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May 17, 2011 9:15 AM   Subscribe

The entirety of Brad Neely's unauthorized redubbing of the first Harry Potter movie, Wizard People, Dear Reader, is available in its entirety on Youtube (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 & 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35). Surreal, excessive, goofy, and at times oddly poetic, it tells the story of "Harry, the near-perfect new god", and his sidekicks Ronny the Bear and the Wretched Harmony (who has "complex on top of complex"), as they explore the world of wizardry while avoiding the cruel she-professor Snake and the dreaded vampire tattoo-maker Valmart. If you'd like to read along, a full script is available here. "Well, bless my nippers! Bless them all day long." (Previously, but the last post required you to burn WPDR to CD and play it along with the movie; now the entire thing is streaming online)
posted by Rory Marinich (106 comments total) 155 users marked this as a favorite

 
Swarm, swarm, swoosh and swarm! If you haven't seen this, clear a few hours off your schedule and go crazy. It's wonderful.

Great post, Rory.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 9:18 AM on May 17, 2011


Yeah, this thing is the best. There used to be two versions floating around, which were basically the same except in one of them Brad cracks himself up in the middle and spends like 15 seconds just laughing his own ass straight off. I am at work and won't be able to figure out which version this is, but they're both great.
posted by penduluum at 9:21 AM on May 17, 2011


Most of this is the first version; I couldn't find every single chapter (I can't tell if they were taken down or if YouTube's search was being weird) so a few of them use the second recording. I made sure to include the chapter where he cracks up, because I love it terribly much; the whiny nasal voice comes down for a minute and he just laughs at how silly he's being. It's wonderful.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:23 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


See also
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2011


If you don't think this is hilarious I don't want to hear about it.
posted by Legomancer at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2011


This is fantastic. I was just thinking about tracking this down to watch it again (I only watched the beginning when it first came out). Thanks!
posted by Rock Steady at 9:30 AM on May 17, 2011


I wish I wasn't at work. This looks great, but I'm guessing it'll be DMCA'd by the time I can get to it.
posted by Coventry at 9:31 AM on May 17, 2011


What's he been up to recently? I miss babycakes.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:32 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think you'll be fine, the videos were uploaded in 2007 and have tens of thousands of views.
posted by thylacine at 9:32 AM on May 17, 2011


Wizard People, Dear Reader is so goddamn funny that it makes me laugh even when I just think about it as a thing that exists, independently of any of its content. Thanks!
posted by invitapriore at 9:33 AM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh man. I haven't watched this but I'm dying to do one of Avatar. It needs segments with:

- people reduced to saying, "Corporate!", "Military!", "Science!" or "Nature!" depending on their allegiances.

- segments in which the aliens are overdubbed with Smurfs

- the main alien woman's brother overdubbed with Wind in his Hair from Dances with Wolves

Also, I would like to remake Avatar with slug-creatures as the aliens. It's not so normal that you made sexy times with an alien now, is it?
posted by neuromodulator at 9:33 AM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sorry, I just realized he wasn't her brother but her betrothed.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:34 AM on May 17, 2011


This made me cry I was laughing so hard the first time I watched it.
posted by empath at 9:34 AM on May 17, 2011


The voice-over track is available on the Illegal Art website (as linked in the OP), and also in a couple different formats on Archive.org. I'm pretty sure the Illegal Art version is the non-corpsing version, but I'm not sure about Archive.org.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:35 AM on May 17, 2011


This bit is better than anything in the books:
But Harry, Harry has gained control and is after that Snitch like a fucking rocket. Ziff! That Slytherin Seeker has been after it for a while, but I feel bad for him, because he is stupid, and Harry is a rocketized animal who will stop at nothing. Yes, they crash each other as hard as they can as the Snitch leads them straight down, that Snitch leads them down, right down into certain doom!

Are they going to crash? Yes, they're going to crash, but Harry loves death. He says, 'Bring it on.' He is like a demon, long dead, with nothing left to lose. The weak-ass Slytherin pulls away, but Harry pulls up just in time. He is standing on his broom like it is an extension of his body. He reaches out, almost having the Snitch, but he stumbles and falls.

Oh my God! Is Harry going to vomit? Of course not! Like a viper, Harry used his voracious mouth as his catcher. He's got that Snitch in his animal belly, and Pop! it is out! They've won! One hundred thousand points for fucking Gryffindor!

The crowd goes absolutely bazonkers! The champions in red and yellow are the victors, and Harry is spent. The crowd is destroying its throats calling Harry's name. Harry feels right with himself. He's down there, a new god who has found a calling.

He holds up that Snitch and bellows:

'I am a beautiful animal!

