Hank Steuver
November 24, 2001 3:33 PM   Subscribe

Hank Steuver from WaPo : When did this happen? Where are the kids who are supposed to be beating up the kids who like Harry Potter? Where is the bully who is going to tell them what kinda dorkface fairies they're being? Where are the kids who don't like to read? So, come on, bullies! Get with the program!
posted by swell (33 comments total)
Looks like someone had a deadline to meet.
posted by solistrato at 3:39 PM on November 24, 2001

"Hank Stuever's Seinfeld-style journalism is based on at least three concepts: Avoid editor-generated ideas; think in fives; be out of the office often. Twice named a Pulitzer finalist for feature writing, Stuever relishes wacky stories about nothing."
posted by Carol Anne at 3:52 PM on November 24, 2001

What bothers me the most about this article is that the author was paid to write it. Give money to a starving Mozilla developer instead.
posted by Eloquence at 4:09 PM on November 24, 2001

"where are the bullies?..." obviously mr steuver himself was the despised fat boy at recess who would sit on you if you didnt give him your lunch money...

i had a lot more to write about, basically pick apart his arguments, but on second thought, i dont plan on wasting that much time. steuver sounds like a cynical bastard. i would have been one of the first to agree with him until i actually saw the movie to see what all the hype was about. bottomline: kids have fantasies. always have. always will. leave it the hell alone and go strut around your office or something and bully the secretaries for enjoying a bit of escape from reality.
posted by sixtwenty3dc at 4:29 PM on November 24, 2001

Nobody ever wanted to be Potsie; all the kids wanted to be Fonzie.

True. But Fonzie wasn't an asshole. Besides, he was clever - when Ritchie is going to be beaten up by a bully, Fonzie refuses to fight the guy for Ritchie. Instead, he hires a professional boxer Carmine Ragusa, friend of Laverne & Shirley. (Source.) Fonzie, in short, was cool. But what happened to him later? He became the co-owner of Arnold's and a shop teacher. Bleah. Nothing more pathetic than an aging Fonz. Potsie, meanwhile, was majoring in pscyhology when we last saw him, and probably charging $250 an hour to some bored suburban housewife or philandering real estate agent who's being sued for palimony for the third time. Meantime, Potsie's prolly bought a new yellow rose-colored retro T-bird, fully loaded, which pisses the Fonz off, but hey, he still has only lost one finger and Arnold's gets the late-night freak crowd (and homeless on weekends, but no one needs to know that).
posted by raysmj at 4:30 PM on November 24, 2001

Well, I thought the column was funny.

Not to make Harry the whipping boy again, don't you just hate how everybody(well ALMOST everybody) turns into lemmings, going after the Next Big Thing-which in this case is the Potter movie?

The one sure way to make sure I hate something is to tell me everybody likes it.
posted by bunnyfire at 4:41 PM on November 24, 2001

This article reminds me of The Organization Kid.
"We fly our children around the world so that they can experience different cultures. We spend huge amounts of money on safety equipment and sports coaching."

It just talks about parents spoiling thier children. It's doing some bell whistling that the next generation is filled with spoiled and conformist trend-chasers.
"[We] live in a country that has lost, in its frenetic seeking after happiness and success, the language of sin and character-building through combat with sin."

I'm sure there is a Holden Caulfield in all of us that says how the prep-school, "Tofu Generation" culture, Minivan-driving soccer moms, and "Harry Potter" books are... phony.
posted by alex3005 at 5:21 PM on November 24, 2001

I enjoyed that column, although I was a little surprised to see that it was in The Washington Post. To be honest I think that he may even have a point.
posted by RobertLoch at 5:26 PM on November 24, 2001

Heh heh - it's a grand myth to think that everyone wanted to be Fonzie. ;-) Most of the tv comedies about kids or teens seem based around the assumption that everyone wants to be 'popular' or 'cool' - and it's just not true. Most 'geeks' playing D&D down in the basement are HAPPY doing that. The only difference between 'cool' people and 'geeks' is that 'geeks' are either more in tune with what REALLY interests them or simply aren't afraid to ADMIT that they have interests beyond what mass reality tells 'em to want. (Anson Williams (Potsie) is now a director, BTW - LOL, and he may have been geeky but much cuter than Fonzie - heh heh.)

Harry/Geek found a place where his different talents were recognized and developed and challenged - is it any wonder why people love his story? Why is THIS the new "norm" instead of bullying and coolness? I don't know, but suddenly the world's starting to make more sense to me. *grin* The world had been getting entirely too mundane anway. Can't talk now... have to go reread Goblet of Fire again and continue being geeky in my own way ....
posted by thunder at 6:21 PM on November 24, 2001

Well we grow up with japanese robots cartoon, tom & jerry almost killing each other, not mentioning bill the coyote and the roadrunner ..now we got DragonBall Z and other series..they all look the same to me the only one I really really liked was bugs bunny (ok I confess I also liked bill the coyote but I hate road runner the running-only mofo..)

