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Harry Potter...

i watched Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone the other day.

what the fuck are you people thinking?

i don't dislike kids films. i like Hercules, and Transformers and a whole bunch of other things. i've even read one of the lemony snicket books. the first one. i don't hold it against something if it's for children, because children should read. and you know, potter clearly is a childrens book, so i don't hold it again them. but what baffles me is how all you adult people out there are into it. i don't get it. okay, i haven't read the book, but, due to the well publicized strangle hold that jk rowling has over the films, i'm forced to reach certain conclusions about the entire series:

1) harry potter is an insipid little twat.

2) his friends are two dimensional dolls with catch banal phrases bursting out in the disguise of characterisation. 'bloody good!' i say.

3) someone informed me that harry and the girl, whose name is fucking awful, will have their first sexual experience in a later book. i don't know if this is true. i don't care. all i could think of, however, was the line, 'let me show you my wand, little girl,' and a long line of pointy hat wizards leading into her room.

4) is there any conflict in the book?

5) 'oh, look, harry's done it again.' yes, isn't he just fan-fucking-tastic. you know, if he doesn't fail every now and then, there's no real sense of achievement. i know, i know, he's brilliant or some such fucking thing. but please. please. make him work, just a little.

6) adults are stupid, aren't they?

7) wands, pointy hats, and cloaks. what, rowling couldn't come up with an original take on magic? couldn't have given it just a little bit of flavour?

8) the nimbus 2000 vibrates, you know.

9) complete strangers send me invisible cloaks every day, don'tchu know? (okay, that might just be the film.)

10) i'm told, and i don't know if this is true or not, but i am being advised to put it down, that rowling and potter are 'the poor man's Narnia.'

11) you gotta feel sorry for alan rickman, don't you? he couldn't even chew on the scenery and be an entertaining villain like in Robin Hood because, well, he was obviously not the villain. just misunderstood in black. strangely, i could sympathise only with rickman's character, and only over this point.

i could go on. i could. i'm sure, if you're eight or ten, the books and movies are great. just fantastic. but if you're older? come one. slap yourself. there are very good books out there, offering you things not nearly as conservative as this fantasy. (and don't you think there is something wrong in saying that a fantasy is conservative?)

i will be taking complaints about this between the hours or four and six. pls make an appointment.


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Jun. 18th, 2003 05:32 am (UTC)
Have you read the book? It's very different from the movie, at least in feel if not plot. And I like the movies, if only as a visual reference (the direction and pacing are pretty 'orrible -- I have hopes for #3).

I'm not sure why being conservative is a big problem. OK, it's not Perdido St Station, but so what? The books are fun, clever, well-written and surprisingly complex, and though they rely on many conventions of children's adventure, these are being pared back in later books to show a nastier, more political and interesting world.

So, I guess you're not going to the Infinitas launch this Saturday? I'm thinking of it (but of course they don't have any copies left!)

David C
Jun. 18th, 2003 06:09 am (UTC)
nah, i've not read the book. i have no desire too.

being conservative isn't a problem. they're kids books, after all, and you could probably make the case that the potter franchise doesn't make an attempt to connect with any political ideology. afterall, what do kids want with politics? other kids books i've read, such as CORALINE and SUMMERLAND certainly fall under that umbrella, and so i don't see why the potter books wouldn't.

but, once you remove the child reader from it, and have it being massively consumed by adults, who can read for these things, then it does become a problem. least in my mind. by having such a vast audience digesting such a vanilla product, and which, when read by an adult (such as with SUMMERLAND and CORALINE did) don't engage on as many levels as a book aimed for adults does, then you send a shift through what is for, in this case, fantasy fiction.

already harry potter has stopped being sold as a kids book. it's for everyone. but is that more damaging? here is this hugely successful, conservative thing in a genre that is, pretty much, dominated by conservatism. what it succeeds to do then, by its mass production of copied kind, is make the fantasy genre (in this case) a more infantile place.