'I am a destroyer of worlds!

'I am Harry Fucking Potter!'

And, dear readers, at last the world was quiet.
It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.
posted by empath at 9:36 AM on May 17, 2011 [23 favorites]


Also, there are quite a few playlists on YouTube, should you wish to view them all more easily.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:37 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the Illegal Art version is the non-corpsing version

I heard the illegal art version, and I don't remember any out of control laughter, so i think you're right.
posted by empath at 9:38 AM on May 17, 2011


It works surprisingly well as a podcast too (as long as you are familiar with the first movie).
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:45 AM on May 17, 2011


So this is Harry Potter as told by William S. Burroughs? OK.
posted by me3dia at 9:47 AM on May 17, 2011


That Slytherin Seeker has been after it for a while, but I feel bad for him, because he is stupid, and Harry is a rocketized animal who will stop at nothing.

Harry Potter's totem animal is unmistakably the Honey Badger.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:50 AM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I just described it like so:

Imagine an alcoholic beat poet was hired to read an audio book version of Harry Potter, except he forgot his copy of the book, so put on a DVD and starts narrating based on what he's watching and what was on the back cover of the DVD.
posted by empath at 9:51 AM on May 17, 2011 [12 favorites]


Nice...I love Brad Neely's stuff, and I've never watched or read any of the Harry Potter stuff. I can't wait to watch this.
posted by stifford at 9:53 AM on May 17, 2011


'I am a beautiful animal! 9:44
posted by ennui.bz at 9:56 AM on May 17, 2011


Only because nobody else has said it: gilbert gottfried
posted by tomswift at 9:56 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I accidentally quote this ALL THE TIME and have been running into increasingly more people who have no idea what I am talking about.

Even people I knew who thought they were too cool to laugh at this loved it.
posted by nile_red at 9:57 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was in here, crying like an idiot, when these badass new gods came in and saved me.
posted by nile_red at 10:00 AM on May 17, 2011


And Ron? Ron loves twizzlers.
posted by hellojed at 10:00 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love this so much. I synced the audio and video myself to watch on the go and to show other people who seem like they'd enjoy it. I've also put serious thought into doing my own take on this 'genre' of what audio track dubbing for the Harry Potter sequels but to do it any sort of justice would require a LOT of time. I would need to come up with a good alternate narrative to match the on-screen action AND be funny AND be in the same style as the original and that would be difficult.
posted by Green With You at 10:01 AM on May 17, 2011


The timing of this post is funny, because I'm encoding a homemade DVD of Wizard People right now. As in, it's been going for over an hour (I started with an HD copy of the movie, so resizing the video takes awhile), so this was posted while I was encoding it.
posted by neckro23 at 10:02 AM on May 17, 2011


Ronnie tells Harry that he's a pot of coffee by day, bottle of wine by night type of guy. Harry says, “Triple that, and you got me.”

I use this all the time.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:04 AM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


My oldest brother made me watch most of the The Room with him so I should really watch this with him when I visit over Memorial Day weekend. Tit for tat, brother!
posted by Green With You at 10:05 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I too quote this on a near-daily basis. I think the first time I watched it I watched it again immediately because I couldn't quite believe how good it was. Creased comics, the 'brad' link in the FPP, is also definitely worth checking out-more of the same in single-panel comic format. Zebra don't care!
posted by omnikron at 10:06 AM on May 17, 2011


I wholeheartedly welcome any endeavor to expose the Harry Potter franchise for the puke that (I believe) it is.

I can only ever sit through the movies with the Rifftrax firmly in place, but I did have one interesting moment, when I was able to inform a fan of the books (who hadn't seen the films yet) that the heroine's name was "Her-MY-oh-nee" and not "HER-mee-own"
posted by ShutterBun at 10:09 AM on May 17, 2011


I was just about to mention Rifftrax, ShutterBun, as a similar endeavor. I watched the Rifftrax version of Twilight Eclipse a couple of weeks ago in a fit of drunken bravado, and it was *hysterical*. Totally checking out Wizard People tonight!
posted by jess at 10:11 AM on May 17, 2011


I wholeheartedly welcome any endeavor to expose the Harry Potter franchise for the puke that (I believe) it is.

Whoa whoa whoa whoa! You are making a mighty leap of unfaith there. Harry Potter is mega-wonderful. I mean, you've got to take it for what it is, but it's a very good what-it-is. I was actually thinking of rereading the last three books this week.

