Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Complaints About Harry Potter

I've been thinking about the Potter series a lot lately; partly because of my participation in the Hogwarts Sock Kit Swap and partly just because it's summer, and aside from packing I haven't really done much lately except crack through the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD and read. Oh, and knit a little bit, I guess.

Anyhow. Harry Potter. I have two main problems with these books, and they are probably not what you think they are. Yes, blah blah blah romance, blah blah blah epilogue--I'm not a huge fan of the epilogue, exactly, but at the end of the day I can accept that, you know, J.K. Rowling wrote these books and I didn't, and that as much as she's realized a very wonderful, wonderfully vivid world that I feel like I could belong to, I...don't. And it's her world, so what she says goes.

Problem the first: I have a very hard time accepting that the wizarding world is as ignorant of the Muggle world as the books make it out to be. It just doesn't make sense. First of all, there aren't *that* many wizarding communities in Britain, so most of these wizards are living in some proximity to Muggles, and it seems illogical to me that the wizards are so completely oblivious. What about money, for example? Where do wizards shop when they need things not available at Diagon Alley? (Like groceries, for example.) Additionally, I think that the younger generation of wizards (i.e., those at Hogwarts) would be much better equipped to deal with the Muggle world based on their interactions with their Muggle born counterparts.

Problem the second: which is really the more serious of the two. In the face of Muggle-born/pure blood discourse, difference becomes totalized, to the point where that difference is the only one that exists: there is no racism, no sexism, no homophobia, no religious tensions, no nationalism (which is a bigger deal in the UK than it might seem to those of us in North American, particularly to the Irish and the Scottish), etc. Upon reflection, this does actually tie in nicely with my earlier point, and I'm afraid I still don't buy it. All of these prejudices are so deeply seated that they don't just disappear with the wave of a magic wand, and Rowling does her readers a real disservice by pretending that they don't exist. Oh, sure, there's the possible parallels between blood status and racism in many countries, including Canada, but all of that becomes even more confused when you actually take the time to think about it, because, well, it doesn't really make sense. The only distinctions Rowling makes are full and half, where historical examples of "blood mania" tend to extend that concern much further back...as many as five generations, even.

Don't get me wrong--I still very much enjoy the books, and continue to marvel at the fullness of the realm Rowling has created. I just think there are things that could have been thought out more fully.

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