Comment of the Day: “Esquire’s Ridiculous Book List Smear”

rowling

My position on British celebrities who attack our elected officials via snotty tweets and interviews is simple: I’ll give a damn what you think  when your own country gets rid of the hereditary monarchy and stops sinking ever deeper into socialism, economic decay and international irrelevance. Spout off after the number of artists and performers moving to the U.S. is offset significantly by U.S. artists moving in the other direction.  Great Britain has become the Beach Boys of nations; still croaking the same old tunes, but a depressing shadow of what it once was.

Besides that, it is rude. If there is one nation that deserves Great Britain’s lasting respect, it is this one.

Steve-O-in-NJ scored another Comment of the Day with his discussion of one of the British anti-U.S. tweeters most loved by the Angry Left, “Harry Potter” creator J.K. Rowling. Here it is, in reaction to “Esquire’s Ridiculous Book List Smear”:

Fantasy author J.K. Rowling took it upon herself to troll Vice President Pence and criticize the President, sneering at those fans who have chosen to make contrary opinions known, even condescendingly saying you can lead someone to books about the rise and fall of an autocrat, but not make them understand.

I have to say I am particularly unimpressed by that latter statement, and the attitude it conveys – an attitude that this author is smarter than anyone who disagrees with her, and, more to the point, that she had some profound lesson about human nature to teach the world in the lengthy prose of seven books that were, while they were fun, popular, and very profitable, ultimately only fantasy novels. Their primary purpose, like all novels, is and was to entertain.

Oh, Ms. Rowling drops a profound-sounding thought here and there between the fantastic creatures, faux-Latin spells, potboiler plots, and hairbreadth escapes: that those who seek power often seek it to abuse it, that what you do is more important than who your father was, that being powerful is less important than how you use what power you have, and of course, that racism is bad.

However, none of these are particularly original thoughts. JKR didn’t come up with any of these herself. She might have packaged them up nicely, but no one changes their approach to life because some principle came from the mouth of a plucky young hero or a wise, traditional- looking wizard.

More importantly, no one reads fantasy novels to gain insight into life or to learn great universal truths. That’s what philosophy and history books are for. History will also tell you that sometimes might does equal right, that sometimes good people have to or choose to do bad things, and the fate of the world or a nation never rests on the shoulders of a single boy.

Fantasy is read for entertainment, and as often as not to feed the feelings that go unfulfilled in the real world. I am both a reader and a writer of fantasy. I started with the Wizard of Oz, which accepts space time warps, golems of straw and tin, and powerful witches who can easily be defeated simply by a young girl throwing water over them. Supposedly the message is that there is no place like home, but it is simply a story to entertain children without being too frightening. I read The Chronicles of Narnia, where children take up swords to battle witches, black knights, and sea serpents and come out of it just fine. Christian underpinnings aside, it’s mostly just an adventure.

I read LOTR too, and much as some of it parallels the world wars, it’s hard to get much of a lesson out among epic battles and suspense (and a fair amount of tedium). I read the Conan stuff too when I was 14-16. Those stories served no purpose other than to give an adolescent seeking to escape the tedium of daily life a hero who did what he wanted, when he wanted to do it, however he wanted to do it, and with whoever he wanted to do it, not to mention one who the ladies fell all over. It was all fun, but didn’t teach me much of value.

I have some respect for the fantasy writers of the early 20th century, many of whom, including CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and their predecessor John Plunkett, also known by his title Lord Dunsany, did not hesitate to pick up a weapon and defend their nation when needed. In fact the fighting writers of that time could be the subject of an honors thesis. They also steered clear of politics and didn’t fancy themselves greater than the average person, nor that they held any special insight into the human condition. They definitely knew they would have been out of their league second guessing the real world leaders of their time like FDR or Churchill (a writer of some accomplishment himself).

I have little to no respect for entertainers, even those who have launched very successful franchises, who think that either gives them some special insight greater than the rest of us, or, God forbid, that they are better than the rest of us, including the duly elected leaders. That goes double for foreigners who, frankly, understand our system no better than we understand theirs. By all means, Ms. Rowling, and all you other entertainers out there, say what you have to say, but don’t be surprised or offended if you get no special deference, and are instead asked when your next work is due out.

