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  • "Slytherin!"

  • We talked in our last Harry Potter video about the defining characteristics of Slytherin.

  • So in this video, we want to go a little bit further

  • and give a defense of Slytherin house.

  • Slytherin gets a bad rap.

  • "Not Slytherin, not Slytherin..."

  • This most misunderstood house in the Harry Potter series

  • tens to be written off as mean, prejudiced, or just plain evil.

  • There's not a witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin.”

  • But it's not really fair to let a few bad apples

  • spoil our impression of the whole bunch.

  • "Besides, the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters.

  • We've all got both light and dark inside us."

  • And if you look closer, it starts to seem like

  • the story itself is biased against Slytherin house.

  • It's written from a very pro-Gryffindor point of view,

  • and hello, Gryffindor is Slytherin's traditional rival.

  • Imagine if the person who hates you the most wrote a book about you --

  • would you expect that to be fair?

  • "We have a very different idea about what disgraces the name of wizard, Malfoy."

  • It's kind of too bad though that this house isn't

  • framed in a more nuanced way.

  • Because if we look at the Slytherin qualities themselves,

  • this house is arguably one of the more talented, interesting,

  • and certainly the most complex of the four.

  • So here's our take on why these folks have more to offer

  • than they tend to get credit for.

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  • Outside of Harry Potter, Slytherin qualities are

  • often presented as enviable.

  • Before we get into some examples, first let's quickly recap.

  • What makes someone a Slytherin, essentially?

  • The defining characteristic is probably that Slytherins are strategists.

  • They're single-minded and cunning in achieving their ends.

  • "When I became the greatest sorcerer in the world."

  • Because they're so driven, analytical and often very smart,

  • they can achieve true excellence in their fields.

  • They tend to be more cold and calculating, patient, rational and precise.

  • They're pretty sensitive and image-conscious.

  • They're often morally complex, with both dark and light sides.

  • Thus they have the capacity to surprise us with drastic change and even rebirth.

  • Now, let's take a look at a few other stories that frame strategy and cold-bloodedness

  • as essential to any success.

  • Michael Corleone in The Godfather -- calculating, rational, always in control --

  • is probably one of the most compelling Slytherins in cinema.

  • "Fredo... he's got a good heart.

  • But he's weak, and he's stupid.

  • And this is life and death."

  • Michael shows that coldness can be very attractive,

  • "It's not personal, son.

  • It's strictly business."

  • and incredibly effective.

  • "Don't tell me you're innocent, because it insults my intelligence.

  • It makes me very angry."

  • In Game of Thrones, all of the Lannisters would be Slytherins.

  • They love power, and have a worldly understanding of how to leverage wealth.

  • "Lannisters always pay their debts."

  • Sure, Cersei shows the selfishness of a traditional Slytherin,

  • "[LAUGHS] The people?

  • You think I care?"

  • and incidentally she happens to be one of the most fun characters to watch on the show.

  • But Jaime shows the Slytherins' potential for moral complexity and change.

  • And Tyrion -- even though he turns against his family --

  • is still very much a Lannister and by extension a Slytherin type.

  • He's crafty, realistic, and logical.

  • "I've been a cynic for as long as I can remember."

  • He tries to rein in Daenerys' hot-blooded Gryffindor instincts

  • with more calculating, worldly plans.

  • "What kind of a queen am I if I'm not willing to risk my life

  • to fight them?"

  • "A smart one."

  • We'd argue, that Marvel superhero Tony Stark would be in Slytherin.

  • "Big man in a suit of armor.

  • Take that off, what are you?"

  • "Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist."

  • He's ambitious, intelligent, morally complex, and, yes, narcissistic.

  • "Textbook narcissism.

  • Agreed."

  • These traits don't make him a villain; they make him fascinating to watch

  • and adored by fans the world over.

  • "I am Iron Man."

  • Dr. Strange is also a classic Slytherin --

  • he's hardworking, precise, cold, and a little full of himself,

  • "Not only about me."

