Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Defending Harry Potter

I realize that explaining what's good about Harry Potter isn't exactly the most controversial thing in the world. For the most part, critical reaction to the books and the movies has been pretty positive. Still, there are some detractors, including some friends of mine. While I don't really have any problems with their reasons for not liking the series, I thought I'd give the reasons why I like it. Is it because I'm a die-hard Potter fan? Hardly. I haven't even read the books, although I'd like to one day. I have seen each movie in the theater though, and I plan on going to see the latest one tomorrow. I also buy them on DVD, and I'd like to eventually replace the first four movies on Blu Ray, mainly due to the great visuals that they all have. (I'm waiting until they're really cheap though - and really it's the first two that I want to replace the most, as the original transfers look like crap.)

With that said, here's what I like:

#1 - It gets kids reading. Yeah, I know, how cliche. That's what everybody says. However, it's true. I've known a lot of kids who read Harry Potter books and probably wouldn't have read anything else. Of course, the complaint that I've heard from people regarding this is, "Yeah, but that's all they read!" Sure, it's hardly an ideal situation when a person only reads one particular series of books at the exclusion of all others, but at least that's something. I doubt that there's a kid out there who'd be reading Tolstoy had he or she not encountered Rowling first.

Still, I imagine that the Harry Potter books have been a gateway to other books for a lot of kids out there. After all, if comic books could get me interested in other forms of literature, then I think that a series of novels could do the same for somebody else.

#2 - It has foundations in mythology. Again, I'm sure that plenty of kids read through the mythological allusions and never think twice about it. Still, it's obvious simply by reading the movies that Rowling is a student of mythology, and she mixes and matches Norse, Greek, and probably Celtic traditions all together. For me, anything that keeps the old myths alive is worthwhile.

The fact that Rowling follows such a mythological tradition is no doubt what probably turns some people off to the stories. What I mean by that is that it uses myth logic, which isn't very logical at all. It requires a childlike suspension of disbelief to accept a lot of the things that happen in it. I'm more than happy to do that, some aren't

#3 - The characters are interesting. That's the one thing that has me coming back to each sequel. They all have personality, and I'm genuinely interested in seeing them grow. Sure, Potter is a generic hero archetype, but that's to be expected. Just like Luke Skywalker, it's all the people around him who are much more interesting.

#4 - It pissed off religious conservatives. What's not to like about that? I love that part in Jesus Camp when that one lady talks about how they would have killed somebody like Harry Potter back in Biblical times. Hmmmm...they would have killed a character who could only exist in fiction? Who but fictional people would want to do such a thing?

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