Why I Named My Quidditch Film Mudbloods
"It’s a disgusting thing to call someone. Dirty blood, see. Common blood. It’s ridiculous." This is how Ron Weasley explains the term “Mudblood” in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In the Harry Potter books and films, “Mudblood” is a derogatory term for people with no wizarding parents or grandparents, also known as being Muggle-born. It is offensive to many fans in the Harry Potter community; however, I decided to name my film about the UCLA Quidditch team after this controversial term.
The title comes from a story that Tom Marks, the main character in film, told me during one our earliest interviews. It’s also the moment we use to start the film. Not only does it provide a quick insight into Tom’s personality (someone who is simultaneously self-deprecating but also confident), it also introduces the viewer to one of the primary themes of the film, and one of the things that initially drew me to this project—the idea of adaptation.
When I saw quidditch for the first time I was quite surprised. I remember stopping in my tracks when I saw a small group of people adapting this fictional game based on magical elements into a real-life exercise and thinking how audacious I thought this was. But I quickly realized that this wasn’t an isolated event. After I started making the film, I learned that this audacious endeavor had caught on as a sport at hundreds of schools played by thousands of players. And the more time I spent with the people who surround the sport (not just players, but organizers, fans, etc.), I was consistently impressed by the passion with which these creative individuals approached this seemingly impossible undertaking.
As I got to know the players even more, I was equally surprised to discover that not all of them were Harry Potter fans. In fact, many of them were only casually aware of the series, or not fans at all. Tom is perhaps the best example of this because he started his team, but never read all the books, and only saw a few of the films. Yet while the personal relationships between the players to the series varied widely, they all shared something that I found remarkable. They were all willing to wholeheartedly put themselves out there for this thing they cared deeply about.
Unfortunately, there’s an inherent risk associated with that action. Depending on where you happen to go to school, the decision to play quidditch can lead to a variety of responses. At best you might be tolerated and ignored, often compartmentalized as “geeks” or “freaks”; and at worst you are openly ridiculed. Going back to Tom’s story, his brother calling him a “mudblood” was not meant to be vindictive, and Tom’s personality allows him to make light of it in a humorous way. However, I spent enough time with him and other players to witness moments, comments and actions that were not so tongue-in-cheek.
Yet, I also witnessed the resourceful way quidditch players responded to criticism. For example, they might acknowledge the ridiculousness of their actions (in the same way Tom does), but, in the same breadth, invite a skeptical person to give quidditch a try. Invariably that person was converted. It’s extremely difficult to put a broom between your legs in public, run around a field with variety of balls being thrown around, and not feel that you are part of something strangely exhilarating.
The title of the film fits within that context. On one level it represents what quidditch players risk simply by playing this sport. But it also functions as an adaptation (even an appropriation) of the word from its original usage in the same way that playing real-life quidditch is unquestionably distinct from fictional quidditch. In our film “mudbloods” is used to embody the brash, yet imaginatively self-aware attitude required to create something new in the face of traditional notions of how things used to be.
I think Mudbloods does that in a uniquely appropriate way, but there are other reasons it fits. On a practical level, quidditch players are often muddied or bloodied, and sometimes both (as you can see in the film). Moreover, like the sport itself and the people who play it, the title risks being misunderstood unless you take the time to understand how it is being applied. But perhaps most importantly, by deciding to unapologetically play this sport, quidditch players are taking control of their how their identities are shaped. What someone might label them as does not matter. They’ve heard all the jokes, comments, and innuendos before, and interestingly they’ve made the same jokes, comments, and innuendos themselves.
In the end, there’s nothing anyone can say that will deter them because they know they’ve created something that adds meaning to their lives.
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