Brad Neely is in the documentary We Are Wizards, about the Harry Potter fandom and wizard rock, so I think it's safe to call him a fan.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:12 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are very few perfect things in life. I hope that when the aliens come visit the ruins of mankind, they find The Bhagavad Gītā and Wizard People, Dear Reader - the bookends of our species.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:14 AM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Shredding through the stratos descends no other than Hagar the Horrible, a huge man that, if you didn't know better, you may mistake him for a giant, hairy truck.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:20 AM on May 17, 2011


I concur with all of the praise in this thread. Going to listen to the whole thing again. Don't even need the movie playing to enjoy it.

My favorite Neely production is probably Washington. I keep starting to sing it to my 2-year-old and then catching myself.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 10:20 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Though this isn't crucial to enjoying the movie, the voiceover has a really specific origin: Neely's literally doing an impression of Steven Jesse Bernstein. (cite)
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:22 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love Steven Jesse Bernstein's one album. Brilliant stuff. Too bad he's not around anymore.
posted by hippybear at 10:26 AM on May 17, 2011


I think Wizard People, Dear Reader is something that can be enjoyed regardless of whether you like or dislike Harry Potter. The humor used isn't really about the quality of Harry Potter as a film/work of literature. Its just someone making strange connections to popular culture, coming up with inventive insults, making funny interpretations about the on-screen action, and turning Harry from a kid with basically no special talents compared to the other children into a wizard so powerful it goes over-the-top into comedy. The same thing could be done with most movies in the right hands.
posted by Green With You at 10:27 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Which is the chapter where he cracks up?
posted by yeti at 10:28 AM on May 17, 2011


My favorite Neely production is probably Washington. I keep starting to sing it to my 2-year-old and then catching myself.

Holy shit that is hilarious.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:34 AM on May 17, 2011


Whilickers!
posted by no_moniker at 10:35 AM on May 17, 2011


yeti: right here
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:35 AM on May 17, 2011


Thanks!
posted by yeti at 10:41 AM on May 17, 2011


Whoa whoa whoa whoa! You are making a mighty leap of unfaith there. Harry Potter is mega-wonderful. I mean, you've got to take it for what it is, but it's a very good what-it-is. I was actually thinking of rereading the last three books this week.

I haven't read any of the books, but I've seen all of the movies up through Order of the Phoenix at least 10 times each (I watch an ungodly amount of Rifftrax due to tinnitus) and I'll gladly go hammer & tongs against any defender when I say that these films suck snitches.

Harry is a total Mary Sue, (or Gary Stu, if you prefer) his peers are either one dimensional (Hermione and Malfoy) or repellant (the Weasleys and Longbottom), and the rest of the cast is devoted to established British character actors chewing scenery.

(note to legions of fans: please allow me to disagree. I'm not missing anything, except perhaps the requisite brain-wiring required to enjoy this tripe. In fact, it's probably not that I think the movies are "bad" but that I find the whole universe they occupy to be such dreadful treacle centering around Harry, whose sole redeeming quality appears to be having been born to capable-yet-kinda-dickish-parents whom he has no memory of.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:42 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love Wizard People so much. I don't like superlatives, I never have a good answer for "what's your favorite x", but Wizard People is the exception because I think it is actually my favorite thing. It is the best thing. Screen it with some friends and some drinks and you will all die and it will be a good death.
posted by cortex at 10:43 AM on May 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


Dazzler is a man who obviously has never heard the laugh of a lover, never heard the phrase 'You are fine' from a doctor.
posted by evisceratordeath at 10:44 AM on May 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Okay, fair enough. The movies kind of baffle me, because the earlier ones try to mirror the books but they are totally lifeless, and the later ones try and go for wildly varying "moods" which have nothing to do with what the books were like whatsoever.

Terry Gilliam offered to direct the movies and was turned down by an idiot. It's a shame, because Harry Potter's got a lot more in common with Monty Python than the movies make it seem. There's this undercurrent of absurdity, a comedy-of-magic-manners wherein wizards just don't understand how non-wizards behave, and vice versa. So, culture shock, only the kind of culture shock where wizards also develop obsessions with things like subways and electric lamps and read comic books about ordinary people doing ordinary things.

But at the same time it's dark. Not "super hero saving the world" dark like the movies make it seem (and they are soooooo over the top about it), but dark where you've got a lot of racism, a certain amount of class warfare, and a bunch of all-too-human characters who fuck things up and hurt each other for petty reasons, and sometimes the books just flat-out admit that maybe if we keep fighting the good fight some things will get better, but not everything, and sometimes it's all for nothing — but we've got to keep trying because to refuse to fight is to let the ignorant hateful people win.

