Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Problem With Potter

I'm not into the Harry Potter thing. I imagine I'll read all the books one week in the future, now that they're all out. I tried to read Azkaban but got bored real fast. I had been reading a lot of pulp at the time (Tarzan, Conan, etc.) and almost anything is slow by comparison.

I have seen the movies, and even enjoyed the most recent three (Azkaban, Goblet and Phoenix).

We're all aware that these movies make no sense, right? (I understand that's not limited to the movies, but since I haven't read the books, I shan't comment on them.) Putting together a believable fantasy world is probably harder than putting together a believable post-apocalyptic world. It just doesn't happen, not in the movies. (The "Lord of the Rings" movies made mincemeat out of Tolkien's universe. Very pretty mincemeat, but nonetheless.)

Goblet opens with the wizard equivalent of the World Cup. Fans from all over the world, and athletes for that matter, gather to watch The Big Game. The entire crowd--of hundreds of thousands, judging from the stadium--is busted up by a handful of Voldie's minions.

Everybody in the crowd--presumably everyone 11 or older--has a wand, the witchly equivalent of a taser. Yet they're rousted by a few goons.

I would bet you couldn't roll a tank into a World Cup audience--unarmed though they be--safely. Yeah, you'd kill some, but they'd be on top of that sucker in no time, pulling you out and beating you to death.


Think I'm nitpicking? In Phoenix, a handful of kids--self-taught kids who haven't EVER had a decent "defense against the dark arts" teacher for a full year--hold off Voldie's entire re-constituted crew, and Voldie is fully restored (unlike at the beginning of Goblet).


You forget these things at the time. Or you overlook them. But if you're subjected to the whims of a Harry Potter fan, they can grate on you.

Like in Goblet, we're introduced to the three unforgivable curses, the first one being "imperio", which blithely ignores the distinction between controlling something physically versus controlling it mentally. And we're introduced to it by the professor performing those curses, so I guess there's an educational exemption of some sort. Or maybe the poor insect-like creature he does them on doesn't count. Whatever.

But right after being introduced--almost immediately!--the professor performs the very same curse on a student (who has it coming, granted) in front of a bunch of other people with no repercussions. First of all, if it's a "one-way ticket to Azkaban", why would you risk it? Second of all, I guess there's no risk, since he's caught doing it by a professor and she merely scolds him.

I dunno, maybe she didn't see it. But everyone else did. Unforgivable?

I'm not trying to do a James Fenimore Cooper/Mark Twain thing here. And good on Rowling for tapping into something (whatever it is) that excites people.

But it is awful dopey.


  1. Dude it is minimally entertaining tripe that is marketed well but with a veneer of respectability so parents will let the young kids read it. A direct descendant of the Davy Crockett phenomenon of the '50's. Now that was a craze I was caught up in. When my wife and I went on a cruise to Canada, we get off the ship and what do we see but a real honest to goodness coonskin cap at one of the kisohes at the dock. So what to I do. I start to beg and whine like a kid since my mom wouldn't let me buy me one when I was a kid. I started singing the Davy Crockett song “Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, killed his first bear before he was three..." and two other guys joined right in. So she gave in and let me buy it. I wore it the rest of the day as we explored New Brunswick. The funny thing was I got a free drink in every bar we went into that day. It was great. I plan to wear it to the next Althouse meet-up if it is in the winter. It should be quite the conversation starter. And it still won't be as bizarre as Mort's toupee.

  2. Hahah--that's awesome.

    Mort wears a toupee? That, too, is awesome in its own way.

    I dunno. I guess in my day it was Star Wars but I thought that was awfully dopey, too. (That as a sci-fi fan.)

    I guess I had comic books. Batman and The Flash. D&D. Aerobics. Heh.

  3. None of that ranks with the coonskin cap, tho'.

    Hell, I didn't even like westerns as a kid. Over the years there was a good one, or a great one, like Unforgiven but it wasn't until the local art house ran a western series that I really gained an appreciation.

    I was surprised by the number of films where the difference between the good guy and the bad guy was that, well, the good guy was the good guy and the bad guy was the bad guy.

    I mean, there's no exposition to speak of. You know he's the good guy 'cause he's Gary Cooper not 'cause he does anything good.

    I had to remind myself how dominant the genre's tropes were for 50 years (of movies) and practically a century for books and comics.

    I was humbled, though, at the end. There's high art in there.

  4. Some of the westerns are art, but many were just entertainment. The equivalent of sitcom's and hour long dramas of today. The thing that western's have is convention, things you could be sure of when you sat and watched them. The sheriff was a good guy. The farmers will simply good folks and the big business guys (the ranchers) were no good and trying to get them off of the land. There is consideralbe nuance in many of the classic westerns and the occasional oddball classic over the top craziness of things like Johnny Guitar and in a strange way Shane. The current crop of police shows is just an updated version of the western, couched in urban terms. Good guys vs bad guys. Big business bad. Little guys victims. Government (sheriff, cops, csi investigators) have to step in to save you. But without the odd ball individualism of the great westerns. Ethan Edwards didn't wait for help, he went out to find his niece. Johnny Ringo stood up for himself and didn't let the law handle the job. The Earps (who were pimps and low lifes by the way)strapped up and went to settle things in the OK corrall. They didn't wait for FEMA or the Corp of Engineers when the fever hit Deadwood. They did it themselves. Can't show that vigilante justice today and be politically correct. Nosireee.

  5. Well, isn't that why "Deadwood" is so un-PC? I've heard it called a reflection of libertarianism, with some gloating that it's anti- while others say it's pro-.

    I guess the real thing about the Westerns was that they ran the whole gamut, from sheer entertainment to heavy social commentary to soap opera.

    You've given me something else to ruminate on though: I lament further up about the state of women in the modern RomCom--but men also don't fare well these days in a lot of ways.


Grab an umbrella. Unleash hell. Your mileage may vary. Results not typical. If swelling continues past four hours, consult a physician.