Defending Harry Potter

Here is the original article by Dave Thier. It was written yesterday and has spawned some controversy for die hard fans. I will take this article on, section by section, line by line if need be. Dave needs to stop writing articles about things he clearly didn’t research and doesn’t care about. Dave Thier, I am on to you! I read several of your articles and while I don’t think you are a horrible person you picked the wrong subject to blab unknowingly about. My suspicion is that Dave is a content farmer, someone who sells out their (usually poor) writing talent for a few pennies on various “crap” news websites. This is a big thing lately as news sites struggle to support themselves through ad revenue so they put poor articles up hoping you will click and get their sponsors to pay them.

Having said that I am extremely biased because Harry Potter happens to be my favorite book series and even if the seventh is not the best installment, all the books beat most of the films any day. *I am working on a book by book and film by film as well as an overall analysis but let this rebuttal to this horrid and ill-timed article serve as a good starting point.

First to address the title and tag line. From reading about “content farms” I have learned that most freelance writers these days are forced to work long hours and write about things they know nothing about. Then, whoever is editing this dribble picks a snappy headline based on nothing more than strategic keyword placement and ad revenue consideration. That would be why you published this poor analysis to provoke fans who would obviously be searching for their Potter fix just a day before the final installment is released in theaters. I have a few problems with this because you are promoting the films over the books but I get the distinct feeling that you’ve never read them or at least you didn’t stick with them long enough to be fully immersed in the setting that you claim drags on for nearly the entire series with no plot whatsoever.

I have noticed your lack of attention to detail throughout your work, most notably your British vs. American version of  The Office comparison that was pure garbage. This is coming from someone who has seen only one episode of the original and the entirety of the American run. I was put off to the American version at first but it grew on me as I became accustom to the zany characters but I fully mean to “get into” the original before the next season comes around.

I am not writing a rebuttal to that article because I am not knowledgeable enough to be able to offer a convincing argument, something you need to learn, my friend. I am by no means a perfect writer. I simply state my observations but I am not a paid writer at the moment and I write and read for the pleasure and for the knowledge I gain in the process. You seem to gather no knowledge, not even enough to form a short, articulate, accurate article and you are probably paid enough to pay off my debts in one year. Tisk, tisk.

I will say this of your Office article and then move back into the meat of my Harry-Potter-books-are-superior-to-the-films-and-your-article-was-way-off argument: just because something is nice and easy to swallow doesn’t make it any better or any more artistic, it only makes it more profitable. I say this because you can’t seem to grasp this in any of your articles. The only article where you appear knowledgeable is in the one where you champion binge drinking in combination with energy drinks. Don’t believe me? Read this article where he appears to actually be intoxicated while writing and does little to mention the risks of such dangerous behavior. This is not responsible or even good journalism. I don’t so much have an issue with this guy but he will drink a disgusting drink for a story but he won’t pick up a damn book and still acts like he’s a Potter expert. You are a true, blue American, aren’t you Dave? You believe bigger is better, hell, you probably hail from Texas or some equally un-magical place where you require real action sequences to liven up your otherwise boring existence of writing articles you don’t know anything about. (I hope I didn’t offend anyone from Texas). I tried to find Mr. Thier’s biography but apparently he is not a well-known writer, at least not as well known as Ms. J.K. Rowling, who fans affectionately call “Jo”. I call Mr. Thier Dave because typing his last name makes me feel as though I am repeatedly misspelling “their”. The use of his first name is much less affectionate because David Thier is unremarkable, forgettable and not a great journalist in the broadest sense of that word.

How the ‘Harry Potter’ Movies Succeeded Where the Books Failed” is your title. Could that be because your “news organization” wanted more hits for their ads just a day before that final film was released or because you are overly simplistic in your analysis and a typical “action movie” enthusiast who can’t appreciate subtle character development or an author who doesn’t compromise her unique writing style (as you say she is obsessed with setting) or possibly because never read the books in the first place? The thing is you never convinced me of your point because you lack details and evidence and that is one area where Potter fans are well versed! We have read and re-read the books and most of us have watched the films to complete the experience but would sacrifice them any day if forced to choose between the two. There just is no comparison. Rowling lets you inside Harry’s head and Harry is not my favorite character but I respect his book version and love the quiet moments of reflection and the longing he has for his parents, friends and school.

