The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'harry potter'
In praise of Joanne Rowling's Hermione Grainger series, which lauds the popular novelist for standing up to commercial pressure to adhere to traditional gender stereotypes and pepper her story with hackneyed clichés because they're, you know, "more marketable":
And what a show it is. In Hermione, Joanne Rowling undermines all of the cliches that we have come to expect in our mythic heroes. It’s easy to imagine Hermione’s origin story as some warmed-over Star Wars claptrap, with tragically missing parents and unsatisfying parental substitutes and a realization that she belongs to a hidden order, with wondrous (and unsettlingly genetic) gifts. But, no: Hermione’s normal parents are her normal parents. She just so happens to be gifted. Being special, Rowling tells us, isn’t about where you come from; it’s about what you can do, if you put your mind to it. And what Hermione can do, when she puts her mind to it, is magic.
The character of Harry Potter is an obnoxious error in the Hermione Granger universe, made more obnoxious by his constant presence. It’s tempting to just write Harry off as a love interest who didn’t quite work out; the popular-yet-brooding jock is hardly an unfamiliar type. And, given that Hermione is constantly having to rescue Harry, he does come across as a sort of male damsel-in-distress.But, if we look closely, we can see that Harry is a parody of every cliche Rowling avoided with Hermione. Harry is not particularly bright or studious; he’s provided with an endless supply of gifts and favors; he’s the heir to no less than two huge fortunes; he’s privileged above his fellow students, due to his fame for something he didn’t actually do himself; he even seems to take credit for “Dumbledore’s Army,” which Hermione started. Of course this character is obnoxious. It’s only by treating ourselves to the irritation caused by Harry that we can fully appreciate Hermione herself.Which makes for an astute critique of the reactionary elements of popular fiction, of which Harry Potter is an exemplar. Whether it's convincing as a counterfactual history, though, is another matter; were Rowling to write her books in the way the article described, what's to say they wouldn't have sunk into obscurity like a lot of worthily didactic left-wing fiction, championed only by those so cultishly right-on that they condemn the Grauniad as a right-wing hate sheet?
India's Environment Minister has blamed the popularity of the Harry Potter books for the decline of wild owl populations, suggesting that owls are being poached and sold as pets to Potter fans:
The report's author, Abrar Ahmed, wrote that he decided to investigate the owl trade after being asked by a friend to procure a live white-coloured owl for her son's Harry Potter-themed 10th birthday party. "This was probably one of the strangest demands made to me as an ornithologist," he wrote.The report is titled, in the sort of splendidly Wodehousean English often used in India, The Imperilled Custodians of the Night.
A new memoir by George W. Bush's former speechwriter sheds light on how the Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded:
Latimer, whose memoir was published last week by Crown in the US, says that the "narrow thinking" of "people in the White House" led them "to actually object to giving the author JK Rowling a presidential medal because the Harry Potter books encouraged witchcraft".
The first 16 recipients of Barack Obama's presidential medal, handed out in August, included Stephen Hawking and Senator Ted Kennedy – who, according to Latimer's book, failed to receive the medal during the Bush administration because he was "a liberal".
It has been announced that the star of the Harry Potter movies, Daniel Radcliffe, is to appear naked in a West End play. That loud "OMG SQUEE" you just heard was a million Potter fangirls around the world.
Harry Potter and the New Love Interest Who Happens to Have the Same Name as the 15-Year-Old Girl Writing this Fanfic
Harry Potter and the Uncomfortable Oversexualization of Minors
Harry Potter and the Camping Weekend With Ron That Will Never Be Spoken Of Again
Harry Potter and the Prisoner Detainees of Azerbaijan
(via Boing Boing)
The track that Jarvis Cocker and two members of Radiohead recorded for the upcoming Harry Potter film has been posted online; and it does sound like a more cartoonish Franz Ferdinand or something.
The Harry Potter books might not be a Christian or Libertarian allegory; they may just be gay (or even just queer):
The interplay between the world of magic and the world of Muggles in the Potter books is identical to how queer historians and sociologists describe the interplay between the closeted gay world and the mainstream world, particularly in the days before the gay-liberation movement. Homosexuals were everywhere, yet heterosexuals usually could not see them. Gay bars looked just like straight bars from the outside. Gay people invented elaborate codes, often in language, dress, and deportment, so they could recognize one another but not be seen as abnormal by the heterosexual Muggle world. In his book Gay New York, historian George Chauncey writes of the "invisible map" that exists in all cities that enables queers to find fellow travelers and assembling places: people and places usually invisible to the unknowing heterosexual. This is precisely the situation in the Potter books, where Hogwarts, Diagon Alley (where the magic shops are), 12 Grimmauld Place (the meeting place of Order of the Phoenix), Azkaban Fortress, and even magical buses and trains that run out of major terminals exist in the middle of large cosmopolitan cities and yet remain invisible to Muggles who simply cannot see them.
