Commentary on Harry Potter: Book 5

Book One and Introduction; Book Two; Book Three; Book Four; Book Five; Book Six; Book Seven

 

Listening to the fifth Harry Potter high school soap opera on my computer. I believe this is what an earlier generation called an “afternoon special”.

I need something to do with my hands. I’ve thought about buying a dart board. I suppose my grimy bachelor pad kitchen always needs cleaning.

The book starts off so dumb that it rivals the first one. Harry throws away his birthday presents from his friends just because they didn’t invite him over? And their idea of a birthday present is just chocolate?

Once again he’s at the Dursely’s, because Dumbledore thinks child abuse doesn’t matter and Rowling wants to create tension that isn’t relevant to the plot. Her cop out excuse is some spell about safety when near relatives.

I like that Dudley used a gay slur. Theory confirmed: Harry Potter is a metaphor for secret gay teens. He really knows how to make that hard wooden wand shoot out white lightning. “The Wizarding World” sounds like Rowling’s favorite Soho gay bar. And Magic is probably her favorite black male stripper. Hogwarts must be British slang for AIDS.

Is it just me, or is this the first time Rowling has named the town the Dursleys live in?

The most retarded, clumsy plot device for a cheap shock twist so far: The crazy cat old maid is a squib and is married to a wizard and has been watching Harry all these years. At this point I suspect she will reveal in the seventh book that Flitwick or one of the other tertiary characters teaching at the school has been a secret agent of Voldemort all along.

As always, I kept waiting for a character to say what we’re all thinking instead of prolonging the miscommunication. Harry should have just said he saved Dudley’s life from demon creatures trying to suck out his soul. Though that would just confirm Vernon’s fear of magic.

Am I really supposed to believe the ministry would expell Harry for a patronus charm? There’s only one reason you ever cast that. Hogwarts must be one of those liberal public schools where you get expelled for self-defense.

*****

Strolling along in Harry Potter 5, at the scene where Harry reunites with his dorky friends. My kitchen looks amazing. Still not sure about that sticky thing in the crisper that must have somehow come out of the onions…

Rowling has done what I was sure she could never accomplish: portray Harry like a normal petty selfish person. His total lack of sympathy when he sees the cut marks on Ron and Heroin’s hands even though he knows they didn’t deserve it. And then bragging about how he’s the greatest wizard in the school and has the track record to prove it.

Yeah, he’s right. He doesn’t have empty self esteem. He’s earned every bit of swagger he’s never shown for some reason. The kid has experienced more in middle school than most wizards will their whole lives.

And we finally get to hear someone other than Malfoy talk about how totally worthless the ministry and Dumbledore are. It’s like Rowling has known this whole time and just hoped we wouldn’t have noticed. I don’t understand why he never bought a spell book and ran away to learn magic on his own. Or just buy a house in Hogsmead.

Order of the Phoenix sounds like the name of an alt right Facebook page.

*****

The scene in Harry Potter 5 where they are in Black’s mansion might be Rowling’s best scene so far, though it’s not like the competition is steep. If nothing else, it’s made me realize I actually care about these characters, which at first was really surprising and then I realized that would be the normal outcome of sitting through 50 hours of a book series. (If you watch a marathon of Full House, eventually you will feel sorry for Stephanie that she’s always getting pushed to the side for her psychotic little sister.)

I also realized that I only care about the ancillary characters. This is oddly where Rowling is her strongest. The main characters are just props to further the story, but the secondary characters are often fairly rounded. Gilderoy Lockhart from the second book is a really good example.

What really stood out to me in the Black Mansion scene was Molly Weasley claiming that Harry is basically a son to her and getting emotional over how others aren’t as protective as she is and are trying to undercut her. At first she was just being kind to an orphan, but over the course of the series you can really see her grow to love the child. She’s the mother that every child of divorce (the main demographic) always wanted, and I’m really amazed that a feminist hag like Rowling could write a character like Molly Weasley. Ron aside, the Weasley family is very interesting and likeable.

*****

The courtroom scene in Harry Potter 5 explains everything wrong with Britain. No lawyer, no trial preparation, no innocent until proven guilty. Harry is almost denied the right to present witnesses and is barely allowed to speak, and the court time is changed at the last minute in order to make him and Dumbledore miss it. The head judge casually character assaults Harry the whole trial, threatens to create a new law and retro-apply it, and is revealed to have been acting outside his jurisdiction by attempting to expell Harry and destroy his wand. Nobody is even sworn in (because that would require the use of a Bible).

