A Funny Thing About Harry Potter

harry and snape

Some years ago, I wrote a post on my old blog about Harry Potter and certain moral issues pertaining to it. At the time, I had primarily been lamenting the fact that these kids at Hogwarts never take an English class. I mean, they’re growing up to be illiterate wackos with the power of the cosmos at their fingertips. Dangerous to say the least. But at the time I was also taking issue with the fact that they never learn science. It’s not like it doesn’t exist. There’s the muggle world, where tons of people are doing science every day, but the wizarding world is totally ignorant of this fact to their own detriment. Finally, I figured that the existence of magic ought to be utilized for humanity as a whole, and not just for the people who could wield it.

I was, essentially, being deliberately obtuse. Obviously I understand that nature of the narrative. I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books and enjoy the films as a visualization of the stories that were so carefully told in the novels. Rowling is a wizard of a sort herself. A wizard of words, if that isn’t too cheesy for you. But it’s more than that. Her prose itself is not really that sophisticated. It’s more her ability to build a universe that doesn’t fall apart two days later. The world in Harry Potter is actually quite stellar. It’s an entire mythos that’s very fun and engaging.

In some fictions, we get pretty generic settings. Take for instance, one of my favorite sci-fi television shows: Firefly. It’s an incredibly generic sci-fi setting that is only held together by the strength of its characters and the writing. I mean, a sci-fi western is a really cheesy idea that has been literally done to death. And yet, a stellar cast with great chemistry, great acting, and helluva decent script make the show what it is.

But in Harry Potter, we have a setting that carries its characters. Let’s face it, most of the characters are cardboard cutout archetypes, Harry Potter being the worst, most boring offender. He’s an utterly one-dimensional character who, despite this fact, we actually manage to cheer for. Who is he really? In a high-school drama, he’s the jock. Think about it. If it weren’t for that British accent, you’d have exactly the character in the above image.

I watched the new film last night and it did not disappoint. I’ll spare you the details, because they’re not relevant. Suffice to say, it is and does exactly what it’s supposed to be and do. It is satisfying in that you can watch it once and never have any pressing desire or need to ever watch it again. In a sense, it was a blessing to get it over and done with at the midnight showing.

It was fun, but the films, moreso than the book, have this thing called set dressing that highlights some of the holes in the world that Harry Potter inhabits. A lot of crazy stuff is happening left and right. Terrorist activities by the Death Eaters, right? Just what in the hell is the British government doing about it? I’m talking about the government that governs sixty million beer swilling britons, not the Ministry of Magic that oversees a few thousand (?) magic-slinging ones.

I mean, isn’t there a public outcry to, oh, I don’t know, do something? All I want to know is, how they’re spinning it. I think it’s perfectly possible for the right spin to be spun and still manage to maintain the same narrative, but there’s just this part of me that is absolutely dying to know what’s going on in the muggle world!

Is that because I’m a muggle and, thus, sympathize with them? Is it because I’m a compulsive critic who’s always looking for flaws and problems? Who knows? I invite anyone and everyone to think up headlines that might appear on TV and in muggle newspapers to explain these catastrophes and post them in the comments section.

verbotene Künste.

4 thoughts on “A Funny Thing About Harry Potter

  1. “incredibly generic sci-fi setting” to be fair it’s one of the *best* generic sci-fi settings, in that it was made by people understanding the cultures they were putting into their future, rather than just grabbing a sheep-rug and painting quasi-japanese symbols over it. And at least there were no aliens.

    (by the way, you are totally correct about Harry. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the books, but they show his father was the same, except worse)

    • I’m not saying that Firefly doesn’t have a good setting. I’m just saying that the show would be absolutely nothing without the writing, the characters, and the situations. It’s the on-set chemistry and the fun characters that make that show, not necessarily its setting. I guess I was contrasting it with Harry Potter which is all about setting. The characters in Harry Potter (and yes, I have read and loved the books) would be pretty boring if it weren’t for the setting. At least, that’s the way I see it.

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