Remembering Hermione
July 20, 2011 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Sady Doyle, writing for Global Comment, has released a glowing retrospective of Joanne Rowling's beloved Hermione Granger series of books and movies.
posted by gilrain (252 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite

 
via Kottke
posted by gilrain at 1:45 PM on July 20, 2011


Everyone knows Neville Longbottom is the actual hero
posted by The Whelk at 1:49 PM on July 20, 2011 [39 favorites]


Not only does this make it's point really well, it's pretty fun to read. Like a brief journey into understandable fan-fiction.
posted by Brainy at 1:50 PM on July 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Heh. By which I mean, sigh.
posted by Gator at 1:50 PM on July 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


If Sady Doyle thinks there is an amazing story to be told about a female wizard who is a "generation-defining role model", why doesn't she write it? I mean, she is a writer, no?
posted by dubold at 1:51 PM on July 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


That was well done.
posted by oddman at 1:51 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Editing, with minimal rewrites, the Harry Potter series to reflect that retrospective would bring something worthwhile into the world.

Is there a batsignal for fanfic authors?
posted by jsturgill at 1:52 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


If Sady Doyle thinks there is an amazing story to be told about a female wizard who is a "generation-defining role model", why doesn't she write it? I mean, she is a writer, no?

There is, of course, a name for a writer that takes someone else's idea and changes one parameter of it.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:53 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


t a female wizard who is a "generation-defining role model"

The Diane Duane Support your local wizard novels have two strong female wizards.
posted by The Whelk at 1:53 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never get why female heroes are so rare or why —when done by companies like Disney, they feel so forced—. That's why I'm always amazed at the Miyazaki films. That's female empowerment done right.

Maybe the deal with Miyazaki is that the heroes and villains are never stereotypically good or evil, that helps the narrative to not get stuck in the old myths and power dynamics.
posted by Omon Ra at 1:54 PM on July 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


I laughed. A little sadly, but I laughed.

There is, of course, a name for a writer that takes someone else's idea and changes one parameter of it.

Cassandra Claire?
posted by NoraReed at 1:54 PM on July 20, 2011 [26 favorites]


When I got to the part of the last book where it turns out that Dumbledore basically planned for Harry Potter to die so that others could live I was stunned by the audacity. JK Rowling just got people to read 5000 pages which turned out be an extended Jesus allegory.

Truly a Christ-rolling. (Totally spoiled when he came back to life)
posted by atrazine at 1:54 PM on July 20, 2011 [19 favorites]


“Boy, girl… you are a sword, that is all.”
posted by Chekhovian at 1:55 PM on July 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


Metafilter: takes someone else's idea and changes one parameter of it.
posted by dubold at 1:57 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is, of course, a name for a writer that takes someone else's idea and changes one parameter of it.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:53 PM on July 20 [+] [!]

Dan Brown.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:57 PM on July 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


"In Hermione Granger and the Prisoner of Azkaban, she actually masters the forces of space and time just so that she can have more hours in the day to learn."

I recall a time turner thingie, but no mastering of any sort. Just a convenient little deus ex machina.
posted by vidur at 1:57 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


While reading this, I couldn't help but think of Brandon Sanderson's excellent Mistborn trilogy, which actually does feature a powerful, magic female protagonist. There's a eunuch in there, too!
posted by buriednexttoyou at 1:58 PM on July 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


If Sady Doyle thinks there is an amazing story to be told about a female wizard who is a "generation-defining role model", why doesn't she write it? I mean, she is a writer, no?

While I am generally behind the idea that 'the best criticism is to make something,' it seems a little silly to say that Sady Doyle could have better spent her 1200 words' worth of time writing and marketing a seven-novel series.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:59 PM on July 20, 2011 [40 favorites]


best quote ever from Stephen King: "Harry Potter is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength, and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend."

How much would have (had to be) changed if the gender of the protagonist were changed? Probably too much, and Joanne Rowling would probably be back on welfare now.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:02 PM on July 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


JK Rowling just got people to read 5000 pages which turned out be an extended Jesus allegory.

If you've ever read any of the books they have you read in high school or college literature classes, I have some mundane news that will, unfortunately, surprise you.
posted by The World Famous at 2:06 PM on July 20, 2011 [39 favorites]


"And Hermione, in her defining moment, became an activist for the enfranchisement of house-elves."

Okay, I managed not to laugh up until that line.
posted by pla at 2:06 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like the HP books (but thought they seriously needed editing for length and tone near the end). However they certainly do not hold up well to criticism of certain elements.

To me there are four aspects to good fiction. Plot, character, world and writing. I can enjoy a book for doing one or two of these well, I think HP had decent plot, and good world building. After the first few books the "character" element felt pretty blah and the writing sometimes was good, sometimes fell into the cram-it-all-in, but never excelled. There was no real elegance either. I enjoyed reading them once, but gave my copies to the library and likely will never read them again.

and yeah, the linked piece was pretty good in a sly way.
posted by edgeways at 2:06 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd rather have a series written from Snape's perspective, if only so I could get more Alan Rickman in my life.
posted by perhapses at 2:07 PM on July 20, 2011 [41 favorites]


When I got to the part of the last book where it turns out that Dumbledore basically planned for Harry Potter to die so that others could live I was stunned by the audacity. JK Rowling just got people to read 5000 pages which turned out be an extended Jesus allegory.

That story is much older than Christ.
posted by empath at 2:08 PM on July 20, 2011 [33 favorites]


While I am generally behind the idea that 'the best criticism is to make something,' it seems a little silly to say that Sady Doyle could have better spent her 1200 words' worth of time writing and marketing a seven-novel series.

I'm not saying she shouldn't have written the article - why can't she do both? It's a serious question. Doesn't even have to be a seven-book series. Just one would be a good thing, and she's got an advantage in that Joanne Rowling has already made YA fantasy a lot more visible.
posted by dubold at 2:08 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Truly a Christ-rolling. (Totally spoiled when he came back to life)

I don't want to spoil the end of the Gospels for you, but...
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:09 PM on July 20, 2011 [39 favorites]


A little too over-written to be as clever as it thinks it is.

In RL, we have the Paul Park "Princess of Roumainia" series and of course the Philip Pullman "His Dark Materials" series (that I know of, and I'm not much of a fantasy reader). And Joanna Russ tried to get this sort of thing rolling back in the 70s with The Adventures of Alyx, but that was sadly before its time and doomed from the start.
posted by aught at 2:09 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Funny article - it makes some good points. Harry potter does have some weird angles when you start taking a closer look at it. But it's entertaining, and I would say it's pretty close to a master work at what it does (combining boarding house bildungsroman with wish fulfillment fantasy).

Joanne's book sounds inspirational and egalitarian, but unfathomably boring.

Harry Potter is fantasy, and part of that genre is working within character and plot archetypes.

That was my experience with Un Lun Dun. It works hard to subvert a lot of tropes of children's fantasy, and doesn't work hard at all to make its plot or characters interesting, or even semi-entertaining.

and yeah, the linked piece was pretty good in a sly way.

Sly? About as sly as an elephant in a peanut-butter factory.
posted by codacorolla at 2:09 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


How much would have (had to be) changed if the gender of the protagonist were changed? Probably too much, and Joanne Rowling would probably be back on welfare now.

what
posted by Gator at 2:11 PM on July 20, 2011


Sly? About as sly as an elephant in a peanut-butter factory.

An elephant would have to be pretty sly to talk his way into a peanut-butter factory. Just sayin.
posted by The World Famous at 2:13 PM on July 20, 2011 [25 favorites]


Everyone knows Neville Longbottom is the actual hero

Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness
posted by anastasiav at 2:14 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


> If you've ever read any of the books they have you read in high school or college literature
> classes, I have some mundane news that will, unfortunately, surprise you.

It's all Gilgamesh fan fic
posted by jfuller at 2:16 PM on July 20, 2011 [25 favorites]


I'm not saying she shouldn't have written the article - why can't she do both? It's a serious question.

Well, for one thing, I haven't seen any indication that Ms. Doyle is interested in writing a YA fantasy story, or that she's practiced or interested in writing fiction at all. She is a writer, yes, but of nonfiction, of blogs, articles, journalism, criticism, and opinion.

Additionally, the point of this bit of criticism isn't that Sady Doyle has come up with a great and novel idea for a story about a female wizard-- it's that she thinks that Harry Potter is a far inferior character to Hermione, and that she thinks it's a damn shame that culture exists such that Rowling felt (whether correctly or not) pressured to create a male protagonist rather than a female protagonist and to obscure her own sex in order to further the success of her novels. There are a few other bits of criticism in the piece, which are pretty well-done; none of it is any indication that Ms. Doyle has or cares to come up with some original characterization or plot that would go into creating the work you recommend to her. Your question is sort of a non sequitur.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:16 PM on July 20, 2011 [30 favorites]


If Sady Doyle thinks there is an amazing story to be told about a female wizard who is a "generation-defining role model", why doesn't she write it? I mean, she is a writer, no?

Pratchett already did this, only her name was Tiffany Aching and she was a witch, not a wizard. Everything else sounds about right though. And I sincerely hope that she becomes a generation defining role model for kids (and adults). Lots of good, perspective changing stuff in those books.
posted by quin at 2:17 PM on July 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


The problem is that Hermione is already a heroic and exceptional character -- a strong female character who has inspired legions of young female readers (and quite a few boys too). I'm not sure I buy the premise that this alternate history would have made a material improvement in society.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:18 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hermione is, as much as anything else, an admitted author-insertion for Rowling. She also runs the high risk of being a Mary Sue. (For that matter, so does Harry, but this is helped by putting us in his shoes throughout the series, as well as having him be an outsider to the world he's supposed to be saving and having him be wrong about as often as he's right.) Point being that Hermione might not have worked as well as the central character as Doyle thinks, and not for reasons of gender.

That said, I know little girls who revere Hermione as their rple model, anyway. Which is awesome.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:20 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


What was the site that tried to create incredibly pithy and snarky reviews? I think their one for Harry Potter was something like, "Super jock thinks he is above the law, is right." It kind of ruined the whole series for me.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:24 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, she thinks that the super-rich, celebrity jock who constantly gets away with ignoring the rules should have been a female character and the intelligent, hard-working student who, through ingenuity and diligence consistently out-performs every peer should have been a male character? Or does she think the books should just have their titles changed and still be about an awesome girl with a lucky, rich, celebrity friend?
posted by The World Famous at 2:24 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Garth Nix wrote a trilogy of fantasy novels—Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen—with strong female protagonists who use hard work and wits (instead of dumb luck and destiny) to kick ass across a fascinating and well-developed world. They never got much pop-cultural traction, but they're still in print, and I couldn't possibly recommend them enough.
posted by Zozo at 2:25 PM on July 20, 2011 [24 favorites]


Really fun article, and I say this as someone who dug deeply the Potter series as it was written.

If Rowling ever considers a sequel series beyond the Pottermore iPad side story thing or whatever that is, a run of books chronicling the adult adventures of Hermione would be most welcome indeed.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:25 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


(on non preview, seconding Zozo - HELLS YEAH SABRIEL)
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:26 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


best quote ever from Stephen King: "Harry Potter is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength, and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend."

Not a quote from Stephen King. Robin Browne apparently, but I can't find her original.
posted by memebake at 2:27 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I found it odd that the character of Hermione seemed to exist for the sole purpose of doing Ron and Harry's homework for them.
posted by logicpunk at 2:28 PM on July 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I had read somewhere that Hermione actually represents us - the reader. She represents by proxy, all of our hopes and fears for HP and the world at large. She is what draws the reader in, grounds the story and demands reason and logic. Otherwise - it would have been very easy for the HP series to devolve into a bad comic strip with bigs explosions and splats. I think that's a rather clever trick on JK Rowling's part if true.

Beyond that - let's be honest , the HP series is not particularly well written and does not stand up well to criticisms. I think HP is a mirror of how we have cast gender and archetypes - and the bigger question is why that is - and not expect a the HP series to somehow upend that. The books just don't the have the horsepower to do that.
posted by helmutdog at 2:29 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


If Rowling ever considers a sequel series beyond the Pottermore iPad side story thing or whatever that is, a run of books chronicling the adult adventures of Hermione would be most welcome indeed.

I would gladly read Hermione Granger: Witch Detective.
posted by codacorolla at 2:29 PM on July 20, 2011 [18 favorites]


Beyond that - let's be honest , the HP series is not particularly well written and does not stand up well to criticisms.

I'm just going to go on record to say that I refuse to grant this premise.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:30 PM on July 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


I would gladly read Hermione Granger: Witch Detective.

So would I. Especially if Rowling could have some characters of color who were actually not just tokens with walk-ons.
posted by Frowner at 2:32 PM on July 20, 2011


Are we going back to " Herminone Is Black" now?
posted by The Whelk at 2:34 PM on July 20, 2011


“For truly,” goes the last line, “Neville somehow got really handsome. All was well.” Indeed.

