July 18th, 2005

little review

Poem for Monday

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I was slow getting up this morning since the kids were not at home, and while I was lying around in bed I realized that all my familiar fannish daydreams had abandoned me, same as they did right after I saw ROTK. Perhaps they are merely re-sorting themselves and I will have fic in my head in a few days, but mostly what I had were additions/corrections I wanted to make to my post of last night and an increasing sense of disgruntlement about certain characters. I wonder whether my deep and abiding adoration for one character will override everything else. On the other hand, I have certain suspicions about where, inevitably, he must be headed in Book VII, and that alone might be enough to deter me. After Voyager and La Femme Nikita and so many others, I am craving something with closed canon and no new wrenching things to work around, like Highlander or O'Brian, to feed my late-night and early-morning mental drift. But O'Brian fandom is small and intimidating -- I am not really interested in doing the painstaking nautical research necessary to tell some of the tales that have occurred to me, and I already know the disgust I may incur if I do not. When I do that kind of research it's for original fiction these days...I just can't spare it for someone else's playground. And I KNOW so many people in HP fandom, people who cross over with every other area of my life, from previous fandoms to prior interests like Tarot and photography...there is a big compulsion to stick around for that reason alone. I am reading the book aloud with my kids now and their reactions are so interesting because they have such different focal points than I do...

This afternoon we saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I loved so much more than I was expecting...partly because the things I like about the older movie really can't be duplicated, but partly because there is a lot I do not like about the older movie, which I find creepy and disturbing in some very not-nice ways. I am amused, though, because I did not believe it was possible to feel as thoroughly not-attracted to Johnny Depp as I felt during the movie -- it was like watching Michael Jackson mid-sex change. The very perverted Wonka family psychology in the backstory appealed greatly to me, as did the nearly-as-perverted happy Bucket family with the giant bed-and-table for four grandparents in the middle of the house (where did the parents sleep, if Charlie had the attic to himself? Not sure I want to know). The film is very, very funny, so much more so than I was expecting from the previews -- both warped Wonka jokes and in-jokes from Tim Burton, with Depp quite as fearless as he was in POTC, though obviously very different. The visuals were amazing, the music amused me -- I feared comparisons to the tacky numbers of the first film but these tacky numbers were very much their own animals -- and I really loved the aggressive, pushy little girls, who were so much more memorable than the piggy boy and the TVaholic and quite striking in their greed and ambition -- maybe I was just in the mood, after HBP, for that sort of female character, because the more I think about the sexual politics of HBP the more they bother me, from the pre-teens through the senior females. I shall post more about this when more people have read the book, so people don't stay out of my LJ for fear of spoilers!


Boat and Drum Point Lighthouse of the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons.
little review

On H/Hr, R/Hr and H/G

I don't really have much invested in the HP canon 'shipper wars. For the longest time I didn't care whether Harry ended up with Hermione, Luna, Ginny, Cho or Draco, and I fervently didn't want to think about Ron having sex at all. I understand completely the people who never wanted Harry and Hermione to end up a couple because there is something so lovely and real about their friendship, a boy and girl who don't let all the adolescent sex stuff interfere with a relationship that sustains them just as it is. Of course, in the real world, men and women can be friends like that, and there is something nice about seeing it in a children's book in such detail.

But the Harry Potter books are more archetypal than typical, and the female roles are problematic at best -- devoted old maid figures like McGonagall, self-sacrificing mothers like Lily Potter and Molly Weasley, swooning women desperate for mates like Tonks and Merope Gaunt. And, of course, damsels in need of salvation, whether they're more self-sacrificing mothers like Narcissa Malfoy or incompetent Tri-Wizard competitors like Fleur Delacoeur.

And in that environment, I have to ask: Why for once can't the hero end up with the smart girl, the bookish girl, the girl who often contradicts him? The girl who came into his world as much an outsider as himself and overcompensated? The girl who really knows him and has never had any false hero-worship? Why must he end up with the popular girl, the girl who didn't need to have her teeth straightened, the girl who swooned over him while she was still a child and played a major damsel in distress role during his formative years?

And why can't the smart girl end up with the hero instead of the boy who ignores her, mocks her, taunts her for the qualities the hero most values in her? Why is she portrayed as wanting to be with a boy who will never be as clever as she is, and resents it, and inspires her to lie and cheat just to bolster his confidence? Why that boy and not the boy who treats her as an equal, who freely acknowledges that he couldn't do what he does without her?