72 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Popular Culture, Professions

72 responses to “Comment of the Day: “Esquire’s Ridiculous Book List Smear”

  1. Matthew B

    Regarding: ” I’ll give a damn what you think when your own country gets rid of the hereditary monarchy…”

    At least the monarch has had all power removed. The position is entirely ceremonial. As an American, founded on giving the monarch a giant middle finger, it does rub very much the wrong way, but she is out of the way of democracy.

    The greater affront to representative democracy is the House of Lords. Their power has been diminished and continues to be diminished further, but they are still unelected and unaccountable.

    We can also mention they have never had the American view on freedom of speech. Their P.C. warriors have won.

    • The Queen has power, as the TV series “The Crown” revealed. And the monarchy is incredibly expensive.

      • Yes, any brits who get mouthy about any particular failing of our Republic, I just remind them “get back to work for your queen you ants.”

      • That’s actually a popular misconception. The House of Windsor costs UK taxpayers about $50,000,000 USD annually, which might seem like a lot, but in return for that, the House of Windsor has agreed to allow the government to reap all the profits from a bundle of land known as the “Crown Estate”, from which they make about $250,000,000, which puts the UK up about $200,000,000 for their troubles.

        • Matthew B

          Or the government could take it all after labeling it with ill gotten gains from an undemocratic land grab, keep the $250 mil profit and dump the $50mil expenses.

          • Matt: Take their land!

            More: Why, what have they done?

            Matt: They’re bad!

            More: There is no law against that.

            Mattr: There is! Muh feels!

            More: Then yuh feels can arrest him.

            Matt: While you talk, they’re paid more!

            More: And so they should, if they were the Devil himself, until the the law applied!

            Matt: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

            More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

            Matt: I’d cut down every law to do that!

            More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Matt, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast– man’s laws, not yuh feels– and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake.

            • Slow clap.

              Though are you sure Mattb isn’t being toungue in cheek?

              • Not SURE, but I’ve seen the argument made before. The Monarchy is one of those issues where normally intelligent people seem to have their brains liquefy and trickle out their ears.

                • Matthew B

                  I’m not sure why you felt it was necessary to be mocking, insulting and generally a jerk about the situation….

                  As I said, raised in a nation that is founded on the treason against that monarchy, the British fascination with the monarchy is hard to understand.

                  As for the morality and ethics of it, it is hard to determine the true ethical treatment of the royal family. To say who actually owns the land is difficult. It isn’t truly the public’s land, nor is it truly the monarch’s land. I have a hard time understanding how it would really be inappropriate to take the land, given it is really the people’s land, not the monarch’s. Perhaps you might give a actual, logical response opposed to an insulting one?

                  • It’s not NECESSARY, but it sure is fun.

                    What I’m taking away from this is “it wasn’t tongue in cheek.” Because here you are saying “It’s everyone’s land.” like the UK is some kind of communist paradise… Without any understanding of what that means. The Crown Estate isn’t every bit of land in England, it’s land the House of Windsor specifically, explicitly owns. How did they come to own it? History. Swords. More than the other guy. You don’t like that? Well, first off: Too bad, reality is still reality. And second off: By what device do you think the appropriation of that land defaults to the socialist paradise model?

                    • Matthew B

                      As for the first one.. my opinion carries the same weight as JKR’s does regarding the US government. She can vote there, I vote here and it truly doesn’t matter as you note.

                      As for the second, you live in a far more socialist country than I. Right or wrong, your country is far more prone to appropriate thing than this one is.

                    • “As for the second, you live in a far more socialist country than I. Right or wrong, your country is far more prone to appropriate thing than this one is.”

                      And Humble Talent, as an individual, is exponentially LESS socialist than you are, as an individual. So I’m not sure what your ad hominem is supposed to prove.

                    • *Actual Ad Hominem Alert*

                      For anyone curious to see what one looks like.

                  • Ok, well since you revealed your socialist worldview, it’s free fire time.

                    “As I said, raised in a nation that is founded on the treason against that monarchy, the British fascination with the monarchy is hard to understand.”