And that's tied in with a really intricate plot (yeah, there are a few holes, whatever) that manages to be surprising and clever and unexpected, and gives most of its characters 7-book-long arcs that see them mature and change in sometimes-startling ways. Neville goes from being comic fodder to being much a sadder figure. Malfoy turns from a puke to something really nasty to finally just being a scared kid who doesn't know if he believes what his parents believe. And the Ministry of Magic as a whole is one of my favorite villainous locations ever, plus Dolores Umbridge is a terrific villain.

(And Voldemort. He's got layers. But I think I already gave a whole Voldemort spiel on the blue so I'll try and contain myself.)

Why they gave Harry Potter off to the guy who directed Home Alone kind of baffles me. Especially when Terry Gilliam, a British legend, was offering to handle it.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:58 AM on May 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


Reluctantly enjoying this. Thanks.
posted by entropone at 11:06 AM on May 17, 2011


(And Voldemort. He's got lawyers...

...Man was I confused when I (mis)read that.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:08 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks Rory, honestly. Again, I've only been exposed to the movies, and to me they came across as something like a cross between Alice in Wonderland meets Eragon. A protagonist who gets by on Informed Abilties (warning: TV Tropes link) and can't-possibily-fail Mary Sue-ism, with occasional glimpses of "Falling ass-backwards into good luck" (not sure if that's a trope yet) Not to mention that pretty much all of the magic in the movies seems to center around three kinds of spells:

1. Tasks which are totally easy yet somewhat mundane: (stirring tea, picking up a broomstick)

2. Utterly useless: turning plants into water goblets or whatever it was

3. Knock someone on their ass

(I realize that "The Force" in the Star Wars universe kinda suffers from this same problem, but it seemed to be handled much more skillfully there (please don't mention midichlorians))
posted by ShutterBun at 11:13 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Terry Gilliam offered to direct the movies and was turned down by an idiot.

I wouldn't have let Terry Gilliam anywhere near a studio tentpole movie, if I valued my career.
posted by empath at 11:13 AM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Illegal Art version was done a few years after thew original. It's slicker, has better timing and pacing, and his inflection is more practiced.

It was less than a month ago i got the movie in on Netflix, downloaded the audio from Illegal-Art, and made my own copy to keep. It was just a little work (very little) but oh-so-worth-it for party purposes.
posted by sourwookie at 11:18 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't have let Terry Gilliam anywhere near a studio tentpole movie, if I valued my career.

I would sacrifice my career as a producer and take up dairy farming if it meant one Gilliam Harry Potter movie.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:19 AM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


this is fucking awesome, thanks
posted by angrycat at 11:23 AM on May 17, 2011


Had Gilliam directed, chances are pretty good there'd be only one Harry Potter movie, period.

(Who am I kidding? Series reboots are a dime a dozen these days. They woulda survived, Hogwarts and all)
posted by ShutterBun at 11:23 AM on May 17, 2011


The one thing that always bothered me about Harry Potter was the utter disinterest in how magic worked. I mean, you wave your wand, turn a hedgehog into a pincushion--how does that happen exactly? It's magic! No, that's not an answer.

Which reminds me of another question I had: is it really alright to transform a living creature into an inanimate object, however temporarily? I mean, what is it like on the creature's end? Is it like blanking out for a moment, and then waking up again? Is it some sort of "I have no mouth and I must scream" scenario?

And don't get me started on brainwashing spells. Memory charms. Whatever you want to call them. I'm sorry, but anything that digs its hand into your brain and picks out the bits it doesn't think you should have is just nightmare material.
posted by KChasm at 11:29 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not even Gilliam is Gilliam anymore. Sadly. The best bits of Doctor Parnassus were the parts where he was working within his old strictures of making it all happen in-camera. Once he gets into the CGI segments, it loses all its magic and becomes kind of boring.

The miracle of movies like Baron Munchausen are that it's all imbued with this incredible sense of wonder. If Gilliam could have brought that to a Potter film, I'd love to have seen it. But with today's technology, I don't trust him to even achieve that anymore. Sad but true.

That said... I think that the third HP movie, the one by Cuarón... is far and away the best as far as tone goes. It has this unifying theme, the passage of time, which none of the other movies really ever quite achieve. Sadly, it's also where the heavy cutting starts, and once you begin to remove the house elf subplot in that film series, you pretty much end up gutting it from ALL the movies from that point on. And it's kind of important, in the end.
posted by hippybear at 11:30 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is crying out for someone to redo the whole thing as Werner Herzog.
posted by sleepcrime at 11:33 AM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


If that ever happens I'll eat my shoe.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:35 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


once you begin to remove the house elf subplot in that film series, you pretty much end up gutting it from ALL the movies from that point on

I'm having this horrific thought that the Star Wars prequels would have kicked ass if Jar-Jar hadn't been sidelined in the 2nd and 3rd films.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:37 AM on May 17, 2011


Comment A: Which reminds me of another question I had: is it really alright to transform a living creature into an inanimate object, however temporarily? I mean, what is it like on the creature's end?