So what is he complaining about ? He grew with fake-violence-is-fun toons and now he complains kids are fascinated by magic ? I'd rather have magic thanks. I'd rather have Excel (not Microsoft) Saga anime, in which almost every TV stereotype is made fun of (which is good)
and introduces kids to satire.

So dude wake up you're stuck in the 80s , the kids aren't becoming geekier they're little by little recovering the time we lost watching cartoon beating each other and call that fun ! Go bully it's probably the only thing that can give your brain some pleasure.
posted by elpapacito at 6:44 PM on November 24, 2001

What a fine article. Finally some one raised their voice against this mainstream madness.

Harry Potter Shmotter. Huh !
posted by adnanbwp at 6:46 PM on November 24, 2001


Poor, poor.
posted by NortonDC at 7:26 PM on November 24, 2001

The one sure way to make sure I hate something is to tell me everybody likes it.

Bunnyfire, you are such a rebel.
posted by rodii at 7:37 PM on November 24, 2001

The only difference between 'cool' people and 'geeks' is that 'geeks' are either more in tune with what REALLY interests them

I think it has more to do with geeks not being as good looking as cool people. Geeks might really like drinking till 1 and sleeping with beautiful people but they're never given the opportunity. Please, give geeks the opportunity.
posted by geoff. at 7:47 PM on November 24, 2001

Geeks might really like drinking till 1

Why would anyone want to do that? I agree about the sex part though. That is, if you meant sex, and not sleeping.
posted by Eloquence at 7:58 PM on November 24, 2001

Someone has to work for this geek. I like people that don't read and ex-bullies. I think we need more of them. Who else is going to make my tacos, clean my bathroom and fix my car?
posted by Dillenger69 at 8:28 PM on November 24, 2001

reading this "WaPo" (ugh) article was worth it, but only for the line, at the end, Sorry. Much too busy trying to peel the Oprah sticker off my copy of "The Corrections."

I've actually read the Potter books published so far -- my former housemate owned them, and I started them the one time I got sick during the past few years (fantasy novels being perfect reading when you're groggy). I finished them because they were good, and fun. But they're not great; what they lack to take them to the exclusive, lofty realm of true geeks is genius. Genius is never understood but by a few, and that is the key to geekiness as well (a sufficient condition for geekiness, but alas not sufficient for genius, not being understood is).

It's like the Sopranos and the Simpsons and other pop-cultural phenomena: they're just good enough that almost everyone can agree they like them.
posted by mattpfeff at 8:43 PM on November 24, 2001

I'm so indie I still beat up smart kids?
posted by moss at 9:00 PM on November 24, 2001

...everybody(well ALMOST everybody) turns into lemmings, going after the Next Big Thing...

Of course, when something is actually pretty good the effect is the same, except people are choosing to enjoy something they like rather than exhibiting urban-legendary rodent behavior. If you simply react to something being popular you stand to miss out on at least a few good things, though admittedly you'll be spared undue exposure to professional wrestling.

I have a difficult time believing the author of that article isn't just trolling. I mean, his big point comes down to "my idea of cool can beat up your idea of cool." There's nothing of substance to back up his position either, only a few subjective and overly simplified suburban stereotypes repeated in different words throughout.
posted by Nothing at 9:19 PM on November 24, 2001

The one sure way to make sure I hate something is to tell me everybody likes it.

Two sides, same coin...flip, flip, flip...
posted by edlark at 10:21 PM on November 24, 2001

Oh, come on, Nothing, newspaper columnists are nothing but trolls. They have so many column-inches of print to fill every so often and they have to fill it with any sort of garbage. I mean, when you actually look at this article, it's meaningless. "Our kids suck because they're reading Harry Potter and eating tofu." What? It's meaningless, it's filler. It's trash.

And you know, if you're hating something because it's popular, you're still paying attention to it.
posted by solistrato at 10:22 PM on November 24, 2001

The one sure way to make sure I hate something is to tell me everybody likes it.

Reactionaries are the ultimate conformists.
posted by rushmc at 12:43 AM on November 25, 2001

I never wanted to be Fonzie. I always wanted to be Mork.

I haven't seen the movie. I haven't read the books. So I've pretty much kept my opinion about the Harry Potter fanaticism to myself. I do like the fact that kids are reading and I think that's much more important than Stuever cares to report. I mean compared to The Teletubbies or Barney the Dinosaur, Harry Potter is a godsend.

It's still sheep. It's still the masses flocking to malls and movie theaters like a frenzied mob chasing after Cabbage Patch Kids and Furbies. If they're happy, let them be. Not everyone can be self-realized pop culture rebels. *rolls eyes*

He's writing against Harry Potter because it is reactionary. He is doing the newspaper equivalent of trolling. That's his job. That's what they pay him to do. Take a contrary opinion to rile up the masses and make them upset enough at him they'll buy a few score copies of newspapers just to burn them in effigy. I could mimic his approach to Harry Potter by insulting people who still buy the newspaper to read columns and feature articles. His argument is flimsy at best. Amusing. Sour. Blandly entertaining. But flimsy.