I know people are going to say chemistry and attraction, and I'm not dismissing those things. There's no indication that Harry and Hermione feel any strong physical craving for one another. Maybe that's just because they're so close that they take each other for granted, or maybe there really isn't that sort of oomph that they both seem to feel when they're around red-haired purebloods who make them do rash things. And given that they're sixteen, all that makes perfect sense. But in this series, so far as we can tell, people mostly marry young and they marry for life. There's not a lot of room for mistakes, unless people want to spend their lives relying on love potions and spells to recover a lost spark. In that world it makes sense that Hermione didn't waste much time dating Krum, because she had decided he wasn't the one even though he appreciated her brains and self-possession and, apparently, her independence.

But Ron? Aside from looks and loyalty, I literally cannot see what Hermione sees in him. Sure, attraction means a lot when you're her age and devotion is a crucial quality in a mate, but how is she going to keep from boredom, or worse, from trying to turn herself into what he wants -- a girl who appreciates Quidditch and doesn't talk about eggheaded studious things? Are we going to be told the worst thing of all, that Hermione is only a smart and bookish girl because she came in from outside and, once she's fit herself into that world and helped to save that world, she's going to lost interest in the intellectual things that have sustained her?

Give me Harry and Hermione growing in love and realing that their committment to one another, while perhaps less ooh-ahh than their interest in other pretty faces, can encompass careers and marriage and children if they want them, rather than the superficial attractions of Harry with Ginny and Hermione with Ron any day.
little review

On HBP Chapter One

Had lunch with my family and perkypaduan; naturally the topic of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came up. I mentioned that I really did not like the opening chapter, particularly the implication that wizards routinely modified Muggle memories of magical disasters by substituting other events more easily explained but which have obvious political implications -- the Prime Minister in the novel is afraid that he could lose his job over the murders and the collapsed bridge, after the Minister of Magic agreed to sacrifice Muggle lives rather than letting Voldemort pass. I really loathe the implication that no disaster may be as it seems -- that someone could extrapolate from there that 9/11 was not really carried out by Al Quaeda operatives but Death Eaters or that JFK was not really killed by a lone or non-lone gunman but Avada Kedavra. (I mean, it'd sure explain a lot about those conflicting Kennedy eyewitness reports if they were made up on the spot by Obliviators, wouldn't it? Then we'd never again have to ask the question of whether the situation in Vietnam factored into the assassination.)

Then my son asked, "How come if wizards talk to Tony Blair (heh), they haven't told him to do something about the environment?" Which I thought was a brilliant question, and it leads to so many others -- why aren't the wizards themselves doing something to save the rainforests, why doesn't a Minister of Magic speaking to a Muggle Prime Minister worry about weapons of mass destruction that could presumably affect both their realms, just for starters. It isn't that I have any issue with Rowling writing allegorically about terrorism, mass murder, pedophilia or any of the other real-world concerns that pop up in the HP books: it is very specifically this sort of crossover with the real world that presses my buttons the wrong way.

I've said before that I never know whether to be comforted or disturbed by an X-Files/La Femme Nikita view of the world where nearly all evil can be attributed to a small cabal of wicked men (yes, men, as they always tend to greatly outnumber the women in such fictional scenarios). I would dearly love to believe that a Cancer Man or a Voldemort can be blamed for all suicide bombings in the Middle East, rather than an incredibly complicated series of historical, political and social factors; I would dearly love to believe that George Bush has been acting under the Imperius Curse since he took office, and that, as in HBP, a senior member of the British government has been quacking nonsense because he's been under a curse as well.

That not being the case, however, I do not want it suggested to my children that Evil, with a capital E, is carried out in the world by a hidden few while a majority of people go about their business obliviously or cowering in terror because of what leaks out in newspaper headlines. I certainly don't want it suggested that if there were wizards in the world, they might be manipulating contemporary politics without even paying attention to the issues that it would seem are of greatest importance to the Muggle and Wizarding worlds together: the survival of the planet, the care of the environment and the safety of people in both realms. We can't do anything about the fictional Lord Voldemort and the giants under his control, but bridges collapse and governments change because of human agency, decisions and errors made in full cognizance, not because some Obliviator showed up and made us commit to things we wouldn't have otherwise.

Please note that I am not accusing Rowling of carrying on a deliberate campaign of sensationalism or exploitation of public tragedy; I have no idea what her intentions were, only what my reactions were as a reader. Feel free to disagree or elaborate on an opposing sensibility, but please don't accuse me of being unfair to the author just for declaring a gut feeling about a section of her text.