Harry Potter and the anti-climax

  • Jul. 21st, 2007 at 1:34 AM
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (undead)
Seattle. Seriously. Where were you people? I stood outside Elliott Bay Books from 11:30 to 12:30, second in line because the first hundred people who showed up got ushered inside for festivities, got their books, and left. By the time I got in, nothing was happening. No one in line was dressed up--save one or two folks with blankets. People walked past with their books, immediately flipping to the last page.

I'd been expecting an event, which was why I went. I didn't even buy a book--I'm next in line for the one my friend bought. I even wore my favorite outfit, the casual schoolboy look. Maybe I should have gone to one of the corporate stores for that sort of thing; but basically, tonight was a wash.

Let's hope the book is way better than the line.

Harry Potterdom--a rant

  • Jul. 16th, 2007 at 1:30 PM
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (watership)
This isn't my review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I haven't written it yet, and I feel I have to get this out of the way first.

I'm not sure how much I *like* the world of Harry Potter.

Oh, by the way, I know it's only a series of books/movies, and this is a rant.

Through six, almost seven books now, we've watched Harry struggle against Voldemort and the narrow-mindedness of his society in recognizing the threat. Harry is supported by Dumbledore, headmaster and mondo wizard. Slytherins are always wrong. So, most of the time, is the Ministry of Magic. Evil is evil, except maybe Snape. Harry gets a free pass no matter what, and we allow it because the books are named after him and he's always right. But how do we know that? Because we're in the privileged position of knowing everything; those small-minded people against Harry and Dumbledore don't have access to any of it. Dumbledore runs a benign dictatorship, with clear favorites; how often does he manipulate House rules to give Gryffindor a win? There's something unsettling about this--I'm not saying that we should doubt their word, or that Draco's really a misunderstood softie, or that we're never shown a darker side to our heroes--but it feels so undemocratic. The Dursleys are caricatures and everyone takes after their names, for good or ill. I don't like the predetermined feeling I get about life in the wizard world.

And speaking of democratic, there's that thread of fear or disinterest for the different. Hermione's campaign against the ill-treatment of House Elves is uniformly mocked. Magical creatures, even fully intelligent ones like centaurs, are treated like beasts. All in all, I feel the magical world is so stubbornly backward that I can't imagine how any muggle-born kids can handle joining it. Witches and wizards have an absurdly difficult time blending in with muggles, and seem to decry any technological advance as barbarity. It's so short-sighted and reactionary.

I also resent, because I'm bitter, the way HP has become synonymous "reading." How many imaginary worlds were fully realized in my mind, created by different authors, enjoyable through different periods of life? This is a shared world on a global scale, and as appealing that is I resent that it's treated like a "new" phenomenon. Maybe I resent not being part of it as a child; I don't know. But part of the glory of these little worlds was that there wasn't much of a popular consciousness; everyone's hippie parents had read Tolkien, but it still felt mysterious when we pulled it down from their shelves. Now I don't know how much of Middle Earth is figured by the Jackson films and how much belongs to the books.

In short: Why Harry Potter? Why 12 million first printings, when there are so many great books out of print? Does anyone want to live in the wizarding world? And why doesn't it work on me?

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