Jul 9, 2007

How to turn a good yarn into a big yawn

Analyze it through the prism of sexism, racism and/or consumerism. Thus the Harry Potter books.
Some academic critics, however, also note that Harry's is a socially conservative realm. Zipes agrees with feminist critics who have called the books sexist; Gupta thinks they are fundamentally racist.

Evidence of Rowling's sexism is not hard to find. Her magical world is a place where women are cast in secondary roles at best. At worst, they are portrayed as gross stereotypes. Harry's female friend, the bookish Hermione, is a sidekick, and an annoyingly earnest one at that; the sympathetic and generous Mrs. Weasley, mother to Harry's best buddy, Ron, is the clucking mother hen. And Harry's aunt, Mrs. Dursley, is a social-climbing gossip.


Purity of blood is a recurring theme in the books: The Slytherin are prejudiced against any witch or wizard of common or Muggles parentage; the term “mudblood” induces instant offence and outrage. Because these attitudes are those of the villains, Rowling is often seen as a liberal: In her book A Guide to the Harry Potter Novels (2002), British journalist Julia Eccleshare, for example, argues that the series is clearly a statement against racism.

Subtler critics argue, however, that this is only a gloss. Gupta notes that Rowling's magical world is essentialist: Harry is the chosen one; it is in his essence to be a wizard, just as it is in the nature of house elves to be slaves (despite Hermione's campaign to free them.) Gupta complains that “...everything significant in the Harry Potter books is innate, inborn, essential, simply manifest and definitively inexplicable in terms of rational principles,” and argues that the books are thus guilty of their own kind of social or racial prejudice.


All of these theories tend to suggest that it's parents, rather than children, who are Harry-crazed. Zipes, in particular, sees the books' success as part of adults' homogenization of childhood through mass culture. “Our imaginations have been invaded by the media and by corporations who study the way we think and our desires,” he says. “It's difficult for us to imagine things that have not already been relayed to us by the media.”
Because nattering on about homgenization and racism are so original and unconventional. Groundbreaking, really.

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