Thursday, July 28, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review #3

What is the strongest image or emotion that I take away from this reading experience? The answer: Indignation.

What I find most disturbing is J.K. Rowling's portrayal of adolescent behaviour. What we saw in the Half-Blood Prince is the reinforcement of adolescent stereotypes. Boys are hormone-crazed to the point of abandoning all reason in favour of satisfying that primal urge. Girls are no smarter than setting up schemes to make these boys jealous, in the hopes that the boys will take notice of the girls, and finally appreciate them.

I have worked in both high schools and junior high schools, and I can say that yes, such adolescents do exist. But, are they the majority? Certainly not. There is a large group of adolescents who do know what it means to respect their peers, to work hard and earn good grades, to uphold their principals and their honour against the ever-intensifying onslaught of peer pressure. What J.K. Rowling has done in Half-Blood Prince is to perpetuate all the negative stereotypes. Not only that, she romanticizes these stereotypes. Instead of showing what is wrong with this type of behaviour, she turns it into a comedic sequence to evoke amusement rather than disapproval.

J.K. Rowling has garnered so much respect over the years, and her voice is one of the most revered and idolized in our modern literary culture. She could have made a statement and taught a few lessons, set up some positive examples and role models. Instead, Rowling chose to sumbit to the degenerating stereotypes of juvenile pop culture. What a shame.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review #2 - Spoilers

Over the years, the Harry Potter books have endured an ongoing debate about whether these are truly children's books? Or, do they have more complexity to satisfy the mature adult reader? I thought they did, and I defended the books by pointing to the characterization.

In the first book, we're introduced to an ensemble of stock characters. You have the pitiful, yet noble hero, Harry Potter. You have the less-than-bright, but very loyal Ron Weasley, the sidekick. Then you have the brainiac and annoying enemy-turned-friend, Hermione Granger. From that point onwards, these three characters have grown in complexity up until the 5th book, The Order of the Phoenix. Harry gains more confidence as a wizard, to the point of becoming over-confident and arrogant, and he paid the price with his God-father's death. Ron Weasley's blind loyalty was tested in book 4, when he became so jealous of Harry's accomplishments that the abandoned his friend and hero in a time of great need. In book 5, Ron Weasley finally started to come into his own by earning respect from his peers. Hermione Granger, one of the most complex female characters ever written in fantasy fiction, went from being a stern rule-follower to becoming an intellectual equal for Harry Potter. Not only is she incredibly smart, but she is also very wise. Without Hermione Granger, Harry Potter would likely not have survived past his first year at Hogwarts.

In the most recent book, the Half-Blood Prince, all three of these characters underwent such a tremendous change, and they are changes that had no basis the previous books, which begs the question of the lack of continuity from the first 5 parts, to this 6th part.

Now, Harry has turned into a wizard sleuth who gets almost all the answers correct. In the past, it was his fallibility that made him appear human, that gave him the semblance of a real person trying to go through life's struggles. Now, he's just the perfect hero who can virtually do no wrong.

Ron Weasley has turned into a hot stud, one who knows how to get the female students around him all a-flutter just for him being in the same room. His loyalty to Harry no longer means anything to the story because he is completely cut-off from the main action sequences. Then again, one might argue that his began in the previous book. The most disturbing part of his character-development is the sudden violent tendancies. In one scene, he is being teased by his older brother, and in his anger, he threw a knife at his brother. This is a very sinister change in Ron's characterization, and unless Rowling deals with it in book 7, it will be nothing more than a lame attempt to show how macho Ron has become. Violence = masculinity? Very disturbing to say the least.

Finally, and most disappointing of all, Hermione Granger's character has been transformed into your average high school bitch. Becuase she couldn't get Ron to ask her out on a date, she goes with a total loser, Cormac McLaggen. She submits herself to McLaggen's groping just to get Ron jealous. When that fails, she fires a flock of canary birds to attack Ron. Hermione? Would she really do that, based on how she's been portrayed from books 1 to 5? What happened to studying hard to earn good grades? What happened to helping Harry solve mysteries and fighting dark forces? What happened to fighting for House Elf rights?

If these changes are J.K. Rowling's idea of character-development, then maybe she should write episodes for a new WB teen drama television series. Spare us the pain of having to buy and read such juvenile "children's literature," simply an insult to the genre.

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince Review #1- Spoilers

This 6th book should be renamed Harry Potter and the Half-Arsed Plot.

It's been almost two weeks since the release of HP and the Half-Blood Prince, the much anticipated 6th book in the Harry Potter septet. Now that the hype, the confusion, the anger and the disappointment has pretty much subsided, I'm ready to write a review of the book, as well as giving my thoughts on what has happened in fandom after the book's release.

To start off, what did I think about the Half-Blood Prince? Other than the first chapter, "The Other Minister", the rest of the novel was cliched and immature for a writer who has garnered so much praise over the years. Before I wrote this, I tried to think of what I can say about the book. What happened in this 6th novel? The answer: NOTHING. "That's not true!" "Lot's happened!" This is what other HP fans would be shouting at me if I said announced this in a junior high school cafetaria. Let me see if they're right.

What Happened:
1. Snape is revealed as truly evil.
2. Harry developes a monsterous infatuation with Ginny Weasley.
3. Ron is the jerk he's always been, except now, he's lost all faculty of reason and has turned more violent than ever.
4. Hermione has given up her education and given up on Harry's mission in favour of devising schemes to make Ron jealous enough that he'd finally ask her out.
5. Harry discovers what keeps Voldemort alive.
6. Dumbledore, an arrogant fool, dies at the hand of a man he trusted blindly
7. Harry and Ginny break up

Some friends of mine have dubbed this 6th book, "Hogwarts Creek," "Hogwarts 90210," and "Half-Arsed Prince." I don't know which of these is worse, but they're all pretty indicative of how poorly written the Half-Blood Prince is. For a plot-driven novel (considered low-quality literature), there's hardly any plot! For shame!

What happened to the clues that are introduced at the beginning, and are revealed at the end to have significant impact on the story? None.

What happened to learning new spells and using them to save their own lives at the end of the novel? Remember the Summoning Charm in The Goblet of Fire? None.

What happened to the twist endings of the previous books? Remember Sirius Black in the Prisoner of Azkaban? None.

The Half-Blood Prince had none of these clever mystery story-telling techniques. Instead, you have a story where one boy chases after a girl, but he doesn't have the courage to, and they play jealousy games. You have a conflict that is explained and analysed through conversation, rather than through action. You have characters who act out-of-character to meet the demands of a simplistic and cliched plot.

Plotwise, I give the Half-Blood Prince 1 star out of five.