Meet seemingly incongruous Comment B: once you begin to remove the house elf subplot in that film series, you pretty much end up gutting it from ALL the movies from that point on. And it's kind of important, in the end.

Yes, the whole over-arching plot of how we treat others (muggles, house elves, goblins, owls, pet rats, cats, werewolves, adopted orphan nephews, babies we believe are The Savior...) was at best glossed over if not completly expunged from the films in exchange for an adventure romp in pure hollywood style.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:43 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


ShutterBun: since you're not familiar with the books, you may not realize that during the run of the novels from Book 3 onward, Hermione spends a good deal of her time working to eliminate house elf slavery throughout the Wizarding world. She forms unions, helps them to win rights for themselves, works to grant them autonomy (they are being held in bondage through magical means)... It's something that is entirely missing from the movies.
posted by hippybear at 11:46 AM on May 17, 2011


Out of curiosity, in the books, did they ever stop referring to non-magic folk as "muggles"? They made an awfully big deal about the word "mud-blood" in the movies, but using a "them" word for us mere mortals seemed like fair game.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:48 AM on May 17, 2011


Gotcha, hippybear. I have to admit that (based on how horrible I find the movies) I wouldn't have expected even the notion of a series-length character arc (beyond, say, puberty) to have entered into things. I'm so used to encountering people who love & defend everything Harry Potter (books and movies equally & for the same reasons) that it's refreshing to imagine myself saying "not nearly as shitty as I was expecting!" might be a possible reaction to reading the books.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2011


The books aren't high literature. There's a lot more wordplay in them, which is fun if you know your latin and greek roots. And they're a LOT longer. And there's a lot more depth, for instance, in the 6th movie where Harry keeps visiting the Toilet Of Memories... in the book, you get nearly an entire biography over repeated visits. In the movie, he only goes there once or twice and it's done.

The way in which the kids age is pretty well-done, and kind of rare for children's books. Also the way the conflicts go from black-and-white in the early books to being rather subtle and shaded and difficult to know which is the "good" side, that's rare and rather enjoyable.

I recommend the books to people who enjoy reading and have a good sense of play about themselves. But if you're someone who Takes Things Seriously, they're likely to either be too fluffy or too annoying for you to enjoy.
posted by hippybear at 11:59 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have never seen a Harry Potter nor read any of the books, and yet i love the franchise because of Wizard People, Dear Reader. I tell people about it often.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:00 PM on May 17, 2011


This looks great, but I'm guessing it'll be DMCA'd by the time I can get to it.

Is this sort of work protected by parody/fair use? I didn't think so, but I'm not sure why not ...

Just thinking of WPDR makes me thirsty for a nice, cold brew ...
posted by mrgrimm at 12:02 PM on May 17, 2011


WPDR is perfection made manifest. So is Washington, Washington.
posted by that's candlepin at 12:07 PM on May 17, 2011


I mean, you wave your wand, turn a hedgehog into a pincushion--how does that happen exactly? It's magic! No, that's not an answer.

But that is exactly what the answer is. If there were an explanation, it wouldn't be magic - it would be engineering.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:09 PM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Illegal Art version was done a few years after thew original. It's slicker, has better timing and pacing, and his inflection is more practiced.

Yeah, the IA one is better, imo.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:09 PM on May 17, 2011


The saddest thing about my life is that I'll never again hear for the first time Neely losing his shit when Quirrell removes his turban.

This is also one of my own favourite things, quoted incessantly among my friends, and it makes me happy to see it on MetaFilter. Thanks, Rory.
posted by Zozo at 12:09 PM on May 17, 2011


If there were an explanation, it wouldn't be magic - it would be engineering.

Then why do you have to go to school for it?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:10 PM on May 17, 2011


The one thing that always bothered me about Harry Potter was the utter disinterest in how magic worked. I mean, you wave your wand, turn a hedgehog into a pincushion--how does that happen exactly? It's magic! No, that's not an answer.

You would probably enjoy this.
posted by empath at 12:20 PM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


If there were an explanation, it wouldn't be magic - it would be engineering.

