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March 06, 2005

Random Heresy II

While I like the Harry Potter series of books, I haven't liked the movies. Most of the characters irritate, and while the special effects are generally excellent, the stories tend toward the repetitive. And, frankly, somehow the book versions come across as even shallower versions of what I consider to be light entertainment.

The only things that help redeem the movies, aside from gorgeous visuals, are Alan Rickman's Professor Snape and Robbie Coltrane's Hagrid, mostly in that order. And while we're on the subject of Snape, how is it that Harry and crew remain such devoted enemies of Snape, who has actually proved his willingness to protect the sniveling little Harry on more than one occasion? Sure Snape is a bit of a jerk, but, let's be honest, if you were teaching the precious little Harry wouldn't the lad grind on you, too?

I'll still enjoy the books as what they are--a few nights' mindless entertainment--but the don't count me as a fan of the films.

Posted by zombyboy at March 6, 2005 07:54 PM

Now, Z, for some reason, Snape is "loyal" to Harry, but he still picks on him and tries to make his existence generally miserable. Besides hasn't it been made known that Harry's father picked on Snape and humiliated him every occasion he could when they were school mates? Also, Snape may be attempting to show his loyalty to the Order of the Phoenix after having returned from service to Lord Voldemort.

When I read the first book, I wasn't too impressed. I have read far better fantasy, but I confess to liking Harry. Maybe I related to the character, his mistreatment, devotion to friends, found Dumbledore comforting (wish I had had a Dumbledore in my corner growing up), the bad guys being really bad (because I learned early on, nobody swoops in and saves you, sometimes you have to figure out how to save yourself and the bad guys in this life really are evil, not caricature bofoons).

I didn't particularly like the first two films, but I loved the third and am eagerly anticipating viewing the fourth as I have heard and read good things about Mike Newell (directed Four Weddings and A Funeral).

(I think between the two of us we have sufficiently mentioned enough names to land some HP hits here ;) )

Posted by: Rae at March 6, 2005 11:58 PM

Snape is the faculty chief for Slytherin -- and Harry publicly declared (in the movie at least) that he didn't want to be in Slytherin.

Maybe that has something to do with Snape's attitude toward Harry, which would, as Rae suggests, have something to do with Harry's attitude toward Snape.

Posted by: McGehee at March 7, 2005 09:36 AM

McGehee- you read/watch HP?

Posted by: Rae at March 7, 2005 10:07 AM

Oh, and excellent point, McGehee. Slytherin and Griffindor are arch enemies, and that goes waaaaaaaay back.

I think Harry also sees inconsistency and favoritism in Snape, which Harry doesn't respect.

Posted by: Rae at March 7, 2005 10:12 AM

Harry is on the receiving end of so much favoritism (mostly from Dumbledore) that it's ridiculous. That's one of the reason I think he's a bit of a hypocrite: sure his life has been tough, but ever since he started going to Hogwarts, he's been given more than a fair shake. He complains about how Snape plays favorites, but doesn't complain a whit when he's the beneficiary.

Sure Snape plays favorites--but it only balances out the unreasonable treatment that the author devises in every book to ensure that Griffindor wins the house cup.

Dumbledore, in his best fatherly tones, "It seems some arbitrary, last-second points are needed to ensure that Harry and my other rule-breaking favorites 'win' the house cup. Fifty points to Harry for neutralizing a threat that a phalanx of teachers didn't even seem to notice. And, for exquisite spelling in the face of danger, ten points to Randomly Assigned Minor Character.

"If my arithmetic is correct, a change in decoration is in order."

Pshaw. I would probably be looking for another school to enroll my kids in if the teachers proved themselves, year after year, to be less competent than a couple of thirteen year olds.

Just sayin'.

Posted by: zombyboy at March 7, 2005 10:27 AM

Yeah, that whole last second adjustment of the points needed to just barely win the cup really irritated me and seemed the height of ridiculousness...

...until Gregoire did the same thing in the recent election for Governor for the state of Washington...

Posted by: Nathan at March 7, 2005 11:34 AM

McGehee- you read/watch HP?

Seen the movies.

Posted by: McGehee at March 7, 2005 01:01 PM

Z, how incredibly fun :D We actually disagree about something.

Dumbledore does lend a hand to HP, but I think the reasons for his doing so will play out later. Also, I don't think it unusual for the protagonist to receive some sort of assistance or mentoring along the way. I mean, recall Merlin and Wart (young King Arthur). Merlin hid and protected Arthur, even providing the measure for his education and his royal identity to be revealed (placing Excalibur in the rock).

Harry had to wrestle with the expectations placed upon him. He has to decide if he does, indeed, want to be different. I think Gryffindor is deeply symbolic of goodness and light (the red and gold, the lion), and obviously Slytherin (the green and silver,the serpent) is that of evil and darkness. All classics must end with good triumphing over evil, typically by the actions of one messianic character aided and supported by a group or benevolent benefactor.

Remember, the series begins with Harry at age 10 constantly watching his disgusting, boorish, undeserving cousin get all the affection, accoutrements, and praise. I don't know many young boys who could have endured the ill-treatment of supposed relatives and come out with much empathy or kindness in them. Then he goes to school to be bullied for choosing to be friends with those who aren't the most popular and for his kindness to those deemed undeserving. Or, someone is constantly trying to harm him or kill him. He consistently chooses abnegation over self-glorification. And when he does screw-up, he will make it right, not blame others mistakes. Malfoy, Snape's favorite, and Harry's perpetual antagonist, henpecks and bullies and lies and grovels and is rewarded. Harry does good and is rewarded. He screws-up and is punished. He is sometimes punished even when he has done nothing wrong.

So he whines a bit. He also screws up, becomes a bit self-obsessed, angry, depressed, disappointed, all those things normal to adolescence. He is also consistently faithful, analytical, introspective, and willing to ultimately do what is right no matter the cost.

The book examines prejudices in culture and class, violent death, biased journalism, and corrupt government. How many childrens fantasy books are that inclusive of such age-old issues?

Many have tried to put these books on par with those written by Lewis and Tolkien. I don't agree. While Rowling's knowledge of Latin, Greek, Alchemy and basic themes of good versus evil are obvious (and not without the enhancement of a little research), and while she does improve her writing each time she publishes another in the series, I don't think she has the lyrical ability of Lewis and Tolkien. I do think she can tell a decent story.

Posted by: Rae at March 7, 2005 08:49 PM
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