The Instigator
Pro (for)
21 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
35 Points

The problem of Slytherin

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 7/24/2014 Category: Entertainment
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 12,417 times Debate No: 59459
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (55)
Votes (10)




Resolved: The portrayal of Slytherin House in the Harry Potter books, on balance, detracts from the series as a whole.

For the purposes of the debate, only information contained in the original series (not Pottermore or the movies) is canon.

I am affirming. The first round is for acceptance, second for constructives, and third and fourth for rebuttals. No new arguments in the last round. I look forward to the debate!


Thank you for the debate challenge! I look forward to negating the resolution that the portrayal of Slytherin House detracts from the Harry Potter series as a whole.

As per instructions, I am using this round to accept the debate only.

Good luck to my opponent and thank you all for reading!
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks for accepting, Tulle. For reference, all of the books can be found here:

Oh, know the perils, read the signs,
the warning history shows,
for our Hogwarts is in danger
from external, deadly foes

And we must unite inside her
or we'll crumble from within
I have told you, I have warned you...
let the Sorting now begin.” –
The Sorting Hat, 1995.

I contend that the treatment of Slytherin House in the Harry Potter novels is one of the biggest blunders in the entire series and serves to undermine the series thematically.

I. Missed opportunities

One of the biggest themes in the Harry Potter series is the idea of the moral worth of the individual and of choice. Slytherin House is dehumanized and its members treated with the utmost disrespect and in many cases viewed as not even human. From the very first novel where Dumbledore let's Slytherin believe that their hard work had payed off and they had won the House Cup--only to change the point distribution at the last minute and give the win to the fourth place team to McGonagall summarily dismissing the entire house before the final battle due to the cowardly antics of a single house member, Slytherin is routinely not given a square deal.

Indeed, in The Order of The Phoenix, the Weasley twins nearly murder a Slytherin student, Montague, by forcing him into a broken vanishing cabinet when he attempted to take house points from them[1]. The incident proved nearly fatal to the boy and caused him to be disoriented for weeks. Not only were the twins never punished for it, the moral implications of treating someone in such a way are not once discussed and the whole incident seems to be intended to be viewed as some sort of joke, or as a villain getting his righteous comeuppance. This kind of treatment of characters in the text is frankly disturbing and a giant missed opportunity. In the previous novels, we learn that during the first Voldemort war many on the light side became just as brutal and violent as those they fought--killing instead of capturing and throwing enemies into what amounts to psychological torture for their entire lives without a trial[2]. The incident could've served as a sobering lesson to Harry and his friends that they too could repeat the mistakes of their elders and prove that victory is of no value if the good side becomes evil in its attempts to fight it. Instead, when Hermione suggests that they tell the nurse what they know in order to help him recover, Ron and Harry blow her off and express satisfaction at the trouble the whole incident is giving the administration[3]. To my knowledge, the issue isn't ever discussed again. Declaring 25% of the schools population as unworthy of protection and justice at age 11 is a moral travesty.

In the final book, the Slytherins as a whole are all led into the dungeons and not given the chance to make their choice and take a stand against Voldemort. This is never once argued to be an unjust or foolish act. Once again, what could've been a compelling image of a number of Slytherins walking away from the prejudice that envelops their house and fighting for justice, an image of Harry realizing that he, too, has committed the heinous fallacy of generalization and painted Slytherins as a whole with too broad of a brush is replaced by instead pretty much affirming all of Harry's pre existing beliefs.

Indeed, with the exception of Wormtail and a few minorly annoying characters like Zacharias Smith, virtually everyone we see in the novels who is evil or unlikable is in Slytherin. Throughout the entire series, there is literally not a *single* Slytherin the reader meets who is a likable character. What makes Snape such a great character is because of his morally ambiguous nature--Snape is a sadist who bullies 11 year old children to the point of tears and who didn't care if an infant died as long as the object of his love exists. His deep love for Lily, while admirable in it's way, is also pathetically creepy, sad, and one sided.

At the beginning of the fifth book, the Sorting Hat warns that if Hogwarts does not unite, it will fall to it's external foes. The Sorting Hat was wrong. There are no Slytherin members of Dumblerdore's Army, and their absence is specifically mentioned in the seventh book. A powerful image is created in the room of requirement where the banner of every Hogwarts house except Slytherin is present. This is not house unity.

II. Prejudice undermined

Yet another theme in the Harry Potter books is the idea of prejudice. Unfortunately, this theme is severely undermined by J.K. Rowling's treatment of Slytherin as well. Indeed, the prejudice people like Hagrid and Ron have towards Slytherin house, the idea that there's not "a single witch or wizard who went bad that wasn't in Slytherin." seems to be wholly justified with only the single notable exception of Wormtail who was in Gryffindor. Instead of the reader being shown that discrimination comes in all forms and exists even among fundamentally decent people like Harry, the reader is instead given every reason to believe that Ron and Hagrid's bigotry is based in reality.

Moreover, the idea of blood purity in Harry Potter is clearly supposed to reflect prejudice in our own world. Sadly, Rowling does an absolutely appalling job of making the discrimination seen in the Wizarding World anything at all like the kind we see in reality. In the real world even fundamentally decent people can be somewhat racist and oftentimes not even noticing it. A good deal of the social justice movement as of late has focused on raising awareness of peoples own implicit biases and teaching them how to overcome them. Basically, bigotry runs on a spectrum in the real world with outspoken bigots being but a tiny minority of a problem that runs much deeper and can be found in people of all stripes, even when least expected. In Harry Potter, quite the opposite is shown. Asking oneself "Am I a Slytherin?" may as well be the same as asking oneself "Am I an entitled, racist jerk who wants to uphold my own privilege at the expense of everyone else?" for all Slytherin is portrayed in canon. The only people to show slight Pureblood prejudice (the kind of bias that is more applicable to the real world) as opposed to outspoken bigotry are Snape who hesitates when Lily asks him if being a muggleborn matters and Slughorn who expressed surprise when Muggleborns turned out to be good students. Both of the characters are, predictably, Slytherins. Literally every single blood purist in the entire series who's house affiliation the reader is given is a Slytherin. Again, because this warrants repeating, there is literally not a single example of a person with even mild blood purist sentiments who was not a Slytherin. The majority of Slytherins in canon are outspoken bigots who use the equivalent of racial slurs on a regular basis.