                    Let’s correct some things. I’ve seen the meme pushed that “America was founded on rebellion”. Your blurb “founded on the treason against that monarchy” is just another variation of this. This is Wrong and this is where attention to language REALLY matters and how the Left skews communication through subtle variation that it can lobster squirm away from when called on it.

                    No, our nation was NOT founded *on* rebellion. Our nation was founded on Rule of Law; the contention of the Founders was that the Crown and Parliament had usurped rule of law for arbitrary caprice. Our nation achieved what it considered a system based ON rule of law after a rebellion against Britain.

                    Founded *after* rebellion. Founded *on* rule of law.

                    This subtle word play I’ve seen used as an ultimate justification for hating authority *automatically* as opposed to respecting authority until it undermines itself, as an ultimate justification for “change just for change’s sake” as opposed to change only when necessary and only after thorough deliberation, and as an ultimate justification for all manner of ideals.

                    “As for the morality and ethics of it, it is hard to determine the true ethical treatment of the royal family. To say who actually owns the land is difficult. It isn’t truly the public’s land, nor is it truly the monarch’s land. I have a hard time understanding how it would really be inappropriate to take the land, given it is really the people’s land, not the monarch’s. Perhaps you might give a actual, logical response opposed to an insulting one?”

                    No, this is painfully easy. It parallels the entire “reparations” argument in America. The crimes committed were committed by people *centuries* ago against people *centuries* ago in a cultural system in which those actions weren’t even seen as crimes but business as usual. Centuries of separation between then and now undermine any rational ability to determine who “would” fairly own the land. So a default to the least impactful solution would tend to say “abolish the monarchy”, but let the family keep the land and let free market competition decide that fate from there.

                    That’s fair.

                    • Matthew B

                      Great response Tex, what I indeed was asking for rather than insults.

                      As far as making an Ad Hominem, that wasn’t my intent. I expressed it poorly. If you weigh the likelihood of the US taking private property vs. the UK taking private property, I’d argue that the UK is the more likely country to do so based on the stronger socialist leaning bent in the UK. That was the point I was trying to make.

  2. Steve-O-in-NJ

    Can we get a slightly modified response for Irish performers?

    • Steve-O-in-NJ

      Actually I think I have one: I’ll give a damn when your country has more people than our biggest city, stops hating on the British and accepts you’re NEVER getting Ulster back, comes to grips with the fact that you were born in terrorism, issues a full and formal apology for your SHAMEFUL treatment of those who joined the fight against Nazism, abandons its weenie neutrality policy, and writes an exception into its 8th amendment allowing for abortion in the case of rape and incest.

      Oh, and you might have some delightful scenery, when it isn’t raining (which it is a lot of the time), and produce some well-worn tunes and nice sweaters, but in the end yours is just a lonely, foggy, rainy island whose chief exports are grief and bitterness. Yes, there are far more people of Irish descent outside Ireland than there are inside it, some of whom became American heroes (Halsey, O’Kane, any number of pilots), but I think it says something that very few of these people ever tried to return.

  3. Chris

    She might have packaged them up nicely, but no one changes their approach to life because some principle came from the mouth of a plucky young hero or a wise, traditional- looking wizard.

    There is evidence that some people do. A study found that people who read Harry Potter as children were more tolerant of minority groups that people who did not read Harry Potter.

    http://theweek.com/speedreads/449053/study-finds-kids-who-read-harry-potter-books-become-more-tolerant-minority-groups

    More importantly, no one reads fantasy novels to gain insight into life or to learn great universal truths. That’s what philosophy and history books are for.

    Speak for yourself.

    I have some respect for the fantasy writers of the early 20th century, many of whom, including CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and their predecessor John Plunkett, also known by his title Lord Dunsany, did not hesitate to pick up a weapon and defend their nation when needed. In fact the fighting writers of that time could be the subject of an honors thesis. They also steered clear of politics and didn’t fancy themselves greater than the average person, nor that they held any special insight into the human condition. They definitely knew they would have been out of their league second guessing the real world leaders of their time like FDR or Churchill (a writer of some accomplishment himself).

    It’s at this point that I began to wonder if this entire comment were satire, as this is so far removed from the reality of what these two men said and did that I can’t believe anyone actually thinks this. Neither were shy about discussing politics or criticizing political leaders of the time, and JK Rowling is no more outspoken on political issues than they were.

