Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Harry Potter 'phenomena' ... or lack of it.

[This is a well overdue musing and compilation of thoughts that I've been thinking for ages, but never got round to writing down. I know, I know, the book and movie has been out for a while....better late than never tho.]

Firstly, I find that through time, JK Rowling's books became increasingly aimed at lower-level readers. Not necessarily younger readers, but less astute. I think the reason for it (this is a theory) may be because Rowling realised that with her increasing popularity, her fan base expanded and now includes readers who may not be - how do I put this delicately - as 'book smart' as they used to be. Think about it, when the first books came out around 1997, most of the people reading it were: parents to their children, teachers to their students, and perhaps a few young adults. Then as the world realised just how fantastic it was, younger children began reading it for themselves as the books continued to be released till 2007. These said children are most likely ones that read allot of books anyway, and are capable of reading books slightly higher than their 'reading age'.(1). Then later once the films began to emerge, with the Philosopher's Stone in 2001, the hype started to begin. People wanted to see what the big deal was, and read it just for that, and not the story itself (or perhaps to make sure that their kid's weren't reading satanic/cultist fiction). My point is, JK perhaps started dumming down her writing style to suit a wider range of readers, an to keep them interested. Not only do the books get progressively easier to read, Rowling ceases the let readers figure plot devices out for themselves. She hands them the answers on a silver platter. Ever heard of "show not tell" ? I guess not. This is basically her admitting that the readers are too stupid to get it for themselves.This goes hand in hand with the new generation of kids being taught little or NO grammar and the vocabulary range is at a shocking low. I have GOOD grounds for insinuating that children do not receive the high standards of grammatical education that they used to, but that's a ranting issue for another posting.

AND THEN I found this article in 1, 2, 3, 4 parts describing, almost exactly, my feelings about all this. Except with more eloquence than I could bother to muster, and examples to back it up.

Daniel Hemmen's colourful chapter by chapter dissection of the last Potter book The Deathly Hallows is dripping with delicious sarcasm and notably clever humour. It is factually correct (I checked some of the quotes myself) and anyone who has actually read the books will feel the need to slap the table and say, "Aha! Thats EXACTLY what I was thinking when I read it but was too emotionally-caught-up-in-the-'event'-of-reading-a-Harry-Potter-book-and-just-wanted-to-get-to-the-end to stop and think about it." Ok maybe not quite that specific but you get the gist.
I did disagree on one thing though - when Hedwig died - I kind of teared up.It was a really sad thanks to Rowling's dwindling capabilities as an author, but because of the character and symbol that Hedwig was to Harry (and perhaps to me as the reader). I think she deserved a bit more than one stilted sentence of grief (overshadowed by Harry's 'paramount' of terror for the others). A few other things were brutally critiqued to an unnecessary degree -Rowling did get some stuff right - but nobody wants to hear the nice things. People would much rather read an article on how flawed, inconsistent, and rubbish her writing is. Me included, but only because I already thought so.
One of my favourite summaries that Dan concocted of an otherwise boring plot development:

"Dear Sirius, I'm really glad we aren't going get horribly killed in the next six months. Baby Harry is wonderful and I love him very much. So much that I'll make him immune to dark magic by the sheer loving power of my loving loving love. Love Lily." 
                                                                 - can I just say that I love this.

Anyway, in between spontaneous bursts of 'laugh out loud' moments, I had some thoughts:
Is the entire point of the book, perhaps, TO BE annoyed with Harry? Maybe we're totally misreading it and not giving JK enough credit. That's totally it. Must be. The only other alternative is that she spent the last 10 years molding and shaping and eventually failing at creating a decent protagonist.
I will admit that at first when reading the book, I consciously overlooked severely annoying issues (many of which Dan mentions in his article). Why? Because I grew up with Harry Potter, it was fantastic. And it made me just too ridiculously sad to think it was going down the shit hole, and the very very last book was no better. But even in my moronic emotional attached state, there is nothing in the world that would let me accept the ending. Three words: LAZY ASS WRITING. It made me so angry I remember staring at the last few pages in utter disbelief. There was no way that was the end. And the afterword? OMG.
I wont go into more detail as the article does an amazing job at it.

If this interests you at all, definitely give his article a read - if nothing else you will have added a few years to your life from laughing so hard.

If your still not convinced, here's probably the best one his Chapter summaries:

Chapter Thirty Three: The Prince's Tale

In which all the fanfic turns out to have been right.

Snape was in love with Lily. 

Harry is a Horcrux. 

Dumbledore is an asshole. 

(1) Maybe there is slight bias on that observation, as that it what happened to me. But I think its a fairly relate-able claim.

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