Monday, July 4, 2011

Them Juicy Leaves Archive: Harry Potter

Originally posted at Them Juicy Leaves on July 4, 2011

This month's edition: Harry Potter

Harry Potter is drawing to a close. The eighth and final movie is coming out on July 15th, and along with my friends, I will be waiting in line for the midnight showing on opening night - something I have never done yet and am psyched to do in honour of the last movie. I've been rereading all of the books and rewatching all of the movies in preparation, which also means my brain is currently Mugglified to the extreme and I am rather obsessive over things that I like. So I'm going to totally and utterly nerd out about Harry Potter.

(To my friends who fabulously watch all the movies but, unfabulously, do not read the books, I promise that this will be spoiler-free and I will not discuss the end-of-book happenings in Deathly Hallows that are likely going to crop up in the final movie. But if you have not seen the first seven movies then I promise nothing. Go get caught up already! And if anyone feels like commenting, please don't spoil the fun for everyone else. I am the Spoiler Police and I will delete your comment so fast you will fucking feel it.)

A lot of people make fun of Harry Potter. And I mean, of course they make fun of Harry Potter. It's about a boy wizard with a magic scar who has to save the world from someone unironically referred to as He Who Must Not Be Named. But you know what? A lot of people love Harry Potter too, and of course they love Harry Potter - it's about a boy wizard with a magic scar who has to save the world from someone unironically referred to as He Who Must Not Be Named! 

So I am going to prove to you all why Harry Potter is actually awesome and why the Harry Potter world is even better than our own - and I just don't mean stating the obvious, like the fact that they make magic potion and fly on broomsticks and listen to singing hats and probably have a spell called "Orgasmus Maximus" that puts our muggle sex toys to shame. No, I'm talking about systemic and trend-based proof of the wizard world's utter superiority.

Their villains are scarier

Have you ever been so afraid of someone you couldn't say their name? I can't even imagine that kind of fear. I mean, there are people I'm pretty scared of; my middle school gym teacher and Gary Busey both come to mind. But clearly, I can say Gary Busey's name, and even type it for the whole internet to read. So my fear of Gary Busey is nothing compared to an entire country's fear of *whispers* Voldemort.

I mean, really, who's the real-life equivalent to Voldemort, anyway? Some have said he's like a wizarding Hitler. But personally, I think that's just Godwin's Law. Comparisons to Hitler are so overdone that fucking Obama and Stephen Harper are being compared to Hitler, and I mean, come on now. The comparison has become so diluted that calling Voldemort a wizarding Hitler is hardly more effective than calling him a fluffy bunny with rabies. 

And besides - no one has ever, ever been so scared of Hitler they couldn't say his name. Look: Hitler. Adolf Hitler. Hitlerhitlerhitler. OK, I'm growing uncomfortable with myself and officially moving on.

Their tabloids are more honourable

When we were first introduced to the Quibbler, it was obviously a tabloid. I always imagined it as the National Enquirer of the wizarding world. Where muggles have our UFO's and Elvis sightings, the Quibbler has its Stubby Boardman and upside-down rune articles.

But the Quibbler was never exactly a greedy, profit-driven ethical nightmare like the gossip mags that dominate muggle tabloids. Our tabloids are based on nothing but the desire to sell magazines, and the writers and editors and publishers of tabloids are just preying on the public's insatiable desire for crappy non-news in order to make a hundred billion dollars a year. But the Quibbler is a small, family-run business just printing the stories its editor really believes in, no matter how stupid the rest of the public thinks him; I almost want Xenophilius to find a Crumple-Horned Snorkack because he's so damn devoted.

And eventually, the Quibbler started to grow up a bit. They gave Harry Potter his famous interview that opened the wizarding world's eyes to the dangers that lay ahead. The Quibbler is what small-beans journalism should aspire to be; it's an example of the underdog taking on the corporate machine and letting truth prevail. The Quibbler told the wizards of England that Voldemort should just straight fuck the hell off, and they publicly proclaimed allegiance with Harry Potter; that is, until the editor's daughter was kidnapped by Death Eaters and he tried to bargain with them, but I mean, no one can really blame Xenophilius for that one cause Luna also fucking rules.

