I’m seeing the new Harry Potter tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.
The sad part is that I’m *just* looking forward to it, the same way I would look forward to any other movie that looked good to me. I was quite the Potterhead back in my day and would have been first in line for the first midnight show. Now my attitude is, “Okay, but…who cares?”
I still love HP as light reading and a children’s story, especially in books 1 and 2. The die-hard enthusiasm has died since JK Rowling fell into the trap of so many famous people, which is “Hey, I got famous doing something great, so I’m going to take a gigantic dump on it to squeeze out a few more bucks by pandering to the lower common denominator!”
Yeah, that makes total sense.
First, the general criticisms…
There are things about HP that I have never liked, one of them being the one-sided treatment of Slytherin house (leave it to me to vote for the bad guys!) On the other hand, the later books have done some good work, such as making Draco Malfoy a human being rather than a 1-D bully. Overall, I was willing to overlook the flaws because of the good I saw and the potential it had in the end to be something (pardon the pun) magical.
When the series began, it was a children’s series that was fun and innocent but also dealt gamely with some troubling real life issues. It was unique. Then, in book 5, she started trying to make it into an Epic Work of Classic Literature (TM) rather than letting it be what it was. Ironically, if she had just let it be what it was, then it had a much greater chance of actually becoming classic.
This is where she falls into the second common trap of famous people: If you want to look edgy and, like, totally cool, litter your book with useless and distracting violence, profanity, and sexual references. Now, I don’t object AT ALL to the appropriate use of adult elements. If they are important to the story and are done in an artful way, then great! I’m all for it. That doesn’t happen in HP, though. JKR pretty much does it because she knows she has to if she wants to be taken seriously by pretentious art critics and self-consciously hip teenagers. Content? Who needs that?
The movies fall into this same trap. The first two movies had their flaws, of course, but on the whole I love how they captured Harry’s world. I think Columbus did a good job, again, capturing the essence of children’s entertainment, maintaining innocence and fun but with dark undertones and real emotion. People like to say that he copied the book verbatim, but this is bogus. He very obviously did NOT copy the book verbatim, for time, production, and other reasons. In any case, any director has a right to some artistic vision. At the same time, I think a movie based on a book should be, well, based on the book in question. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Then Alfonso Cuaron comes along, and I’m sorry, but I don’t see it. Like I said, directors are allowed to have new ideas and movies cannot be books because of the features of those two media are very different. But this guy took things out, changed, and added things for the hell of it and is very much like the pretentious art critics I described above. Throw in adult elements and special effects with no real story and call it a mature art film. Not only is it not a HP story, but it’s not even much of a story. He added innuendo between Ron and Hermione, and Hermione and Harry, that did not need to exist, brought in relics from Mexico in a story set in England, and did too many other things to list and for no good reason.
The later movies really aren’t any better, partly because of there being much more, and poorer, source material, but I cut them slack because they don’t have the hipster ‘tude that I think AC had. That’s still no excuse for craptastic pacing, lighting, and not at least having a coherent screenplay.
Granted, I still enjoyed all of them to some degree and I own them all except for the 3rd one. I also own the 3rd Harry Potter soundtrack because it really is cool, as were the special effects. I know I was hard on AC, so this is where I throw him a bone.:)
The inverted girl geek stereotype: Enough is enough
Other Fatosphere bloggers have commented on the rampant lookism that JKR engages in when constructing characters, especially with fat. I want to expand on that theme with regard to the movies.
At one time, geeks were geeks. They wore thick glasses, had incorrigibly curly hair, and other so-called physical flaws. They also had good hearts and brilliant minds. Hermione was this character. I have never totally been in love with her either, but I was very much in love with her geek persona. She had the brains and was not ashamed to admit it. She eventually got some friends and got a bit of a rebellious streak later on. She had large teeth, frizzy brown hair, and wasn’t much into fashion. There are some recognizable geek features, but Hermione had put her own spin on them and became Hermione Granger, not just another geek.
In later books, she got her hair straightened (Do NOT get me started on the overtones in that one!), got her teeth re-sized and started to care a lot more about fashion and what boys thought of her. Her intelligence did not shine nearly as much as in the earlier books. The movies take it a step further and make Emma Watson wear ultra-trendy clothes (even when in class in a school that requires, ahem, uniforms) that are form-fitting. They are designed to emphasize sexiness and her thinness. I guess the uniforms that are called for aren’t sexy enough for our stars.
Then I saw this.
I know Emma Watson is not Hermione Granger. I don’t expect her to pass up good jobs, nor do I want her to not do what makes her happy. I wish her the best in her endeavors, and yes, it’s a pretty cover.
I still can’t help but feel disappointed that the world’s favorite girl geek is yet another conventionally attractive actress.
Come to think of it, this isn’t a problem just in HP. Think of all the spy movies or shows you’ve seen. How often are the female leads very thin, conventionally attractive, and without disability? Shows like Burn Notice features ultra-thin hot women. The movie Kick-Ass, a movie that could take up its own post, features a pre-pubescent Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl. Hit Girl is a-surprise, surprise-conventionally attractive, thin girl with bad-ass athletic ability.
Sorry to interject, but does anyone else find it perverted that they had an 11-year-old wearing latex, using words like ‘cunt,’ and being trained by her father to be a serial killer? That’s just plain sick. I don’t care if it is a movie.
Vanessa Hudgens as Gabriella Montez in High School Musical is another chic geek. She is non-white, but she is conventionally attractive, and thin, in every other way. She is loved by her classmates, except of course for those people totally jealous for her brains. She even says at the beginning of the movie that she is afraid of being the “freaky genius girl.” Try being a fat kid or a kid with a deformity. You’ll miss being the genius really fast.
Can’t we, for once, have a fat spy? A model with a facial deformity? Can we, for once, allow people to be unathletic without it being a commentary on their character or an invitation to concern trolling? Can we have genuine minority actors, and not just thin people pretending to be fat or hot actresses wearing bad FX makeup?
We have tried so hard to dismantle stereotypes of geeks that we have gone too far in the other direction. We have made the girls into the popular girls, only somewhat less bitchy and with the brains too!
Can you say Mary Sue?
LCD viewers won’t care though, because they get to watch a hot lead actress and special effects, not to mention some hot kissing scenes.
Anyway, in a few hours, I will be seeing the last Harry Potter movie. I will be seeing Emma Watson’s last appearance as the thin and sexy Hermione Granger.
And I won’t miss it all that much when it’s over. It tried to be all things to all people and a work of high lit at the same time. It ended up being nothing.
That’s too bad.