If you don't know that it's engineering, it's magic. The interesting thing here is trying to suss out the issue of popular perception in a given context from the metaphysical question of whether there is a coherent engineering basis at all behind the whole thing or if it is, in fact, just strange fiats of an unknowable magical universe that for some reason cares very much which bits of fake latin you say while waving which other bits of which sorts of sticks in which patterns but bears no underlying systemic explanation for any of that.
posted by cortex at 12:29 PM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:33 PM on May 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


I think its alright to desire some explanation of the underpining mechanism behind magic, but J. K. Rowling wasn't interested in giving that explanation and so here we are.
posted by Green With You at 12:46 PM on May 17, 2011


Wow: "When Ron the Mighty is stood in front of the Gate of Heaven, he begins to denounce it. He cries, 'Heaven is for those too scared of Nothingness! I will go no farther than my mortal flesh will carry. This mirror is the Sickbed of Heaven, Harry, the Eternity of pansy lives!'"
posted by aught at 12:47 PM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

Bicycle > Computer
posted by mrgrimm at 12:48 PM on May 17, 2011


ROAAAAAR.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:09 PM on May 17, 2011


And don't get me started on brainwashing spells. Memory charms. Whatever you want to call them. I'm sorry, but anything that digs its hand into your brain and picks out the bits it doesn't think you should have is just nightmare material.

I made a long comment some years ago about this, and how it's a severe, deal-breaking problem I have with the Harry Potter books and movies. It destroys my interest in seeing the wizarding culture as anything other than a self-considered enlightened class doing whatever they can to protect their interests from those they consider to be beneath them. Maybe it could be seen as a theme of the books that cultures like that tend to produce Voldemorts, but what I've read in them and of them doesn't make it seem like that's an angle Rowling pursues.

In any case, they have potions and magic and wands and dragons and stuff, but we have the motherfucking Internet. If the books went on any longer, we'd have to start making up dismissive terms for them.
posted by JHarris at 1:11 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love this sooooooooooooooo much. I love telling people that I'm at the drunken bottom of a depression well.

Also, this has taught me that the absolute best response to an asshole remark is "At least I'm not a hideous fucker."
posted by sarahsynonymous at 1:39 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


All of Neely's stuff is hilarious, Professor Brother's and Baby Cakes are perfect insanity.
posted by karmiolz at 2:48 PM on May 17, 2011


If there were an explanation, it wouldn't be magic - it would be engineering.

This is a fairly simplistic view of the concept of magic, and that sort of viewpoint ties directly into a lot of why I could never much get into Harry Potter.

When including magic in a story, there are a lot of potential pitfalls. One of the most obvious is that magic, if not limited, obviates the need to tell a story; if, for example, Gandalf could snap his fingers and teleport the One Ring into the fires of Mt. Doom*, there's really not much of a conflict to write about.

But there is a much more frustrating (to me) trap that many authors fall into: having magic that is limited, but with a limit that is essentially "whatever the plot currently requires". Did you write your characters into a corner, with no way for them to escape safely? Don't spend time revising your work, just claim there's a heretofore unheard-of spell that handles just this situation! Alternately, are you having trouble generating tension and drama? Throw your characters, who have until now had no trouble using magic to their benefit, into a situation in which magic is inexplicably incapable of resolving the issue!

When this happens, magic becomes a crutch for poor writing.

Now, I want to be clear and say that I am not saying that any author that includes magic needs to write a hundred page treatise on the mechanics of magic in their world. But, there are a lot of ways to build up a magical system that has some semblance of logic. Good authors do that -- they put in place at least the perception that there is some rhyme and reason to how magic works. Is it still magic? Absolutely. But it works in a way that allows for the story and the conflicts within that story to feel like they naturally grow from the constraints of the world they take place in.

I understand a lot of people like Harry Potter, and honestly, I don't hate the franchise. My wife likes it a lot more than I do. Personally, I think the movies are OK, and the Lego game was pretty good fun, if you like that sort of thing (and I do).

However, the treatment of magic in the world Rowling created has always struck me as incredibly ham-handed. From the start, there seemed to be a view that, well, it's MAGIC, it can do WHATEVER THE AUTHOR NEEDS! And, for me, that really diminishes the enjoyment of a story.

Maybe it got better later on, but I just couldn't get past Book 3 as a result.

[* Yes, I'm aware of the irony of this example, because Tolkien himself was no stranger to pulling magical solutions out of his ass. I still think he did a hundred times better a job of making magic feel like it had rules :) ]

[ also, more on topic, regardless of flaws in Rowling's writing, "Wizard People, Dear Reader" is quite hilarious ]

posted by tocts at 3:33 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Trying to watch this on the train but I keep laughing out loud
posted by Joe Chip at 3:38 PM on May 17, 2011


However, the treatment of magic in the world Rowling created has always struck me as incredibly ham-handed. From the start, there seemed to be a view that, well, it's MAGIC, it can do WHATEVER THE AUTHOR NEEDS! And, for me, that really diminishes the enjoyment of a story.