  • "Stephen, everything is about you."

  • yet in the end he's willing to make great sacrifices to do the right thing.

  • "You will spend the eternity dying."

  • "Yes, but everyone on earth will live."

  • Billions is all about how you have to be a step ahead of your opponent

  • to stay alive in the world of big money.

  • "I don't lie to myself and I don't hold on to a loser."

  • "The best way to bond with someone isn't doing a favor.

  • It's asking for one."

  • House of Cards and Scandal paint people who can't play crafty games

  • as pretty much suckers.

  • "You can't just fight the good fight.

  • We live in a real world."

  • In the worldviews of these shows,

  • to refuse to play dirty in a corrupt world isn't heroic;

  • it's dumb.

  • "You're a fool, Donald.

  • You always were.

  • Principled?

  • Idealistic?

  • A champion for the people?

  • What did you ever actually do?

  • Nothing."

  • Sound a little like the Slytherins talking about Gryffindors?

  • "We Slytherin are brave, yes, but not stupid."

  • Sherlock Holmes on the BBC's Sherlock might be a Slytherin, too.

  • He's highly intelligent and strategic, of course,

  • and he can also be distant, arrogant, and alienating.

  • "According to SOMEONE, 'the murderer has the case.'

  • And we found it in the hands of our favorite psychopath."

  • "I'm not a psychopath, Anderson, I'm a high-functioning sociopath.

  • Do your research."

  • All of those characteristics help make up the unique genius he is.

  • "Sentiment is a chemical defect found in the losing side."

  • Eve Harrington in All About Eve comes across as somewhat villainous

  • for her Slytherin-style ambition in her quest for fame.

  • But the movie also implies this is pretty much what it takes to become a big

  • star.

  • "You'd do all that just for a part in a play?"

  • "I'd do much more or a part that good."

  • Going back to the classics,

  • Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo would be a textbook Slytherin --

  • he's dogged and meticulous in his plan for vengeance.

  • "Don't rob me of my hate.

  • It's all I have."

  • Yet watching his scheme unfold is so satisfying --

  • because his targets very much deserve their punishment

  • and as any Slytherin knows, revenge is a dish best served cold.

  • "You'll serve your sentence in this world before you go to hell."

  • Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind would fit into this house --

  • she's a cold-blooded realist,

  • resourceful and single-minded in getting what she wants.

  • "If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill.

  • As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!"

  • Rhett Butler loves Scarlett's ruthless, plotting inner nature,

  • but it takes her the whole story to accept that this is who she is --

  • essentially, a Slytherin --

  • and that her true love is Rhett, another Slytherin.

  • "Because we're alike.

  • Bad lots, both of us.

  • Selfish and shrewd.

  • But able to look things in the eyes as we call them by their right names."

  • For so long, she prefers the idea of the noble-minded, placid Ashley,

  • who'd perhaps be a Hufflepuff.

  • "You'll never mind facing realities,

  • and you'll never want to escape from them as I do."

  • All these fictional characters work hard, apply themselves, and fight for what they

  • care about.

  • Likewise they see challenges in our society requires strategy and long-term planning.

  • Yale Professor John Gaddis speaks about the concept of Grand Strategists --

  • people who shows an immense talent for strategizing --

  • like Otto von Bismark, Queen Elizabeth, FDR --

  • this capacity for Grand Strategy

  • shown by the most influential world leaders of all time

  • is completely a Slytherin thing.

  • The reality is that the majority of politicians and powerful public figures

  • need to be very cunning, calculating and image-conscious

  • to get anything done at all --

  • "And that's why you need me, because I am willing to stare into the abyss

  • beyond conventional morality and do what needs to be done."

  • so it's safe to say that a lot of these people leading our world

  • throughout history and today would be in Slytherin House.

  • A big factor that plays against young Slytherins is

  • that others expect the worst of them.

