Friday, November 18, 2005

What's the big deal about Harry Potter?

I just don't get what the big deal is? There's controversy in Christian circles. There's controversy in educational circles. I have purposefully not read any Harry Potter books because I just haven't been able to wade through all the hype. Are the books that good? How are they different from other fantasy lit? I don't buy the..."it gets kids reading" argument, cause if that was the great thing about them, then why put out the movies?

I'm not planning to see the movies until I read the books....because it is really true that the book is better than the movie (except in the case of Forrest Gump. I couldn't stomach even a chapter of that horrid book. Whoever adapted it for a movie sure did a positive number on that one....but I digress), but I just don't know if I'll ever bother with the books.


At 3:59 PM, Blogger Emily said...

So, i too wonder what the big deal is. and i HAVE read them.

now- two things about that first statement. first: i'm not saying that they are not good books- they are very good books, from a literary point of view. great characters, great plots, great detail, great fun. and very quick reading. second: i'm not making any approve/disapprove statement by reading them. i read them mostly because i interact with children who read them, and i can't comment on something i don't know about. if they were "bad" i needed to know why, and vice versa.

so: why the big deal? i personally think that if the Christian community hadn't gotten into an uproar about Harry, these books would have "just" been best-selling fantasy books. i think that a great deal of "the big deal" came along with the controversy. think of the rap artist whose album sells more when he's arrested and sent to jail. notoriety breads familiarity, breeds free marketing, breeds water cooler supply and demand: "did you hear about so-and-so thrown in jail? did you hear about that book that the church of such and such says is satanic?"

and then human nature kicks in: everyone wants to be able to dish at the water cooler, everyone wants to be able to one-up the next guy- so "yeah i heard and i even went and got the album/book/movie/magazine- and let me tell you..."

do i think they are satanic? no. do i think they are any different than any other fantasy books. no. do i think they are good reading? yes. i love fantasy. good fantasy. and Rowlings can write good fantasy with more than just action.

i grew up having The Hobbit read to me. what would the folks who got very angry with Harry have thought about Third Earth, i wonder?

as for reading vs. movie. making movies has nothing to do with the quality of the written book. it has nothing to do with whether or not the author of the book wants to encourage young readers. making movies is about two things: creating visual art of storytelling, and making money. the Harry movies are lucky- they were created by people who respected the book and wanted to make art of their own. and the people who made the movies are lucky, because the popularity of the books ensured them a large budget from the movie house that bankrolled the project.

Harry is a big deal because the people opposed to the books made it a big deal. otherwise, rowlings would be like Paolini. who? well, exactly.

Christopher Paolini just published the second book of a fantasy trilogy. the first book was published by his parents (small quantities) until a larger publ. house found out this book had a following and mass-printed it. "eragon" soared to the best-sellers lists. and the second book has too. and now, "eragon" is being made into a major motion picture. why? bc it has good story with good characters and good detail. is eragon a "big deal"? no. but from what i read in Harry and what i read in Eragon, i'm not sure how the two are that much different on a "theological" level... they both have magic, witches, sorcerers, dragons, etc. and they both have a very clearly defined battle between good and evil. and sometimes that is a concept lost to many contemporary youth- the idea that there really is a good and evil absolute and that they are operating in opposition to each other.

think what you will. read what you will. just make sure that it's what YOU WILL, and not what other people tell you to.

signing off, before *I* write a book- mle

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Sherrie said...

I feel badly that all the controversy at the emergence of Harry Potter (early 90's) was timed with my new walk in Christ.

I thought, "Horror of horrors, I must save my children from such cultural evil!" Our oldest boys were kept away from the dasterdly stuff.

Now I feel more comfortable thinking for myself rather than defering to the uproar-ous hollers of other.

If one has a problem with Star Wars and the force, or the Lord of the Rings and its power, then concerns with Harry Potter would be consistent.

If however you enjoy the classic battle between good and evil told in fantasy, and don't find such things to rattle your faith in our precious creator revealed in the Bible, then all seem to be a delight.

(Our two younger boys have enjoyed Harry immensely... as well as Eregon mentioned by the previous post person).

At 10:48 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

I. love. Harry. Potter.

But the reason isn't because I love fantasy or anything like that - I don't choose to read fantasy over anything else. I love it because Rowling is a fantastically good writer and she created a world in her books that fascinates me and the characters living in it in it are so endearing to me. And they're pretty funny.

I started reading the books when I was about 11, which is how old they are in the first book, so I kind of feel a weird connection to the characters, like I've grown up with them. (And yes, before you ask, I am one of those lame people who went to the midnight release party of the latest book.) I know Harry Potter isn't appealing to everybody, and that's fine... but I love the story, the characters, and the way it was all written.

As for the movies... well, if you're going to see them, definitely read the books first, or you won't know what's going on. When my friends that haven't read the books watch the movies with me, I always end up having to explain everything to them because the movies cut a lot of things out. (And, the first two movies are kind of... uh... not... good. Because the kids don't know how to act in them. But they get better.)

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Sara without an H said...

meh, I just don't like how it makes witchcraft seem innocent.

and yes, I have read the first one for anyone who doubts me. I didn't find anything to shout about, but some people do like them, so hey. look at that, different strokes for different folks, what a novel idea.

but I don't really care, I'm not going to go out and tell people they are horrible Christians because oh my gosh they read Harry Potter. I really think it's a personal decision and not too big a deal as the church makes it sometimes.

At 10:00 PM, Blogger GeekTeach said...

What I have heard (and since I have been married to this wonderful lady who posed the question since Potter started, as you can guess, I haven't read them either...), the biggest difference between Potter and Narnia or the Rings or even Star Wars for that matter is that Potter takes place in real location and as Sara pointed out - it makes like of witchcraft. The white witch doesn't follow the children back through the wardrobe. Middle Earth geography doesn't mimic England or other Europian location. (Would have made Jackson's life a TAD easier.) Star Wars is in the Galaxy far far away.

So although I know that the Force is basically Buddism and there are wizards in the Rings and witches in Narnia, I think that it is very significant that there is a non-other worldly element to Potter. It conveys the message that Potter is a wizard and you can be too - since it is a true religion in true locations.

I find it interesting that Sarah mentioned acting. I have never heard of people complaining about acting in a SciFi movie other than Episodes I & II. I like to bring up Mark Hammell to those people. I don't think Star Wars is bad acting. I think they were designed to be silent films. (I would like to see Star Wars as a silent film too - in case Lucas reads my wife's blog's comments and wants ideas for the I-VI boxed set - score only.)

At 12:26 AM, Blogger Sherrie said...


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