don't look at me like that, david. i'm serious. to be honest, i think if you're a kid, harry potter is fine, but this mass embrace by adults who then tell me it's brilliant, opens up a whole heap of doorways that i don't think need any more opening.

take big fantasy. it was always, in my mind, a teenage thing. fifteen, sixteen, make your pick, but it was always a conservative, nice, christian fantasy my god is here (for the most part; i can think of others, but follow me) kind of books. but the days of big chunky fantasy are coming to an end, you mark my words, and the thing to replace it are these books. the kids fantasy books are becoming the fantasy genre...

it's a bad thing. bad. i think i'm starting to rant now, so i will spare you.

(PS, i didn't even know there was a launch. maybe i'll pass through and find the people i know in there, and through copies of THE SATANIC VERSES at them.)
Jun. 18th, 2003 06:28 am (UTC)
and before someone says, how can you say this about a book you've not read... i'm talking in general ways, in themes and concepts that surround the book. not about the book itself. the books could be good. the movie certainly wasn't. i will stand by my point that harry potter is a twat, but then i'm a nasty man at times.

my main concern is that how a childrens book is becoming something else. because a childrens book, by its nature, is written with certain things: young girls and boys to appeal to their readership, and a lack of sophisticated narrative workings, just to name two.

just so it's said.
Jun. 18th, 2003 05:27 pm (UTC)
But I think there is an attempt to connect to politics and ideologies. The Wizarding World is a complex place, and though a lot of it is based on fun reflections of real institutions (the 'Ministry of Magic', completing your OWLs, etc) there is also genuine issues and emotion at the heart of it. Class consciousness is a big part of it, but even things like slavery get covered (and not in a pat 'this is wrong kiddies' manner). Likewise, the trials of Harry trying to find a place for himself in the school are real and not trivial.

I'm not saying you have to read the books (though I obviously recommend them - #1 and #3 are my favourites), but claiming that they are dumbing down fantasy literature is somewhat unfounded without doing so.

(And what was the problem with the Invisibility Cloak, BTW? It belonged to Harry's father, and Dumbledore returned it to him, at an appropriate time. Though I think we're going to get a lot more about Dumbledore's motives in book 5)

David C
'The trouble with humans, Mr Gandalf, is that they smell' -- Agent Elrond
Jun. 18th, 2003 06:11 pm (UTC)
i think you misunderstood a bit (though i'm turning into a mushroom of sickness at the moment, so it could be me), but i didn't mean that potter itself was dumbing down fantasy. what i meant was that this embrace of fantasy designed for children is turning the already youth marketed fantasy genre into a more infantile place. it's not just potter, either: the dark materials trilogy is, i think, just as much as an issue for this. (just to pick another popular series that someone i know had last week.)

see, maybe it's just me, but i see that as a problem.

(i should point out that it's not something i think as a problem isolated to the fantasy genre. books, movies, music--they all seem to be falling into a banal kind of form that is consumable for ten year old kids, but without much for them there adults. but, unlike with these other genres, i can see the books that are impacting the fantasy genre, and, you know, the embrace of it carries a load of issues. so to say.)

(that said, my original post was all about me wanting to rag on that movie, which was just awful. god. terrible thing. anyhow, so, you know, all my points of 'look, this and this' are just sorta working their way in later.)

oh, and in the movie, you never learn who sent the invisible cloak, or for what reason. it just arrives. they wear it. don't ask questions about where it came from.

did i mention how stupid i thought quiddich was?
Jun. 18th, 2003 06:51 pm (UTC)
Dictating that Fantasy must be either vast Sword and Sorcery epics or Children's books is a bad thing -- no argument there (and I have a novel I want to write that is neither). But there are good examples of both types, and I don't think you can blame the people who do do good work for the state of the industry. (And the first Dark Materials book is fantastic, although I was less keen on the others.)

Yes the movie is bad, I can't argue that, although I quite like it for reasons other than its quality as cinematic art.