This was a problem for me, and I think it extends past the magic into other realms of Rowling's storytelling. Everything about the wizarding world is in accordance with what someone with a fairly limited and stereotypical vision of the real world might imagine: leprechauns are the Irish mascots, and they sprinkle gold everywhere! The French are haughty! Witches (and wizards) ride around on brooms! Part of this just the deployment of stereotypes and part of it is the overuse of the device in which all of the fairy tales that we've been told are given a legitimate basis in reality, but all of it comes across as lazy, because all of these disparate elements from the popular imagination are thrown in without much decoration or consideration for how they mesh with each other or the world. It's hard not to feel a little insulted by just how little effort Rowling put into creating a believable, consistent setting in Harry Potter.
posted by invitapriore at 3:57 PM on May 17, 2011


However, the treatment of magic in the world Rowling created has always struck me as incredibly ham-handed. From the start, there seemed to be a view that, well, it's MAGIC, it can do WHATEVER THE AUTHOR NEEDS!

Well, yes and no. Rowling is writing the books from the standpoint of (starting out) 10 year olds. There's not a lot of magic rule building because her stories don't require it. Stephen R. Donaldson always has that answer for readers who ask him arcana questions -- I don't know because my story didn't require me to invent that.

At its core, Harry Potter isn't really about magic and wizards. It's about stepping out of a sheltered existence into one which has Implications and Purpose as one ages into being an adult. Sure the magic stuff is fun, and is a great source for much of the wordplay and stuff during the series. But more than anything else, it's really about leaving one's culture and becoming comfortable in something entirely new.

There are hints and clues here and there throughout the books about how magic works. Doing complicated things requires greater training. The more skilled you are the more things you can do at once. Items can be magicked and the spells continue to work. Creating such artifacts requires great skill. Magic can backfire if not wielded carefully. Potions are some of the most difficult things to get right, and not even the textbooks are reliable sources of information about them. Wands require a sympathetic bond with the wielder in order to work at peak efficiency. Magical things created by powerful wizards don't require great skill to use. Some magic is really disturbing or even painful to do.

But yeah, Rowling never sits down and sets out any formal structure for her magic. Because on some level, it's all just a metaphor. Or, as you say, it's a tool to help her move her plots forward. Although generally, she doesn't use it in a deus ex machina kind of way. She definitely has rules in her mind about what can or cannot be accomplished through direct magical intervention. Those strictures are what help keep the plot moving forward and not just ending immediately because someone came up with the right combination of latin syllables to utter whilst waving their wand.

How much easier would Dolores Umbridge's work have been if she could have magicked every copy of The Daily Prophet to have pictures which not only showed the reader things, but also showed HER what the reader was doing? But that's not part of the world, and so it doesn't happen. One could argue that, with sufficient research into the right kind of spells, that could have been engineered by some enterprising wizard. But it isn't part of the story, so that's not how the magic works at that point.

Would a more adult series of books set in the Harry Potter universe have a better worked-out magic system? I have no idea. I don't know if even Rowling knows, actually. She wrote this series of books which has some great amount of internal consistency but which doesn't have anything laid out in a rule book (as far as I know), so it could be that she does only use the magic in ways which suit her authorial purposes. But she doesn't use it in a way which betrays the reader. There's never a point when reading the series where I felt like I was being shortchanged in the plot or character development because someone used a spell to solve a problem which had before then been a major stumbling block for the characters. That, in and of itself, is a major achievement in my mind. The characters much grow and progress through their years. Some people die, some of them quite horribly and unexpectedly. Others have to face difficult choices which they can't simply magic themselves out of.

It's not the best series of books ever written, but it's a remarkable achievement overall.
posted by hippybear at 4:02 PM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


invitapriore: I'd say that Rowling isn't really using examples such as the ones you provide (and many others) in order to be stereotyped as much as she is using the resonances of folklore to help provide echoes and rhymes with the magical world she is creating. She has said in interviews that she did quite a bit of research into legends and mythical creatures during her writing of the series, but that she didn't feel bound to use what she learned if it didn't suit her. It's all about references, not about being faithful or inventive. If there's one thing Rowling is not, it's truly inventive. A good part of the appeal of this series is that there is enough familiar quasi-postmodern referencing of prior knowledge that it doesn't require either a master's degree in mythological literature or such close reading that if you miss a paragraph you'll be lost.