Given everything we are told about the rarity of remaining purebloods in the Wizarding World, there is *no way* that traditionally Gryffindor families like the Potters or the Weasley's could have remained pureblood until the late 20th century without having implicit biases. What could've been a compelling narrative of Harry's dad overcoming his own prejudice to marry a muggleborn is lost. What could've been a compelling, and realistic, narrative about prejudice popping up where it is least expected, among people you never would've suspected, is lost. Blood prejudice, it seems, is a sin that belongs to Slytherin house alone, and most bigots are outspoken and honest about it. This runs completely contrary to the real world, and makes a mockery of the real struggles against prejudice real people have to deal with.

In reality, we don't get to determine who is or isn't a bigot at age 11 and know that everyone else is not. This is unrealistic, uncompelling, and an enormous missed opportunity.


1. Book 5, Chapter 28
2. Book four, Chapter 27
3. Book 5, Chapter 30



Please refer to the following link when the Harry Potter books are cited:

Before I begin, I would like to remind the reader that, in order for Pro to win, Pro must show that the portrayal of Slytherin House detracts from the series as a whole. This is important. It is not enough for my opponent to show why he dislikes Slytherin House’s portrayal. He may dislike it, and the reader may agree with him, but he must demonstrate why it detracts from the series as a whole.

=My Arguments=

(1) The series is from Harry’s perspective.

The reader is taken on a journey through Harry’s eyes, and we are meant to dislike Slytherin because Harry dislikes Slytherin. Throughout the series, the evils of Slytherin House are magnified and exaggerated while the evils of characters from other houses are downplayed. This not because Slytherin is necessarily worse than the other houses, but rather we are seeing Slytherin portrayed through a biased lens.

From the start, Harry's opinion of Slytherin House is contaminated by outside sources. Hagrid poisons the well by telling Harry, "There's not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin. You-Know-Who was one." [Book 1, Ch.5] When Ron first meets Draco Malfoy, he bullies him by laughing at his name. However, since Slytherin are the “bad guys” and Crabbe and Goyle "look mean", the reader is supposed to side with Ron and Harry when Draco retaliates. [Book 1, Ch.6] From the moments Harry is introduced to this new world, he is told that 1) all bad witches and wizards are Slytherin and 2) the person who murdered his parents was one.

Harry is a biased source and what we read serves to confirm this bias. We see from the Philosopher’s Stone that Harry immediately assumes Snape is the reason his scar hurts, simply from the way he looks [Book 1, Ch.7]. Harry continues to accuse Snape of trying to steal the stone, and is surprised when he learns that Snape has been protecting him the entire time from the real enemy [Book 1, Ch.17]. The entire school shuns Harry in Books 2, 4, and 5, but he never hates the other houses. In Book 6, Harry nearly kills Draco with Sectumsempra [Ch.24] and yet we don't hate Harry because we understand his motivations and thought processes. We don't have the benefit of seeing Slytherin characters' motivations, nor does Harry care to understand them.

We learn that Harry's own father, James Potter, made Snape's life a living nightmare while they were at Hogwarts, taunting Snape in ways that were far worse than anything Draco has ever done. [Book 5, Ch.28] Sirius Black even tried to kill Snape when they were 16 by sending him down to the Shrieking Shack, knowing he would meet Remus as a werewolf. [Book 3, Chs.18/27] These evils are vastly underplayed simply because Harry allows them to be, and his feelings dictate what the reader feels.

Harry discredits himself as a credible source of what Slytherin House is really like when he admits he was wrong at the end, acknowledging that Snape was the bravest man he ever knew [Book 7, Ch.37]. As the reader, we are meant to understand that the portrayal of Slytherin House has been through Harry's Gryffindor-coloured glasses.

(2) The portrayal of Slytherin House contributes to several themes throughout the series.

Since we are seeing Slytherin House through Harry's eyes, it allows the reader to reflect on themes of prejudice and moral ambiguity in a subtle way.

One of the more prominent running themes in the Harry Potter series is that first impressions are not always correct. In Book 1, Harry thought Snape was the bad guy when it was Quirrell. In Book 2, he thought Draco was opening the Chamber of Secrets but it was Ginny; he also didn't realize until the end that Lockhart was not a good guy. In Book 3, he thinks Sirius is trying to kill him when it was Scabbers he was after all along. In Book 4, he trusts Mad-Eye Moody who turns out to be Barty Crouch Jr. In Book 6, his bias causes him to tunnel on Snape, despite the fact that Dumbledore insists that Snape can be trusted. It is clear that Harry's judgement of other characters is regularly wrong, including his judgements of Slytherin characters being evil, while failing to recognize the evil in non-Slytherin characters.

Another theme that is clear throughout the series is that there is grey area between who is “good” and who is “bad”. The first time Harry (and thus, the reader) is really challenged to reflect on his beliefs is when Sirius tells him "the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters” [Book 6, Ch.14]. This goes to show that at least up until that point, Harry's perception of who is good or bad is incredibly one-dimensional and immature.

A third theme in the series is of treating others how you wish to be treated. Hermione and Dumbledore understood the importance of treating Kreacher with respect, and Kreacher betraying Sirius was a reflection of how Sirius treated him [Book 5, Ch.37]. Harry even comes to like Kreacher when they leave Grimauld Place [Book 7, Ch.14]. This shows how prejudice and the way you treat others directly affects not only how you perceive them, but also how they treat you. Harry's prejudice of Slytherin House would certainly affect how the Slytherins he encounters treat him. We see this most obviously when Draco offers his friendship and Harry rebukes it.

(3) Even a one-dimensional portrayal doesn’t detract from the series as a whole.

Thus far I have been trying to convince you that the portrayal of Slytherin House was incredibly nuanced and contributed to overarching themes. However, even if I'm wrong and the portrayal of Slytherin House was actually one-dimensional, one mustn't forget that the Harry Potter series is for children. Children’s books often teach complex themes in very simple ways. How do we know the Dursley’s were evil? Because they locked a child in a cupboard under the stairs. Despite child abuse never really being explored in the series, this was not the point. The point was to establish the Dursley's as "bad people" in the mind of a child reader. Similarly, the concept of the “bad Slytherin” was needed early on to establish prejudice in a child reader’s mind. In this way, the reveal of Snape not being the villain in the Philosopher's Stone carried more weight. Additionally, Harry's defense of Slytherin House and admission that Snape was the bravest man he knew [Book 7, Ch.37] would not have had the same impact had Slytherin House not been established as "bad".