The climax of book 7 is not the rushed final battle (though war is never what you expect and I expect the movie will glorify the fight and carry it on far too long) the real moments are when Harry learns of his greatest enemy’s (besides Voldemort) past affiliation with his parents and specifically his mother. That was one of the most interesting story lines and it should show as Rowling named the entire sixth book after Snape, an honor only bestowed to Sirius Black (Prisoner of Azkaban) who happens to be one of my other favorite characters with a wonderful back story and demise himself. The memories Harry sees are something he has wondered at his entire life and his constant accusations and suspicions of Snape are suddenly turned upside down. Snape was a badass Occlumens who spent his entire life trying to make amends to his best friend and secret love, Lily Potter. Anyone who has seen the girl go with the jerk can relate to Snape and though James does seem to have redeeming qualities he pales in comparison to the Muggle-born witch that everyone remembers fondly. This moment extends to Harry’s death march where he is all alone save his four guardians and is the most grown up we have ever seen him.

Dumbledore admits that Harry is the better man. Harry seeks not for himself but because he is good but it takes him seven books to make sense of the prophesy and of his existence. He didn’t need Hermione in the Forbidden Forest, he figured out the clue that Dumbledore left for him because he accepted his mortality and frailty and took no moment for granted. I felt as though I was about to die when I first read that part because Rowling slows her writing to a dull hum and lets you work out what you believe are Harry’s last moments. I admit I was expecting him to die but I did not expect what happened after that. I did not expect to cry for ten minutes and put down the book because I couldn’t read with such blurred vision when those who sacrificed their lives for Harry came back to comfort him and give him the strength to do something almost no one would willing do, walk bravely towards certain death.

The mere fact that Harry speaks with Neville, the other possible “chosen boy” born at the end of July with parents who had thrice defied the Dark Lord. Neville understands and has grown as Harry has, though out of the public spotlight. Neville is what Harry could have been if he hadn’t been crowned a hero at birth. As we see characters like Neville are much more flushed out in the book series. These characters provide many more opportunities for readers to identify with the story. Side characters are given a backseat to the trio, interesting and socially poignant subplots are sacrificed for cheaper laughs and longer action and flying broomstick scenes and some characters and plot points never see the light of day in the films.

I grow weary of everyone bashing the “walking around” part of book 7. You bash her for being childish and lacking a plot but the isolation is necessary and realistic. It is in stark contrast to their trouble-making days at Hogwarts where there is a ghost or professor around every corner waiting to catch you out of bed at night or there are giant spiders and snakes roaming the landscape. In the woods there are just three teenagers trying to work out the mind of a demented killer. They are on the run, they hear of the world only through the magical radio and they are completely alone, finally without the teachers and parents who gave them a sense of safety, even an authority figure to rebel against. As I said, book seven is not the best in the series but a few moments from it are some of my favorites in the entire series.

Rowling presents interesting ideas when she sends Harry to a kind of white Purgatory where nothing exists until Harry imagines it. Dumbledore says Harry has a choice to return to the pain and fear of more loss and Harry decides without hesitation. Harry comes to know the truth about his mentor’s past and takes the revelation well after he had time to consider. He feels a bit strange defending Dumbledore from himself but the last chapters show how much he had actually changed from the beginning of the book. Harry was suspicious and even upset at Dumbledore for failing to tell him personal details but he understands when he comes to the end of the process that he was meant to seek those answers. In the grand tradition of coming-of-age stories as well as many religions, the journey is more important than the end. Harry chose to continue his quest to vanquish the Dark Lord with many opportunities to give up along the way. Harry always remained curious but loyal to his true self.