Even if the gay thing is a bit far-fetched (and I'd put it on a par with the Lockhart-is-Philip-Pullman rumour or the alleged Objectivist government-interference subtext), the article makes a very valid point: the reason the God-botherers don't like these books have less to do with sorcery and witchcraft and more to do with their message against social control and indoctrination:
Children, before they are completely socialized, have vibrant imaginations and often a very finely tuned sense of alternative possibilities. They are, in a very real sense, queer. They have to be taught how to become "civilized." Socialization involves mastering table manners and politeness, but it also concerns learning how to conform to the worlds most terrible ways. Children have to learn racism to hate or fear certain people because of how they look; they have to be taught that work is far more important than play and that pleasure is always suspect; they have to be taught that there is only one correct way to worship God and everyone else is going to hell; they have to learn that heterosexuality is the only acceptable form of sexual behavior, and that some forms of sexual pleasure are wrong. They are taught to be normal whatever that may mean within the terms of the prevailing culture. They are taught to be Muggles. Is it any wonder evangelical Christians find the Harry Potter books threatening?
(via Largehearted Boy)
More on Harry Potter as a tool of evil corporate hegemony: it's not just a pretext to stomp over parodists; the Harry Potter franchise is also a blunt instrument for gigantic chain bookstores to club small bookshops with. Though isn't the Wal-Mart-sized retailers being able to offer massive discounts on mass-market items just the natural way things happen? I suspect that the small bookshops won't so much go out of business because they can't sell Harry Potter for less than 150% the Borders price but rather will specialise in items the megachains don't see enough profit in stocking.
AOL Time Warner's legal rottweilers are aggressively prosecuting Harry Potter-inspired books, from unauthorised fiction using the characters to thematically similar work like Tanya Grotter and the Magic Double-Bass. They have been allowed to do this by recent expansions of intellectual property treaties, which crack down on derived works. Or, another way to think about it: had the treaties been in place decades ago, J.R.R. Tolkien (or his publishers) would have been able to sue the entire fantasy fiction genre out of existence. A side-effect of the neo-Galambosian intellectual-property power-grab by the copyright industry could well be the end of new genres as such, and their replacement by licensed franchises (like the various Matrix tie-ins).
Is the new Harry Potter book a thinly-veiled Libertarian diatribe against government interference and gun control? Maybe J.K. Rowling is not so much the next C.S. Lewis as the next Ayn Rand. (via Reenhead)
A book titled The Hidden Key to Harry Potter claims that the Potter books are Christian literature in the Inkling tradition of Tolkien and C.S.Lewis, written to "baptise the imagination", and not the anti-Christian propaganda various religiots have been claiming them to be. The article points to a lot of Christian symbolism in the books (though how much of that is deliberate is another question; after all, the abovementioned religiots pointed to "symbols of evil" throughout the books). Interesting that it claims that Gilderoy Lockhart, the villainous charlatan, is modelled on the atheist author Philip Pullman; I wonder whether that was Rowling's intention or the interpretation of the author of the book. (via FmH)
After the BBC's 100 Greatest Britons series (in which Winston Churchill barely pipped Princess Diana for #1, and genuinely deserving candidates like Charles Darwin were left in the dust), bolshy TV broadcaster Channel 4 have compiled a list of the 100 Worst Britons. Tony Blair is #1 (though if these were voted on by the Guardian-reader types who watch C4, it's hartly surprising), followed by Jordan (she's some kind of model or something, right?) and Margaret Thatcher. Other notable figures: The Queen is #10 (one behind Geri Halliwell), Liam Gallagher is at #11 (though you'd think his ex-wife Patsy Kensit would get a mention on the strength of her complete inability to act), Prince Charles at #24 (Diana is apparently still too much of a national saint to merit the list), Harry Potter is at #35, Tracy Eminem at #41, Pete Waterman at #45, and Loony Left Red Ken at #50. (via VM)
Russian politician changes name to Harry Potter to win more votes. He has stood unsuccessfully in past elections, but hopes that his heroic new name will turn his luck around, perhaps even giving him the presidency eventually. They certainly do things differently in Russia; the best Australia can do in this vein was to have a politician named Stone change his name to Aussie-Stone (presumably back when ballot papers were in alphabetical order). (via bOING bOING)
The release date of the next Harry Potter book has been announced, and the publisher has kindly released two excerpts, including the first sentence. Over at plastic, this has been turned into the start of a collaborative literature exercise.