I'm kind of glad she didn't actually write that story. Ugh.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:35 PM on July 20, 2011


As much as I enjoyed this essay, I am actually heartened that Rowling at least avoided a lot of the tropes in the Curse of the Smart Girl. Hermione doesn't end up downgraded to a trophy for Harry or rendered useless in times of danger, although iirc she does at least sometimes fall prey to this:

though she is smarter than the hero, she will never be wiser than him; her "book smarts" will leave her cold and unable to follow her heart and make the right choice that the Hero will know instinctively to make.

In the end, though, the fact that Sady's able to make such a strong case for Hermione-as-hero does point to the fact that Hermione is objectively heroic in the texts, even if she never really gets the admiration she deserves for it. Which is a lot better than the alternative.
posted by Tubalcain at 2:36 PM on July 20, 2011


Beyond that - let's be honest , the HP series is not particularly well written and does not stand up well to criticisms.

Which is why I'm constantly reminded of 'The Beef' from the Transformer(s) movie... here he is in the first movie, selling his grandfather's precious relics in order to get a car which he thinks will get him laid. He's an asshole and a loser and apparently the hero...

If Hermione is a authorial self-insertion, then I guess Rowling has enough money now to deal with her epic self-loathing issues.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:42 PM on July 20, 2011


If you had to take a shot every time Hermiine came up with a completely sensible plan while Harry stood there like a stunned deer you'd be dead of alcohol poisoning half way in.

By the last book it really felt like all the others characters where pushing Harry into place just cause he was arbitrarily chosen despite the rest of them being objectively better than him, which if it was intended is kind of awesome. Destined golden boys must be super pains in the asses.
posted by The Whelk at 2:43 PM on July 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


The Whelk is right.

If you thought that Harry was the hero of the series, you weren't reading carefully enough.

Actually, I'd love to see the series recast from his view, if only because he actually seems like an interesting character (ditto, of course, for Luna). I thought that Hermione's character was poorly-developed, considering that she was one of the 3 main characters, and Rowling had 7 books to do it in.

Also, it was pretty awesome when Buffy and Dr. Who did their alternate-viewpoint episodes, which are arguably among best episodes of either series. Done properly, it could be fun to do something similar in the HP world.

Of course, when the story isn't being told from Hermione's viewpoint, and she's characterized as being very reserved, I do suppose it's hard to develop her character.

Still, I always got the impression that HP was full of strong female characters that weren't particularly well-developed, and that Rowling was actually far better at providing her minor characters with interesting personalities and backstories than she was for the main ones. (Snape possibly being the exception, although it's debatable whether or not he's a main character. I thought that the movies handled the twist at the end far better than the books did.)

Heck. Hagrid was a more interesting character than any of the "main 3." The attempt to give Dumbledore a backstory felt forced and contrived. I liked the series overall, but there were certainly things in it that didn't work. This was one of them.
posted by schmod at 2:43 PM on July 20, 2011


Loved this line: "In the end, Potter is just another jock who peaked in high school."
posted by greenhornet at 2:43 PM on July 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


JK Rowling just got people to read 5000 pages which turned out be an extended Jesus allegory.

Following in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis (whose epic also came in 7 installments, incidentally). The Jesus stuff really becomes heavy-handed in The Last Battle.
posted by ms.codex at 2:44 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Garth Nix wrote a trilogy of fantasy novels—Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen

Also of note: Tim Curry does the readings for the audiobooks. I swear I have listened to each of them at least 5 times; he is so fucking good. (And if you don't dig Sabriel, skip it and go to Lirael. The characters of Lirael, Mogget, Nick and the Disreputable Dog are amazing.)

It's also worth checking out the heroines in Tamora Pierce's Tortall universe (Alanna, Aly, Beka Cooper and Kel); they're all quite interesting and very different and there's usually quite a few other strong female characters around. The Circle of Magic universe is good too. I think the coolest thing you see in Pierce's worlds are the female mentor characters-- Rosethorn and Lark in CoM and Goodwin in the Beka Cooper series.
posted by NoraReed at 2:45 PM on July 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


Mr and Mrs. Granger don't think so.
posted by clavdivs at 2:46 PM on July 20, 2011


Also, it was pretty awesome when Buffy and Dr. Who did their alternate-viewpoint episodes

As a not-so-serious counter to this, when Wodehouse did it with Bertie and Jeeves, Jeeves pretty much comes across as an asshole.
posted by maxwelton at 2:47 PM on July 20, 2011


By the last book it really felt like all the others characters where pushing Harry into place just cause he was arbitrarily chosen despite the rest of them being objectively better than him, which if it was intended is kind of awesome.

I read this as most certainly intended (though Harry has redeeming qualities of his own, to be sure) with the whole bit about how it could have been Neville, but was Harry instead. Total chance. Harry is brave enough to do what he has to do, but in the end, he's not a particularly good wizard, he's not a strategist, he's not book-smart. He's just willing to risk himself. That's all. Others are better than him at everything.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:47 PM on July 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


They think they're in Austrialia, they don't count.

( and it's been said before but she is aaaawfully easy with the memory spells. Learn from Willow's example! Don't toy with minds!

Or like, just don't get caught)
posted by The Whelk at 2:48 PM on July 20, 2011


Yeah given that Neville has more traditional heroic qualities that does make it an interesting ripple in the DESTINTY idea.
posted by The Whelk at 2:49 PM on July 20, 2011


Also if any future Potterverse stuff isn't exactly this I will be so sad
posted by The Whelk at 3:06 PM on July 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


I usually don't much care for Achewood but that was hilarious.
posted by NoraReed at 3:11 PM on July 20, 2011


Granny Weatherwax would be the superior role-model.
posted by detachd at 3:11 PM on July 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Following in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis

Snape kills Aslan?

I don't want to spoil the end of the Gospels for you, but...

True, but Jesus didn't walk out of his cave and go back to his life as a carpenter either.
posted by atrazine at 3:14 PM on July 20, 2011


Are the three central characters heroic? One thing that struck me watching the latest film is that the characters seem to lack a moral compass in some respects. Their actions at the beginning of the film directly cause the deaths of multiple goblins who could not be said to be combatants and this elicits no significant reaction from the lead trio, one actually jokes about the death of one goblin. The deaths are a direct result of their breaking into the vault and there would seem to be an argument that they might even be classified as murderous but there is not a glimmer of regret. The three seem to value only their inner circle rather than valuing life per se.
posted by biffa at 3:21 PM on July 20, 2011


biffa: you've got to remember that the movies kind of suck, and don't reflect the books. Especially this last one, which basically could have given a flying fuck what happened in the book, because Kloves and Yates were certain that whatever they came up with would be better.

(SPOILER: it isn't. Also, it's a bad movie.)
posted by Navelgazer at 3:24 PM on July 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


She made some good points, but she completely missed or misinterpreted some of the key ideas in the books in a head-smackingly frustrating way, which unfortunately undercut her attempt at satire quite a lot.
posted by kyrademon at 3:31 PM on July 20, 2011


Sorry, got a little rant-y there and lost my point. The point is that in the book, the three don't cause a bunch of Goblin fatalities. They do, however, try to come up with a plan to screw over Griphook to keep him from getting the sword (which it never really comes to, because they escape on the dragon - not fighting with it, just narrowly escaping on it - before it comes up, IIRC.)

By this point in the series, though, the characters - and particularly Harry - have been through so much and have been traveling without guidance for so long that their moral compasses don't have much of a bearing. Thus Harry has no compunction about using the crutiatus curse on Alectus Carrow, torturing him until he passes out (if you've only seen the movie, of course that's not in there either.) The previous time he'd tried to use that curse, he was unable to do so. He didn't have the capability for enough hate to flow through it, and this was right after Bellatrix had killed Sirius. In Book 7, he does it to Carrow because Carrow spat in McGonnagal's face.

So he's gone to a very morally grey area, but the battle throws him one way and another, and once he's in "King's Cross," Dumbledore's final words to him are (paraphrasing) "Don't pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, especially those who live without love."

Now, because the movie sucks so much, it screws this next bit up as much as it screws up everything else, but Harry actually takes this to heart, so that when he comes back and battles Voldemort, it isn't the dumb-ass cliff-jumping shit we saw on film, but rather Harry, knowing he's got the upper hand, using the opportunity to ask Voldemort if he wants to show any remorse. And then the spell he uses against him is purely defensive.

Basically, there's a lot that could be written about the morality seen within the series, but none of it should be taken from the films, which, again, are pretty bad and not representative of the story.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:35 PM on July 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


Can I derail slightly and beg Navelgazer to write up a treatise on what's wrong with each of the movies w/r/t the books? Because you've said exactly what I've been thinking about 7.2 but couldn't express properly.
posted by cooker girl at 3:39 PM on July 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


True, but Jesus didn't walk out of his cave and go back to his life as a carpenter either.

I don't want to spoil everything but the end of the Gospels for you, but it's not actually about a carpenter who suddenly gets arrested and executed because of his carpentry.
posted by The World Famous at 3:41 PM on July 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Hermione? Do you mean the wretched Harmony? She wouldn't have even survived if it wasn't for those "bad-ass new Gods"
posted by stifford at 3:44 PM on July 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


I thought the whole series was about perspective. Famous without effort but also despised without cause, fulfillment of desire to be in a better place but also realization that things are bad all over, things going in your favor unfairly, but also against you unfairly, people giving you credit for things you've done, and you getting credit for things other people have done, and so on. Just a little perspective for children entering adulthood, since that's what the world can be like.
posted by davejay at 3:50 PM on July 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


er, left out not getting credit for things you've done
posted by davejay at 3:50 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Harry Potter is fantasy, and part of that genre is working within character and plot archetypes.

This is actually an area in which I find Harry Potter lacking... in fact, I have a thesis bubbling in the back of my head which is more or less that because there's relatively little in HP that consistently behaves like mythic archetype, it's arguably not fantasy as such, even though it has a fantastic setting. I think it's arguably more a social drama where the protagonists are essentially involved in discovering their place in the world. Where magic is prominently on display, I think it serves in less an archetypical sense as it does to make the world newer, more whimsical, and wondrous.

This isn't to say I think it's bad or unenjoyable; I like the series. I'm just not sure it's particularly good fantasy in the archetypical sense. That leaves it ultimately seem a bit more shallow and less satisfying to me personally than some other works, but there's room in the world for a lot of different kinds of tales and I'm glad this one got written.
posted by weston at 3:50 PM on July 20, 2011


Ugh, this is terribly dumb. The whole thing strikes me as incredibly passive-aggressive, which I concede might be missing the point, but there it is. Also, great or even good writing doesn't magically result from politically-progressive fictive tendencies, so it seems like Doyle's just grinding an axe for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the work, but rather its social/political potential. And frankly I find her implicit points about Rowling's choices utterly boorish and tendentious.

Oh, sure, just write a book about an unusual person with a remarkable life, you phallocentric bourgeois stooge. God, how dull this Doyle is.
posted by clockzero at 3:56 PM on July 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Pft. Another white, middle-class protagonist.
posted by ODiV at 4:01 PM on July 20, 2011


Seconding the hope that Navelgazer writes up what's wrong with the series because I'd like to see where our ideas overlap.

(Hermione may be the heroine but please do not Obliviate your parents and send them to Australia. Speaking of things I'd like to see some consequences from!)
posted by immlass at 4:07 PM on July 20, 2011


I have a thesis bubbling in the back of my head which is more or less that because there's relatively little in HP that consistently behaves like mythic archetype, it's arguably not fantasy as such, even though it has a fantastic setting.

Yeah, this is true in a number of ways. Even the Voldemort vs. Dumbledore conflict which is definitive of the series is only mythic from the Muggle perspective. Within the wizarding world it's a political drama, a super-powered version of aristocratic politics which serves as a crude allegory for a modern right- vs. left-wing (Crude because in HP, the right-wingers are authoritarian racists, while the left-wingers are egalitarian and charitable Christian types).
posted by mek at 4:08 PM on July 20, 2011


I don't want to spoil everything but the end of the Gospels for you, but it's not actually about a carpenter who suddenly gets arrested and executed because of his carpentry.

Duh. It's about a carpenter getting a taste of his own medicine.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:11 PM on July 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


This was a fun read, even if a gross oversimplification. Harry was not just an obnoxious "jock" and Hermione not a flawless protagonist. Side note, I swear we don't live in a John Hughes movie. I don't get why people are so obsessed with the jock or nerd stereotype from something that happened in their teens.
posted by karmiolz at 4:11 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Truly a Christ-rolling. (Totally spoiled when he came back to life)

I don't want to spoil the end of the Gospels for you, but...