The films have embraced the dark melodrama that the novels only dabbled in” is your tagline or at least the one chosen by your editor and I find it merely confusing, if not downright silly. You can’t just throw out words like “dark melodrama” without someone somewhat knowledgeable in dark melodrama, or as I would classify it, “gothic soap opera”. Do you speak of the appeal of the darkly beautiful witch, Bellatrix Lestrange? Or perhaps the sadistic self-mutilation passing for punishment of Delores Umbridge? The point is that the books go dark on several levels. Racism (against Muggle-born or “Mudbloods” as well as magical superiority and half-breed status) is addressed throughout the books. The house elf campaign is also left out of the films entirely. We miss out when we gloss over social commentary in a book written by a woman with an abounding love for charity work and protecting the innocence of childhood. Rowling offers us a book about typical and lovable teenagers in a world very much like our own, plagued with darkness and malice, terror and paranoia.

I get creeped out, upset and also elated when I read a Potter novel, when I see a Potter film I simply marvel at the production value and try to enjoy this specific interpretation of my favorite series while reminding myself that Rupert Grint is not Ron Weasley, no matter how close in personality or humor. I have enjoyed Grint’s other films as well as Emma Watson who plays Hermione Granger. I love them as a couple but the films hinted at that fact far too early and too often to be enjoyed fully. I am looking forward to their kiss but the part of the books I so dearly loved was feeling like Ron and Hermione were my friends and we were solving this great and exciting puzzle together. They are far more needed and necessary in the books. The films are too action-hero stereotype for me and the reliance on the trio only hurt the films because some of the smaller roles were filled by very gifted actors.

The films did get spookier over time and this is echoed in the theme music and overall tone of each but the books grew along with their readers, a real magical phenomena that will be hard to replicate, ever.

The basic story in Harry Potter is an old one, and a good one. The boy of destiny is plucked from ordinary circumstances and becomes incredulous when he’s told the truth behind his real identity. Some training, trials, and a crisis of self-confidence later, he emerges as the true hero ready to defeat ultimate evil.”

This is where I will begin because while you seem to grasp the most basic formula to the series you lack much in your perception and seemingly your knowledge of the story in its entirety. Fans of Rowling know she likes to sprinkle in mythologies and little details that while might not seem huge, make a mark on the reader. Many readers of Potter don’t find that Harry is their favorite character because unlike the films, the books give many more moments for other characters to shine and we get a much more detailed look inside Harry’s mind and thoughts. The betrayals and trials Potter goes through make this a character driven novel but how could the books have succeeded if, as you put it: the Harry Potter books were not built on Rowling’s ability to craft a narrative. They were built on her ability to craft a world. The most memorable moments were never plot developments, but rather things like the introduction of Hogsmeade, the Quidditch World Cup, or the first reveal of Diagon Alley.

As a writer I detest simplistic stories that are full of action and little else. Perhaps the “plot developments” are not to your liking or you would prefer more fighting, whatever your thing is but for the rest of us, those who have actually taken time to read the books meticulously the small details are what keep us coming back. We love these characters and we want to see their wizarding world and all its wonderful tricks and surprises. The plot has always retained my interest, especially the history of Harry’s parents and the Marauders. We find out much more about them in this installment as well as learning the truth about the greatest wizard of all time, Albus Dumbledore. The fact that people are signing up well ahead of the opening date of Rowling’s new web experience, Pottermore, to get more access and information about these characters and places should tell you that she has inspired the imaginations of millions around the world. I do agree with bits that you say: Rowling’s writing had that endlessly obsessive quality required of a true world builder, but her storytelling couldn’t stack up to her setting. The first part is true, she is a “world builder” but perhaps you are too limited, too predictable, too Hollywood in your understanding of “storytelling.” With every book from three on, she talked about how the stories were getting “darker.” But while “darker” things happened—some characters died, terrible monsters appeared, and schoolyard quarrels evolved into wars of racial purification—the tone could never quite catch up to the circumstances.

