Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Conditional Surrender

It is difficult to avoid talking about the most informally discussed subject in the U.S. Harry Potter. There's no reason for me to clarify my statement, so I will not. I was not sure if I would join the bandwagon and add to the hype, but after some consideration I have given in to the pressure. I give in on one condition only: that I get to say whatever I flippin' want about Harry Potter and all you Potter freaks out there can get offended if you like or just not read what I say. In short, conditional surrender never tasted so good.

We have all heard the endless arguments against Harry Potter. It interests me, however, to note that originally there was an enormous Christian backlash against the books. Then, right around the time the movies started coming out (I think) the backlash died. Suddenly, instead of backlash there was an enormous Christian welcome. People could not get over the "Christian symbolism" in Harry Potter. Harry is a "Christ figure." It's okay to let your kids read these books because they're like the next Narnia. The people who put Harry Potter next to The Lord of the Rings have obviously never read The Lord of the Rings. As for it being the next Narnia, uh. No.

I appreciate Harry Potter because it's a fun read.
Yes, I read Harry Potter. I don't stand in line to get the first book on the shelf, in fact, I don't even purchase the hardcover editions. I have better things to spend my money on. I wait for a copy to become available at the library. It works quite well. Granted by the time I read the book I know all the spoilers, but I don't care. These books are not the end all and be all of storytelling to me. In fact, they're quite the opposite. They have very little substance. Half the time I feel like the entire plot was a waste. For example, in the fourth book, there was no reason that Voldemort had to go through all that trouble with the Tri-Wizard Tournament to kidnap Harry. He had a man on the inside. All he had to do was kidnap Harry. So easy. The teen angst gets old. In fact, I despise the 5th book. Then there's the prophecy. How cliche! Anyone who knows anything about the fantasy genre has been subjected to many, many prophecies. Oh yes, and Voldemort is undoubtedly the stupidest badguy ever having broken nearly every applicable rule of the Evil Overlord List. As for characterization, never have I seen so many flat characters in one series in my life. The best characters are Harry (and Harry is a total Gary Stu) and Hermione. Ron lost his personality after the second book. Any other character who has personality is a side character and only seems real because he or she has a bit part. Don't get me started on writing style. Yes, they are a fun, easy read.

The sudden mainstream Christian switch from discussing why these books are evil to embracing them wholeheartedly puzzles me. You would think no one had ever read a book before with Christian symbolism in it. I could sit here and name off at least a dozen other fairly recent books with Christian themes in them. Themes are better than symbolism which is about all the Harry Potter books contain. Harry is not a self sacrificial Christ figure. He only sacrifices himself when he fears losing a friend. That is not self sacrifice for the sake of others. It is not the same as what his mother did for him. She died for him because she loved him, not because she was afraid of losing him.

Edit (didn't think of this until later): In addition, one has to wonder if Harry would put so much effort into defeating Voldemort if the whole thing had not been placed on his doorstep so to speak. If he weren't the Chosen One, that is. And if Voldemort were not so entirely inefficient. Furthermore, there is no explicit moral code in these books. It strikes me as odd that Christians would be able to discover all sorts of symbolic material in the book, but fail to notice there are no absolutes concerning the behavior of the characters. So long as Harry and his friends are tormenting other kids, it's okay. And why, oh why, are all of Harry's enemies fat or greasy looking? I mean, doesn't that suggest that it is okay to mock obesity? Perhaps I am grasping at as many straws as the people who find Christian symbolism, but at least I can recognize a straw when I see it. End Edit.

I have no problem with the books themselves. I read them for fun. I simply have a problem with people who see things in them that are not there. What's wrong with weighing what you read and being able to point out both the good and the bad in it? Well, then again, I am a debater.


Xana Ender said...

The Christian backlash against the Harry Potter books was originally fueled by an article that got entensively passed around from email account to email account of freaked-out conservative Christians that hyped the Harry Potter books as contributing to great numbers of kids becoming witches, quoting witches as saying "these books are great recruiting tools" etc. The article turned out to be from the The Onion. Interestingly enough, emails were never really passed around debunking the supposedly-real article, but hey, when have conservatives ever liked their villians taken away?

Anyway, if it makes you happy, the biggest topic in our district in recent history has been the Harry Potter debate. Nothing else has seemed to spawn so many letters to the editor. In THIS state. It boggles the mind really.

Esther said...

I wondered where all that stuff came from originally.

Like I said, the most talked about subject out there. Egh. It's just a book. I'm not that into it. I'm just tired of listening to people talk about it as if no other book has ever been so good.

Xana Ender said...

Yeah. I get annoyed when people talk about Lord of the Rings that way too:-D

I mean, come on people. Other good fantasy has been written, The fantasy genre did not start (as some think) or end with J.R.R. Tolkein. His books are also not the undisputed penultimate of the genre, making all other fantasy mediocre.