Stuever IS what he protests, which makes him a hypocrite, and that's funny, in a pathetic sort of way.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:29 AM on November 25, 2001

Reactionaries are the ultimate conformists.

Hear, hear. I can't stand when people dislike something *solely* based on its popularity. They're such Indie Rock Petes.
posted by owillis at 1:41 AM on November 25, 2001

The way to make sure Skallas hates something is to tell him I like it.
posted by bunnyfire at 3:21 AM on November 25, 2001

Judge something on its merits, people. Popularity don't figure into it. (Go rush!)
posted by gleemax at 8:34 AM on November 25, 2001

Skallas: YOU SHUT UP ABOUT JEDI!!! I KILL YOU! YOU SUX0RS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?!!!!!!!!!!
posted by solistrato at 9:06 AM on November 25, 2001

Judge something on its merits, people. Popularity don't figure into it. I was actually very reluctant to read the Harry Potter books - mostly because I HAD been burned in the past by the "others" say its really good syndrome. So I only read them after a trusted friend with similar taste said they were worth it. Some people get sucked into a mass movement because everyone is doing something and they decide to like it because of that - but 'mass movements' ALSO start because they genuinely DO appeal to people in some way. I certainly agree with judging something by your own subjective inclinations. I also think that there are a lot of people who get caught up in popular things just because they like the feeling of doing what everyone else is doing. Confusing the two isn't so helpful. Having said all that, I think the author was trolling too - LOL. Nothing like putting "Harry Potter" in a headline to make sure people read it - I can't tell you how many headlines I see where this church group or that group has decided that it's evil or that they've changed their mind. Opportunism is opportunism, whether you're Jerry Falwell after 9-11 or a Harry Potter troll. (Heh heh - I made a funny - Harry Potter - troll - get it? - get it? - oh, never mind.)
posted by thunder at 9:40 AM on November 25, 2001

A newspaper columnist's job is strictly to be a troll? Funny, I doubt the Pulitzer committee keeps the question, "Did this guy piss people off enough?" in mind when handing out the awards for commentary every year, even if this guy has been a finalist. Providing readers with sparkling, well-written commentary (which has the possibility of sparking debate) is a columnist's job. Trolling is see-through, and probably loses as many readers or turns off as many potential new readers as it gains. I prefer the provocative material to seem natural, something the columnist is actually passionate about, as opposed to forced or pulled out of the writer's posterior.

That said, humor columns would seem to be different. No one can be funny all the time, especially not in a column format. Mixing the writer's block humor with forced social commentary, though, is a recipe for disaster, which is exactly what the posted Washington Post column is. Oh well. Happens. No use trying to explain it away, though.
posted by raysmj at 11:06 AM on November 25, 2001

wow, this article made me laugh. totally spot on, if you ask me (though no one did, really).
posted by zoopraxiscope at 4:47 AM on November 26, 2001

Hank is clearly either a Muggle or a follower of Lord Voldemort.
posted by mfoight at 8:01 AM on November 26, 2001

I actually enjoyed the article and I'm sure there was a great deal of knowing-tongue-in-cheek contrarian fly-in-the-ointment-ness to it.

But the whole paragraph about a kid coming to school wearing a cloak and hat and talking about Quidditch and NOT GETTING BEAT UP, indeed, having everyone else join in was quite funny.

I liked Harry Potter well enough but I think Lyra from the Golden Compass could have beat the living snot out of him.
posted by rks404 at 12:51 PM on November 26, 2001

People who insist that they will not read the Harry Potter books seems just as silly to me as the people who insist that the books are more than a mildly entertaining way to spend 4-6 bus rides. It's like, all these people when completely berserk over the books, so all these other people feel like they have to provide balance by being aggressively against the books. Having read them myself, I can tell you that they are resoundingly okay. Neither great nor bad, just, y'know, okay. Ditto for the flick.

I liked this article, though. I think he makes a good point in that the Potter books are exacerbating a problem in American life, though: everyone thinks they are the protagonist in life's short story. The books have the whole world divided into two types of people: the magically adept and the Muggles (who are (a) mean (b) boring and/or, sometimes, (c) parents of the Hogwart's students). By extension, kids who get all worked up over Potter books see themselves as somewhat more special that the Muggles who don't get it. But that's nothing new, I s'pose: geeks have always looked down on jocks. And vice versa.

I may have made a point somewhere in this post, but I couldn't swear to it.


I liked Harry Potter well enough but I think Lyra from the Golden Compass could have beat the living snot out of him.

This is correct.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 1:15 PM on November 26, 2001

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