Friday, June 4, 2010

Draco 'the not so evil' Malfoy

June the 5th is upon us (and for my friends over seas already here) and thus we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of one of magic's best villains (even if the folks at MTV don't agree).
Or do we. Is Draco Malfoy, son of Lucius Malfoy and Narcissa Black Malfoy, pureblood and possibly even descended from Salazar Slytherin himself evil. And as such, is he worthy of the title of Villain.
Pondering this question from both the books and the movies. I'm forced to say no. Draco Malfoy is NOT evil. He's no gentleman either but he is a far cry from the likes of his psychopathic Auntie Bellatrix and her master the great He Who Shall Not Be Named.

We first see Draco, in the books, as an 11 year old boy shopping for his uniforms, books and such like the typical boy about to head off to a prestigious boarding school. He is clearly a snot and we later find out that he's from a wealthy and well placed family. He's also 100% racist. Not in a white skin/black skin way but in one which, in the wizard world, is just as bad. One which goes below the skin to the blood. Or rather blood lines. The Malfoys are purebloods. To their knowledge there is no one in their family line that is not magical, or muggle as they call the other kind. And to them, that is a mark of fine breeding and excellence.

By virtue of being pureblood, they believe are better than most. Halfbloods, particularly those that show appropriate embarrassment about their muggle side, are tolerable (case in point, the 'great' wizard to whom they profess allegiance). Muggleborns, or as they like to call them 'mud bloods' are basically scum. They are believed to have no right to any wizard powers (an attitude shared by Salazar Sytherin whose house Draco is sorted into), never mind that somewhere way way back in the family tree there might be one or two wizards from whom this power has passed down. These wizards can't be named so they might as well not exist. And nor, the Malfoys and their like believe, should these nasty posers, who will dirty and corrupt their wizard world with their very natures.

These attitudes are really not Draco's fault. Children learn what they live and clearly Lucius Malfoy and presumably Narcissa are big with the making it clear how they felt about 'those people'. So like the white children raised in the American South before and just after the Civil War, Draco has learned that it is right to scorn those 'dirty' peoples. Since, some people are inherently better than others.

Draco also clearly suffers some self esteem issues. These would be the result of his home life and his dysfunctional relationship with this father. Lucius is the type to basically ignore his son's victories, but quick to lash out about Draco's failings. Draco is a smart young man. He's very likely in the top levels of his year and quite possibly the top of his house. However, it is safe to assume that THE top position in his year, more often than not, goes to Hermione Granger, a mudblood. That Draco is bested by one of 'them' would not go over well with his father. And that disproval would be strongly and loudly expressed. His father attends Draco's first Quidditch match as seeker and Lucius disappointment at his son's performance is written all over his face.

We see Draco's issues on a number of occasions, starting with the stair scene before the students are sorted. Draco makes a genuine gesture of friendship to Harry Potter, presuming that the boy would share his attitudes. Harry disses him in front of everyone, causing Draco to lose face. He gains some small pleasure from seeing Professor Snape both acknowledge him (in a praising tone) and knock Harry down a notch in their first Potions class, but it is a very small victory. Harry later steals the House Cup from Slytherin, leaving Draco with yet something else for his father to tsk tsk.

Second year we see Lucius' idea of 'love' pop up when he buys the Slytherin Quidditch team new brooms, likely at the behest of his son who wants to join the team. Draco is no slouch on a broom, having learned to fly even before arriving at Hogwarts (as told in the books). But when Hermione accuses him of buying his way on the team, self doubt kicks in. Can Draco ever really know if it was the new brooms or his skill that earned him his place. No, and he lashes out verbally at Hermione.

We also see on several occasions that Draco is all talk. He barks his disdain over detention, denying his fear when called on it. But when danger actually pops out of the dark, he's off running like a little girl. He is flip and snarky during class and then jealousy kicks in and he strides in to show up Harry. When Buckbeak attacks him he whines in overdone pain about 'that bloody chicken' and then plays it up to get attention from the girls. When 'a ghost' attacks the trio at the Shreking shack, he's off with the girly screaming again. Hermione whips out her wand at his throat and Draco looks like he's about to wet his pants. And yep, after a punch to the nose, he's off squealing like a girl yet again. Professor Moody appropriately turns Draco into a ferret only to have McGonagall turn him back. Do I even need to say what Draco does next. Okay I'll say it. He runs off like a girl crying that he's going to tell his daddy.