Petunia ran out of the house. "Thank God you arrived, officer," she said. "They've got no right to take him! They've got no right!" The policemen looked up at the flying car hovering over the house. "Call in air support," said one of them. A few miles away, two helicopters sprung into action. "The car's license belongs to one Arthur Weasley," said one officer. "Arrested four times for posession of illegal and unlicensed substances - claimed they were 'magic potions'". Arthur Weasley saw the patrol cars down below, but did not worry. "Those Muggles and their laws," he said, shaking his head and laughing.
The Russia answer to Harry Potter: Tanya Grotter and her Magical Double-Bass.
Apparently Mattel's Harry Potter tie-in Nimbus 2000 broomstick, which vibrates when you ride it, is popular with kids of all ages.
When my 12 year old daughter asked for this for her birthday, I kind of wondered if she was too old for it, but she seems to LOVE it. Her friends love it too! They play for hours in her bedroom with this great toy. They really seem to like the special effects it offers (the sound effects and vibrating). My oldest daughter (17) really likes it too! I reccomend this for all children.
Via a lot of places. I wonder whether it's really as risqué as the comments make it out to be.
Fed up with waiting for JK Rowling to finish the much delayed next Harry Potter book, some anonymous party in China has decided to take matters into their own hand, by publishing an alternative fifth Harry Potter book. Written in Chinese and translating as Harry Potter and Leopard Walk Up To Dragon, the book uses existing Harry Potter characters, though diverges wildly from Rowling's works, going in a somewhat more Tolkienesque direction; in it, the young wizard is transformed into a fat, hairy dwarf and stripped of his powers by a mysterious rain, and goes off to battle evil in the shape of a dragon.
The book begins with the lines: "Harry doesn't know how long it will take to wash the sticky cream cake off his face. For a civilised young man it is disgusting to have dirt on any part of his body. He lies in the high-quality china bathtub, keeps wiping his face, and thinks about Dali's face, which is as fat as the bottom of Aunt Penny."
I wonder whether this will show up in English. Maybe I should start checking certain bookshops for it...
The Chaser has more articles online. Of particular note: "Harry Potter fans warn against dangerous effects of Bible", "CAMP X-RAY 'INHUMANE': Ruddock asks for brochure".. and don't tell me that Ratcat have reformed. (If so, wonder what they would sound like; would they just playing their 1990-vintage skater-pop hits on the nostalgia circuit for all the mortgaged new parents who used to be into them when they were kids, or have they jumped on the mook/rap-metal/big-yellow-shorts bandwagon and tried to reach out to a new crop of suburban teens?)
Wildlife experts are concerned that the Harry Potter fad may encourage children to keep owls as pets. Owls can be bought reasonably cheaply, but are not suitable household pets, requiring a lot of attention; as such, we may soon see a plague of feral owls in the suburbs after all the real-life Dudley Dursleys who got owls for Christmas get sick of them and let them go.
Harry Potter wins the Hugo award? Whilst the Potter books aren't bad (they're certainly enjoyable), they're definitely not sci-fi. Though I suppose they could be lumped in as "genre" (a euphemism for "fanboy interest" or "spotty people in black trenchcoats and ponytails like this", or something like that). Which ties in with Graham's rant about the "sci-fi" shelves in bookshops being full of naff fantasy novels.
Though it's reassuring to see that Greg Egan won something. (link via Slashdot)
A church in Canberra, alarmed at those wicked Harry Potter books seducing children away from the truth of Christianity, has distributed a leaflet to its members about the dangers these books pose to children, and their contribution to the rise of juvenile devil worship in America. Unbeknownst to them, the text of the leaflet was taken from a piece in the Onion.
Childrens' literature sensation Harry Potter has been blamed for introducing children to the occult:
Educators nationwide are praising the books for getting children excited about reading. "It's almost impossible to find a book that can compete with those PlayStation games, but Harry Potter has done it," said Gulfport (MS) Middle School principal Frank Grieg. "I have this one student in the fifth grade who'd never read a book before in his life. Now he's read Sorcerer's Stone, Prisoner Of Azkaban, Chamber Of Secrets, Goblet Of Fire, The Seven Scrolls Of The Black Rose, The Necronomicon, The Satanic Bible, The Origin Of Species--you name it."