The portrayal of Slytherin House was necessary in order to convey the themes of prejudice and good vs evil throughout the Harry Potter series in a subtle way. It may have seemed one-dimensional for a time simply because the story was told from Harry's point of view, and his understanding of Slytherin witches and wizards was one-dimensional. At best, this contributes to the series' themes, but at worst, it's a children's book that establishes who the bad guys are in a way that children can understand---but certainly doesn't detract from the series as a whole.

Debate Round No. 2


Thanks, Tulle.

Tulle points out that I need to prove that Slytherin's portrayal harms the series rather than me simply disliking it. This is an acceptable standard, and my arguments all meet it as they analyze how the series would've been better had Slytherin been portrayed more fairly and realistically.

=Neg case=

1. Harry's perspective

Tulle is right that the series is through Harry's eyes and therefore we are exposed to the Wizarding World from a biased lens. This is an easily turnable argument--*because* the series was from Harry's perspective, forcing Harry, and the reader, to come to the conclusion that they too were prejudiced and in a sense just as bad as their enemies would be that much more compelling. First person point of view didn't prevent Rowling from showing the reader through Harry's eyes a good Slytherin. The world of virtually every other work of fiction is also colored by the biases of their protagonists, but that doesn't mean we can't be shown how those biases are wrong. To the contrary, it makes proving them wrong all the more compelling as the reader, too, is shown that they were wrong! There was nothing from stopping Harry from meeting a genuinely good Slytherin to show him that his prejudice was incorrect.

Tulle's argument that most of the negative portrayal of Slytherin is just Harry's bias relies upon some very open interpretations of the text. For example, Tulle says that from the start Ron "bullies" Draco by laughing at his name, but if you actually read the exchange, Ron coughs in a way that may have been *concealing* a laugh, and Draco responds by insulting his family, his poverty, calls him "'riffraff", insinuates that Harry will die like his parents, and sends his goons to try and steal their candy. The reader is supposed to side with Harry and Ron because Draco is unquestionably in the wrong by any standard. Rowling could have shown in the later novels that judging the entirety of Slytherin house through the behavior of a few members was wrong, but we aren't given any reason whatsoever to believe that this is actually the case.

While it's true that some of Slytherin's dark reputation is due to Harry's bias, most of it seems to be based upon objective fact. There is not a single Slytherin the reader meets who isn't at the very least, slightly prejudiced--compared to the other houses where there is not a single character who is even a little biased. The only password we ever learn of Slytherin's dormitory is a quasi racist sentiment: "pureblood"[1]. Every member of a genocidal movement, the death eaters, was a Slytherin except for one. Voldemort would've abolished all of the other houses and left only Slytherin[2]. This is the house who's founder hated muggleborns so much that he left the school with a monster in it to exterminate them. I find it hard to believe that Tulle actually believes that the series benefited thematically by showing that Harry's prejudice was correct--this undermines the entire theme of discrimination by showing that prejudice against Slytherin's is justified and also renders it unrealistic. The resolution basically boils down to the question of if the series would've been better if there had been a single Slytherin character who was fully likable or good. The answer to that question, as I've shown, is a resounding yes.

I agree with Tulle that Rowling did mitigate Slytherin's dark reputation very slightly towards the end of the series and Harry does acknowledge his bias somewhat, but what occurs could best be described as too little, too late. True, Harry and the reader both gain a good deal of respect for Snape, and for good reason, but this does not outweigh the objective facts we are given about Slytherin and that the most respectable Slytherin character, Snape, is at best morally grey. Harry's son still had every reason to fear being sorted into Slytherin.

Ultimately, the problem with pointing out that the series is from Harry's perspective is twofold. The first is that for whatever bias exists due to Harry's perspective, it is vastly outweighed by the objective facts that show Slytherin to be overwhelmingly evil. The second reason is that there was nothing forcing Rowling to not show how Harry's perspective was wrong like his perspective on Snape and his father was wrong, and she didn't.

2. Slytherin and themes

Tulle argues that there is a theme of Harry's first impressions being wrong. This would be a great argument if we were ever shown that Harry's first impressions about Slytherin were wrong, and we are not! This is an easily turnable point because showing how Harry was wrong about Slytherin would've been extremely compelling as it would link the themes of prejudice and the dangers of judging on a first impression. This is probably the biggest reason to vote Pro--all of the themes come together perfectly to give Rowling the set up to show how Harry was wrong about Slytherins and painted them with too broad of a brush and she doesn't do it. If Harry's judgements of Slytherin characters other than Snape were indeed wrong, we are given not shown so. Instead, everything objective we manage to garner about Slytherin house confirms Harry's first impressions about it.

Tulle argues that another key theme is the greyness of morality and good/evil. I agree completely and, again, turn this argument. Like Sirius said, the Wizarding world isn't so evenly split between good people and death eaters. The split is actually "Good people and Slytherins, except for Wormtail and maybe Snape or Slughorn". The entire moral greyness theme is undermined by having every single evil person with a one exception come from Slytherin, and every single entirely good and wholesome character coming from one of the other houses. Contrary to Tulle's argument, it seems that Harry's perception of who is good and evil is entirely accurate with the exception of Snape.

The third theme Tulle brings up about the golden rule also falls flat. The biggest issue with this argument is that, while he is not without his flaws, Harry is an overwhelmingly good and kind character who *does* treat people the way he wants to be treated, and the Slytherins still hate and bully him. Draco never offered Harry his friendship in any serious way--Draco offered to show Harry what kind of wizards were "better" than others while insulting one of his newly made friends. Had Harry taken Draco up on his offer of friendship, he would've ceased to be an understandable character. If this argument were true, Tulle should be able to cite a Slytherin character who Harry mistreated and later came to terms with and realized was actually a decent person. She should be able to cite such a character, because such a character should've existed. But they don't. That, in sum, is the problem of Slytherin.