And I do think Rowling made a mistake with the rules of quiddich, but it's a bit late to change now. (I should say that the little book she wrote for charity about Quiddich is very funny -- much better than the one about monsters, I thought.)

David C
Jun. 18th, 2003 07:30 pm (UTC)
yeah, i an list examples of both, but more, i feel, of the kids like books.

and i disagree about attacking people who write 'good' books as you say. if they're good or bad, it makes no difference. the books are the ones everyone notices, and they bring with them a whole weight of issues and so forth which come with them. (it's probably fair to say it's less about the books themselves, but what surrounds them.)

and again, rowling and such, they do have to take some indirect blame. granted, it falls more to publishers who are interested in recapturing each chance, and who find it necessary to strengthen genre boundaries and dictate the vanilla quality of what is published; but, as in rowling's case, she did decide to write a seven book series. it's not like she wrote one, and it was huge, and then she wrote something else entirely different, showing what else could be done.

but, you know, i do agree, you can't go blaming them, and i don't, but you've got to use them to address the topic.
Jun. 18th, 2003 08:50 am (UTC)
I'm prejudiced as a children's bookseller. I read children's books regularly to stay in touch with children.

I agree with you that the movie was extremely flat. It suffered by adhering too closely to the book's events, but not its spirit of wordplay and social commentary. And the casting was wrong, in my eyes. It took every British actor recognizable to Americans, instead of casting the best internationally known actors for the roles.

As far as controversial children's books, I can give you at least twenty off the top of my head that should raise more hackles than Harry Potter. Demonology in the GREEN KNOWE books, for example. Anything by John Bellairs.

At least here in the States, the most marked thing that made me part of the Potter experience was that it got kids to read who'd stopped reading anything. I used to have to "trick" these reluctant readers back into books by giving them comics or Doctor Who Target novels.

The Potter books have great vocabulary and a lot of heart.

I am not sure, either, why it has become an adult phenomenon. I can only speak for myself, because children's books are my profession.

Jun. 18th, 2003 05:32 pm (UTC)
> 8) the nimbus 2000 vibrates, you know.


David C
Jun. 18th, 2003 06:15 pm (UTC)
yeah, i made that nimbus comment because of the amazon.com thing.

'my daughter loves it' indeed.
Jun. 19th, 2003 03:41 pm (UTC)
sneaking on for a second to note...
Jumping on quickly just to note that you really, really, really shouldn't judge the book by the movie. You shouldn't judge any book by its movie (except for Sense and Sensibility, which I liked better than the book, which proves the point) but particularly this one.

Obeying the eye doctor and jumping off again...

Jun. 19th, 2003 04:47 pm (UTC)
Re: sneaking on for a second to note...
yes, i know, but it's fun anyway.

now you obey the eye doctor, dear. don't want you going blind or anything. i don't think you'd look very good with a pair of seeing eye cats.
Jun. 19th, 2003 05:37 pm (UTC)
Re: sneaking on for a second to note...
I recently gave up on Bret Easton Ellis' book 'The Rules of Attraction' which wasn't doing anything for me, but I thought the movie was quite good.

David C
Jun. 19th, 2003 05:50 pm (UTC)
Re: sneaking on for a second to note...
the movie and book don't interest me at all. i didn't like AMERICAN PSYCHO enough to try another book. (the first hundred and fifty pages were good, and i got the joke, but that was a four hundred page book of repititiveness there, which may well have been the point.)

didn't mind the movie, though.
Jun. 19th, 2003 06:34 pm (UTC)
Re: sneaking on for a second to note...
I won both in a comp, and was certainly interested enough to try them (having liked the previous 2 Ellis books I've read, plus the movie of American Psycho). But the book was just waffling on, without the grounding that actual actors gave to the characters.

David C
Jun. 19th, 2003 09:44 pm (UTC)
Re: sneaking on for a second to note...
i think that's the problem with ellis, too much waffling. maybe too much cocaine? or just not a good editor.

still, maybe people like that. i did stories about surreal dwarves that box clocks, so what do i know.
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