It is true that silly things still happen even in the darkest hour but how else to you expect characters and young readers to cope with the horrors they are witnessing? The world itself seems silly to you but you seem rather silly to me for outright preferring the watered-down film versions, you even go so far as saying: It’s rare that the movie actually fixes problems from the book, but in this case the simplicity and narrative drive of a Hollywood script was just what the series called for. But how could they create this most wonderful and perfect script when ALL the plot points came from the books in the first place? There is so much left out of the films that at times I have been upset until I realized it is a different medium entirely. I still find it odd that there are people out there who merely skipped reading and went straight for the films and that those people still like the films. They are full of holes and severely cut characters and many of the social commentary that make the book memorable and timeless. Age old themes of good an evil are there, yes but that is a drastic simplification of the story as a whole.

You focus on this scene from the films even though the film chops the Dursley’s last moments down to seconds: Take a passage from towards the beginning of the Deathly Hallows, Harry is trying to convince his aunt and uncle about the mortal peril they’ve found themselves in. But when ‘Daedalus Diggle,’ the wizard meant to protect them arrives, they find a ‘small man in a mauve tophat … sweeping the floor in a deep bow,’ and announcing himself in a ‘squeaky excited voice.’

Yet you don’t mention that the film hacked this scene and left out a poignant moment with Harry and his only remaining relatives. Dudley gets the chance show he is more grown up in the last book but the films repeatedly chopped bits from the Dursley’s for seemingly little reason other than time. I find that to be silly, especially considering many short scenes were added just for the film. That just gets my wand in a knot, please put everything possible from the stories in because with what you cut out you leave gaping wholes in the plot and in the world. How about when they introduced Bill Weasley a film after he had his big moment, change who is in the scene entirely (adding Bellatrix where she wasn’t before) and leaving out characters like poor Charlie Weasley (mentioned in a film) and Winky, Bagman… the list goes on.

Silliness butts up against severity throughout the latter books. As the main characters are preparing to infiltrate a government intent on racial cleansing, they do so with the aid of ‘puking pastilles.’ As Xenophilius Lovegood reveals the wand that could be used to kill villain Lord Voldemort, Rowling constantly dashes to the side to describe “‘erumpent horns,’ ‘crumple-horned snorkacks,’ and ‘freshwater plimpies.'”

Rowling sprinkles the world with silliness when it fits that character. Everyone knows that Luna and her dad are somewhat mental but it also makes them charming. The puking pastilles are an ode to the Weasley twins and something a teenager might actually use to help them get into a bit of trouble. Harry never likes to curse or hurt when it isn’t necessary and his restraint shows what kind of a hero he is, one that rose out of necessity and a boy who came from torturous beginnings.

It isn’t that playfulness has no place even in the grandest of stories, but Rowling’s world of pointy hats, nosebleed nougat, and Latin-language shouting had a hard time supporting the weight she tried to place in it—as a result, she resorted to writing much of Deathly Hallows with caps lock on.”

You seem to have no objective thoughts towards Rowling at all. She is playful and she is a lovely writer and an inspiration to writers everywhere in every genre because she seemed to be divinely struck with Harry Potter and the books seemed to strike the public with such tremendous force that a once single mother on welfare could become not only one of the richest women ever but one of the most generous with much of her proceeds going to children’s charities. I feel that you are almost incapable of writing an objective review. As I stated earlier I am not objective because I have been a fan since I was thirteen years old but what is your excuse? Are you willing to admit you might have merely skimmed the books and glanced at the films to make your deadline? What kind of writer are you Dave? It really bothers me when you say things like this:

The characters followed suit. The curiously loquacious Voldemort could never summon the sort of pure evil of Lord of the Rings’ Sauron or Star Wars’ Emperor Palpatine.” Don’t make me laugh, I am not a huge nerd (all right, fine, I am) but I am familiar with both of those baddies you claim to be so much better than Voldy-thing. Did those bad guys have an intricate back story, a cursed birth, a steady rise to power where horrible things happened to anyone who defied them? Did they kill a family over a prophesy and turn a weapon on a defenseless child? Perhaps they did, perhaps they were capable of that and maybe they said slightly more impressive/stereotypical bad guy stuff but did they literally undergo a process that split their very soul into shards? Voldemort is more than a bad guy, he is a bad way of thinking and living, completely terrified of death yet willing to bestow it on young and old alike. Tom Riddle isn’t just a one dimensional thug he is a well developed psychopath hell bent on destroying a teenaged boy so he can enslave the entire Muggle population and force ethnic cleansing on the world.