Tacked-on feel-good endings are evidence of bad or lazy writing, no matter the Author.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:13 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Tacked-on feel-good endings are evidence of bad or lazy writing, no matter the Author.

I don't want to ruin the Book of Revelation for you, but . . .
posted by The World Famous at 4:14 PM on July 20, 2011


See also: The Book of Job and the edited-for-basic-cable Book of Job wherein he gets everything back and everything is a-okay. Except for his original dead wife and kids, but hey.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:15 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I couldn't get past the first few chapters of the first Harry Potter book (once the Sorting Hat had done its work, I lost interest), so I'll just say that this was my favourite bit:
Other female characters were introduced, and developed beyond stereotype; we learned to value McGonagall as much as Dumbledore, to stop slagging Lavender Brown off as clingy and gross because she actually wanted her boyfriend to like her, to see the Patil sisters and Luna as something other than flaky, intuitive, girly idiots. Unbelievably, even Ginny Weasley got an actual personality. Hermione was not an exceptionalist, the one girl in the world worth liking; she didn’t need to be surrounded by female stereotypes in order to stand out as a compelling female character.
posted by jokeefe at 4:17 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't want to ruin the Book of Revelation for you, but . . .

I don't want to ruin the concept of schadenfreude for you, but there are millions of people who think that Revelation actually constitutes a happy ending.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:19 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Which is admittedly fucked up, but, yeah.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:20 PM on July 20, 2011


This is deep, deep satire in the style of the old Ms. Magazine humour-to-highlight.

Where's the +1 button on this MetaGoogle thing?
posted by clvrmnky at 4:29 PM on July 20, 2011


Hermione has a number of what TVTropes would call Crowning Moments of Awesome, but she also does what is possibly the bravest and most selfless act of any of the characters - I'm not sure I remember this exactly, but she does something like erasing and rewriting the memories of her parents so that they no longer know she exists, so that the Death Eaters can't track them down. Note that she's an only child and doesn't apparently make friends easily, so what she's done there is deliberately cut off all contact with almost the only two people who have ever unconditionally loved her, for their own safety.

That's one of the saddest moments in the whole series, for my money, and it's one that only gets a passing mention - I think Harry says something like "Wow, Hermione, that's awful" and then goes straight on with whatever he was doing before. Although I think this article overlooks the fact that no publisher would have touched Hermione Granger and the Philosopher's Stone (which is pretty awful in itself), I definitely agree with it that Hermione doesn't get nearly enough credit.
posted by ZsigE at 4:34 PM on July 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Harry was not just an obnoxious "jock" and Hermione not a flawless protagonist.

Harry's a great wish-fulfilment character because he's a bunch of wish-fulfilment archetypes in one. He's a prince across the water, who discovers one day that his terrible guardians are not his real family at all. He's the best quarterback in the school, and also one of the richest kids in the school, but he gets to keep sympathy because, inexplicably, despite being the most popular boy in school the narrative focuses on the efforts of a universally loathed minority to bully him, which he really takes to heart. He isn't a swot or the smartest kid in the school, but he is the best at the skills that matter - good breeding, quidditch and guts.

Hermione, conversely, is the smartest kid in school, but has to make these slightly awkward speeches about how, although she is clearly far more knowledgeable and technically skilled than Harry at magic, she is nonetheless best suited to being second or third banana because she doesn't have Harry's heart.

ZsigE: Although I think this article overlooks the fact that no publisher would have touched Hermione Granger and the Philosopher's Stone (which is pretty awful in itself)

It really doesn't - it makes exactly that point:
For starters, she gave us a female lead. As difficult as it is to imagine, Rowling was pressured to revise her initial drafts to make the lead wizard male. “More universal,” they said. “Nobody’s going to follow a female character for 4,000 pages,” they said. “Girls don’t buy books,” they said, “and boys won’t buy books about them.” But Rowling proved them wrong.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:45 PM on July 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


but she does something like erasing and rewriting the memories of her parents so that they no longer know she exists

To put it another way, she experimented on her parent's brains, robbing them of their right to govern their own lives and key elements of their identities but it was ok as she did it for their own good.
posted by biffa at 4:48 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


She totally doesn't get to join the justice league now.
posted by The Whelk at 4:51 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The re-write/review amusing for calling "JK" Joanne. JK Rowling didn't go by Joanne because publishers thought the story wouldn't sell to boys.


buriednexttoyou: While reading this, I couldn't help but think of Brandon Sanderson's excellent Mistborn trilogy, which actually does feature a powerful, magic female protagonist. There's a eunuch in there, too!

Indeed, though she's an orphan, daughter of a deranged woman. But to that point, I'll quote codacorolla: Joanne's book sounds inspirational and egalitarian, but unfathomably boring. Fantasy is about unreal settings and made-up excitement. That's not to say a story of someone rising from a stable, every-day situation to save the world couldn't be great, but it's harder to write (and sell).


atrazine: Truly a Christ-rolling.

Well, Christ is just a Krishna knock-off.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:52 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seinfeld fans may remember an episode where George experiences severe gay panic after it's pointed out to him that his new girlfriend has a distinct physical resemblance to his best friend Jerry.

Ginny doesn't seem to have much going for her besides pluck. And all the Weasleys look alike...
posted by Trurl at 4:56 PM on July 20, 2011


Harry Potter is so important to my sister and some of my friends, and I'm guessing Hermoinie might be part of that. She's probably my favorite character too.

"If Sady Doyle thinks there is an amazing story to be told about a female wizard who is a "generation-defining role model", why doesn't she write it? I mean, she is a writer, no?"

Diane Duane's So You Want To Be A Wizard?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:57 PM on July 20, 2011


It really doesn't - it makes exactly that point

Well, it mentions the problem, yes - but my read of its point was that it's Rowling's fault that she didn't push harder, when I don't think that would have been practical if she wanted to get published at all. If the article's point is more "the publishing industry is fundamentally wrong and bad and should be supporting strong female characters", then I completely agree with it.

To put it another way, she experimented on her parent's brains, robbing them of their right to govern their own lives and key elements of their identities but it was ok as she did it for their own good.

Yeah, was thinking as I wrote it that it's not necessarily a universally good thing. That's hardly unique to Hermione, though - if I had the time and inclination I could write a long essay on the bizarre and pretty screwed-up relationship the wizarding world has to everyone else in those books.
posted by ZsigE at 4:58 PM on July 20, 2011


The bit about Hermione's parents is different in the book vs. the movie (of course it is). From the book:

"I've also modified by parents' memories so that they're convinced they're really called Wendell and Monica Wilkins, and that their life's ambition is to move to Australia, which they have now done. That's to make it more difficult for Voldemort to track them down and interrogate them about me - or you, because unfortunately, I've told them quite a bit about you.

Assuming I survive our hunt for the Horcruxes, I'll find Mum and Dad and lift the enchantment. If I don't - well, I think I've cast a good enough charm to keep them safe and happy. Wendell and Monica Wilkins don't know that they've got a daughter, you see."

In the movie, she uses the Obliviate spell, which wipes their memories and is not reversible.
posted by cooker girl at 4:59 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, someone upthread mentioned how callous Harry was when Hermione mentions what she's done to protect her parents, here's what the book says:

"...Harry looked from one tot he other, unable to say anything. The measures they had taken to protect their families made him realize, more than anything else could have done, that they really were going to come with him and that they knew exactly how dangerous that would be. He wanted to tell them what that meant to him, but he simply could not find words important enough."
posted by cooker girl at 5:01 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the thing the article misses about the Harry Potter series, is that by the end, it's not Harry Potter alone that's the main character, it's Harry + Ron + Hermione. The whole point is that he's NOT a super duper flawless can-do-no-wrong hero, he only gets anywhere with the support of his friends. Honestly, I suspect if an author did that but swapped Harry and Hermione's positions, they'd get slagged for saying "girls need help."

Also, I think it's interesting that the character of Hermione started to morph and change after the movies started coming out. As I recall, in the first books she's really a dweeb - an annoying, bookish, unattractive nerd with unruly hair and awkward glasses. But then Emma Watson got cast, and grew up into a teenage beauty, and suddenly the character lost the dweebishness. (Seems to me some hardcore feminists might have a little problem with that progression, too.)
posted by dnash at 5:20 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Harry Potter is bascially a story from a boy's weekly, updated for the current millennium, and with some magic and heroic archetypes grafted on. Rowling's innovation is that there are any female characters (or non-white characters, for that matter) who go beyond basic stereotypes at all.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:20 PM on July 20, 2011


shakespeherian: "...she thinks that Harry Potter is a far inferior character to Hermione..."

Well, to be fair, HP is an inferior character to Dr. Zoidberg.
posted by sneebler at 5:22 PM on July 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


To put it another way, she experimented on her parent's brains, robbing them of their right to govern their own lives and key elements of their identities but it was ok as she did it for their own good.

They are, after all, only muggles. Harry Potter is the chronicle of an internecine conflict among the ruling class that in the end manages to at least make the lives of the non-rich, er, non-magical if not any better, at least not any worse.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:30 PM on July 20, 2011


(Seems to me some hardcore feminists might have a little problem with that progression, too.)

You should totally ask them. Do come back and tell us what they say, though - I'd be interested!
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:33 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, to be fair, HP is an inferior character to Dr. Zoidberg.

I think Dr. Zoidberg tastes just fine.
posted by vidur at 5:34 PM on July 20, 2011


Pft. Another white, middle-class protagonist.

Pithy comment by me, sorry. What occurs to me is that surely there are novels and series featuring female protagonists similar enough to Harry Potter which can be recommended. Then again, that difference might be the main reason they're relatively unknown, so it seems a little unfair to put this on Rowling's shoulders.
posted by ODiV at 5:38 PM on July 20, 2011


JOHN FUCKING ZOIDBERG
posted by shakespeherian at 5:38 PM on July 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


They are, after all, only muggles. Harry Potter is the chronicle of an internecine conflict among the ruling class that in the end manages to at least make the lives of the non-rich, er, non-magical if not any better, at least not any worse.

This, and the house elves (point well taken from the FPP), are the thing that always bugged me the most about the Harry Potter universe. The Magicians by Lev Grossman at least addresses the human/wizard divide. A similar prohibition against revealing wizards to the world exists, but instead of a shrug and a gloss, Grossman makes most wizards out to be effete dilettantes who spend the majority of their lives wrapped in meaningless academic pursuits without ever contributing anything to society.

The Magicians also has more complex female characters, even if they're still not exactly ideal.
posted by codacorolla at 5:42 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm at the gym. Someone just came up behind me and said, "Are you at the gym posting to a message board about Harry fucking Potter!?
posted by ODiV at 5:42 PM on July 20, 2011 [21 favorites]


I hope you had a spotter!
posted by Sys Rq at 5:44 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Tsch, NO, I'm posting a community weblog about Harry fucking Potter."
posted by codacorolla at 5:45 PM on July 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


As I recall, in the first books she's really a dweeb - an annoying, bookish, unattractive nerd with unruly hair and awkward glasses. But then Emma Watson got cast, and grew up into a teenage beauty, and suddenly the character lost the dweebishness. (Seems to me some hardcore feminists might have a little problem with that progression, too.)

From memory, this happens in the books, too, except she uses magic to get some of it done. The first few books make a big deal about her large front teeth - Malfoy calls her a chipmunk...etc. Then after a magical prank where her teeth get made massive, she cons the nurse into making them smaller and more attractive than they originally were.

Also, in book four, at some sort of formal ball, she uses magic to make her hair all straight and shiny, like a Pantene model.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:05 PM on July 20, 2011


Honestly if I had pick one thing I just Did Not Like For Reals it was Ginny. She's just THERE and OH A WEASLEY YES SO IT MAKES SENSE and ugh, I hate that thing. If she was just from a random family it would have been a bit better for me but NARRATIVE MATH and ugh.

Like I know people don't usually marry their high school sweethearts forever but then again most people don't endure an horrifying world-destroying war in High school so it MAY BE DIFFERENT but sheesh it would kill Ginny to get a personality?
posted by The Whelk at 6:07 PM on July 20, 2011


Honestly if I had pick one thing I just Did Not Like For Reals it was Ginny. She's just THERE and OH A WEASLEY YES SO IT MAKES SENSE and ugh, I hate that thing. If she was just from a random family it would have been a bit better for me but NARRATIVE MATH and ugh.

Is it just me or is dating your best friend's sister usually not a thing you do?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:09 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Magicians has become one of my favorite books DESPITE THAT ENDING OH GOD.

Basically, Wizards never have to work when they grow up cause they've gamed the human world and having super-rich all-powerful 20-year olds is KIND OF A BAD IDEA
posted by The Whelk at 6:10 PM on July 20, 2011


> Hermione, conversely, is the smartest kid in school, but has to make these slightly awkward speeches about how, although she is clearly
> far more knowledgeable and technically skilled than Harry at magic, she is nonetheless best suited to being second or third banana because
> she doesn't have Harry's heart.