3. A one dimensional portrayal isn't necessarily bad

This argument actually exposes a number of flaws in the series. A series being for children doesn't mean it has to be one dimensional. There is no reason to believe that having a good Slytherin character would've made children unable to understand the work. As the series went on the content, along with the readership, steadily got more mature. What makes Slytherin house such an outlier is that the way it was written in the final book is essentially the same as it was in the first--one dimensional and immature. Treating Slytherin as the evil house in the first few books was justifiable. Keeping that portrayal throughout the series was not and significantly detracted from the work as a whole. What would've been compelling themes and images regarding Slytherin house are thrown away in exchange for treating 25% of the population as evil and second class citizens.

In conclusion, the one dimensional portrayal of Slytherin most definitely harmed the series. There's hardly a theme in the entire series that wouldn't have been strengthened by a good Slytherin. The resolution is affirmed.


1. Book 2, Ch 12
2. Book 7, Ch 36



=Pro's Arguments=

(1) Missed Opportunities

Pro claims Slytherin being treated poorly detracts from the series, but this is actually a point in my favour. My 1st and 2nd points show how Slytherin's portrayal was through Harry's biased eyes, and Slytherin's treatment speaks to themes of prejudice.

Pro says we meet few Slytherin characters that are likeable or good. That's like complaining about a book written during WWII from a Jew's perspective encountering few good Germans. Well, yeah. Despite this, the series does paint many of the characters in a grey light. The only reason you focus on the bad aspects of Slytherin is because Harry does so. Snape is only as ambiguous in nature as Dumbledore, Sirius Black, James Potter, and several other characters we are not meant to hate.

Pro complains that Dumbledore's Army had no Slytherin members. Again, that's like complaining that a racist doesn't invite any black people to his party. Pro continually ignores how a biased protagonist would impact the story.

I would like the reader to consider the context of the series: this is a war founded on beliefs that Salazar Slytherin encouraged. Harry's prejudice of Slytherin is a true reflection of real life. Ron continuing to hate Slytherin even after his children are Hogwarts-age is analogous to people who were raised in a racist time and refuse to change their ways. We are meant to side with Harry who acknowledges that it's wrong.

(2) Prejudice undermined

My opponent actually makes a lovely argument in favour of my position. He states in his round "In the real world even fundamentally decent people can be somewhat racist and oftentimes not even noticing it." He goes on to say why Slytherin fails to fit under this description, but what he's actually describing is Harry!

This is exactly why Slytherin needed to be portrayed the way that it was, given that the entire series was from Harry's POV. He's a fundamentally decent person who doesn't even realize he's incredibly biased. It's so subtle that if you blink, you miss it.

Both Harry and Pro are guilty of confirmation bias by choosing to ignore good Slytherin and bad non-Slytherin. We see this in Book 7 [Ch.21] when Xenophilius Lovegood gives Harry up to Voldemort and Harry makes excuses for him. Because we know he was good at some point, because we know Luna, because Harry takes the time to understand his motivations, we don't see Xenophilius as bad.

Throughout the series, we have examples of bad characters who are either not Slytherin or their houses not stated: Justin Finch-Fletchley and the entire school ostracizing Harry in Books 2, 4 & 5; Seamus Finnigan in Book 5 [Ch. 11]; Ludovic Bagman stealing the Weasley twins' money; Sirius and James tormenting Snape; Gilderoy Lockhart; Rita Skeeter; Mundungus Fletcher. Let's not forget that Harry nearly killed Draco, and

Harry encounters good people and good actions from
Slytherin House just as he encounters bad people and bad actions from other houses. Like Harry, Pro chooses confirmation bias and claims it is justified. This is the definition of prejudice. I win this point.

=Pro's Falsehoods=

1. Vanishing cabinet. In truth, Hermione is appalled, and says the twins could get into serious trouble. The reason they don't is because they immediately drop out of school.

2. Final battle. McGonagall says to Slughorn, "I shall expect you and the Slytherins in the Great Hall in twenty minutes or so. If you wish to leave with your students, we shall not stop you." [Book 7, Ch.30] She gives them a choice, along with the rest of the school [Ch. 31].

=My Arguments=

(1) Harry's POV

Pro's counter of this point is full of concessions, fallacies, and contradictions that I have either already addressed, or will address in a concise list down below.

He argues that there was nothing stopping Harry from meeting a good Slytherin to show that his prejudice was incorrect, yet he concedes both that Harry is biased and is wrong about Snape.

The fact that Harry and Draco both interpret Ron's cough as a disguised laugh means that we can assume that this is probably true. Draco simply retaliates and Harry doesn't fault Ron at all. Regardless, Pro concedes this argument when he says Slytherin's portrayal was justified in the first few books.

(2) Contributes to themes

My opponent concedes that 'first impressions' "would be a great argument if we were ever shown that Harry's first impressions about Slytherin were wrong". Harry himself tells his son that he wouldn't mind if he were sorted into Slytherin, which is a direct turnaround from begging the Sorting Hat not to place him in Slytherin. This point goes to Con.

Pro ignores the examples I gave of Harry being wrong regarding who to trust. He was wrong about Quirrell and Lockhart. If Pro concedes that they or any aforementioned characters are bad, he negates his own argument that only Slytherin are bad (though he already does by acknowledging Peter Pettigrew). If he doesn't agree, this furthers my point about Harry's POV colouring the lens with which you view the wrongdoings of other characters.

Draco came by to introduce himself to Harry, and only brought up Ron's family after Ron laughed at his family name. He also only insulted Harry after Harry insulted him [Book 1, Ch.6]. This shows how you treat others affect how they treat you.

Pro argues "If this argument were true, Tulle should be able to cite a Slytherin character who Harry mistreated and later came to terms with and realized was actually a decent person." In the real world, prejudiced people don't always come to terms with the fact that they are prejudiced so this is false. Of course, I could also cite Harry's nod to Draco and naming his son after Snape.

(3) Establishes the "bad guy"

Here Pro concedes Slytherin's portrayal is justified in the first few books. It matured by developing Snape and Draco, the two main foils in the series.

A study found that kids who read Harry Potter were more tolerant of immigrants and homosexuals []. The series' themes of prejudice were effective enough to produce a real world positive change in behaviour. It's clear that Slytherin's blatant prejudice was needed to establish the theme, and Harry's prejudice toward Slytherin was a deeper layer for more advanced readers to consider.