    • Steve-O-in-NJ

      “More importantly, no one reads fantasy novels to gain insight into life or to learn great universal truths. That’s what philosophy and history books are for.

      Speak for yourself.”

      That might explain why you take the positions you do, speaking of being removed from reality. Are you that much removed from reality that you think some great truths are to be found in fantasy? Or are you just an ass who follows me around to troll me?

      • Other Bill

        I’m beginning to think Jack’s actually hired Chris to pitch batting practice.

      • Steve-O-in-NJ

        So far removed from reality? Are you bluffing, or are you some kind of great literary scholar?

        Lewis specifically turned down an MBE so he WOULDN”T be associated with political issues. He did write a ton of stuff on morality, Christianity, and the philosophy of life, but he definitely didn’t get into politics, leave alone challenge the government of the times or any of its figures.

        Tolkien DID have a little more to say, in fact, though he opposed both Nazism and Communism, he was horrified at total war against Europe in WW2 and the use of the atomic bomb. However, we only know this because his son later published their private correspondence. He sure as the devil didn’t write letters to the editor criticizing the government or Churchill. His private writings DO reflect a fading of a racism not uncommon in men of his times.

        As for Dunsany, he barely spoke out at all, since he was a member of the peerage and was too busy hunting, playing chess, writing, and managing his properties.

        All three of these men fought in WWI. Dunsany was a professional soldier and actually such a crack shot with a pistol they wanted to hold him back as a training officer, though he finally saw battle both in Ireland and on the Western Front. C.S. Lewis joined the Somerset Light Infantry eagerly. Tolkien took a little more prodding, but by 1915 he was a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. Both the latter were wounded.

        You really, really don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

        • Chris

          Are you that much removed from reality that you think some great truths are to be found in fantasy?

          Of course I think some great truths are to be found in fantasy. In fact, you’re the first person I’ve ever seen argue otherwise. I’m not making this argument to troll you; I legitimately think that if you don’t think you can find great truths in fantasy, you must be a profoundly boring and shallow person.

          He did write a ton of stuff on morality, Christianity, and the philosophy of life, but he definitely didn’t get into politics,

          We must have very different definitions of the word “politics” if you don’t think they have anything to do with morality or religion.

          Anyway, yes, Lewis did speak out about political issues and did share his thoughts on what the government should and should not do. An excerpt:

          Lewis was wary of “morals legislation.” For example, during a period when the criminalization of homosexuality was considered by many to be justified, Lewis asked, “What business is it of the State’s?” Nor did he believe it was the duty of government to promote the Christian ideal of marriage. “A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for everyone,” he wrote in “Mere Christianity.” “I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives.”

          I admittedly know less about Tolkien, and shouldn’t have spoken so forcefully on him. But you’re absolutely wrong about Lewis.

          • Steve-O-in-NJ

            The article also says “and he steered clear of the political controversies of his time,” which tells me he wasn’t out there trolling Churchill with nasty letters. I have not read the relatively new book that Peter Wehner reviews in this article, but it isn’t clear from it where all of these various quotes come from, whether they were from scholarly papers or private correspondence. Some come from public works, like Mere Christianity, which was a scholarly work, not a direct attack on the sitting government or any figure in it. Of course the man had his views on this or that, but what he published and what he only spoke of in his letters or notes are different things.

            My main point in my initial comment was that these men weren’t out there criticizing the government or trying to stir up trouble regularly, nor did they have the arrogance that Ms. Rowling has shown in her recent tweets.

            As for me being a profoundly boring and shallow person, you are allowed your opinions, though honestly I really don’t care what your thoughts on me as a person are. My main point is that fantasy, particularly commercial fantasy like the HP series, is to entertain first, not to be a primer for life, for politics, or for anything else. First of all, if you mention it as a basis for any kind of belief you’re likely to be laughed at or not taken seriously. Secondly, part of the reason you’re likely to be laughed at or not taken seriously is that in a fantasy story it’s too easy for the author to “stack the deck” toward whatever message he/she is trying to put across. I just think that if you are going to point toward truth there’s a lot that really happened, i.e. history, that carries a lot more weight and is more likely to show how things will play out going forward.