I swear I've seen that setup before, can't recall exactly where but the characters' names were Pork, Smock, something like that.
posted by jfuller at 6:12 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


(yes yes Duane's Wizard books are so, so good. I read them at JUST THE RIGHT AGE. I loved how modern materials work are subed for traditional ones, no one uses eye of newt since we got aluminum or plastic, and how in the first books the wizard mentors where two blue collar guys cause wizards are really into how things work so one of them was a lighting tech for TV shows and they where TOTALLY NOT A COUPLE cause of editor notes at the time but then later no really they where married. Awwww.)
posted by The Whelk at 6:14 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


As I recall, in the first books she's really a dweeb - an annoying, bookish, unattractive nerd with unruly hair and awkward glasses. But then Emma Watson got cast, and grew up into a teenage beauty, and suddenly the character lost the dweebishness.


Same with Ron. He suddenly got taller as Rupert did (lagging a bit since the books were ahead of the films.)

The Magicians has become one of my favorite books DESPITE THAT ENDING OH GOD.

The sequel is out in a few months. That should be interesting.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:16 PM on July 20, 2011


Honestly, I suspect if an author did that but swapped Harry and Hermione's positions, they'd get slagged for saying "girls need help."
This, exactly. Hermione's position in the actual series almost certainly had the highest competence-for-her-age of any character. Rewrite the story from her perspective and you might as well nickname her 'Mione Sue.

I think the Harry Potter stories are in somewhat the same corner that Pixar backed themselves into. If your protagonists have to have their hands held from naivete through valuable-life-lesson(s) (which isn't an awful archetype for a story and is a pretty good model for a children's story), then you can't make those characters female without risking being savaged for writing naive female characters in need of hand-holding.
posted by roystgnr at 6:16 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


(my favorite part was when the Sister of the main wizard gets her hands on her computer and computers are really fucking dangerous in the wizard world cause they can cast spells automatically and REALLY FAST and she just jumps LEAPS AHEAD of everyone and ends up under the microscope of the Big Bad trying to use her good intentions to greate an anti-entropy bomb or something. It was so good)
posted by The Whelk at 6:17 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


well can we mention how Ron is just there as a cautionary example? He exists to fall down stairs and go oof.
posted by The Whelk at 6:19 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Harry Potter would have been a lot more fun if instead Rowling had sent Klarion the Witch Boy to Hogwarts. I can see him now, trying to claim Voldemort's power for his own so he can cavort with sexy snake ladies.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:21 PM on July 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


(my favorite part was when the Sister of the main wizard gets her hands on her computer and computers are really fucking dangerous in the wizard world cause they can cast spells automatically and REALLY FAST and she just jumps LEAPS AHEAD of everyone and ends up under the microscope of the Big Bad trying to use her good intentions to greate an anti-entropy bomb or something. It was so good)

This reminds me of cstross's Laundry stories, in which magic is just a branch of applied mathematics, and computer geeks stumble into the dungeon dimensions all the damn time.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:21 PM on July 20, 2011


Okay talking about The Magicians,

Penny, TOTAL COP OUT ENDING. No really, I was angry

Josh, Closet Case. Seriously. Or something.

Also aside from a few bits we never got a firm grip on what the characters looked like, which I thought was nice. In my Head Quentin and Alice where Asian and Indian respectfully. Janet had a blond ponytail and Penny seriously has to a thick white dork.
posted by The Whelk at 6:23 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are we going ahead and spoiling for The Magicians? Well, hell, I don't have to spoil, I hope the extra library dimensions teach Penny magic that doesn't require [REDACTED] and the first thing he does once he learns it is [REDACTED] Alice and then Penny and Alice go off and have ADVENTURES. That don't involve Quentin and his obnoxiousness.

But I still like Hermione, and Harry, and I could even tolerate Ron were someone to write some kind of sequel slash fan fic epic where they grow up and do not marry the people they are supposed to marry but instead move to Los Angeles or I suppose I could tolerate Montreal where they run a magic detective agency slash caper outfit a la Angel & Co. with a dash of Burn Notice.

Somebody get on that, okay.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:30 PM on July 20, 2011


I swear I've seen that setup before, can't recall exactly where but the characters' names were Pork, Smock, something like that.


Absolutely. Although at least those guys got to make out.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:38 PM on July 20, 2011


Sadly, my favorite Harry-and-Draco-as-buddy-Aurors story is no longer publicly available.

The thing about the Harry Potter books is that each flaw makes a fabulous hook for fanfiction in ways that most other works don't seem to manage. Part of it's the sheer volume of material to work with... and part of it's magic.
posted by asperity at 6:39 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


As long as we're talking Harry fucking Potter fanfic, can I go ahead and recommend Harry Potter and the Watelands of Time; after HP loses the war against Voldie, he sells his soul to go back in time and try again, and ends up in a loop where he tries every possible tactic, but loses every time. In the process, he becomes an alcoholic, hyper cynical badass with a thousand years of awful war-torn experience. In the body of a seventeen year old.

Basically Groundhog Day with higher stakes. But I found it entertaining.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:41 PM on July 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Doh! Wastelands. Wastelands of Time.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:42 PM on July 20, 2011



As long as we're talking Harry fucking Potter fanfic, can I go ahead and recommend Harry Potter and the Wastelands of Time; after HP loses the war against Voldie, he sells his soul to go back in time and try again, and ends up in a loop where he tries every possible tactic, but loses every time. In the process, he becomes an alcoholic, hyper cynical badass with a thousand years of awful war-torn experience. In the body of a seventeen year old.

Basically Groundhog Day with higher stakes. But I found it entertaining.


Sounds like another epic fantasy series that's being discussed on MeFi now... don't want to spoil too much tho.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:47 PM on July 20, 2011


perhapses: I'd rather have a series written from Snape's perspective, if only so I could get more Alan Rickman in my life.

More... Alan... Rickman... in... your.... ..... life?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:55 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmmm. I'm far too late and the thread has moved on. Damn. I had such a lovely rant, too. To sum up: Fuck this premise right in the ear. Wilde had it: It is well-written, or it is badly written. That is all. A work of art --- even in-many-ways-literally-generic, aimed-at-kids art --- should not be evaluated on the basis of whether it adheres to the currently correct party line of Right Thinking People and properly advances one's desired political agenda.
posted by Diablevert at 7:00 PM on July 20, 2011


I could even tolerate Ron were someone to write some kind of sequel slash fan fic epic where they grow up and do not marry the people they are supposed to marry but instead move to Los Angeles or I suppose I could tolerate Montreal where they run a magic detective agency slash caper outfit a la Angel & Co. with a dash of Burn Notice.

In line for the last movie this Saturday I mused that it was probably going to be a lot of WIZARD BATTLES PEW PEW and that I'd totally watch an indie flick that dealt with the aftermath of Harry being killed by Voldemorte, where Ron and Hermione live an uncomfortable life together in a run-down New York tenement trying to make ends meet while darkness spreads inexorably across the land and Ron keeps a picture of Harry on the mantlepiece or something and Hermione yells at him about it.

"He's gone, Ron! He's gone!"
posted by adamdschneider at 7:07 PM on July 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


"He's gone, Ron! He's gone!"

"I'm still here! I'm alive!"

posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:17 PM on July 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ooh! Fanfic! I get to talk about Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality without being completely off topic!

Eliezor Yudkowsky of Less Wrong
makes a Mary Sue Harry Potter who's super intelligent, and simultaneously much more and much less interesting than the real one because of his massive, unnatural insight and super-Feynman attitude. Hermione has someone to directly compete against (unlike canon) and actually gets challenged by things that aren't actively trying to murder her for a nice change. Ron is just a minor character, as it should be.

Even when I was 12 years old I wondered why Hermione was trusted with a time travel device. I don't care how studious they are, anyone under $LOCAL_DRINKING_AGE$ shouldn't be trusted with the ability to fuck around with causality. Other than that she was definitely the most interesting of the main trio. Stupid jocks getting all the destiny.

adamdshneider: I'd watch that movie. Not sober, but I'd watch it and like it.
posted by sandswipe at 7:20 PM on July 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


""He's gone, Ron! He's gone!"

"I'm still here! I'm alive!"
"

"You're not HARRY!" *breaking into tears* "And... and you never will be." *turns back to photo*

...

Oh god, I can suddenly, for the first time, see the draw of fanfic.
posted by gilrain at 7:21 PM on July 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Eliezer Yudkowsky did it a lot better. It's been so long since an update that he appears to have abandoned the project, unfortunately, however what he has written so far is excellent.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:23 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Snap!)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:24 PM on July 20, 2011


Eliezor Yudkowsky of Less Wrong makes a Mary Sue Harry Potter who's super intelligent, and simultaneously much more and much less interesting than the real one because of his massive, unnatural insight and super-Feynman attitude.

It's not just Harry. Everyone is more intelligent, or at least, acts rationally. In Methods, Harry is a special case because he's a prodigy.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:27 PM on July 20, 2011


Wilde had it: It is well-written, or it is badly written. That is all.

So the only thing about a book is well-written or badly-written, and books presumably get rated on a binary scale. Harry Potter is perhaps not well-written (books 4-7 are undeniably not well-edited), but it's very readable, and it's fun and magical and in a lot of ways very socially regressive. (Mrs. Weasley. Fleur Delacour. Cho Chang. Lavender Brown.)

I remember before book 4 came out, and the big "I will kill someone" announcement. Now, we all assumed that meant "a character we have seen before for more than 1 scene, and one we care about already", and lots of people I knew were debating who it would be. An older Weasley? Hagrid? It was too early to kill off Dumbledore, the structure of the books required him to die during the penultimate book. Ron? But there were many comments made saying it could not be Hermione, as they could not kill off the only halfway important female character. JKR made comments about how there absolutely were other female characters with personalities and active importance to the plot in the series . . . and then in book 5, finally introduced Ginny's personality and added Luna to the books.

I enjoy the books. I have enjoyed the movies as well. I'd probably enjoy fanfiction, though I don't have the time to find the good stuff. I just don't think they can be summed up as easily as a "well-written" or "badly-written".
posted by jeather at 7:29 PM on July 20, 2011


One of the best parts of Methods is that the author adapts canon scenes so well. For example, HP's first meeting with Snape:

“Let’s try again,” said Severus. “Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?”

“That’s not in the textbook either,” Harry said, “but in one Muggle book I read that a trichinobezoar is a mass of solidified hair found in a human stomach, and Muggles used to believe it would cure any poison -”

“Wrong,” Severus said. “A bezoar is found in the stomach of a goat, it is not made of hair, and it will cure most poisons but not all.”

“I didn’t say it would, I said that was what I read in one Muggle book -”

“No one here is interested in your pathetic Muggle books. Final try. What is the difference, Potter, between monksblood and wolfsbane?”

That did it.

“You know,” Harry said icily, “in one of my quite fascinating Muggle books, they describe a study in which people managed to make themselves look very smart by asking questions about random facts that only they knew. Apparently the onlookers only noticed that the askers knew and the answerers didn’t, and failed to adjust for the unfairness of the underlying game. So, Professor, can you tell me how many electrons are in the outermost orbital of a carbon atom?”

posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:33 PM on July 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


I just don't think they can be summed up as easily as a "well-written" or "badly-written".

It's not that "well-written" or "badly-written" encompass everything a book is. It's that that's the criteria by which they should be judged.
posted by Diablevert at 7:36 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read all the books and have seen all the movies except the last.
I do not understand the author, it is as if she came to the party real late, naked and with a deadline. Granger has been and always will be the central character, the musketeer who is an outsider but excels at everthing. She could be the Minister of Magic, She could head HogWarts.

and everyone knew that Neville would be the man.

Be your inner Neville.
posted by clavdivs at 8:08 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Destined golden boys must be super pains in the asses.

I thought it would be interesting to write a book about a DESTINY MAN who had the blood of kings and all yadda yadda but he really doesn't want the destiny and isn't tortured about it. He's all like, 'Who cares about the vile armies of night sweeping down from the broken icelands of the north? I'm busy getting really good at darts.'

So the rag-tag band of acquaintances he has acquired has to save the day themselves and they do and it's a triumph of the people banding together to solve a problem! hurrah!

Except that then some scribe goes back and writes all the history so that the 'hero' ended up being the hero and the rag-tag band of acquaintances who saved the day are not even footnotes.

Basically just like how things work in the real world.

I did not do anything with the idea because it would be a lot of work.
posted by winna at 8:17 PM on July 20, 2011


Busy getting good at darts?
posted by ODiV at 8:21 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, y'all asked for it, so here's my long-ass treatise on Harry Potter, the books and films. Some of this is fairly objective, and a lot of it is my personal opinion, so, you know, grains of salt and all that.

