Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why Not To Be Obsessed With Harry Potter

Most of you, my audience, are probably feeling skeptical at this title. Probably something along the lines of "What? 'Why Not To Be Obsessed With Harry Potter'? But it's soooo good!". Well, before you go away, I'll tell you that this is not an anti-Harry Potter post. It's just an urge for moderation. I myself enjoy a bit of Harry Potter here or there. But not everywhere, all the time, every single second, like it so often is in the fan world. And it's not just personal preference, but reasoning behind it too. Still unsure about the post? Let me show you what I mean...


There's A General Obsession With Harry Potter
Everywhere you see it. EVERYWHERE. In bookshops anywhere you'll find the books, in movie shops anywhere you'll find the movies, in shops of miscellaneous types anywhere you'll find its various merchandise. Online, everywhere you go, memes and products of this fantastical craze. And it's gotten a new resurgence with the eighth book and the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them movie. Rare is it that on any list of great modern writers compiled that you don't find J. K. Rowling, this series' authoress. Rarer still is it that any actor or actress associated with the Harry Potters is ever forgotten as such. And rarest of all is it to find somebody who hasn't at least heard of Harry Potter. Why is this exactly? Let me lay out the values of Harry Potter:
1. It is even on first glance very unusual, and there is no literature preceding it that was along the same ideas. In other words, it seems incredibly creative.
2. The characters are in large quantities, thus making it easy for just about any reader to find at least one character that they love.
3. The sub-plots are numerous and complex enough to satisfy the most picky readers.
4. It's extremely popular, and if you've read it then you will not have a hard time finding at least one other person who has.
5. The main moral virtue displayed in the book is courage, which is a very pleasing virtue to read about, of course.
6. The world-building in it is very assuming, seeming to be of incredible loftiness in genius.
7. The writing set a new era in fiction and fantasy particularly, making way for many new concepts and types of writing.
These, I believe, are the main values of Harry Potter. And now that I have laid them out, showing I do see value in this series, I shall proceed with my argument concerning it. In light of these values, why shouldn't we be obsessed with Harry Potter? Here are a few reasons.