Draco is however not stupid. Lucius Malfoy conned his way out of a prison sentence by recanting his allegiance to the Dark Lord and claiming he was bewitched into doing the things he did. A lie, of course, as Lucius did believe in the 'go pure blood' message of Team Deatheater. Only then to recant the recanting with the massively powerful Dark Lord returned. But his tactic of aligning himself with those of strength and power would be one Draco learned well. Picking dumb rocks Crabbe and Goyle as BFFs gave Draco tough guys to hide behind. Joining Umbridge's lackey squad kept him on her good side (not to mention appealing to his inner bully). Even joining the Quidditch team gave Draco allies that would back him up in a pinch. Hopefully.

Now before you come to think that I dislike Draco, I want to set the record straight. I don't. He's a punk, loud mouth etc. But in the end much of his faults are really a matter of how he's been raised and the emotional abuse that can come with that sort of lifestyle. Particularly when that lifestyle comes with criminal activities and a lot of fear. It is almost like a wizard mafia or an urban gang where loyalty is the number one rule and the only way out is through a lot of pain or even death. A tough lot for a kid to handle.

And this is where the beauty of Draco comes out. His father is caught by the authorities and thrown in jail quite possibly for life or even a death sentence. Draco's hatred for Harry Potter increases, because he places the responsibility for this on Harry. Draco is blinded by his love for his father and it wipes out the simple logic that Lucius chose his life of crime. And Draco does love his father. Through all the snarky belittling comments, and the hits of the walking stick etc, Draco deeply loves Lucius. This is what makes coming out on top, etc so important. Draco wants even just a single moment when his father is proud of him. Just as all children want.

That smackdown on the train is about more than just Draco loving the father he isn't likely to see again. It is also out of fear. Because the mob boss is back and he's questioning Lucius' loyalty and that of the whole Malfoy family. Draco finds himself dragged into the fray on pain of death. And he is well aware of the pain that would come in that death, which would likely come from his twisted Aunt Bellatrix who seems to have loss her mind and most of her humanity. She's well on her way to becoming a Mrs Dark Lord and it unnerves Draco (hey I'd feel a bit dirty if she was slithering up on me).

Draco finds himself doing something that he hasn't the emotional strength to accomplish and his feeble attempts seem more like a cry for help than a genuine attack. The books tell us, towards the end, that the weight of the Dark Lord's task actually brought him to heart wrenching tears and had Moaning Myrtle had the arms to do it, she would have gathered the poor, sweet boy in her arms and soothed his frayed nerves with a great big hug. We read and see multiple hints of Draco growing sickly and gaunt, with dark circles under his eyes, possibly from insomnia induced by a fear of sleeping and the horrifying dreams the Dark Lord or his Aunt could put in his head. In the movie we see him flee to an out of the way bathroom, a panic attack mounting. Even his attack on Harry was less than his old nasties, more desperate and panicked, and eventually leads to him receiving a near deadly blow. His pain is so acute, his terror so real that even Harry realizes that something is amiss and is able to see with open eyes the suffering, the fear that draws Draco to the tower to finally complete his ordained task.

But even the fear of a painful death isn't enough to keep Draco's hand steady. Weak and shaking, it lowers. Until the other arrive and Snape honors his oath and does the deed himself. Sparing Draco from becoming a murderer, particularly of an unarmed man. Draco is so weak at that point, so drained, that he has to be dragged out of the castle and to safety. Although that safety is unsure since the path leads straight to The Dark Lord who is sure to be less than pleased that Draco failed.

And thus, avoiding spoilers for the upcoming films, I conclude. My argument stands thus. Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, I say that Draco Malfoy is not evil at all. A loud mouth snot sure. An all bark, no bite bully by all means. But most importantly he is a victim of his upbringing. Underneath it all he is loving (within certain restraints) and like all children longing for love, particularly from a father that is cold and unemotional at best, belittling and abusive at worse. And acutely terrified of the head of their little faction, who is cruel and unforgiving and capable of great pain with no remorse.
And in these ways Draco Malfoy stands as the most complex and intriguing character of the series.


  1. I absolutly LOVE draco!!!! i have liked him since the begining:D ugh.... none of my friends agree.... they say he stupid and they like ron or harry. i have seen all the movies exept for the deathly hallow part 1 and 2 i hope draco lives and becomes good:)

  2. Im going to be honest with you. I disliked Draco in the first five films and had considered him to be a cowardly spoilt brat. However, when i watched the 6th film the half blood prince i slowly realized who he truly was. I pitied him throughout the movie and even burst into tears when he was trying to fulfill the task of killing Dumbledore. The exact line in which i fell for him was "Dont you understand? i have to do this, i have to kill you. Or hes going to kill me!" That is when i new for certain that he was an amazing character and that he was misunderstood. And to this day i love Draco Malfoy and he will forever be in my heart. <3 xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx