know that her cold and callousness was often played up if for no other reason than to reinforce that Bellatrix was someone who was a little unbalanced. Her pride in being a “pure blood” was over the top to a “normal” person, and we are to presume that no rational person would behave the way that she would. So, no rational person would honestly believe that anyone would dare betray the Dark Lord. She goads people with baby talk and laughs at inappropriate times which all adds to the image of the mentally unstable woman who just can’t be taken seriously, but is tolerated for whatever reasons (in Bellatrix’ case, it is more than likely her undeniable talent and power. Even Death Eaters can’t look that gift horse in the mouth, mental illness or no!).
I am not a doctor, nor anyone qualified to make medical opinions about the fictional personality of Bellatrix Lestrange, but I do know that often in real life people who have mental illness, to any degree, are in fact taken less seriously than those who do not. They are dismissed in everyday goings on, dismissed when it comes to their own medical care, told they shouldn’t have children, told they are not suitable parents if they do already, and when they leave the room you had best believe that people snicker that “poor crazy Bellatrix is raving again”… The importance of Bellatrix Lestrange is that she represents real people…real women who exist — whether intentional on the part of J.K. Rowling or no — who have valid concerns in the world, and who can not get their voices heard because their mental illness (or any disability) creates a barrier between what they say and what others are willing to hear.
So J.K. was free to write this character, whose madness and temper were often mirrored in her own cousin, Sirius Black (interesting, no?), who could go on and on at will about Severus and how he was not to be trusted, how he was really going to betray the Dark Lord. Severus was able to rest easy through her rantings, knowing full well that no one was going to believe her, that his triple agent status was going to remain unscathed, because, after all, who would ever believe a crazy person, right? Voldemort might have been better served had someone actually listened to her.
But no one did.
I mean, I guess it is a good thing, both for Harry himself, and for the sales of books five through seven or so and the corresponding movies, since the story might have stopped cold had any of that happened. Something to consider, I suppose.
Oh, how I do love discussing Harry Potter.
*These descriptions I take mostly from the Harry Potter wiki.
Photo: The Harry Potter wiki
Cross Posted at random babble…
By Ouyang Dan 7 April, 2010. books, media and pop culture, mental health, representations, social attitudes ableism, Bellatrix Lestrange, disability, Harry Potter, media and pop culture, mental health, mental illness, myths and misconceptions, pop culture, problematic attitudes, social treatment, we are not to be believed