  • And if everyone assumes that you're going to

  • grow up to be an evil Death Eater,

  • "Harry is under he impression that Draco Malfoy is now a Death Eater."

  • the easiest thing to do is go on and become just that --

  • especially if you're young and don't know who you are yet.

  • While Gryffindors are constantly being glorified for their impulsive heroic gestures,

  • Slytherins often don't get the glory they deserve.

  • Snape lets himself be perceived as a bad guy, being heroic in secret,

  • in order to do the most good.

  • No one can know.”

  • And sympathetic Slytherin backstories tend to get overlooked or dealt with briefly.

  • Eventually in flashbacks we learn

  • that the sensitive young Snape was cruelly bullied by Harry's Gryffindor father.

  • We could also imagine a very different version of this tale from Draco's point of view

  • --

  • he's just an insecure young boy growing up

  • among crushingly high expectations,

  • and he finds it unfair that everyone worships this famous Harry boy for no apparent reason.

  • "Famous Harry Potter.

  • Can't even go to a bookshop without making the front page."

  • In the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book,

  • Dumbledore says about Snape, quote,

  • “I sometimes think we sort too soon.”

  • so the implication is that, because Snape's a good guy,

  • he's not truly a Slytherin at heart.

  • "Don't tell me now that you've grown to care for the boy."

  • Meanwhile J.K.

  • Rowling has said that the sorting hat seriously considered

  • putting Peter Pettigrew -- Gryffindor's one big villain -- in Slytherin.

  • So the story seems determined to equate the Slytherin label withbad.”

  • But Snape himself probably wouldn't agree.

  • Snape is a Slytherin; it's just that there's a lot more

  • to being a Slytherin than a propensity for evil.

  • You were named after two Headmasters of Hogwarts.

  • One of them was a Slytherin.

  • And he was the bravest man I've ever known.”

  • Draco in Latin meansdragonorserpent,” which we know is Slytherin's house animal,

  • so that's a clue that Draco Malfoy is a key part of Slytherin's future legacy.

  • "I mean, look at his family.

  • The whole lot of them have been

  • in Slytherin for centuries."

  • And Draco's change of heart by the end of the story is

  • a very positive sign for the direction Slytherin can head in.

  • And by the end of the series,

  • the anti-Slytherin bias is finally starting to dissipate.

  • Even though Harry himself begged not to be placed in this house,

  • when we leave off in Deathly Hallows Part 2,

  • he's telling his son

  • that it's fine to be sorted into Slytherin.

  • "Dad, what if I end up in Slytherin?"

  • Then Slytherin house will have gained a wonderful young wizard.”

  • And the hit play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

  • reveals Albus does in fact end up in Slytherin.

  • The play also features Draco's Slytherin son Scorpius Malfoy,

  • who's an incredibly popular character with audiences.

  • Scorpius is brave and sensitive, and has a strong friendship with Albus.

  • So in this new generation,

  • theGryffindor good, Slytherin baddichotomy of the old days is ending,

  • and we're finally starting to see a more nuanced picture of who a Slytherin

  • can be.

  • So we do have to address the elephant in the room:

  • When people think of Slytherin,

  • one of the first words that comes to mind is, evil.

  • And there's good reason for this.

  • Apart from a couple outliers like Pettigrew and the vain Gilderoy Lockhart,

  • almost all of the villains in the story come from this house.

  • And while we've pointed out some more admirable Slytherins outside of Harry

  • Potter,

  • we could also find a lot of ice-cold villains who you'd definitely sort into this house,

  • too.

  • It's not like Hannibal Lecter is ending up in Gryffindor.

  • "[SLURPS]"

  • It makes sense that villains mostly belong to Slytherin.

  • This house's members will achieve their goals at all costs.

  • In other words, they're willing to cross lines that others wouldn't,

  • "The Cruciatus Curse ought to loosen your tongue."

  • "That's illegal!"

  • "What Cornelius doesn't know won't hurt