And Rowling expects us to believe this is realistic. Which I do, given that British police are more concerned about rude people on Twitter than child rape.

This whole scene was totally skippable. Nothing happened except some minor character exposition. It was just filler. Rowling understands law as well as she understands teenage romance. And again, all the tension came from characters not allowing each other to speak. I hope they all get raped by a pack of refugees.

*****

Harry Potter 5 is a gold mine of life lessons, intended or otherwise.

Ron has been wanting to be prefect since his first year solely so that he can live up to his older brothers. And now that he’s old enough, he finally gets it even though his grades are mediocre and he’s gotten into a fair amount of trouble, because Rowling’s definition of success is getting what you want.

If the book had any integrity, Ron wouldn’t have gotten the prefect position. He would have continued to be mediocre, and from that he would learn that he doesn’t need the meaningless tokens from school to feel like he has value and that he shouldn’t define himself by his older brothers. Ron should learn that self-worth comes from within and not a label that an institution pins on your shirt.

But instead he’s not going to learn any of that. It’s a major missed opportunity for the “baby of the family” character.

And so Harry Potter fans grew up to think being Valedictorian was something to be proud about instead of deeply ashamed. These are the people who worked​ extra hard on their rote memorization just so they could make star roll. Last night I got talking to a guy who said he was going to stay at his job at Taco Bell for a few more months so that he can get a pin on his hat saying he’s been there for a full year.

*****

About a third of the way through Harry Potter 5, after Harry’s first week detentions. While I appreciate Rowling doing something with the plot beyond exposition and taking a deuce on public schools, it all still feels kind of tiresome.

It seems that a major theme in the books no one noticed is child abuse. That seems like a cheap way to get the reader’s sympathy. No one supports child abuse. But I’m tired of reading about it. By the end of the final detention it feels like some kind of torture exploitation porn. It depresses me. Can’t the kid just mop floors? Why does every “responsible adult” have to be either a psycho or a moron? At some point (long ago) Hogwarts loses all its charm, and that kills the escapism vibe Rowling is going for.

This book seems like it might, every everything considered​, be actually enjoyable and maybe even relatable. But we’ll see.

*****

Harry Potter 5. The Rainbow Coalition just beat the Aryan Brotherhood in wizard soccer. Harry finally hits puberty and beats Malfoy to a pulp with his fists. He and the twins get banned from soccer by the woman that reminds me of my 8th grade English teacher.

First off, Rowling never explains from where the Ministry gets its authority. It sounds like a benevolent dictatorship. Does Cornelius Fudge (worst name in the entire book) just get to make any law he likes without a parliament or an election?

Second, McGonagall refers to the fist fight as muggle dueling. That small detail says so much. Yes, fighting with raw force instead of a magic spell that makes Malfoy throw up frogs or something stupid. Rowling wouldn’t like the kids fist fighting at all, especially in the heat of anger. It really undercuts gender equality. Harry needs his toxic masculinity to be crushed. Giving everyone equal magical ability will create the feminist utopia. Which I guess just shows how much of a fairy tale feminism is.

Third, why doesn’t Harry get on his broomstick in the dead of the night and fly far away to a desert island in the Carribean? Clearly half of the wizarding world wants to see him dead. The school doesn’t even pretend to apply rules evenly. He needs to take his ball and go home. Surely he can use magic to create gold or something to sell.

*****

Halfway through Harry Potter 5. The shy gawky Asian girl just told Harry she really likes him and gave him a kiss (or more likely a hand job — Rowling wasn’t specific) after crying over her dead boyfriend.

Obviously this isn’t at all how teenage romance goes. BUT it’s exactly how every teenage boy with major confidence issues wishes it worked. You like a girl and make some awkward comments and then she likes you back and initiates everything. Because magic.

This is why the books are successful. They tell the pretty lies that loser kids want to hear.

In reality, Cho (is that really her name!?!) would be so upset over Cedric that she could never start chasing a new guy that quickly. Clearly she was in love with him and still is.

I like that Harry gets the hand me downs of who was clearly the better man. That’s what he deserves for being such a wuss. I bet he’s glad that Cedric died, because he’s a little antifa white liberal psycho like that. I bet Cho gets pregnant and then the baby comes out looking like Malfoy.

*****
Slogging through Harry Potter 5. It’s gotten kind of slow, but I’m sure Rowling will put a stupid twist at the end to make it interesting.

The interesting thing about these books is that small, almost inconsequential, afterthought details carry a lot of weight.