=Pro's Contradictions, Concessions, & Fallacies=

1. He claims there are no good Slytherin & concedes Snape is good. (No True Scotsman)

2. He claims only Slytherin are bad & concedes Pettigrew is bad. (No True Scotsman)

3. He says the themes would have been strengthened had Harry acknowledged his bias, and concedes "Harry does acknowledge his bias somewhat".

4. He says the series would've been better had we been forced to reflect on our own prejudice, and that's exactly what we're doing right now.

5. He says it would be compelling "to show how Harry was wrong about Slytherins" and Harry tells his son that it would be okay for him to be sorted into Slytherin.

6. He moves the goalposts by saying the moral greyness theme is undermined because we see no entirely good Slytherin. There's no reason for this to be true. Other houses have morally grey characters.

7. His concession that "treating Slytherin as the evil house in the first few books was justifiable" invalidates any claims he makes about Slytherin's portrayal in the first 3 books.

8. He concedes that Harry is biased and yet complains about
Slytherin's negative portrayal.


As Pro said, implicit bias occurs in even the best of people. The theme of prejudice was so deep that even Pro didn't realize he was guilty of it. Pro's contradictions betray his own arguments. According to Pro, we see no good Slytherin, except the ones he admits are good; no bad people from other houses, except the ones he admits are bad; Harry doesn't acknowledge his bias, except when he does. He agrees that with these three things, the themes would have been strengthened. I assert that without Slytherin's portrayal, Harry's admission that he was wrong would be meaningless. Pro negates every argument he makes and thus fails to uphold the resolution.

Debate Round No. 3


Thanks, Tulle.

=My case=

Would the series have been better off had there been a single likable Slytherin character? Ultimately that's what the resolution boils down to, and I think that it's clear the answer is yes.


Tulle again brings up that the series is from Harry's POV this provides even more reason to show why he was wrong about Slytherin. She compares this criticism to complaining about a holocaust novel portraying Germans negatively except that the war was not Gryffindor vs. Slytherin but rather the Order vs. The Death Eaters and within Hogwarts itself there were other struggles such as the students vs. Umbridge. There was nothing stopping Rowling from having a Slytherin in the DA--lots of people eventually joined who weren't initially invited. Instead she decided to have every member of the Inquisitorial Squad be a Slytherin. For Rowling to directly contradict the sorting hat by having Harry only needing 3 of the houses to save Hogwarts was incredibly irresponsible and if nothing else undermines internal consistency. Remember as well that the twins nearly murdered a student and no one cared except Hermione because the student was a Slytherin. The incident is played off as unimportant not only by characters but by the author as she chooses not to examine the fact that two major characters nearly killed someone for no reason.

Tulle is correct that there are morally ambiguous members of the other houses, and this is just the point. They are all morally ambiguous. Not evil. Everyone who is unambiguously evil from Voldemort to Bellatrix to Crabbe came from Slytherin and every character who was unambiguously good like Luna or Lupin came from another house. The best represented Slytherin, Snape, was a malicious man who bullied preteens, willingly joined Voldemort and didn't care if innocents died--if this is the best 25% of the population has to offer Slytherin must be very evil indeed. Tulle is in a double bind: Either every Slytherin is, at best, a jerk who bullies kids which makes the portrayal too simplistic or there are truly good Slytherins and Rowling chose not to show them to Harry which makes him overcoming his prejudice a lot less compelling.

Tulle argues that the war was about Slytherin's beliefs on muggleborns but it's very clear that many people besides Slytherin held these beliefs--both Harry and Ron's families were pureblood for centuries until very recently as were many other families. Like I argued in my second contention, to make Slytherin's alone blood purists was incredibly simplistic. Tulle argues that Harry overcame his prejudice but here's the issue: he really shouldn't have. Ron was right--why *would* any responsible parent want their 11 year old child to go into the house filled with bullies and privileged bigots that spawned every known death eater except for one? If we're meant to side against prejudice, having every objective fact argue in favor of prejudice is a funny way to do it.


Tulle entirely drops my argument that portraying literally every blood purist as a Slytherin and every Slytherin (even the half blood ones) as blood purists was a terrible narrative and makes a mockery out of real prejudice. Extend this point and vote Pro, because softening Slytherins reputation by showing bigotry in other houses instead of their exclusive sin would've driven home a point about the pervasiveness of discrimination that Rowling lost.

Tulle makes an interesting argument by saying that we're supposed to subtly realize that the reason we only see bad Slytherins is because of Harry's own bias, except the series is written in third person so he isn't an unreliable narrator and whatever bias he has against Slytherin is more than justified. Remember that the manifestation of pure evil loved the house so much he was going to abolish the others.

Tulle accuses me of confirmation bias, but if you actually look at the objective facts about Slytherin, the house deserves it's bad rep. She brings up a myriad of bad things done by others but here's the thing--none of these people are wholly bad and their actions make sense. Xeno is a perfect example of how Rowling failed to portray Slytherin properly. Tulle claims that we sympathise with him because Harry chose to take the time to understand him, but that's simply untrue. Read the conversation--we know his motivations because Rowling chose to reveal them to us by having him give an unsolicited explanation. She could've done this to Slytherin characters but she didn't. As for all of the other bad characters--four of them we weren't given house affiliation so they're irrelevant to the debate as they could've been Slytherins, and the rest are easily mitigated. Harry almost killed Draco by accident, in self defense. The school turned against Harry because they were incorrectly led to believe he was a terrorist, a cheater, or a liar respectively. Whatever Sirius and James's sins, both died fighting against pure evil. If Slytherin characters sans Snape had circumstances that mitigated their dark deeds, we aren't given them.

Every Slytherin left before the final battle--the imagery in the chapters leading up to the battle (Ch 29-31) is simple incredible. The absence of a Slytherin banner in the room of requirement. The other three houses standing as one to protect Harry from the Slytherin table. Every Slytherin leaving as people from other houses stayed to fight. To vote Pro, all you need to do is agree that the series would've been more compelling if a Slytherin character had taken a stand and fought. As it was, Slughorn was told he had the chance to leave with "his students"--heavily implying the Slytherins were not staying.