            • Chris

              My main point in my initial comment was that these men weren’t out there criticizing the government or trying to stir up trouble regularly, nor did they have the arrogance that Ms. Rowling has shown in her recent tweets.

              I’ll meet you in the middle here; we both made statements that went too far and ultimately made parodies of our own arguments. You are right that unlike Rowling, Lewis didn’t seem to actively be trying to “troll” anyone, but he did criticize the government.

              Arrogance is somewhat subjective; Lewis’s writings do strike me as arrogant at times, though in a different way from Rowling, who does engage with critics in a smug way.

              I don’t know why an author being “out there criticizing the government” is bad.

              My main point is that fantasy, particularly commercial fantasy like the HP series, is to entertain first, not to be a primer for life, for politics, or for anything else.

              I agree that fantasy is designed to entertain first, but it doesn’t follow from that that it is designed to influence real world beliefs never. A work of fiction can certainly aim to influence political thought as a secondary concern. The Hunger Games wasn’t written to get kids thinking about oppressive governments? Why do so many teachers, including myself, teach it for that very purpose, then?

              First of all, if you mention it as a basis for any kind of belief you’re likely to be laughed at or not taken seriously.

              I don’t think anyone over the age of 15 is going to use “Hermione says it’s wrong” as their primary reason to oppose racism. That doesn’t mean that her story won’t influence kids to understand why racism wrong on an emotional level. One of the primary purposes of storytelling is and always has been to foster empathy; that’s why I’m not getting the apparent need to immediately shit on that study I linked to as if its conclusion is prima facie ridiculous. This is what stories do.

              Secondly, part of the reason you’re likely to be laughed at or not taken seriously is that in a fantasy story it’s too easy for the author to “stack the deck” toward whatever message he/she is trying to put across.

              This is a good point, which is why stories should be engaged with critically. There are plenty of flaws in Rowling’s racism metaphors; like Zootopia, the world of HP is very essential, and there do seem to be genuine behavioral differences between the magical races that don’t exist in our real world conception of race. But that’s an argument for why Rowling’s racism metaphor is flawed, not that it wasn’t at least partially effective, or that she shouldn’t talk about racism or other political problems in the real world.

    • There is evidence that some people do. A study found that people who read Harry Potter as children were more tolerant of minority groups that people who did not read Harry Potter.

      That’s a real chicken-egg result, and can’t be cited as convincing authority.

      • Steve-O-in-NJ

        The study is regarding kids, not adults who read HP as kids, of which there are more than a few now. I’m sure if you asked an adult how he formed his views on tolerance, he wouldn’t point back to HP as the primary influence.

        • I’m 36, so….I point back to reading X-Men comics and watching X-Men cartoons. Government power, hunting down the minority, and desperately wanting to identify with those who are being hunted because they had cool powers and were special.

          • Chris

            I’m a bit younger, but yes, I had a similar experience to Tim. I’ve honestly never heard people say that pointing back to fictional stories to explain one’s political/social development is weird. It’s a huge part of a child’s developmental process.

    • Correlation is not causation.

      • Chris

        Jack and tex, did you think I meant “This is absolute, undeniable proof that Harry Potter is an inoculating agent against the forces of bigotry” when I wrote “There is evidence that some people do?” If not, why are you both responding as if I said that?

        Steve:

        I’m sure if you asked an adult how he formed his views on tolerance, he wouldn’t point back to HP as the primary influence.

        Why are you sure about this? I didn’t read Harry Potter until I was an adult, but I can absolutely point to books and works of fiction that impacted my views on life.

        Are there seriously lots of people who can’t point to works of fiction that shaped their views and influenced their beliefs? How sad.

  4. Jeff H.

    She responded to some alt-right person being rude to her by calling him a “virgin,” among other things.

    I wanted to say, “What’s wrong with that, precisely?” But I’ve long ago promised I’m never going to use my Twitter to give someone a bad day, even if they ‘deserve’ it. The only way these places will stop being cesspools of terrible behavior is if we stop treating each other badly for whatever perceived slight we choose to get worked up about this time.

    • Steve-O-in-NJ

      High schoolish at best, saying that the person is such a loser he will never get laid. You would think a supposedly great writer could come up with a better insult than that. And the Chippendales models weren’t exactly falling all over her, in fact she and her first husband separated after maybe a year.