The Writing
This may seem like a contradiction to #7 in the list of values, but the writing is very sketchy. (Please, before you jump down my throat for this, because I do the things I am listing of Harry Potter in my own writing, remember that I am writing this post as a reader more than a writer, and that these are published books, expected to be better in writing, whereas mine are not.) The writing is just messy at times. Many people reviewing the books have trouble even figuring out what POV they are written in. The writing often goes into lapses of the exact same phrases, sayings, and thoughts. For instance, if I had a dollar for every time somebody said/thought 'such a git', or 'some bloke', I would have enough money to buy myself a formal evening dress. The language in it is very unrefined, though actual swearing isn't in it for the most part. The language patterns of everyone are almost the same, with only a few exceptions.  And many times you see a scene's POV being led by someone who is not the MC, and has no personal relation to him, and only appears once in the entire series (this isn't as much a technical problem as the others, as some of these random POVs had a point, but it still bothered me personally). And sometimes the world or the characters can be rather inconsistent. Inconsistency in world, particularly the magic factor, can be found especially in the movies, but also in the books occasionally. This is not to even mention the factor of small-scale writing, such as creativity or consistency in what is stated to have happened (things like 'he said', or 'she picked it up'). I can thank the book for setting a new era of writing, from which came many a good development and enjoyable book, but I can also be frustrated with it because many not so favorable (or tasteful) books came from this era as well. Overall, the writing is extremely modern in this factor, and I'm not too terribly impressed with it. However, it's not technical perfection that makes a book perfect, and I am all for reading books that are not technically perfect, it's just that their other values must outbalance this.
The Characters
Again, you may think I'm contradicting myself when I say that many of the characters are not their own person, but merely a wind-chime for whatever bit of plot or comic relief to blow through. There were many characters that had almost the exact same speech pattern/opinions/phrases/reactions very frequently. I sense that this is perhaps just a channeling of Rowling's 'character style', a.k.a. her tendency to make a certain kind of character when no other ideas for it were to be had. For instance, many of the so-called 'quirks' of smaller characters (such as Dean Thomas or Lavender Brown) are often stated once, maybe twice at the very most, and then left out of the character completely, making that character rather disappointingly a 'blank slate' once more. Truly, for many characters, I felt as though the name, gender, and Hogwarts House was all I had to go on for their character. I can say the same for some of the teachers even (in particular, Professor Sinistra). I am rather ashamed to say it, but I can actually see very well why certain characters were not shown in the movie. That is to say, they merely did not have enough character in them to make it to the chopped-up movie screen. Now, there were a good many lively, creative, wonderful characters to. Professor Snape (particularly movie man) was an amazingly well thought-out character, and I can well say that the only part in any of the movies which caused me to cry was the climax revealing his past. And no Harry Potter quote makes me more sappy than that lovely little "Always" of Snape's. And then characters like Hermione were also fairly thorough, though not quite so likeable or pitiable as Snape. I think my problem with the characters mainly is that Rowling put too much of the same elements in all of them, elements that were not to the effect of showing her style, but merely making the characters rough mirrors of each other. All the good guys liked to wittily insult/disrespect the bad guys. All the bad guys had greasy hair or were huge. It's only these stereotypes of Rowling's that bother me. Other than these, I enjoyed the characters very much, and they were in great quantity to be enjoyed to be sure.
The World
I'm going to make this very short, because my only complaint is perhaps a slightly unfair one (as I willingly admit), but still worth mentioning as a note. I see in many aspects of the creatures and places of Rowling's thing perhaps too similar to other fictional worlds. There are many creatures/places/concepts of the Harry Potter world that are rather copied (whether intentional or not) off of the original great fantasies, like J. R. R. Tolkien's work, and also that of C. S. Lewis. Now, like I said, this a bit of an unfair complaint, because you really just can't write a fantasy that doesn't copy one of the greats in some way. They just formed the genre fantasy, especially Tolkien's Middle Earth-related books. There is about a 90% chance that if you write a fantasy, it will have something in common with Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, or The Chronicles Of Narnia. However, I have mentioned this scruple merely because it is worth noting, lest another person note it and think more critically of it.
The Attitude Behind It
I'm just going to say it, and hope that no one jumps down my throat. I'm sorry, but many of the attitudes Rowling has taken concerning Harry Potter are very highly disturbing. For instance, how many here know that she was herself interested in real witchcraft and demonic arts before she wrote Harry Potter? Obviously you wouldn't guess that much reading the book, but just hearing about it kind-of shook me for the book. And then there's her constant publicity-netting. Anything to get publicity. Write an eighth book with a bajillion contradictions and absolutely no point? Sure, that should get some publicity! Let the whole thing practically be written by somebody else and just put Rowling's name on it for that publicity? Why not? Make a movie, and somehow eventually another saga off of a single book Rowling wrote that didn't even tell a story but was for Harry Potter world research? Somehow glean a whole tale that wasn't there from it? What a brilliant idea! Change anything at all about Harry Potter in interviews and everything previously said on the spur of the moment, just to keep it out as hot stuff? Of course! And then there's Rowling's support of LGBT stuff, also - I believe - for publicity. In fact, she has even proposed the idea that in the prologue to Harry Potter (which is what has been named Fantastic Beast And Where To Find Them) she will make Professor/Headmaster Dumbledore LGBT. In fact, she now claims that he was the entire time, even though there is absolutely no proof of this in the original books. While one can look past all this, it is still a bit unsettling. For me, I just don't particularly relish reading books with an authoress who takes these attitudes towards them.
The Magic And The Morals
To those who G. K. Chesterton would describe as 'bigots' (in other words, someone who disapproves of certain sets of morals but has none of their own), I would suggest they don't read this one. Because morals is one of my biggest problems with Harry Potter, and I don't intend to skim over the subject. If this post has become too critical for anybody, then I merely suggest that they stop reading.
My problem with the magic is not, as I've mentioned it, that it's inconsistent, but merely that it is too suspiciously close to real witchcraft. Surely to the ordinary reader it is innocent and quite fine. However, sometimes you reach certain tiny little details about the world that are suspicious. Like the use of terms such as 'astrology', 'divination', and 'transfiguration'. Things that smell of real witchcraft's odds and ends. This disturbs me, especially for someone who knows books like those of Montague Summers, one of the most renowned authorities and historians on the subject. And, even reading only bits of his books, I can see perhaps too clearly the resemblance to Harry Potter. Now, because the books themselves are mostly innocent of real, evil witchcraft, I would pass this by. But then, because of those details, it opens the mind of the reader up to the real thing. Bit by bit, the reader find themselves less and less closed-up to the idea of magic. Now this wouldn't be a problem for a mature, well-taught reader. But it is those readers who have no idea that it is a problem for. Most of my audience are probably right about now very skeptical. But, this is not my only problem moral-wise with Harry Potter. In fact, the far more obvious problem with its morals, and perhaps the one to be worried about, is the attitudes of the characters. They are unforgiving, often disrespectful, and sometimes even deceitful. Often they cheat, lie, break rules, or steal to get their objectives, and have very little scruple about it. Now, think of how that looks to the very young reader of Harry Potter. It looks as though they're saying that stealing/lying/cheating/breaking rules is okay if it gets you what you need. That's not a very comforting moral message, is it? And none of the main characters in Harry Potter seem to have much respect for their fellow being. They frequently insult, wish to hurt, or otherwise disrespect people who don't agree with them or are mean to them. And it's not just the people they're against, even. I cannot count the times when Harry himself got angry at his friends and just started rolling out insults or rants because some childish complex of his is being hurt. And I have never seen a book where more anger is portrayed. I don't read them often, and I make intervals in between reading them, because I find sometimes it can make me angry if I read them too often and too close together. It just makes a book less enjoyable for me when all the characters are constantly angry at their enemies, at one another, and at just about everything that happens. It just makes me feel on edge and guilty, as though I were the one being so unforgiving and angry. And rare is it, unless it was his friends he was yelling at, that Harry Potter ever apologizes for his tantrums or fights. And his best friend, Ron, is - if possible - a worse case, as he often doesn't even apologize when it is his friends he fought with. I just find it unusual that someone should be obsessed with an anger-fest book, or rather an anger-fest series of books.
Professor Severus Snape. My poor little Snape... *sobs* He's the best! :')
The Hype
This is a more personal, rather than logical or philosophical reason for disliking Harry Potter. But I feel that, when something has as many slightly out-of-place details as Harry Potter does, and is already as hyped and famous as Harry Potter is, then you don't need to fangirl over it or spread it on the world like butter on bread. And seeing as those books are about as well-known as PB&Js, they really don't need any help getting into the world.
Totally how it is.
Conclusion
So they're not the most flawless books. But they are still very enjoyable! I would only caution that strictly mature readers alone should read them, and definitely only mature watchers should see the movies. While there are many a reason why Harry Potter isn't perfect, there are still many good things to it. So, I'm not trying to tell anyone they shouldn't like Harry Potter or shouldn't read Harry Potter, only why not to be completely obsessed with it. Trust me, there are many a good fandom out there just waiting to be obsessed over madly. Harry Potter can afford to be a slightly lesser one on your list. :)
What did you think? Will I now get a blast of comments for insulting the nigh-untouched Harry Potter? Or perhaps there are readers who can agree with a point or two of the discussion...? I am eager to hear any thoughts on it - agreeing or not - so long as they're kept logical and polite.