The first thing we have to discuss is tone. There's been discussion above about the mythic qualities either present or lacking in the HP universe, and whether that makes the series fantasy or something else. Stephen King has often said that the series begins as Fantasy, for the first three books, and then swings fully into Horror for the last four. I tend to agree with King here, but with the addendum that people are either missing or ignoring the fairly obvious point:

Harry Potter is not fantasy, it is not horror, it is not epic adventure. It is a bildungsroman, with elements from these other genres fleshing out the details of the universe. Of course, this is just one man's opinion, but I feel like the readers who approach the series this way are more likely to be superfans than those who approach it as an epic.

Because for all of the trappings of what Harry must eventually do, the series does lack the mythic quality of something like, for instance, Lord of the Rings, or His Dark Materials even. There, the focus is on someone being pulled away from a comfortable life and thrust into a situation much larger than themselves, which they must eventually see to, despite their seemingly miniscule stature against the adversity they will face, before they may return to their life, a changed person. In HP, Harry is spirited away from a shitty life into one of wonder and, yes, danger, but he is never going to return to his old life, not for real at least. This new world IS his new life, and we will watch it become one with schedules and rituals and habits and minutia. That's where the series lives. Not in evoking the spectacle of moving portraits and magic wands, but in making those things commonplace.

And shockingly, for the most part, the films get this aspect better than expected. Especially the sixth movie, though that suffers a lot on other counts as a result. But they still understand the importance of this, to an extent. Casual fans complained when Book 5 came out and Harry was acting like an asshole, as if Rowling had forgotten that he was our hero and that we didn't want to see him like that. Personally, I saw it as one of her best touches, taking a fifteen-year-old kid with too much asked of him and having him react accordingly.

The movie understands this, to a point, and then doesn't let us see the pay-off of it (this is a theme in the films, it seems.) I'm going to break down the films one-by-one in a short while, so I'll discuss this further there. First I'd just like to deal with some of the common complaints levied against the books, and this is the one that bothers me the most. Yes, Harry is whiny and obnoxious for half a book. That's on purpose. Get over it or read something with stock characters if you want perfect heroes all the time. Anyway, as for the others:

1.Rowling is not a particularly good writer.

I disagree completely. She is not a stylist, to be sure, but she doesn't need to be. Her imagery is evocative, her imagination teeming with creations (and adaptations) and her characters vivid. Her critics like to imagine that when I speak of her imagery I'm thinking of descriptions of owls carrying mail through the great hall or something else fantastic. I'm not. I'm thinking of Privet Drive and the Riddle House and Merope's home life and all the other ways that she brings depressing and real details in between the lines. It's not as obvious a conceit as, say, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but at all times you are understanding far more than what is told to you.

2.She lost control of Book Seven.
Perhaps, but I don't think so. Generally here I think people are referring to the seemingly endless traveling and getting nowhere that occurs in Deathly Hallows. The thing about that period, however, is that the book keeps going with a lot of exciting things happening. It never stops its pace. But the characters are frustrated and feel like they're getting nowhere. Basically, this complaint both assumes that Rowling would want to make her readers smily all the time and never take them elsewhere, which is silly and dismissive, and overlooks the fact that she has brought you so much into her characters' mindset that you feel frustrated and bored even through all of the excitement, because they do. It, like Harry's jackassery in Book 5, is intentional.

3.Her books are just plot convolutions.

I have to half-concede this point. The time-turner is highly problematic (I think it was Cracked After Hours who said, “It literally solves any problem.”) and the Triwizard Tournament machinations that Crouch goes through in Goblet of Fire make no sense in retrospect. But I have to take a bit of a Doctor Who approach myself and be willing to let some of these things slide. The time-turner lets us get the bit where Harry can perform the Patronus charm because he's already seen himself do it, which is quite cool and good character development. And once the Triwizard Cup takes Harry and Cedric to the graveyard, you're not paying attention to anything else because the series has taken such a sharp and irrevocable turn. That it was unnecessary for him to be in the tournament at all doesn't hit you as fridge logic until later. And the other plots pretty much hold up just fine, thank you very much.

4.She doesn't develop her background characters.

Oh yes she does. Yes, she really, really does. She just does it, again, between the lines. You don't need to be constantly seeing McGonnagal, or Luna, or Neville, or Ginny, or Fred and George, to understand them as characters. They flit through Harry's line of sight generally, and while his views might tell us the obvious about them, we are able to fill in the rest. Sady Doyle may hate the treatment of Lavender Brown, but that plotline was about how foolish and callous Ron was being, going out with a girl he has no feelings for just because he gets to make out a lot. Any reader knew by that point that Hermione and Ron were going to end up together, but that Ron wasn't mature enough for that yet (just as Harry wasn't mature enough for Ginny before going out with Cho and learning the difference between affection from afar and an actual relationship.)

Anyway, onto the films.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Oh, Chris Columbus. Let me start by saying that the casting was perfect. Additionally, his vision of Hogwarts was exactly how most readers probably saw it in their heads. That's about as much credit as I'm going to give this one.

Because the look of Hogwarts was apparently the only thing he cared all that much about. Everywhere we go in the magical world is weighed down by long, long “look at me!” shots of all of his special effects. And they are beautiful effects, but I'd rather not see the story consistently broken up so that we can stare at them, instead of the characters and their dramas. As for the story proper, well, a lot gets left out. Peeves was cut for budget reasons, if I recall correctly, and the story of Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback is basically excised almost entirely.

These are fairly minor quibbles, and I don't think anyone really misses Norbert that much, but they speak to a much larger problem: this book is just over 200 pages. The film is almost three hours long. Why in god's name are you having to cut things? The film should have been under two hours and included, well, basically everything in the book, but Columbus and Kloves have their pacing entirely off, and their priorities up their asses. Everything takes at least twice as long as it needs to, because Columbus and Kloves don't trust their audience, and also don't want anything distracting from the pretty, pretty effects, which they clearly see as the main event.

Watch the film again (or, better advice: don't and just trust me here) and you'll see that there is basically no scene where action and dialog are combined. This is absolutely baffling to me as a screenwriter. They go to great pains to showcase the action, and then, any dialog that might have occurred simultaneously in the book is placed afterwards, like while sitting at a table or something. It repeatedly kills any tension and makes everything take twice as long, at least.

But the biggest issue in terms of story changes comes in the climax. Harry confronts Quirrell, ends up with the stone, and when Quirrell/Voldemort fights him for it, we realize that if they touch one another it causes both of them intense pain. Knowing, even at age 11, that he needs to be strong and endure, Harry clings on as he passes out from the torture of it, and when he wakes up, it is confirmed that Quirrell/Voldemort destroyed himself in the same attempt. That's the book.

In the movie, Harry realizes the pain the connection causes and attacks Quirrell/Voldemort with it actively. The same result in the end, but a much, much different tone, and thematically untenable.

Let's think about it for a moment: Harry isn't “the Chosen One” because of any innate abilities. It's because Voldemort picked him before he was born. As a result of this, Harry has spent his young life being bullied and forced to live in a cupboard. He has basically two skills – escaping or, failing that, enduring. Harry is almost purely defensive. This is HUGELY important. Defense Against the Dark Arts is the most important class in the series and most of the plots revolve around it and the professors who teach it. Remember that throughout the series Harry wants to be living a normal wizarding life as a teenager. He wants his friends and his Quidditch and his awkward flirtations and his trips to Hogsmeade, and it is this outside influence which keeps fucking those up, but he endures. He survives. He almost never attacks. Making Harry the attacker at the end of the first film kills this theme, and it never recovers from there.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Pretty much the same issues as in the first movie, but it bugs me more here because I think this is the most underrated book. This is highly subjective, but I always felt this was as dark and messed-up as we get until Order of the Phoenix. The plot revolves around an eleven-year-old girl who is used by a projection of a sixteen-year-old sociopath because he will listen to her when nobody else will, and he's actively using her trauma to feed his own soul until it almost kills her. Moreover, this plot is basically invisible throughout the book, because Harry is ignoring the girl (incidentally, his future wife) who is going into more and more of a breakdown as it goes on. Between Riddle's diary and Lockhart, we get the overwhelming theme that you can't trust anybody but your friends, and especially not adults.

And the movie just treated it all like it was a meaningless sequel they needed to get out of the way.

I'll add another quibble hear, which I've mentioned many times before, but this applies to every movie in the series. They are not adaptations of the books. They are, at best, adaptations of scenes from the books, strung together with no thought towards momentum or sequence. There is zero use of in medias res, and that just ruins a story.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

One of the better ones, to be sure. Cuaron was a huge step up from Columbus and is probably the most purely skilled artist of all the directors in the series. Now, this is the book I care least about in the series, partially because even Rowling admitted that this one just flew out of her typewriter with barely a thought, and partially because once you know the twist, you know that there was never any danger. Strange thing, the human mind. I can watch an action movie over and over and still feel excited, even though I know how it ends. But if I know that what I'm watching isn't really anyone in peril, but just a misunderstanding, I tune out. Still, good character and backstory stuff here.

Oh, but that pesky backstory. That whole, you know, reason for this book in the first place. Kloves and Cuaron seem to forget that they need to tell that story, and so they don't. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. We never learn who they are or their significance, though we meet all of them by separate names. Many previous problems of Kloves' adaptations continue.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Again, problems of what to cut and what not to. We didn't need to see the Quidditch World Cup game, and I don't miss it too much, but it could have been done, showing us something about Krum and injecting the relevant pieces of information about the Malfoys and Crouches throughout, instead of the weird thing of spending the whole time getting to the game and then cutting away, calling attention to what wasn't in the budget in a massively-budgeted project. The Yule Ball scene was pretty good, but everything in this film reeks of a lack of inspiration (save for David Tennant's small role as the undisguised Barty Crouch Jr.)

We see a lot of things here which were problematic earlier, but become egregious now. As I've said elsewhere, every time Kloves or the directors made a change from the books, it was counter-intuitively less cinematic as a result. With this the clearest example was the first trial, with the dragon. In order to have more flying around, they make the dragon break it's chains and chase Harry all over Hogwarts. Seriously. The point in the book, and what made the trial so terrifying, was that you had to deal with a dragon in extremely close confines. Taking it out of the stadium makes things less tense, not more.

But they got to show off some effects, which again is the only thing they cared about.

On a personal note I also didn't like Harry's return from the graveyard, though others do and I understand both viewpoints. In the movie he returns holding Cedric's body, met with chilling silence and stares from those around him. It's very effective for what it is. But in the book he returns to panic, as everyone is freaking out figuring what is going on, the shrubs are shrinking around the stadium, and Moody/Crouch just drags him off amidst the chaos with no one paying attention. That is much better, to me.

I should also mention that this movie is where they begin to fuck with Neville's character moments, but more on that later.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

In many ways the best of the movies. Strangely, it commits the biggest crime against the books, but otherwise is faithful in text and tone, and was the first movie to show anything that was better that I'd imagined.

Luna: Amazing. The casting was always great, but she knocked it out of the park.
The Ministry of Magic: so much cooler than I'd even dreamed of.

They were willing to let Harry be a jackass, though as I said above they didn't let it pay off. Here's what I was talking about. The greatest of all Potter Movie Sins.

THEY LEFT OUT ST. MUNGO'S.

Order of the Phoenix is the deepest of the books in many ways, and this sequence is its soul. Harry has been an asshole for half the book, but justifiably so. He saw Voldemort return and Cedric die, and nobody believes him but his closest friends. The ministry is actively working against him, slandering his credibility, and Dumbledore won't acknowledge him. And Voldemort is fucking with his mind. Come Christmas, he saves Arthur Weasley, but only because he can see through Voldemort's eyes but can't control it. Plus he's fifteen and self-centered.

Then two things happen at St. Mungo's hospital which humble Harry for the rest of the series.

First, Ginny shuts him up, telling him that she's, you know, experienced first-hand what it's like to be possessed by Voldemort and could maybe be of some help. This is a major character moment for both of them, and the most important in sowing the seeds for their later romance. She is no longer the shy girl who can't talk in Harry's presence, but is now the young woman who won't take his shit, but who can calm him down and give him a sense of perspective. Plus, she has her own life that doesn't revolve around him.

Secondly, Harry sees Neville interacting with his parents, in the most heartbreaking scene in all of the books. Neville's torture-emfeebled mother gives him a gum wrapper, which his Gran tells him to throw away, and Neville holds onto it, treasuring the only way his mum can show her love for him.

There are six students who go into the Department of Mysteries that final night. Harry, Hermione and Ron we know and understand. Luna is served well by the movie, so we get it. But St. Mungo's shows why Ginny and Neville are there, and it's a crime to lose it.

The rest of the movie is solid, though. Not shocking that it's the only one Steve Kloves didn't adapt.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I've only actually seen this one once, and I remember liking it. My brother (who is as obsessive a fan as I am) detests this movie, though when I called him up he couldn't remember many specifics as to why. He hated Dumbledore being able to apparate in and out of Hogwarts (which conflicts with the plot of the book, in actuality) and Snape not making the revelation of his being the Prince make any sense.

As I said, I'm a fan of the novels as Bildungsroman, and this movie fills that role. There is danger, yes, and memories of Voldemort, but this one is mostly about the teenagers being teenagers, and I like that. Harry kissing Ginny is my favorite moment of triumph in the series (either one) so I am happy.

But I don't like that they left out the House of Gaunt. The story of Merope is tragic and telling of what we're dealing with. Not only does it explain the ring which eventually would have killed Dumbledore, and is also the first Horcrux we are aware of, but it gives us sympathy to Tom Riddle's origins. The troubled, poor, homely wizard girl with the horrible home life who uses potions to win over the rich attractive gadabout, and who loses him after she is pregnant because she wants his love to be real. Thematically it holds so much value, that Voldemort would be born of a union created without love, but with magic, and find power fully in one and none in the other. But moral and emotional complexity isn't something the films had time for, so out it went.

Oh, I almost forgot, burning the Burrow just because there wasn't an action scene in a while. Why am I defending this movie at all?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Another one I generally liked. For the record, I think David Yates is a good director for this material, but that Steve Kloves completely dropped the ball (and didn't care) and that his editor didn't speak up for himself enough.

This was probably the most faithful to the book of all of the films, and it shows. I think this is the one instance in which the “no in medias res” rule actually worked in its favor, as it allowed for the tortured frustration of how little progress the trio was making.

Maybe I need to see it again, but I don't recall any real complaints about this one. I would have liked to see Luna's bedroom, with the “friends” links everywhere. But the opening scene of Hermioine obliviating herself from her parents' memories was the best moment of the films, perhaps.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two

Oh hell, just read this.

I'm sorry, I know this was crazy long, but you asked for it. I love the book series and feel like the movies for the most part didn't do them justice, and that they were given too much leeway because people were bound to see them anyway, and critics didn't respect the source material.

Any other questions, I'm happy to answer.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:34 PM on July 20, 2011 [78 favorites]


I thought it would be interesting to write a book about a DESTINY MAN who had the blood of kings and all yadda yadda but he really doesn't want the destiny and isn't tortured about it.

This is Captain Carrot from Pratchett's Discworld books.

Not sure about the darts thing, although I imagine he's reasonably good. Plus, he would fight the forces of eeevil, but because he wants to, rather than because of destiny or some crap.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:35 PM on July 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I always saw Carrot as living out his destiny in a different way. He makes a comment about it at the end of Guards! Guards!

My idea is more like George W Bush as a hero of destiny.
posted by winna at 8:42 PM on July 20, 2011


Navelgazer, I think I love you.
posted by cooker girl at 8:49 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Winna, that's basically the point (if not exactly the plot) of Dragonslayer.
posted by jsturgill at 8:55 PM on July 20, 2011


My idea is more like George W Bush as a hero of destiny.

what
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:57 PM on July 20, 2011


Oh, I almost forgot, burning the Burrow just because there wasn't an action scene in a while. Why am I defending this movie at all?

I don't care for the movies, generally, but I liked this scene- or, I suppose what I mean is that I like the movie that this scene should have been in. You know, the one that is (more openly? I'm not a film critic) about terrorism.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:58 PM on July 20, 2011


I don't care how studious they are, anyone under $LOCAL_DRINKING_AGE$ shouldn't be trusted with the ability to fuck around with causality.
I thought the point of the Prisoner of Askaban ending was that in the end you can't fuck around with causality.

Not that you can't try, though. Rationality-Harry's attempt to turn a time machine into a computer capable of instantly solving any problem was brilliant on multiple levels.

(If anyone doesn't want to spend much time reading Harry Potter fan fiction, a genre which can probably be assumed lousy until proven otherwise, note that this scene stands alone well: it takes up just the first 10% of the chapter linked above, and doesn't have any spoilers for or prerequisites among earlier chapters.)

posted by roystgnr at 9:01 PM on July 20, 2011


By the way, Navelgazer, this thread was worth the price of admission just to learn what Bildungsroman means. Thanks!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:35 PM on July 20, 2011


Pretty much the same issues as in the first movie, but it bugs me more here because I think this is the most underrated book. This is highly subjective, but I always felt this was as dark and messed-up as we get until Order of the Phoenix. The plot revolves around an eleven-year-old girl who is used by a projection of a sixteen-year-old sociopath because he will listen to her when nobody else will, and he's actively using her trauma to feed his own soul until it almost kills her.

I used to overlook CoS too, but it's one of the books that really gets creepier and more powerful in retrospect. Knowing that Ginny was dealing with a piece of Voldemort's soul all year makes her ordeal a lot more disturbing. If you're interested in the absolute horror story lurking at the edges of CoS, I'd really recommend reading The Very Secret Diary of Virginia Weasley. It was written before Order of the Phoenix was released, but it's a chilling look at what Ginny's year was like.

I agree with Navelgazer that one of JKR's real strengths as a writer is her ability to imply very interesting, and sometimes very dark or complex, back stories and character motivations between the lines. Look at Sirius Black and his brother Regulus Black, for example. Revealing only a few things about their familly and their childhoods, JKR implies a wealth of character depth and the hints of a story that would make for an epic series of their own.

In comparison, we know a great deal more about Hermione, and everything we know shows that she's a genuine heroine with strengths and flaws galore. She's not a caricature, and she has a life that doesn't revolve around Harry and his journey. So I think Doyle is making a somewhat disingenuous criticism of the series and JKR with this satire, because while the HP books aren't solely Hermione's story, she's not exactly sidelined. And I don't know, I have a kneejerk reaction against this kind of criticism that more or less says a certain work would be great if only it were a totally different genre with a completely different theme. There are plenty of criticisms to be made about the series' treatment of female characters, but I feel like Doyle is missing the whole point of the series with this one.
posted by yasaman at 9:37 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yasaman, I can't wait to check that out, though I feel the pedantic need to point out that Ginny is short for Ginevra (like Guinevere), not Virginia.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:42 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, I hated the burning of the Burrow, too. It could have been used effectively but there was absolutely no consequence to the burning whatsoever.

As an example, at that point in the film Hermione will seemingly never speak to Ron again because he's hooked up with Lavender. So Ron goes home for Christmas and his home is destroyed by Death Eaters. You might think that would give Ron and Hermione a bit of perspective about their friendship/relationship and the whole not talking to one another ("This war is kind of serious, maybe Lavender Brown isn't so much of an issue given the whole DEs destroy the Burrow episode").

But no. They go back to school as normal. No one ever mentions it. Ever! Ron and Hermione still aren't talking and in the next film it's rebuilt just as it was. It's a scene with absolutely no impact on the plot, just there to insert meaningless action, and it's just utterly pointless.
posted by 6550 at 9:42 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel the pedantic need to point out that Ginny is short for Ginevra (like Guinevere), not Virginia.

Yeah, the fic was written before we knew Ginny's full name, so it's one of those little niggling things that's no longer accurate. I'm sure there are a few more such inconsistencies in the story, though I don't recall that anything in it actively contradicts major plot points of later books.
posted by yasaman at 9:48 PM on July 20, 2011


So, while we're here debating: do you think this series would still have been a whopping success had it been Hermione Granger and the Sorceress's Stone by Joanne Rowling, or not?
Because isn't that the point of this entire article, in a way?

I honestly don't think it would be a whopping best seller, though popular enough among girls like Tamora Pierce, etc. are. Sad but true. Ugh.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:48 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Would it have even been a series?
posted by ODiV at 9:50 PM on July 20, 2011


Would it have even been a series?

Hermoine's closer to the sort of geeky people who read fantasy than the jockish Harry Potter. That plus the popularity of Buffy and Xena suggests it probably would be. I could never be The Chosen One, but i could be The Smart One.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:05 PM on July 20, 2011


Oh, and Harry's about as much of a "jock" as a coxswain is.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:18 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sandswipe, this is the best fanfic I've read in ages. I don't think I've gotten hooked on a fan story like this since Drastically Redefining Protocol. Seriously, I owe you a beer for that one.

That plus the popularity of Buffy and Xena suggests it probably would be.

There's a reason the show's called Buffy and not Willow and it's not because of Buffy Summer's compelling character or Gellar's acting.

I'm... not entirely sure what that reason is, but there it is.
posted by NoraReed at 11:17 PM on July 20, 2011


Great heroines may be relatively rare in films and on tv (ST:TNG had 3 out of 8, one of whom was killed off and the other two were rather weak), but they aren't rare in children's literature. Lucy was the main character of the first three Narnia books; Anne of Green Gables was only one of dozens of heroines from L.M. Montgomery.

In fantasy and sci-fi, Diane Duane (mentioned above) had female student wizards long before Rowling, and Tamora Pierce's Alanna kicked ass - not to mention the three or four series since that are female dominated. Terry Pratchett's kids lit started off with mostly boys (3 boys and a girl in classic British fashion for the Johney books), but he's since written the whole Tiffany Aching series with 90% female characters.

reading my way through the kids lit of the 70s and 80s, I really never felt like I couldn't find girls and women in my books - maybe that's what made the lack on tv - esp in Star Trek - seem so egregious.

and if I can plug an old favorite - The Girl from the Emmeraline Island is pretty awesome.
posted by jb at 11:18 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks so much for that, Navelgazer. It really hits the nail on the head. How the hell did Steve Kloves get the gig anyway? And (for anyone who wants to speculate) why did he give so many of Dumbledore and Ron's lines to Hermione? I love her, but she was raised as a Muggle. There are plenty of things you don't learn in books, for example what Mudblood means.
posted by harriet vane at 5:11 AM on July 21, 2011


Hermione is an excellent character and anyone who's really enjoyed the Harry Potter books could not deny that.

The fact that the series wasn't named after her doesn't negate her impact in the story.

If it was all told from Hermione's perspective it would be a completely different story. Hermione came from a Muggle family. She wasn't on Voldemort's radar. There's no starting point there like the backstory for Harry.

She's an integral part of the Harry Potter universe and I don't think anyone who's read the books (and watched the movies) underrates Hermione. She's absolutely a main character and I too endorse the idea of a Hermione Granger spin-off.

I also agree with Carrot being a man who shrugs off his Destiny and yet somehow lives up to it all the same.
posted by h00py at 5:58 AM on July 21, 2011


I haven't read a single book and the only movie I saw was the one Brad Neely talked over, so I guess my perspective on this is as far from a fan as can be.

So that said: yeah, I think if they wrote a series like this from the perspective of a female protagonist it would also be successful.

But they didn't. I guess someone else will have to. Go for it.

Will it go over well? Who knows. I guess it would have to be good. For the last four months or so, me and millions of other 20 and 30-something males have been talking about how much we love a cartoon made for five-year-old girls about magical ponies. Quality is quality.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:59 AM on July 21, 2011


There are plenty of things you don't learn in books, for example what Mudblood means.

Why not? You can look up what 'nigger' means.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:02 AM on July 21, 2011


It's not that "well-written" or "badly-written" encompass everything a book is. It's that that's the criteria by which they should be judged.

It is one criterion, but either well-written includes everything -- writing style, plot, setting, characters, themes, etc -- in which case it is so broad it is meaningless or it excludes a lot of things that matter when most people judge a book.
posted by jeather at 6:31 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Calling Harry, dismissively, a "jock" seems bitter and misses the point of the character, in my opinion.

Harry's good fortune is always tempered by the fact that he's being used by someone. Dumbledore uses him as a teenaged sword to kill Voldemort (although this is mixed with what seems to be genuine affection), Sirius uses him as a stand-in for his dead best friend, the student body uses him as a celebrity figure, projecting whatever they want to (often incorrectly), the media uses him as a one man circus to sell papers, the ministry uses him alternately as a symbol of hope or a scapegoat. Harry, outside of his friends and family, is very rarely allowed to be his own person. And, I think if you thought of "jocks" as people rather than some breed of monster, you'd probably also find that this is common among them.
posted by codacorolla at 7:04 AM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why not? You can look up what 'nigger' means.

Well, the fact that Ron has to tell Hermione what a mudblood means shows that it isn't in books. It's an nasty little fact that the wizarding world has chosen to forget, and to clean from the otherwise pristine image that they project to students who come in from the outside. One of my problems with the article in the FPP is that it seemingly ignores the subtle ways that Rowling herself says, "Hey this looks pretty good kids, but consider what it's built on. Even nice parts of your life can have a darker truth behind them."
posted by codacorolla at 7:08 AM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'll just leave this here.
posted by palbo at 8:11 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


As much as I love the HP series, it does end up glossing over a lot of really interesting stuff to maintain its big-picture momentum. Not a bad thing, because that's obviously the reason for the series' success, but I find myself often wishing that Rowling would do other books about the rich world she's created.