If Harry actually met good Slytherins and Rowling chose not to show that, I can hardly be blamed for believing when my bias is confirmed.

=Tulles case=


Tulles response on this point involves arguing about Snape and seriously suggesting that laughing at someone's name justifies mocking their dead parents. As it stands everything objective we have to about Slytherin proves that they are indeed an unpleasant lot, the home of the all bigotry and, with one exception, every dark witch/wizard. She really can't outweigh this at all--it seems pretty ridiculous to have practically every single person on the evil side from one house when they constitute only 25% of the population. POV can only explain so much, objective facts are much more important and support my position.


Tulle argues that since Harry said he was okay with his son being in Slytherin then clearly the theme of prejudice holds but the problem with this argument is that it could've been done better. Seriously, what's more compelling, a world where Harry advises his son against prejudice because he was gradually shown that his prejudice was wrong as he made a Slytherin friend, or some joined the DA, or fought against Voldemort, or a world where Harry advises his son against bias because one manifestly cruel and creepy--if sympathetic and brave--character happened to be a Slytherin? If you choose the former, you vote Pro.

Whatever positive effect Slytherin had on the themes of the series would've been better if Rowling had portrayed them more realistically and sympathetically. To vote Con requires accepting that it was a good thing to confirm Harry's bias with objective fact and to show every Slytherin as, at the very least, unlikable.


Tulle makes a big deal out of me admitting that establishing a rival house was fun for the first few books, but ultimately it carried no impact as Rowling had the perfect set up to bring in a good Slytherin character in the later books (especially 5) and doesn't do it.

Whatever impact the series had on real world issues would've been made even stronger by showing the not all prejudice is blatant and that you can't just know who is or isn't a bigot at first glance--a serious issue in combating racism. My second contention about realism turns the point.

The resolution is affirmed.



Since many of our arguments overlap, I'll rearrange this final round to highlight the major points in the debate.

=The Resolution=

Pro says "Would the series have been better off had there been a single likable Slytherin character? Ultimately that's what the resolution boils down to".

This is moving the goalposts of the resolution, which is whether Slytherin's portrayal took away from the series. To reiterate my conclusion from the previous round, Pro has already admitted that having good Slytherin, bad people from other houses, and Harry realize his prejudice would have made a "better" story, and concedes all of these points. Furthermore, it's subjective what he thinks is a likable character. I personally like Slughorn.

=Harry's POV=

Pro continually ignores that Harry was shown that he was wrong about Slytherin. There is no other context to the final chapter of the series except to show that he acknowledges his mistake.

Slytherin's portrayal is not objective because, despite the series being written in third person, we rarely see anything outside of Harry's POV. First Google result (and Rutgers University source) of third person narrative explains that "Some third-person narrators describe the story from a limited point of view; others, however, are omniscient." [] It is clear that the Harry Potter series was written in the former. There's never a scene where we're given a different level of awareness from Harry.

My analogy of a German portrayal during WWII stands because it wasn't Jews vs. Germans, it was Nazis vs. everyone else. Similarly, the war in Harry Potter was founded on Salazar Slytherin's ideals--the founder himself, not the House. Consequently, it was Voldemort and his followers (regardless of House affiliation) against the wizarding world (regardless of House affiliation).

Pro's contention that it took away from the series to have the Inquisitorial Squad consist of Slytherin hurts his own argument--he says the Sorting Hat being wrong about the Houses needing to come together fails internal consistency and yet he faults the Sorting Hat for being correct that Slytherin is cunning and out to survive.

Pro continues to contradict himself over the Vanishing Cabinet by saying no one cared except Hermione. The three main people talking about it were Harry, Ron and Hermione; 1/3 cared and Pro has already conceded that the other two were prejudiced. The series being from Harry's POV means we don't typically see things that happen unless Harry is involved. If others were discussing the incident with the vanishing cabinet, we have no way of knowing because, as Pro has already acknowledged, the series is from Harry's POV.

Pro emphasizes the Vanishing Cabinet (which are not intended to kill people) and yet ignores that Harry used Sectumsempra on Draco (nearly killing him) and was not punished at all for it! Not only that, but he also makes excuses for Harry's use of it, furthering my point about bias toward the protagonist's POV. Again, the twins could not be punished because they dropped out of school--why wasn't Harry punished?


In Pro's second round he admits that Slughorn is good then waffles on it. He claims Slughorn was prejudiced and yet his favourite student (Lily) was muggleborn, and Hermione, not Ron from a Pureblood family, was quickly invited to the Slug Club. It's only because he's Slytherin that Pro refuses to view him as good. Prejudice is when ambiguous actions are seen as bad simply because you are part of a certain group. Pro concedes other houses have ambiguously moral characters and yet they are good, while Slytherin can never be good.

Perhaps the biggest concession Pro has made thus far is "it's very clear that many people besides Slytherin held these beliefs [about blood purity]".

I would like to stress to the reader how important this is: Pro concedes that it's not only Slytherin House that was prejudiced, negating most of his own arguments! And he's absolutely right. The entire wizarding world has consistently shown prejudice when it comes to bloodline--not only with muggleborns, but also with squibs, half-giants, werewolves, house elves, and the list goes on.

Pro claims that I dropped his argument "that portraying literally every blood purist as a Slytherin and every Slytherin (even the half blood ones) as blood purists was a terrible narrative and makes a mockery out of real prejudice."

First, I have addressed at length why Harry's POV would taint the image of Slytherin in the series.

Second, Snape is not a blood purist; he immediately befriends and falls in love with a muggleborn. Nor is Slughorn, as he is impressed by muggleborns and invites them into the Slug Club.

Third, in the real world, people are ambiguous. The world is not black and white or else no one would be racist, homophobic, sexist. The fact is prejudiced people maintain their beliefs because they view ambiguity as bad when it comes to the target groups. Rowling's portrayal of Slytherin was an entirely accurate reflection of real life, which Pro says was necessary to the series.

=Good/Bad Slytherin vs. Other Houses=

Pro continues to claim every unambiguously evil person came from Slytherin, completely ignoring my examples. He says the evils of 5 characters on my list "can be easily mitigated" without ever explaining why. This is not an argument. For the 4 whose Houses weren't specified, if it is the case that they could have been Slytherin, then it is also the case that there could be good characters who are Slytherin and simply aren't given House affiliations. For example, Mad-Eye Moody and Mundungus Fletcher could have been Slytherin.