      • Mike

        I’ve read the Harry Potter series too. I did it when I was in a terrible place. It’s the comfort food of literature, like a Twinkie. I knew beforehand that J.K. Rowling used HP to rise from poverty. And it is obvious that really occurred because the series reads as wish fulfillment. It’s pretty transparent who the “Wizards” and “Muggles” really are. And from comments like that, we see she is still more muggle than wizard.

      • Jeff H.

        Well, I don’t think whether or not she’s attractive is actually relevant at all. That’s not much better than the ‘virgin’ comment.

        On the one hand, the ‘virgin’ thing is an assumption of something based on someone’s behavior. On the other hand, we all know what she looks like and can make our own determination of pulchritude, be they ennobling or not, and based on her behavior or anything else we choose. I would never make a comment about something like that, even to someone who had made a comment in my general direction.

  5. Other Bill

    Something I’ll never understand: The current day obsession with all sorts of formulaic fiction and movies: fantasy and science fiction and zombies and comic book movies and video games? People are dying in combat while other people are playing war games on video machines while saying they’re against war? When are people going to grow up? What is the deal?

    • Other Bill

      By the way, I believe J.K. Rowling is more wealthy than the Queen. So needless to say, her opinions count.

      • Other Bill

        Very nice work, Steve.

      • The Queen is estimated to have a personal net worth of about $425 million, according to Bloomberg. That includes the $65 million Sandringham House and $140 million Balmoral Castle. From Fortune:

        “As monarch, she and her and her family also have property kept in trust for her which generate significant income. Last year her 15% share of the income was valued at approximately $54.5 million.

        The trust is called the Crown Estate and includes the Crown Jewels and Buckingham Palace, major sections of central London, including nearly all of Regent Street and half the buildings in St. James. The Crown Estate has 263,000 farmed acres; billions of dollars in industrial, office, and retail properties; about half of the U.K.’s shoreline, and almost all the seabed to the 12-mile territorial limit. The total value is about $16.5 billion. Queen Elizabeth and family receive 15% of all the money — $363 million annually — made from the rents, lumber, agricultural products, minerals, renewable energy production, licensing of rights to run undersea cables, and more.”

        I’d say that makes her richer than Rowling.

        So in other words, Senator Warren thinks she’s scum.

        • Other Bill

          From Forbes last fall:

          Why J.K. Rowling May Be a Billionaire
          Claire Zillman
          Nov 24, 2016
          “J.K. Rowling is no doubt one of the publishing world’s most consistent money makers—if not its best ever—and she is notoriously private, especially when it comes to her vast fortune. That means her net worth is a close-kept secret and the subject of rampant speculation.
          Given the success of her new film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, there’s a new estimate of her worth, courtesy of New York Times writer James B. Stewart, who pegs it at at least $1.2 billion.
          Fantastic Beasts grossed some $75 million on its opening weekend in the United States alone. It garnered another $150 million at the international box office. The movie’s success—along with the hugely popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter parks, the hit play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London, and a television licensing deal for the Harry Potter movies—means the author’s fortune has likely skyrocketed of late. In his calculation, Stewart took into account those factors and others, including the genesis of Rowling’s staggering wealth—the Harry Potter books.”

          In contrast, at less than half a billion, “Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl, but she doesn’t have a lot to say…”

    • Nobody grows up. Adulthood is a myth.

      • Other Bill

        E.T. was cute. Marvel Comics made into movies and zombie TV shows and endless crappy science fiction are just moronic escapism. I find science fiction particularly annoying because it is so often sophomoric political and social commentary made by and for simpletons. It’s Utopian. Let’s all sing “Imagine” to push Jack over the edge. I’ll add the insipid arpeggiated piano chords.

        • Chris

          I love the Marvel movies, but I’m with you on the piano chords that seem to pop up in every action movie trailer now. Although they are certainly preferable to the “WAAAAAAAMMMPP!!!” that started every trailer after Inception for a few years.

  6. Captain Obvious

    JK has been desperate to remain relevant and in the public eye ever since the last movie (I refuse to accept this latest abomination as being in the same world as the HP films) came out. Her “oh, btw, this character is gay… oh, and this other one…” reeked, in my mind, of someone who deeply wanted to remain someone that was talked about.