I guess this is where fanfiction comes into play, but that's all a bit of a wildcard, and more often than not seems to fixate on delirious sexual fantasies (I'd be happy to be proved wrong on this point).
posted by jnrussell at 9:19 AM on July 21, 2011


As much as I love the HP series, it does end up glossing over a lot of really interesting stuff to maintain its big-picture momentum. Not a bad thing, because that's obviously the reason for the series' success, but I find myself often wishing that Rowling would do other books about the rich world she's created.

I think this might be part of the purpose of Pottermore.
posted by Brainy at 9:32 AM on July 21, 2011


Oh, and Harry's about as much of a "jock" as a coxswain is.

Yes and no.

Yes, in the sense that he is effectively playing a slightly different sport from the rest of his team.

No, in the sense that he is playing a contact sport on the same as the rest of his own team and the opposing team.

Quidditch is actually a terribly-constructed sport from a ludological perspective because of this dichotomy. When the golden snitch is caught, the game ends and the team that catches the snitch gets 150 points. As a result of this, in almost every case the game's result depends on which team's seeker catches the snitch - you have to be being absolutely slaughtered to lose the game having caught the snitch, and in most cases a seeker on a team 160 or more points down would have to pass up an opportunity to catch the snitch if it presented itself (unless they wanted specifically to end their team's suffering, or to demonstrate their own ability - see Viktor Krum at the Quiditch World Cup).

So, the rest of any given game of quidditch is in most cases completely pointless. The seeker is not just the recognized most important position in the game - as the quarterback generally is in American football or, arguably, the fly-half in rugby, but in most games of quidditch he is the only relevant player on the team. The game will be won or lost by whichever team ends it in possession of the snitch, a status only the seeker can confer.

In narrative terms, of course, this makes it an ideal sport. Most school sports are intended to convey at least a notional sense that one's contribution is important. This is one reason why soccer is so popular - one can just as easily build a team around Franco Baresi as one can around Lionel Messi, although those teams would behave very differently, and any player can score the winning goal. Conversely, the point of the rules of quidditch is to highlight the totemic and actual importance of the seeker, and to make it clear that the battle between the seeker and his opposite number is the only part of the sport really worth paying attention to. It's a sport designed for a protagonist and an antagonist to face off in as opposing seekers.

So, it would be like being a coxswain if at the end of the contest, assuming one boat was not more than 15 lengths behind, the winner was decided on the quality and timbre of each coxswain's cries of "stroke!".
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:02 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that always kind of bothered me about Quidditch. I guess it would be better if getting the snitch just ended the game without any additional points. That way it wouldn't even come into play for games where one team totally outmatched the other, but in relatively even games it could be used to end the game just as your team was in the lead.
posted by atrazine at 10:10 AM on July 21, 2011


Quidditch is the weakest part of the Harry Potter series and the biggest missed opportunity for profit, as well. If it had been designed, from the beginning, as a game that made a lick of sense as an actual sport, there could have been massive product tie-ins, quidditch merchandise, a version of quidditch that could be played by us Muggles, etc. But as it is, the sport would be pointless and impracticable even in the fictional wizard world, for the reasons that running order squabble fest set forth. I suppose it demonstrates how it is really not easy to invent a playable sport from whole cloth and that Rowling should have had an actual sports person design the game.
posted by The World Famous at 10:17 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interestingly, the quidditch world cup finals are a knockout tournament, but the quidditch contest at Hogwarts is decided on points scored over the whole season, if memory serves. Quidditch games can theoretically go on forever - they last until the snitch is caught or both captains agree to end the game. So you could theoretically have a day-long game with hundreds of goals scored, but certainly in Hogwarts this would be by far the exception - the only time a team gets the snitch but loses the game, I think, is at a time when Harry is not the seeker. And even then you would need a considerable gulf in ability before the scoreline opened up by fifteen goals' worth.

So, yeah. It's basically a sport the sole function of which is to allow Harry and Draco to clash, and Harry to win.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:21 AM on July 21, 2011


Muggles do play Quidditch, even though it's totally stupid.
posted by Gator at 10:32 AM on July 21, 2011


If it had been designed, from the beginning, as a game that made a lick of sense as an actual sport, there could have been massive product tie-ins, quidditch merchandise, a version of quidditch that could be played by us Muggles, etc.

I'm actually glad it wasn't designed as a game that could be profited on and manipulated by the real world. For one thing, for JK Rowling to intentionally design a game within her book, with the express intention to profit from it...seems to me rather...calculating, and not in the good way. Also, I think it adds to the magic (for lack of a better word) of the HP world that we out here can't play it (without looking really, really dumb).
posted by cooker girl at 10:52 AM on July 21, 2011


LISTEN GUYS
posted by The Whelk at 11:00 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


For one thing, for JK Rowling to intentionally design a game within her book, with the express intention to profit from it...seems to me rather...calculating, and not in the good way. Also, I think it adds to the magic (for lack of a better word) of the HP world that we out here can't play it (without looking really, really dumb).

It's not that she should have designed it for profit or that "we out here can't play it." It's that even the wizards can't play it without it being a sport that makes no sense by its own terms. Just put a player in front of each of the hoops to guard them and have everyone else chase the snitch.
posted by The World Famous at 11:32 AM on July 21, 2011


When Muggles play Quidditch, the game ends when someone catches the snitch (a person wearing gold), but it's only worth 30 points.
posted by jeather at 11:41 AM on July 21, 2011


It's not that she should have designed it for profit or that "we out here can't play it." It's that even the wizards can't play it without it being a sport that makes no sense by its own terms. Just put a player in front of each of the hoops to guard them and have everyone else chase the snitch.

Only seekers can catch the snitch - if anyone else touches it it's a foul. Another rule specifically designed so Harry Potter can be the most important player on the pitch, and his competition with Draco Malfoy the most important contest.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:04 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's just so painfully dumb. Ugh.
posted by The World Famous at 12:12 PM on July 21, 2011


Well, I don't think you're meant to think too hard about the rules. It's a narrative device. It's not Rowling's fault that her books became huge and people started writing critical analyses.

It's like the wizarding economy - which essentially makes no sense whatsoever, but was never really meant to.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:26 PM on July 21, 2011


What sport makes logical sense, really? A bunch of guys* try to catch a ball and tackle each other? Arbitrary. A bunch of guys bounce a ball up and down a court while trying to steal it from each other, only to try to throw that ball in a basket? How about cricket? Those sports only make sense because we've known about them all our lives. The wizards don't seem all that bothered by Quidditch and its eccentricities. It's what they've known.


*I'm using "guys" to mean "sports people of any gender".
posted by cooker girl at 12:28 PM on July 21, 2011


What sport makes logical sense, really?

I would posit that every sport in the world would make less sense if you added two extra players playing a completely separate game, usually outside the field of play, the outcome of which would ultimately make everything that every other player does completely moot. It's like having one player on every basketball team designated to play a tennis match on a court out in the parking lot and whoever wins the tennis match automatically wins the basketball game, too.
posted by The World Famous at 12:38 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


But it's not the same thing because tennis and basketball are two independently created sports. Quidditch is a pretend, made-up, not-in-the-real-world game, so anything that goes on in that game is exactly what's supposed to be there.

Suspension of disbelief is a requirement for nearly every fiction book out there, especially for those in the science fiction/fantasy genres.
posted by cooker girl at 12:44 PM on July 21, 2011


(that last sentence sounds far more snarky and condescending than I intended, especially as I didn't intend any at all.)
posted by cooker girl at 12:46 PM on July 21, 2011


Suspension of disbelief is a requirement for nearly every fiction book out there, especially for those in the science fiction/fantasy genres.

No offense taken, but usually it's suspension of "I don't believe in magic broomsticks," not "I don't believe anyone would be dumb enough to care what anyone other than the seeker is doing during a Quidditch game."
posted by The World Famous at 12:51 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're supposed to suspend disbelief for those things which make the world in the book different from ours -- magic exists, elves or giants or whatevers exist, we have colonised lots of other planets, faster than light travel is possible, etc -- not for every single thing in the book that makes no sense. In fact, even the things we are suspending disbelief for should make sense in the book's world. In the world of Harry Potter, lots of things make no sense: the money system, the population numbers, quidditch, why they haven't heard of those useful things in books called indexes. Those don't deserve suspension of disbelief, they deserve eye-rolling.

I bet JKR is just kicking herself over these errors as she looks at her billions of pounds.
posted by jeather at 12:52 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Harry Potter and the Nonsensical Wish Fulfillment, by H.L. Mencken
posted by adamdschneider at 1:03 PM on July 21, 2011


Eh, clearly those things don't bother me as I read the books.

"I don't believe anyone would be dumb enough to care what anyone other than the seeker is doing during a Quidditch game."

Not to belabor the point (which, really; we are), but plenty of people have parts/players of sports they care about more than others. Why would anyone care what the defense is doing when the quarterback is on the field? Because they play a part as well. In baseball, I prefer watching the outfielders when the batter is up because I enjoy watching the billions of little adjustments they do based on how he's batting/how far the ball goes/if he's left or right handed.

The seeker only does something exciting every now and then. Mostly he or she is flying above the game or on the periphery, looking for the snitch. The action is almost always with the rest of the players.

(and I've just realized that we're spending perfectly good minutes of our days on this! i see the ridiculousness but also enjoy the back-and-forth!)
posted by cooker girl at 1:08 PM on July 21, 2011


Eh, clearly those things don't bother me as I read the books.

And clearly they should because you are wrong.
posted by jeather at 1:15 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


You don't understand what he's saying. The seeker decides the game, and what the other players do doesn't matter. You cannot argue this with any real team sport because no real team sport works this way. The quarterback does not, all on his lonesome, win the game. The seeker does. What you are saying with, "the action is almost always with the rest of the players" is that the rest of the game of Quidditch is an amusing distraction while you wait for the seeker to find and catch the snitch. You cannot say this about football, or any other real team sport (that I can think of).
posted by adamdschneider at 1:18 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think people understand what jaether's saying, he's just not exactly... correct. The game will usually be won by whoever catches the snitch, yes. The value of catching the snitch is too high. Agreed. Beyond that, no, wrong, and frankly being a dick about it. Quidditch seasons are based on total points, so yes, the chasers have a lot to do. And even if they didn't the beaters still would.

So yes, you're right that the snitch is worth too many points. You're wrong about the rest of it.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:45 PM on July 21, 2011


And you know what? I apologize. That was crazy-harsh for such a ridiculous subject. I'm sorry.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:48 PM on July 21, 2011


Thanks, navelgazer. I kept thinking of the season points but I also kept leaving them out.
posted by cooker girl at 1:51 PM on July 21, 2011


I'm a she, and actually I know cooker girl who is not likely to be taking me seriously about our debate on the merits of the rules of Quidditch nor is she likely to be offended,

All I have said is that suspension of disbelief doesn't normally extend to having the in-world rules make no sense, that Quidditch is one of the things in HP that fails suspension of disbelief, and a joke about cooker girl being wrong. You can disagree about whether Quidditch does in fact break that suspension of disbelief -- I think it does, but way less than "you insult muggles for not having magic when you don't have any way to effectively research?" does -- but I don't think the first point is really controversial.
posted by jeather at 1:52 PM on July 21, 2011


jeather, again, I'm sorry. Chalk it up to too much stress or something.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:53 PM on July 21, 2011


Hmm, the season points thing is a good point (and an odd, but potentially cool innovation), however I have to think with the snitch being worth such a ridiculous number of points it still basically comes down to whoever's team managed to grab it the most times that year. Make it worth nothing and you've got a pretty cool game on your hands.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:53 PM on July 21, 2011


Which is why I favorited it!
posted by cooker girl at 1:54 PM on July 21, 2011


(also, having something that is so blatantly designed for narrative thrust is violating my suspension of disbelief, unless the work is explicitly meta)
posted by adamdschneider at 1:55 PM on July 21, 2011


Make it worth nothing and you've got a pretty cool game on your hands.

And then you've got no reason for a seeker and we're back to why the position exists in the first place, to have Harry be good at something in the wizarding world that just comes naturally to him, and makes him think, "Hmm, maybe I can fit in in this world."
posted by cooker girl at 1:56 PM on July 21, 2011


And then you've got no reason for a seeker

No, it places a bound on play, although I think making the games a binary win/loss rather than the season points thing would make the seeker more important in this scenario (where the snitch is worth nothing).
posted by adamdschneider at 1:57 PM on July 21, 2011


Navelgazer, no worries. I posted before preview.