7 comments:

  1. Very interesting read. I actually do agree with you on some points. I didn't read the series until the end of my senior year, and even after I read them, they were okay. Overall I enjoyed the books and the story, but kind of got sick of the pattern in each book: Harry's life at the Dursley's, trip to Hogwarts, little bit of his life at Hogwarts with friends, problem comes up, try to solve problem with friends, confrontation with Voldemort or other villain, end of school year comes and he returns home. Just rereading that pattern got a little tiring for me. The only book out of the series I enjoyed was The Goblet of Fire.
    But anyway, I do agree about the obsession with it. I never became a diehard fan after reading and watching Harry Potter, but I still enjoyed the meme's and finding out which house I belong in. But again, I enjoyed the story where good (even though it's not completely perfect) overcomes evil.

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    1. Yes, it really was the same pattern repeatedly. It got a little old, didn't it? :) I can see why Goblet Of Fire would be more enjoyable (hey, it was my favorite of the movies, tied with Deathly Hallows Part Two). Yes! It's very fun to partake in it every so often, and it's fine to like it! It's just silly if someone obsesses over and centers their life around it (as so many fans do). I myself like to indulge in a little Harry Potter meme or quiz now and then. ;)

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  2. Well, an obsession with anything can quickly go sour, really. Even an obsession with a good thing.

    But I've never read Harry Potter. Frankly, I just don't care to.

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    1. Yes, so very true! :) Any obsession with something, even if the thing is only little short of perfect, can become out of hand. And I don't blame you for not reading Harry Potter. As much as they can be enjoyed, I would willingly live with someone who had never read them over someone who obsessed over them.

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  3. The title of this post made me perk up my ears. :) I can't really contribute anything to the conversation, as I've never read Harry Potter. Sometimes it's sounded appealing to me...I can honestly see myself really like it...but I don't plan on reading it any time soon, partly because of the moral issues you mentioned, partly in respect to my mother's wishes, and partly because I'm just stubborn. :)

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    1. Oh! Also, this reminded me of an idea I've had for awhile but never acted on to do a post on Les Mis. So if you see that pop up on my blog, you're partially to thank for it, Belle. :)

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    2. Well, like mentioned, there are very good reasons not to read Harry Potter for a less mature reader. However, the more mature reader may find amusement in them without being influenced by them. And despite these moral issues mentioned, there are certainly some values in the books. :) And believe me, I wasn't going to read them either, but my mom bought me the first one some years ago and made me read it, and after that curiosity took hold. :P I am rather disturbed, actually, that I was allowed to read them at the very young age of eight.
      Ooh! A Les Mis addition should be interesting! Lots to talk about there... ;D

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