Here, Pro is in a bind: If Mundungus isn't Slytherin, then he loses the point that only Slytherin are bad. If Mundungus is Slytherin, then he loses the point that the Houses didn't come together to fight (which they did anyway--Snape). Pro cannot simultaneously claim that only Slytherin are bad and there are no good people in Slytherin, as well as there are people whose Houses we don't know so the bad ones could be Slytherin. He is effectively cherry-picking which examples confirm his bias.

=The Series in Context=

Pro drops my contention about the series having a real world effect in reducing prejudice, and agrees that the themes would have been stronger had we been shown not all prejudice is blatant--just like Harry's prejudice of Slytherin.

=Pro's Contradictions, Concessions, & Fallacies=

Pro failed to address the list in my previous round at all, so extend these arguments. He contradicts himself by saying there are no good Slytherin and Snape is good, while only Slytherin are bad but Pettigrew is bad. He concedes that Harry acknowledges his bias and thus strengthened the themes; that the series has been strengthened by us reflecting on our own prejudice; that it was compelling to show how Harry was wrong about Slytherin; and most damaging of all, he concedes that Harry was a biased character. He also moves the goalposts several times in the debate, when the scope has already been limited to whether or not Slytherin's portrayal detracted from the series on balance.


Pro fails to uphold the resolution because it's on balance. Even if Pro believes (yet has not established) that nice Slytherin characters would be realistic, he has never once shown how the series as a whole has been lessened by Slytherin's portrayal. He concedes every point that makes the series better, but refuses to acknowledge Slytherin House because of his own bias. In fact, I have shown in my rounds how the series has been enhanced so much so that in the real world, readers of it are more tolerant. Slytherin's portrayal highlighted the problem of prejudice (from Harry) and without it, his revelation at the end would have been meaningless. The resolution has been negated. Vote Con and thank you all for reading!
Debate Round No. 4
55 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Maikuru 7 years ago
You're officially a Hall of Famer, babe! That means I can finally be a house husband.
Posted by tulle 7 years ago
Haha thanks :p

That thing I wanted to say earlier was... one of the hardest things for me was getting things within the character limit. For the last two rounds, I basically would type out my response to you and say everything I wanted to say, realize I was at 12000 characters, and have to parse it down. In the last round, I had to delete and reword a bunch of stuff because it was repetitive, which is why I rearranged everything. BUT I completely cropped out an entire argument that I had regarding your contention about all Slytherin house leaving o__O It seemed out of place and I took it out, without realizing it was actually a response to something specific lol

Anyway, I really loved this topic and wouldn't mind doing another Harry Potter related debate!
Posted by thett3 7 years ago
Well done Tulle--I officially bestow you with bragging rights
Posted by tulle 7 years ago
Wow, don't be sorry! I really appreciate the time you (and everyone else) took to read it and give thoughtful analysis. I'm so glad people are enjoying reading it; I definitely enjoyed writing it. I consider thett a great debater and I'm proud of the work both of us put into it.
Posted by bsh1 7 years ago
Also, sorry for taking so long to get around to this vote. I wanted to provide a hefty RFD for you both and to mull over my decision to make sure it was well-founded.
Posted by bsh1 7 years ago

Let's first go down and explain who is winning what: Pro is winning his arguments against Con's C3, against Con's C2, subpoint 3, and against Con's C1, the Draco example. Con is winning her arguments against Pro's C1, against Pro's C2, against Pro's points re: objective fact, and in defense of her C2.

Simply put, I think Pro has no offense of his own in this round--his own case has been thoroughly deconstructed and the arguments he is winning on the flow are insufficient to affirm. On the other hand, Con is persuading me that Harry did go on a journey from prejudice to acceptance (though it could've been done better). This coopts some of Pro's offense and turns it on him; he says Harry should go on a journey, well, Harry did. Pro does a decent job of mitigating this, but I don't buy that he eliminates all of its impacts. This is not just a turn of Pro's argument, but it also bolsters Con's arguments about first impressions. Con also successfully defends her "grey areas" argument. Thus, I can extend 2/3rds of her C2.

When I weigh this, I am forced to vote Con. Pro has some non-impacting arguments left, but Con has arguments that do impact left. I am convinced that Slytherine's portrayal did no unduly detract from the series, even if that depiction was clumsy at points.

I want to re-emphasize how very, very close this round was, and to applaud both of you on fantastic debate on such an important topic! Really, good job.


I vote Con. Pro failed to uphold his BOP, IMHO, and Con was winning the key pieces of offense, IMHO. [Disclosure: I was asked to vote by *both* Pro and Con]. I hope my vote makes sense and was conscientious. If anyone has questions or concerns, please PM me. I will hold on to my flow for a while just in case.
Posted by bsh1 7 years ago

C1: Harry's POV

I buy Pro's extension here that the objective facts seem to incline themselves against Slytherine, yet, by the same token, not ALL of the objective facts point that way, so there is still a lot of leeway for Harry's POV to influence the interpretation of those facts. His interpretation is undoubtedly slanted.

The question I have to ask now is, is Harry's bias something that took away from the series. Pro argues, not unconvincingly, that Harry should've undergone a transformation from prejudiced boy to enlightened man, and that the readers should've been taken along for the ride, learning acceptance as Harry did.

C2: Themes

Regarding the journey of acceptance Pro suggest Harry ought to undergo, Con points out that he did. He told his son that he would be fine if he were sorted into Slytherine--a distinct change from earlier in the series. Pro is, IMHO, right that this transformation could have been done better, but that does not change the fact that the transformation took place. In this way, Pro may lessen the impact of Con's argument, but he does not eliminate it as he needs to.

Con also correctly observes that not all evil or ambiguous characters reside in Slytherine House. I therefore buy into her "1st Impressions" and "Grey Area" arguments, but I find her "Golden Rule" arguments less than compelling. Pro does seem to point out that Harry gave as good as he got re: Draco, and that Draco wasn't mistreated in a way that would cause me to give too much weight to this subpoint (there was no disparity in harms).