The picture of the former headmaster just had an argument with Harry about staying put and listening to Dumbledore. He goes on a rant about what a conceited little dickweed Harry and his friends are (which I quite enjoyed) and says, “Has it ever occurred to you that you have never once been in danger from following Dumbledore’s advice?”

That’s totally false. In fact, the last book was premised on how following Dumbledore’s advice can get you killed. Really, if Dumbledore were any better than the average obese public school English teacher, a twelve year old wizard would have never fought a giant snake. He’s only powerful and wise because the narrator told you so.

More than that, though, Harry is acting like a normal fifteen year old. He’s being less than the Jesus that Rowling wanted him to be.

This is the first book in the series where the characters are internally consistent and argue over things that aren’t totally stupid. It’s also the first book where the plot progresses on itself instead of miscommunications and lack of knowledge. It feels like an actual novel. So I’m sure Rowling will do something to ruin what little good faith I kind of almost have.

*****

2/3 through Harry Potter 5. This book just will not end, but at least the plot is about, well, the actual plot.

Something that really bothers me is the flexible morality. Hermoine blackmails the journalist into doing whatever she says, which is pretty hypocritical considering her white girl opposition to slavery. And why is this okay? Because she’s a good guy!

If you are the hero (and we all are in our own narrative), then you can’t actually do anything wrong. Go attack a Nazi with a baseball bat. You are righteous.

This totally ruins the journalist (I can’t even remember her name, but I’m sure it was something stupid) financially, but it’s not like she had any useful skills anyway. Maybe going to wizarding school to study … how to make magical fireworks? … isn’t as good of an idea as apprenticing as a carpenter or barber.

But the effect on the journalist doesn’t matter, because she’s a bad guy. She deserves anything that comes to her. The reader is expected to laugh at how bankrupt she is.

This is the leftwing morality where there are no bad actions and only bad people. No bad tactics, just bad targets. Every communist goon in Charlottesville saw himself as Dumbledore’s Army attacking the Death Eaters.

Harry is worse. He looks into Snape’s bowl of private memories. “What could Snape be hiding?” Uh, his personal life he doesn’t share with punk ass teenagers? But yeah, Harry is wizard Jesus, so he can do whatever he wants. If nothing else, for that alone he deserves to be expelled.

We also see this with the glorification of pranks, something that’s always bothered me but is hard to explain. Fred and George are known for being trouble makers despite their good home life. James Potter and Sirius Black are described as being constant pranksters with a kind of nostalgic charm. Why? Something about this element really bothers me, but for the last three books I’ve had a really hard time figuring out what. It’s just … weird. Are they really so different from the Slytherin bullies? Perhaps it’s the shift in boarding school from being a prep school to a fraternity. Hogwarts doesn’t seem to prepare kids for adulthood at all.

The more these books progress, the more I can’t tell if Rowling wants me to hate Snape or feel deeply sorry for him. I’d be the same way if I had his childhood. Or perhaps that’s why I turned out like I did. Am I a Snape?

*****

Finally finished all 23 discs of Harry Potter 5. As always, there was a surprise twist ending that reversed everything set up prior. Also, Harry is revealed to have supposed to been prefect, because he’s special and Ron is just his Alypius. And the prophecy element is just dumb, but it’s nothing I wouldn’t expect. In the next book we’ll learn that Harry was virgin born.

I’m surprised it took Rowling this long to kill off a character. I know Dumbledore is killed off, but I thought it happens in the fourth book. You always have to kill off the mentor, because the hero must learn to take care of himself.

However, Rowling chose the wrong character to kill. There’s a lot of missed opportunity with Sirius. He can provide flashbacks to bolster the narrative, and he’s interesting in general. We never even got to see his motorcycle.

Dumbledore has a flat personality. We really don’t see much of him except at the beginning and end of each book. His role in the series could be replaced by McGonagall or even Lupin. At this point Dumbledore doesn’t have much use to the story.

What is the story? This is not a story about killing an evil wizard. This is a story about an adolescent boy coming to terms with a childhood that was stolen from him. The magic and overarching plot is just a setting to place the story within. If Voldemort was the real villain, we would have seen more of him. The true villain is the irreversibility of time, and that’s something Harry constantly battles with. And so Harry is unable to bring Sirius back or undo the break up with Cho, because it’s those things that the series is about.

It’s significant that Rowling was divorced with three children when she began writing these books.

*****

Using a Hamilton County library card even though I moved to Georgia. I feel like one of those DACA kids.

 

Book One and Introduction; Book Two; Book Three; Book Four; Book Five; Book Six; Book Seven

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