    • Steve-O-in-NJ

      By the time the last book hit JKR had pretty much everything, wealth, success, a happy second marriage. However, fame is fleeting, and there is a possibility she didn’t want to drop out of the public eye. It’s actually pretty common among artists, etc., even when they have everything to still want the fame, the adulation, the attention, to still get invited to big events, etc.

      I know very little about this latest movie, I guess I feel like once Voldemort was beaten and Harry and his friends moved on to Babies Ever After the story was completely told and I didn’t need another ride through the wizarding world. I also don’t find the subcreated stories of Grindelwald, et al to be that compelling.

      Some writers are able to keep the interest going to the point where you WANT to read the stories that were only hinted at in others. Brian Jacques was a master of that and his fanbase waited with baited breath when he finally told the stories of Martin the Warrior and Lord Brocktree who were only mentioned as legends in books that came before theirs. I don’t doubt there were others he would have gotten to if he hadn’t died of a heart attack at the somewhat early age of 71. C.S. Lewis went from one book to seven, including prequels and midquels, and I don’t doubt if he had written the full stories of King Gale’s defeat of the dragon at the Lone Islands and Queen Swanwhite they would have sold as well as the rest of the Chronicles. JKR just hasn’t managed that.

  7. Let me try to steer this discussion where I saw it going when I first read Steve-O’s post. He is not arguing that literature has nothing to impart regarding real world issues, nor, I assume fiction generally. We would all agree that science fiction, as a genre, is often political, and has often been very influential in political thought.

    Is fantasy especially unsuited to this purpose? Does magic take it out of the realm of practical education? Surely fables, mythology and religious literature have great insights, as do their authors..Homer, for example.

    • Chris

      I don’t think fantasy is unsuited to this purpose, but there are more pitfalls to it. Fantasy is inherently a more conservative genre than sci-fi. There is often an elitist hierarchy that goes unquestioned in the text. In Harry Potter, the wizarding world is a closed off community that doesn’t share their power with Muggles because “then they’d be using magic to solve all their problems.” Magic is either something one is born with or not, and if you’re not, the story has no interest in you as anything other than a foil, at best. Even the “good” Slytherines are assholes.

      None of this is to diminish that there are powerful metaphors about racism and equality in Rowling’s work, just that the particulars don’t always hold up to close scrutiny.

      • “Fantasy is inherently a more conservative genre than sci-fi. There is often an elitist hierarchy that goes unquestioned in the text.”

        Does anyone want to play “count the logical fallacies”?

      • “Fantasy is inherently a more conservative genre than sci-fi. There is often an elitist hierarchy that goes unquestioned in the text.”

        1a) Elitist hierarchy = conservative. This is the least shaky of your assertions. However, we are trapped by definitions and changing times.

        By taking the single facet of “social mobility” out of about a million characteristics that define a society, one very easily can say, as a bi-polar assertion that reduced social mobility = more conservative and increased social mobility = more liberal. If we use the terms conservative to mean restrictive and liberal to mean freeing.

        However, nobody characterizes an entire society based on a single component. If out of 100 characteristics a society possesses, it is conservative on social mobility and liberal on the other 99, no one will ever call that society “conservative”…it will be classified “liberal”.

        Additionally, times, they are a changing, and one also runs into the issue that “conservative” can all mean “maintaining the status quo” as opposed to “liberal” which can mean “changing from the status quo”. As it is, I don’t see social mobility OR social immobility as a liberal or conservative trait. Plenty of policies that one would characterize as “liberal” have led to much decreased social mobility.

        This is a logical failing in that you consider an entire society described in fantasy genre as conservative based on the single facet of “elitist hierarchy”. This is a hasty generalization, further weakened by a very questionable definition.

        1b) Unquestioned hierarchy = conservative. This fails considerably more, given that in current era, much of what we deem “liberal” is actually very suppressing of dissent and independent thought. Jack himself has gone to pains to describe this effect.

        Again, in terms of taking a single characteristic out of the mix to apply a bi-polar option to, we consider “ability to dissent”. Decreased ability to dissent traditionally = “conservative” and increased ability to dissent = “liberal”.