Also, I recall -- and I have to check in the books -- but when Gryffindor had to win by at least 200 points or they would tie and then lose the cup, weren't they playing against Ravenclaw and going to lose the cup against Ravenclaw? If so, I also don't understand the tie-breaking procedures.
posted by jeather at 1:58 PM on July 21, 2011


No, it places a bound on play, although I think making the games a binary win/loss rather than the season points thing would make the seeker more important in this scenario (where the snitch is worth nothing).

Oh, I see. So make the capture of the snitch the end of the game, but not worth points? Yeah, that could work. I kind of like the season points, though. It reminds me of the geekery that goes along with keeping track of who's beating who in, like, baseball.
posted by cooker girl at 2:00 PM on July 21, 2011


I was going to say that you could keep season points, but maybe make it so that your margin of win/loss is the only thing that carries, like if you win by ten then you add ten to your season score but the losing team gets nothing, but actually I'm not sure what would make the most sense, and now we're talking about making it another game entirely, more or less. Hrmph.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:03 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


a female wizard who is a "generation-defining role model"

I liked Avalon.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:31 PM on July 21, 2011


Why would anyone care what the defense is doing when the quarterback is on the field?

Because there is a reasonable possibility that what the defense do will have a meaningful impact on the difference between the points totals of the two teams at the of the game. Whereas if you're watching anything apart from the seekers, you're watching something which in almost every case will not significantly affect that difference, unless the contest is so unequal to start with that it is of no interest as a contest anyway - such as England's 390-10 drubbing in the Quidditch World Cup. So, the entire game of quidditch apart from the seekers becomes... something visually interesting to keep the crowd entertained while two players search for a way to end the game.

And, as already stated, quidditch points count over a season, but only, as far as one can tell, at Hogwarts. The Quidditch World Cup was a knockout tournament.

However, given how furious the defense of the noble sport of quidditch is getting, I'm worried I may wake up with a snidget's head in my bed. We really shouldn't get onto the Stalinist structure of wizard society, where you are most likely to end up employed by the vast, centralized bureaucracy of a one-party state, or be in a service industry for those bureaucrats - a shopkeeper or publican, usually. It's like a dire warning from history about the federal government and the credit crunch...
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:46 PM on July 21, 2011


However, given how furious the defense of the noble sport of quidditch is getting, I'm worried I may wake up with a snidget's head in my bed. We really shouldn't get onto the Stalinist structure of wizard society, where you are most likely to end up employed by the vast, centralized bureaucracy of a one-party state, or be in a service industry for those bureaucrats - a shopkeeper or publican, usually. It's like a dire warning from history about the federal government and the credit crunch...

One would think a society of wizards would nearly be a post-scarcity society, except for the caveats Rowling places on magicking up food.
posted by codacorolla at 2:50 PM on July 21, 2011


What are these caveats? Are there limits on the conjuration of other things?
posted by adamdschneider at 2:55 PM on July 21, 2011


Yeah, they get mentioned at some point when they're studying for transfiguration or something. Certain things can't be conjured, most notably food.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:57 PM on July 21, 2011


One would think a society of wizards would nearly be a post-scarcity society, except for the caveats Rowling places on magicking up food.

Well, there are presumably farmers and gardeners somewhere cultivating crops for herbology, potions and wizard food. There are wand makers, or rather there is a wand maker. There's a publishing industry, but it may well be owned or funded by the Ministry of Magic, as the newspaper seems to be. Finance is done by goblins, as is metalwork and engineering. Cooking, cleaning and the like are largely done by house elves. If anything, wizard society is not so much post-scarcity as pre-modern - the relative leisure (and largely white-collar employment) of wizards seems to depend to a considerable extent on having a servant race.

Which may explain both the incredible popularity of quidditch (Rollerball, anyone?) and the phenomenal number of professional quidditch players. At a rough guess, about 2-3% of the entire wizard population of Britain are elite athletes.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:07 PM on July 21, 2011


I wonder how wizarding America stands in comparison. One of those things we'll probably never actually get a canon answer to.
posted by codacorolla at 3:23 PM on July 21, 2011


Maybe Pottermore will end up doing some sort of "your local school" enrolment program. The American version of Hogwarts is in Salem, but that's about all we know.

One of the interesting things about Wizarding culture is that it's super parochial; everyone lives in villages or isolated homes, there is no TV or Hollywood... not only does nobody talk about America, nobody really cares about America. Beauxbatons, which is just over the Channel (and remember that these people can teleport) seems impossibly exotic.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:38 PM on July 21, 2011


Certain things can't be conjured, most notably food.

It's a point made in the books but largely ignored in the films, that the big dinners you see everyone feasting at are actually prepared beforehand by the house elves, and summoned when needed. The food appearing isn't actually conjured into being from thin air.
posted by quin at 3:44 PM on July 21, 2011


not only does nobody talk about America, nobody really cares about America

The enchantments around Brakebills are apparently that good.
posted by weston at 3:52 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the interesting things about Wizarding culture is that it's super parochial; everyone lives in villages or isolated homes, there is no TV or Hollywood... not only does nobody talk about America, nobody really cares about America. Beauxbatons, which is just over the Channel (and remember that these people can teleport) seems impossibly exotic.

Well, it's important to remember that wizarding culture is both extremely static and isolationist. They study no science, no philosophy, no mathematics beyond numerology. There is essentially no culture of advancement or progress, just tradition. Presumably the muggle-borns bring in a bit of progress from the outside world with them, but they are very young when they enter Hogwarts still, and there is a general mistrust towards them. Arthur Weasley is repeatedly prejudiced against by the ministry as a result of his fascination with muggle advancements in science and culture. Parochial is being kind.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:58 PM on July 21, 2011


America is largely quarteenined by the magical world due to the great voodoo war.
posted by The Whelk at 4:00 PM on July 21, 2011


One of the interesting things about Wizarding culture is that it's super parochial; everyone lives in villages or isolated homes, there is no TV or Hollywood... not only does nobody talk about America, nobody really cares about America. Beauxbatons, which is just over the Channel (and remember that these people can teleport) seems impossibly exotic.

Isn't this because its British? same reason Quidditch is so weird - I assume it's cricket.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:12 PM on July 21, 2011


Isn't this because its British? same reason Quidditch is so weird - I assume it's cricket.


Quidditch is probably closer to field hockey, or lacrosse - both games played in British private schools, and both unisex, so they work reasonably well. But in my experience of actual, non-Wizard Britain, there is both tremendous interest in American culture and also considerable concern about the cultural hegemony of America in the English-speaking world. Whereas British wizards basically don't care about other countries, except possibly their quidditch teams.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:35 PM on July 21, 2011


Half of the magic of Harry Potter's setting got demystified when I moved to a place with private schools, school uniforms, and even house cups and house points. Part of the fun is how exotic the setting is.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:49 PM on July 21, 2011


Whereas British wizards basically don't care about other countries, except possibly their quidditch teams.

That actually sounds like wizarding Britain is muggle America.
posted by codacorolla at 4:56 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Soccer is the most obvious parallel due to the way it's played but, to my way of thinking, Quidditch scoring is closer to F1 racing than anything else. Individual race winners are lauded, but the actual championship is based on overall points. Because of that, it's more about consistency than actually going the fastest on any given track. A driver could theoretically come in second on every single race and still take it all in the end over one who wins several 1st place finishes and has a few disastrous setbacks.

Likewise, I think it's entirely possible for a fast-scoring Quidditch team with excellent defense and a seeker who's blind as a bat to end up winning the cup without ever once catching a snitch all year.

Having said that, they have a World Cup which comes down to a single elimination match so that throws it all out the window at that point. Maybe one could argue that such a lopsided team would never make it to that level of play, but this is probably the point where I argue that it's all made up anyway and you're a big stupid-head so there.
posted by Freon at 5:10 PM on July 21, 2011


I've been reading HARRY POTTER AND THE METHODS OF RATIONALITY and enjoying it way more then the Philsopher Stone sooooooo
posted by The Whelk at 5:29 PM on July 21, 2011


Having said that, they have a World Cup which comes down to a single elimination match so that throws it all out the window at that point. Maybe one could argue that such a lopsided team would never make it to that level of play, but this is probably the point where I argue that it's all made up anyway and you're a big stupid-head so there.

Well, that's actually what happens in the QWC final, so... you know...
posted by Navelgazer at 5:34 PM on July 21, 2011


(By which I mean that Ireland, the team with awesome chasers, beaters, and a great keeper, beats Bulgaria, who really just has the world's best seeker.)
posted by Navelgazer at 5:35 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


(actually the two big flaws of Methods Of Rationality are that it assumes you've read the books (well okay ) and it's charactization is a bit weak - but I like OPENLY A JERK Harry to COVERT JERK Harry. Also everyone is crying all the time, but I like how halfway in it went from being a parody to an actual story with subplots and themes and shit )
posted by The Whelk at 6:28 PM on July 21, 2011


The Whelk: "I've been reading HARRY POTTER AND THE METHODS OF RATIONALITY and enjoying it way more then the Philsopher Stone sooooooo"

Yep, same here. I sheepishly told my girlfriend last night, in response to her question. "Um, it's... well, it's Harry Potter fan fiction. It's, er... actually the best Harry Potter book I've ever read." I'm about a third of the way through, and I just can't put it down.
posted by gilrain at 7:28 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is probably as good a place as any to link Brad Neely's Wizard People, Dear Reader.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:38 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


" I hope you get a new pillow to cry in!"
posted by The Whelk at 7:39 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shit.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:08 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can not stop reading that methods of rationality thing, non stop crying aside, it goes into a waaaay more interesting headspace.
posted by The Whelk at 11:17 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I saw a documentary on HP fandom and I think I prefer Wizard People, Dear Reader and what wizard rock I've heard to the actual books.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 2:02 AM on July 23, 2011


Huh. HP And the Methods of Rationality kind of is Harry Potter with Hermione as the lead. Sort of. As of Chapter Two.
posted by jsturgill at 6:26 PM on July 23, 2011


...but not as of later chapters, I now have learned.
posted by jsturgill at 10:46 AM on July 24, 2011


Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is way better than the title suggested. It probably deserves a FPP (or did I miss it?)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:37 PM on July 24, 2011


It had one but it kinda got sidelined by the author being a well-known anti-death transhumanist which is HILARIOUS cause the later chapters totally address that and he ends up putting good counter-arguments in his character's mouths about the possibility of defeating death and how that is exactly what Voldy wanted.

It's kind of ridiculous how good it is.
posted by The Whelk at 7:42 PM on July 24, 2011


(Like the mocking of how magic works leads to Harry figuring out magic works because of the conception of the universe the wizard had when he made the spell but since WOR Harry has been (preternaturally giftedly) raised with a strong science background, he has a different conception of the universe then the wizards, which allows him to invent new spells (albiet with some difficulty) I read that and went "If this device was in a real fantasy novel I'd want to kiss the writer.")
posted by The Whelk at 7:56 PM on July 24, 2011


That was the best fanfic EVER, and that's saying a lot from me because it didn't contain any gay sex at all. Now what should I read?
posted by NoraReed at 8:23 PM on July 24, 2011


It's kind of ridiculous how good it is.

No kidding. Aside from the writing style and all that: geek references, critiques of the education system, critiques of the Capital-S Skeptics, flawed hero, etc. And I'm only twenty 'chapters' in.

Now what should I read?

Number 12? (Warning: Contains Ponies. And The Doctor. As a Pony. He seems cool with it.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:34 PM on July 24, 2011


That was the best fanfic EVER

Seriously. It cuts out Ron and gives Hermione and her relationships more space, the part where she wishes someone would just assign her a friend was wonderful
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 PM on July 24, 2011


I'm really glad you all love Methods of Rationality, because it makes me feel like less a an insane loser for loving a Harry Potter facfic so much.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:57 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was really hard to answer the question " whatcha readin'?" with " Harry Potter fanfic" but no really it is that good.
posted by The Whelk at 10:04 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is so silly, but I've been out of the HP fanfiction/fandom loop for... well, for nine or ten years now. I've been in other fandoms, but HP got so big since I left that I was totally intimidated.

I've been going through fic recommendations from TVTropes after MOR and reading stuff that catches my eye and it's like coming back to a home I'd left, or hearing a favorite song I've long forgotten or something. It's been a bad year for me and something about picking up Harry Potter fanfic again is like wrapping a warm blanket around my shoulders.
posted by NoraReed at 10:22 PM on July 24, 2011


If we're on the subject, is there anything at all that has the same 'feel' as Wizard People Dear Reader
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:30 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


No but I have started to narrate my life based on Wizard People so there is that.
posted by The Whelk at 10:39 PM on July 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


yeah the best you can do is change your inner voice out for Brad Neely
posted by NoraReed at 10:42 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh how the wine talks
posted by The Whelk at 10:42 PM on July 24, 2011


Triple that, The Whelk, and you've got me.
posted by Zozo at 8:44 AM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


TEENAGE SEX COMEDY, DEAR READERS
posted by The Whelk at 7:13 PM on July 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


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