Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.
The Author: J. K. Rowling
Work in Question: The Harry Potter Series
The Profanity: “Mudblood”
One of the many duties of successful speculative fiction is to work as a mirror on reality, and ultimately, humanity. Sometimes that mirror can reflect more serious subjects. So, it’s no surprise that something like bigotry would become a topic, even in a series like Harry Potter. While there have been a great many articles written about the successes and failures of the metaphor, the goal here is to examine the word itself.
Enter “mudblood.” It is a slur for a magical person born of parents who have no magic ability of their own. Considered highly offensive, it gets slung around a lot in the series by bullies, villains, and the propaganda arm of the fascist state. Clearly coded like racial profanity, the word is designed to dehumanize (or dewizardize, in this case), and the connotations manifest throughout the series. In fact, the entire story across all seven books largely consists of the titular hero and his pals battling against a villain who believes all of wizardkind should be “pure-bloods.” (We can trace this back to Salazar Slytherin—the goth racist who founded Slytherin House and thought the school should only teach those of pure wizard-blood. Then he left when no one agreed with him. He was basically the Morrissey of Hogwarts.) It’s important to recognize the context of “mudblood” in relation to the overall struggle; it’s not just a word bandied about by meanies, it has plot connotations as well.
As a term, it’s evocative of modern racial profanity. Used within the realm of speculative fiction, it does its part to hold up the mirror, and as faux-profanity it does this effectively.
Previous Raunch Reviews
- “Frak” from Glen A. Larson’s, Ronald D. Moore’s, & David Eick’s Battlestar Galactica
- “Jabber” from China Miéville’s Bas-Lag
- “Storm it”/”Storms”/”Storming” from Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archives
Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.