        But this fails for the same reasons above…times are a changing and definitions are no longer accurate.

        This too is a logical failing of a hasty generalization, further weakened by a very questionable definition.

        2) “Fantasy is inherently a more conservative genre than sci-fi”

        Not considering the societies focused on inside the fantasy works and sci-fi works, we look at the genre itself. As we’ve already demonstrated, one cannot characterize an entire society based on two single qualities removed from the whole, therefore a weakly applied label cannot then be applied to the entire book and subsequently the entire genre.

        So it turns out 3 separate instances of hasty generalizations.

        • Chris

          So you’ve identified one fallacy, and you’ve done so by completely ignoring the majority of my comment. I didn’t just say it was a more conservative genre than sci-if because of the fact that it often features an unquestioned, elitist hierarchy; I also mentioned the essentialism, using HP as an example (“even the ‘good’ Slytherines are assholes”) and the resistance to change and the resistance to the idea of sharing power.

          You seem capable of recognizing that I was using “conservative” in a more traditional sense, not just in the modern “Republican vs Democrat” sense, but then you ignore this possibility right after acknowledging it.

          Do you read any literary criticism? My observation that fantasy is a more conservative genre than sci-fi is hardly a new one. And JK Rowling is a conservative writer even by fantasy standards. (This has nothing to do with her liberal politics.)

          Even if the one example of conservatism you responded to had been my only example, that still would not have been a hasty generalization fallacy unless I suggested that that example alone proved my point.

          Bad, bad job.

  8. Would you include the bible, quran and other religious dogma in that fantasy category? Certainly they have been quoted by politicians for millenia. They are also a huge cause of war and conflict, past and present.

    • Huge is subjective so unless your definition is just “a large number” you are mistaken: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-alan-lurie/is-religion-the-cause-of-_b_1400766.html

    • Steve-O-in-NJ

      I would not. Big difference between faith based literature that people actually believe, in varying degrees, and fantastic tales no one believes, written to entertain. Also big difference between things people once believed but no longer do, like mythology, and things people never believed, written strictly for entertainment. Lumping the Bible in with Harry Potter is simply a militant atheist tactic to diminish religion

      • You might see it as such, but there is no more concrete evidence for god, allah, jehovah, or any other god than there is for wizards and zombies. Just because a lot of people believe it does not make it real.

        • And yet there is still substantive difference between religious texts and fantasy fiction.

          The vast majority of religious texts, certainly *all* the texts were written before modern science. In essence, man wrote those texts for two purposes. First, he sought to explain the world around him, that is to say, absent the fact-gathering and trend-testing methods, and absent the data-gathering and observation-assisting technology, he was engaged in a VERY rudimentary science.

          He was “making up” explanations with what levels of logic he possessed combined with what levels of information gathering he possessed – just like modern scientists create explanations…just with a great deal more (exponentially) reliable precision.

          Second, he sought to explain the philosophical aspects of existence and interaction…as best he could.

          That his motive was often less about entertainment and more about explanation as best he could makes it much different than modern fantasy which clearly is heavier on the entertainment and lighter on the allegory (though still present); the modern author knows their intention isn’t based on empirical data.

          • All of which only supports my posit that in fact using such outdated and unproven texts in order to guide political and foreign policy and holding those (baseless) beliefs as above and more legitimate than the moral, ethical or practical “wisdom” that can be found in works of fiction is nonsensical. There are certainly many positive messages in all religious works, and there are many in works of fiction as well….whether it be To Kill a Mockingbird, Roots, or LOTR. Authors have been writing with political, ethical and moral messages wrapped in engaging and compelling dialogue and story lines for millennia. Just because a work is fiction does not lessen the legitimacy of the message. For example, one of my favorite quotes and comments on humanity, comes from a trashy cult movie from the 90’s, 2 Days in the Valley:
            Allan Hopper: How can you take this loser’s word? You can’t believe him!
            Teddy Peppers: I’ll take his word over yours. It’s been my experience, more often than not, that a loser has more honor than a winner.
            Just a little nugget of wisdom that has stayed with me decades after I forgot the plot of the movie.

            • Chris

              One of my favorite quotes is from the show Angel:

              If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.

              It has definitely influenced the way I see and approach the world.

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