It seems like you were skimming again when you picked this out: He says things like “Kill his friends—the more the better,” with the air of a petulant bully. Ultimately, he’s defeated by a trick of ownership over the elder wand—hardly a fitting end for a “dark lord.” This is an awful interpretation, he wasn’t killed by a mere trick, he was arrogant and had little faith that Harry could actually defeat him and that proved to be his downful again and again. Tom Riddle never learned to love and he never grew as a person. He is more of an empty shell than a man and his end was fitting, he dealt the final blow because he had no right to steal the wand from Dumbledore’s grave. Harry was the better wizard and through his growing process he sacrificed himself, the one act that a “dark lord” would be incapable of doing. That is why I really cannot agree with your next point:  Harry himself remained stuck in the whiny, adolescent act two of his story, storming away from the Order of the Phoenix because he can’t come to terms with being important. He defeats Voldemort, but he never matures into the hero his story demanded he be. There was an epic to be told, but Rowling was never able to get past the appropriately childish tone of her earlier books and commit to the gravity of the classic story she had set out to tell.

You are just not reading the same books as the rest of us, Dave. Harry matures well beyond that of what we saw as the brooding boy of book five and he does something almost none of us could do: walk to our doom, come back from “the dead” and fight until evil is finally vanquished. Harry Potter is epic, it is the most epic children’s story I have had the privilege of reading as a child and adult. I still haven’t been able to put it down after over ten years. If Rowling had completely abandoned the tone of the earlier books it would have meant a different series entirely. You don’t just have to have darkness because it is a tale of good and evil, the good must be present, a force strong enough to want to save the world. I never liked Harry that much as a character but he even grew on me and the last few books really showed that he was not just famous for no reason but that he was dealing with that fame and trying to be a good person because that was his personal choice. If Potter has taught us anything it is that our choices decide who we are and Voldemort made only cruel and evil choices and Harry, though flawed, makes much better ones. They are almost foils of each-other in how they behave but one was nurtured (at least for a year) and the other was simply given up on. This series is as much about the circumstances of birth and early childhood as it is about magic. Magic is how Harry escapes his mundane world and that is how millions of us have escaped ours as well.

Then they made them into movies. Hollywood knows nothing better than the old stories, and the boy of destiny is a favorite: We’ve seen it everywhere from Star Wars to Rookie of the Year to The Matrix. Rowling seemed somehow resistant to telling that story directly, but the movies have shown no such trepidation. And they’ve given the tale the kind of narrative drive and attention to tone that the books lacked.

So you really do want all films to be the same. You want one simple, straight line of a plot that just has a lot of whistles and bangs along the way? She was “resistant” to telling that story because that is the same boring, tired story we have all heard and read millions of times. She chose to keep her unique voice and push for her way of doing things which worked, she is a successful author and what are you? A freelancer taking cheap stabs at something you know little about? Before you champion Hollywood for doing the same thing AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN why don’t you sit back and think, if she had told that same story yet AGAIN would it even have gotten this far? I think not…

Maybe most importantly, the movies have actors. A character like Voldemort was able to adopt the dangerous, reptilian strength that he deserved in the hands of Ralph Fiennes. Warner Bros took a bold move making eight movies in ten years, but it paid off. Harry had to mature, because Daniel Radcliffe grew up with the films.