C3: 1D

I buy that this has no impact because things should've/could've changed in later books.
Posted by bsh1 7 years ago
Well, this was certainly a round for this history books. I read this round three times and then flowed it out on paper; I am using those notes to help me come to a decision because this debate was just *so* close. I have not read any other votes or RFDs to avoid prejudicing myself.

My RFD will not be chronological; rather, it will look at Pro's case (and the rebuttals to it) and then at Con's (and the rebuttals to it), concluding with a summary and my final reason for voting as I shall.



C1: Missed Opportunities

At the end of the debate, I'm left with this point in defense of this contention: that Con is in some sort of double-bind, where Slytherine contains all of the purely evil characters in the book.

I find that this is clearly rebutted by Con's examples of non-Slytherines who were morally ambiguous or purely evil (e.g. Quirrell, Sirius, etc.) And, even if I don't grant Con this (which I do), the presence of good characters in Slytherine (e.g. Snape and Slughorn) mitigates the severity of this point.

C2: Prejudice

I think the argument about the novel being in the third person is successfully countered by Con; the book is really about Harry, and we're never given insight beyond him.

As for the "objective facts" and the idea that Slytherine is all blood-purists, Slughorn and Snape do indeed disprove these arguments. Certainly, there are objective facts that show that SLytherine isn't all bad, and certainly these two individuals worked, and to varying degrees, overcame blood-based biases.
Posted by Raisor 7 years ago
I could go on, but I really am just not convinced by Con"s arguments. Even if there are a small handful of redeemable Slytherins, Pro is making a very clear case that Slytherin is systematically portrayed as racist and mean in a way that is not able to be explained away by POV.

Even if a study proved that HP was still effective at reducing prejudice, I think Pro still wins the debate is he proves the literary integrity of HP was hurt by its portrayal of Slytherin.

I don"t see Con coming close to making the argument that we are eventually shown a more texture view of Slytherin, so she doesn"t access her initial arguments. Really I think Pro is winning on this point- the final battle seems to reinforce everything said in the first 3 books about Slytherin.

This was a fun debate to read - ultimately I vote Pro
Posted by Raisor 7 years ago
The interpretive debate:

First, Con is definitely winning that not all bad characters are Slytherin. Unfortunately I don"t know that this is central to Pro"s case. It does undermine his attempt to argue that there is a clean good/bad split between the rest of the world and slytherin, but this is only one aspect of the slytherin portrayal that is a problem.

Second, I think Pro is more convincing on the issue of Harry coming to his senses about Slytherin. Yes, Harry says its ok to be Slytherin, but Pro is clearly making the argument that is was a "told not shown" moment- if that change of perspective isn"t justified by the rest of the plot, it isn"t meaningful to evaluating the portrayal of Slytherin.

I think Pro is particularly compelling when he talks about how slytherin is portrayed in the final battle- the houses failing to unite, slytherin failing to contribute to the defens of the castle, McGonagal (not even going to try to spell that) creating a clear divide between the good guys and Slytherin. I also think it was counterproductive for Con to keep pointing out that the war was started based on Salazar Slytherin"s ideals- this seems to reinforce Pro"s argument that Slytherins are construed as fundamentally bad, since the house is founded on fundamentally bad principles.
10 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 7 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: I would have given the debate to pro, had not con reminded us of the real resolution. Regardless of the goal-post moving, pro still manages to give enough information that suggests that slytherin was in general bad and that regardless of Harry's bias perspective, he only saw one single "good" slytherin--Professor Snape. However, con makes a good case for the fact that we actually see a few good slytherins other than snape, and although she fails to rebut the point about Slytherin retreating from the battle, it is arguable whether or not this really detracted from the series. In addition, supported by the fact that it was really just a one-point perspective, we cannot see that the Slytherin really detracted from the series, especially Draco's attempt at a transformation fall-short and rejected by Harry Potter, and James Potter's cruelty.
Vote Placed by bsh1 7 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: I vote Con. Pro failed to uphold his BOP, IMHO, and Con was winning the key pieces of offense on the flow. An expanded RFD can be found in the Comments section. [Disclosure: I was asked to vote by *both* Pro and Con]. I hope my vote makes sense and was conscientious. If anyone has questions or concerns, please PM me. I will hold on to my flow for a while just in case.
Vote Placed by Raisor 7 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments
Vote Placed by Cermank 7 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments
Vote Placed by Mikal 7 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: This debate was about whether child genocide should be approved. Both contenders got off topic and started talking about this harry potter sht. Someone did mention hermonie (emma watson), shes insanely hot and has a nice body. In short I could not find arguments in either persons argument that would justify molesting children. Unless you consider the harry dumbledore thing to be a source. I really would have liked to seen pro go into detail about the ways children should be killed, and I did not see one PETA source from con saying why we should save animals. all in all im sad and must award this a tie because I did not find a proper way to commit genoicde
Vote Placed by jackh4mm3r 7 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Pro shifted the goalposts. The series would definitely have been better with a good Slytherin (such as a charitable businessman who wants to keep his muggle-born base alive; slytherins are ambitious like that), but the debate is on whether the portrayal detracts from the books. It doesn't detract from the themes for younger readers, and gives much more for older readers to think about in the inconsistencies, helping to suspend immediate confirmation bias based on the level of bias you might already have! Con gets my vote.
Vote Placed by Zaradi 7 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments, but it'll probably be short anyway since I'm typing this on my phone. Oh well.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 7 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.
Vote Placed by RyuuKyuzo 7 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: Comments.
Vote Placed by EndarkenedRationalist 7 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: This debate...this was tough. Okay. I found CON's argument that PRO was shifting the goalposts to say that a single positive portrayal of a Slytherin would improve the series valid. The resolution deals with the portrayal of Slytherin House detracting from the series as a whole. With that said, I'm going to go through the arguments. PRO's first case revolved around Fred, George, and the Vanishing Cabinet. However, as CON pointed out, they dropped out of school shortly afterward, explaining why they weren't punished. Hermione also sympathises with the Slytherins here, or is at least revolted by the Twins' action. This argument goes to CON. PRO raised an excellent point with the Battle of Hogwarts where not one Slytherin student stayed back to help. That would have been a powerful moment indeed, and independent of Harry's bias too (we'll get to that in a bit). CON doesn't really have a rebuttal for this one, meaning it goes to PRO. The rest of the RFD will come in the comments later.

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