I understand how it can look lazy, but I found it much more charming in its references than stereotyped and insulting. I guess, as with a lot of these things, it's all in the eye of the beholder. I've been bristling about people making fun of a political candidate's name in another thread, but haven't really said much about it because I think it would sound petty if I did. Perhaps that's something similar here. (Not that you sound petty, but that you're bristling about things which aren't intended in a prickly way.)
posted by hippybear at 4:10 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be fair about the way magic works in the series, I think it's implied at one point that the words are fundamentally arbitrary (though, like language, probably culturally constrained) and serve more as aids for focus rather than strictly necessary incantations. I still think there are some glaring inconsistencies, like the wildly varying efficacy of medical spells (after all the injuries that are magicked away, George can't get his ear back? What?), but that at least quelled a bit of my nerd rage.
posted by invitapriore at 4:11 PM on May 17, 2011


Brad Neely is in the documentary We Are Wizards yt , about the Harry Potter fandom and wizard rock, so I think it's safe to call him a fan.

That's where I first heard him. I'm a lukewarm Harry Potter fan - read the books, enjoyed them as well-written fantasy, but don't go any farther. But what little I've heard of Wizard People is just perfect. Not as a joke but as how stories should be told, all fire and Burroughs and bluster. Someday when I have the time I'll listen to them all, but they just make me happy.

Same thing with Wizard Rock. I don't care too much about the subject matter but what I heard sounded so awesome.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:19 PM on May 17, 2011


hippybear: well, I'm pretty sure you're right about those things not being intended in a prickly way, but even so they stood out to me as being uninspired and therefore detracted from the story for me, which is all I was really trying to express. I hadn't thought about it in terms of it being a kind of radical allusiveness, though. It's an interesting angle, so thanks for making me think about it differently, although I'm still not sure how I feel about how its implementation.
posted by invitapriore at 4:19 PM on May 17, 2011


"Dazzler idled like a van reconsidering its destination," is an amazing sentence.
posted by neuromodulator at 8:54 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you haven't read the books, they are enjoyable - get the audiobooks from the library. Stephen Fry does a version, and Jim Dale does a version, both good. The first two books are pretty kid-level, quick. Then they start to get darker and more complicated.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:08 AM on May 18, 2011


I think Harry Potter has the same problem Kings of Leon do. They're both competent and enjoyable but they aren't meant to be as big as they are. Still, there are many worse authors than Rowling.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:16 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, there's a Harry Potter narrated by Stephen Fry?

Every time I think my childhood loves can't get better...
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:28 AM on May 18, 2011


Someone needs to convert that transcript into synchronized subtitles, maybe I'll do it.

And yeah, this is beyond great.
posted by valdesm at 2:14 AM on May 18, 2011


Dazzler is a man who obviously has never heard the laugh of a lover, never heard the phrase 'You are fine' from a doctor.

Oh man, that whole security cat and his man servant Dazzler bit absolutely slays me every time.

I gotta say, I prefer the second version (the one on Illegal Art). His delivery in the first version is a little hard to tolerate, but is spot on in the second version.

Also, my favorite insult ever was taken from WPDR. "Good luck on forgiving your parents for mixing up such an unthinkable person."
posted by cirrostratus at 9:00 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I watched this last night and my roommate had to ask me why I was laughing and laughing.

And, since we're keeping count, I am pro Harry Potter books and indifferent to the movies. Until now.
posted by chatongriffes at 9:01 AM on May 18, 2011


"Her voice is chilling, like a piano made of frozen Windex."

Pure poetry.
posted by Zozo at 9:41 AM on May 18, 2011


Also, my favorite insult ever was taken from WPDR. "Good luck on forgiving your parents for mixing up such an unthinkable person."

I don't know if that beats the exchange between Ronny and Harmony:
Harmony feels small in their presence, so she decides to split hairs with the Bear.

'Say, Ron, you look tired. Have you ever been tested for diseases?'

Ron replies, 'At least I'm not a hideous fucker.'

She says, 'Are you going home for Christmas? I'm going home. My family's got money.'

He says, 'No, we're staying here. We're going to find out who that fucking Nick Flannel is, and rule the fucking school. So run home and open your presents. I hope you get a new pillow to cry into.'
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:53 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Announced at the Adult Swim upfronts today: a new series by Brad Neely, called "China, IL," which adapts The Professor Brothers series about two fraternal university history professors who “often sacrifice facts, lessons and syllabi for the sake of being awesome." Presumably it'll premiere in the fall.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:40 PM on May 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey Ian A.T., you hear that new Kenny Winker song?
posted by Green With You at 2:27 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why didn't they commission Baby Cakes? Presumably sometimes he'll cameo I guess.
posted by JHarris at 2:11 AM on May 20, 2011


There's a video on Neely's YouTube page called "China, IL", which I assume is the pilot for the series that Adult Swim has picked up. It is in fact narrated by Baby Cakes.
posted by Ipsifendus at 12:11 PM on May 20, 2011


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