far too many thoughts on why DWJ is better than JKR, was Re:DWJ inIsraeli newspaper

meparks at mtholyoke.edu meparks at mtholyoke.edu
Sat Feb 21 13:39:31 EST 2004

Quoting Ika <blake at gaudaprime.co.uk>:

> Me, then Minnow:
> >>I have a tendency to be
> >>reduced to a state of incoherent rage by Rowling. I feel about her like
> >>Derk feels about Mr Cheney, and for much the same reasons. I'll try and
> >>articulate this a bit better when I've thought about it some more.
> >
> > OK, I'll contain my soul in patience!  :-)   It wasn't very urgent, just
> a
> > slight surprise that it was so strong an emotion about what sounds to me
> > like a fairly trivial matter.  (I mean, the books sound more and more
> > trivial the more I'm told about them, and I don't think they are actually
> > going to destroy the world from pure greed, are they?)
> <darkly> You'd be surprised. <g> There's a wonderful cartoon by Alison
> Bechdel of a competition in which one of the events is to "deliver an
> impromptu critique of misogyny in popular culture", and the competitor in
> the picture is saying "... And in summation, I think 'The Little Mermaid'
> has done more to undermine the work of feminism than all other forces of
> patriarchy combined." I think of it often when I hear myself talking about
> Rowling.

I just read The Da Vinci Code and I was _entirely_ unsettled when he associated 
this movie with pagan goddess-power.  Admittedly he didn't say how, but the 
_only_ way I saw that working was with the overthrow of Ursula, which could 
mimic a supposed overthrow of goddess-based powers (?), so. . . I'm not sure 
why Dan Brown used that as an example.  (But as an afficiando of noncanonical 
gospels in general, I had more than few qualms with some of his assumptions.)


> The Derk-Mr Chesney (thanks for the spelling tip!) analogy comes about
> because the books work in a certain way. Like people have said, they don't
> hold together on examination: for some fairly obvious examples, time
> travel is not only possible but common enough that the 13/14yo Hermione,
> who is a neurotic overachiever, is given a Time-Turner in order that she
> can work what is probably an illegal number of hours a day for an adult
> worker, and take twice the usual number of academic classes in a day.
> (When she sleeps/eats/etc is not addressed. Nice job, Dumbledore.)
> Similarly, there is a potion called Veritaserum which is an infallible
> truth drug. However, several of the books rely on race-against-time or
> wrongful-imprisonment plots - and in the most recent book, where Someone
> Dies, it's not even suggested that they go back in time to save him.


> All of which isn't a particularly big deal - I read books with plot holes
> and blind spots the whole time. They're not as satisfying as the books
> with "complex, organic universes" others have mentioned, but sometimes
> that doesn't matter. But what it means is that the reader is very
> dependent on Rowling, because if you *think* about what's going on at any
> given moment, it doesn't make any sense. So you basically have to be a
> very passive reader, believing what Rowling tells you.

Yes.  I agree.  And this is why I think that the books have _so_ much 
fanfiction.  There's a Tough Guide of Harry Potter fanfic on fanfiction.net (at 
least there was some time ago), and if you look through it, I believe you'll 
see that one of things used most often is the idea of 'wandless magic.'  That 
is to say, a huge percentage of fanfic writers have noticed that there is 
utterly no logic or theory to JKR's magic.  THIS DRIVES ME CRAZY.  Whhhhy does 
flicking your wrist a certain way while saying 'Wingardium Leviosa' in the 
right way make something levitate?  Where is the magic coming from?  Is it 
intrinsic?  do wizards share a genetic ability to tap into ley lines?  Is their 
magic a product of being related to nonhuman races (another big fanon 
convention is that Draco Malfoy is part veela ;).  IF I was ever going to write 
Harry Potter fanfic, (which I have no intention of doing) it would be to 
explore the missing theory behind the overly convenient magic.

> Hence, incoherent rage in the manner of Derk. Because the books make
> *visible* a wider landscape/history/society, then summarily dismiss or
> annul it. For example, Hermione campaigns to free the slaves on whose
> unpaid labour the whole wizarding economy seems to be based: this is good.
> But *every single* sympathetic character explains to her that the slaves
> are *happier* being enslaved, it's "their nature"; and the slaves who
> *are* freed conform to the worst stereotypes of pro-slavery American Civil
> War writing - they can't cope with their freedom, they worry about their
> old masters the whole time, they become alcoholics - as well as speaking
> in a similar pidgin English. Further, Hermione, whose *only* character
> trait is intelligence, suddenly loses any sign of it and insists on
> calling her organization "SPEW" - the oddly Victorian-sounding 'Society
> for the Protection of Elvish Welfare'. So the idea that slavery is bad is
> raised, and then, instead of being argued against by the characters or
> demonstrated through the narrative, it's just, sort of, displaced and
> ignored. It's as if you were on a tour with Chesney, and then you stopped
> off to chat with Derk or Mara or the Horselady - and then you went back on
> the tour as if nothing had happened.
> So I don't think the books are complex, I think they're hopelessly muddled.

> Love, Ika
> PS: There's a compressed and fairly ranty article by me on Harry Potter
> and Capitalism at
> http://www.barbelith.com/cgi-bin/articles/00000013.shtml. My girfriend and
> I also gave a joint paper on similar themes (but with added Guy DeBord and
> a slightly funnier title) at the ARPF conference last November, which
> isn't published anywhere but if anyone's interested I could email them a
> copy if Jenny doesn't mind, which she won't.

I'd love to see this ;)

In the link, you brought up one of the other Big Big problems I have with HP--
the fact that the kids at Hogwarts get sorted into houses that shape their 
lives when they are only eleven.  How many of you think that you were well-
formed enough at eleven to know what you wanted to be like for the rest of your 
life?  I was a major brat when I was eleven, and could have well enough ended 
up a Slytherin because I was sneaky and manipulative--had I done so, I'm not 
sure I would have ever grown out of it.

so yeah--while I do enjoy the books, I think there are large problems. . . 

lizzie, who is still amazed that JKR has more money than the Queen of England.  
ah, marketing.

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