I think rather Radcliffe’s acting had to mature to match Harry’s character. I am in no way insulting him but I find his performance to be weak at points, especially when stacked against other actors in supporting roles but he does do a good job. Harry has very huge shoes to fill and fans have very particular ideas about how the characters are, we feel like we knew Harry long before Radcliffe came along because we grew up with the books and his co-stars Emma Watson and Rupert Grint admit to being huge fans of the books, that is the reason they auditioned for their specific characters in the first place.

Let me tackle your closing arguments and then I will finish my thoughts, I promise, this is growing far too long!

The novels still gave the movies plenty of weirdness to grapple with. In The Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the characters, true to the book, sat in the woods doing more or less nothing for half the movie. And the strange narrative trick that was the eleventh hour introduction of the Deathly Hallows still robs the finale of its ability to move with the full weight of the series behind it. But the pacing, tone and drama of Deathly Hallows: Part 1 felt so much closer to the epic closer that a seven-part story on Potter’s scale set out to have. Many critics say that’s the case as well with Part 2. It’s rare that the movie actually fixes problems from the book—but in this case, the simplicity and narrative drive of a Hollywood script was just what the series called for.

So sitting in the woods might not have been the most exciting aspect of the film but it was necessary to show how isolated and alone these kids are in stark contrast to what we usually see at Hogwarts or the Burrow. They are alone and have to figure things out for themselves but once they gain their confidence and get a little help from an unnamed friend they are able to start destroying the Horocruxes. That is why the books are always better for me, they allow you time to think and consider the weight of the character’s thoughts and actions. You talk of “the strange narrative trick” that “robs the finale” but you don’t describe exactly what you mean. I feel like you spark-noted this review and that you couldn’t care less about the books or the films if you experienced either beyond finding miniscule, unimportant details to support your predetermined argument. It is rare that the movie “fixes” the book because if the book is worth making into a film in the first place doesn’t it make sense to stick to the story and make the fans happy? After all isn’t it the fans all over the world that inspired Hollywood to make millions of dollars? The script was just that, a script. What made the movies good was the casting and the story that was already in place. I love the Potter films because each has a distinctive feel, especially those that had different directors. You didn’t seem to mention that fact once. Rowling wrote all the books and was closely associated with the writing of the scripts and approved everything. The movies might seem more simplistic but real fans see them as an extra, not as a replacement.

I encourage any of you movie fans who have never read the books to do so. Dave obviously missed the train or didn’t get his letter and is very sad and is taking it out on one of the most loved authors and stories in living memory. Harry Potter deserves to be considered a classic in the tradition of all the things Rowling put there for us to unravel and discover. Reading Potter is like reading T.S. Eliot, almost everything has a history, the words are made up but feel real and you can’t turn a page without noticing an allusion to a great work of literature or myth. I would read an annotated version of all the books and watch five hour long versions of each film if they existed because the world is so intriguing and the story so timeless. The characters are so believable I feel I grew up alongside Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville and the others and now that the series is coming to a close I feel like I did when I left school, when I see my real friends all grown up and we part ways to seemingly different ends of the earth. The best part about the Potterverse is that it is perfectly preserved, in print and on film for me to experience again and again and maybe to share in the future with kids of my own.

This review of Dave Thier’s article is for entertainment purposes only but if you learned something that is great too! I just couldn’t believe that someone would put out such a painfully poor article just before this historical event. If you notice any errors or have anything to add please use the comments section! I’m excited for the film but a little bit of my childhood died when I finished Deathly Hallows for the first time and I feel a smaller death will occur when the credits roll in the early hours of tomorrow morning…

*All photos are property of Warner Bros or other various organizations (actor interview photos). I do not own the story or characters they belong to Ms. Jo Rowling. This article is meant to be informational (commentary & review) and no copyright infringement or blatant spoilers were intended. Please look at my Harry Potter section for more reviews and opinions coming very soon!

2 thoughts on “Defending Harry Potter

  1. Pingback: Deliver Me to Hogwarts « blastedgoat

  2. Pingback: What Happens After Harry Potter? Thoughts Before & After Watching the Final Film « blastedgoat

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