Could you ever imagine the National Enquirer coming out during a time of war, and setting aside their stupid speculations on various celebrities' baby bumps that are actually just regular-sized stomachs, and calling for public support for the good guys? Yeah, no. The Quibbler kicks our tabloids' asses.

Their sports are rougher

Ok, admittedly, there's really only the one wizarding sport, at least only one that is talked about in detail in the movies and books. But Quidditch is so underwear-destroyingly insane that you could take all the most vicious muggle sports in the world and put them together into one giant "Super Violence and Bloodthirsty Kill Ball" game and maybe then it could begin to compare to Quidditich.

What is the toughest muggle sport in the world? Boxing, maybe? Rugby? Parkour

Well none of those sports are played on magic broomsticks about a hundred feet in the air. None of those sports involving whipping one another with heavy balls, trying to knock each other off their brooms so that the players face a very real possibility of death. Sure, parkour involves doing astonishing feats at neck-breaking heights, but the various participants aren't actively trying to push one another down. Rugby and boxing involve some crazy-ass brain damage possibilities, but those are not combined with the vertigo and anxiety of supporting oneself on a thin piece of wood high at death-defying speeds high in the air. Skinny 11-year-olds certainly don't play full-contact rugby against angry and muscular 17-year-olds without so much as a parental permission slip. 

And none of those muggle sports have the potential to last for weeks or even months of bruised and bloody agony until someone manages to catch a stupid little flying ball in such a ridiculously unfair scoring system that the non-Seeker players probably face constant self-doubt in their relevancy on the planet. Just read this.

Muggles have even tried to play Muggle Quidditch, and look at how ridiculous it is. We can't remotely adopt the sheer awesomeness of the Harry Potter world, no matter how hard we try.

But goddammit, do we ever try.

Many of their laws make more sense

Before the fans freak out on me: Yes, I know! The wizarding government is just as fucked up and neglectful and imperfect and prone to corruption as our own muggle ruling class. Shit be whack at the Ministry of Magic, yo; their priorities are based in discrimination, they're cowards in the face of fear, they lean on the media to influence public perception of important events, they tolerate slavery of certain races and heavy-handed punishment for crime. It's hard to imagine anything as cruel as the Dementor's Kiss for muggle lawbreakers.

But you have to give them credit for some of their laws. The whole Statute of Secrecy, for instance; it's pretty overwhelming to imagine an entire international underground society living and breathing among us for centuries without any muggle the wiser. Either they're really clever, or J.K. Rowling thinks us muggles are freaking morons. Sure, they're magic and all that jazz, but even considering that, they are keeping tabs on shit. Someone performs magic in front of a muggle? Boom - memory charm. Someone like Voldemort comes along who wants wizards to take authority and rule over the muggles? An entire war breaks out before he has any success and none of us muggles even notice the goddamn fighting, while our bridges are collapsing all around us and England becomes home to tornado country for no reason whatsoever. Witches and wizards are efficient as fuck at maintaining the ignorance of muggles, and they do so for important and honourable reasons: ensuring the prevention of exploitation and mistreatment of a weaker class.

There's also the matter of coming of age. In the muggle world - well, at least, in Muggle Canada and other places - our laws are so inconsistent. Here in Ontario, for instance, you're a legal adult at 18 but you can drive at 16 and you can drink at 19 and you can rent a car at 25. I don't know how that compares to Muggle England and I'm too lazy to look it up, but in magical England, you turn 17 and everything's finished. You can drink your Firewhisky, perform your magic, do your Apparition (assuming you've passed your test) - there's no question that you are truly and undeniably an Adult Who Can Do Things that Adults Do. Isn't that so much more sensible then letting a person who can't yet legally drink a beer join the military? "Oh, ok, Mr. John P. Canada: go ahead and die for the country! But don't you dare try to have a Coors, or we're calling your mother."

Everything has onomatopoeia

Fucking everything. And it's not just auditory onomatopoeia, either; every word evokes a certain metaphorical or visual image that is a perfect representation of the thing being named.

What is the nerdy awkward guy called? Neville Longbottom. What about the everyman hero? Harry Potter. The evil bully at school? Draco Malfoy. His blumbering idiot minions? Crabbe and Goyle. The sneering, greasy-haired teacher? Severus Snape. The short, squeaky-voiced teacher? Professor Flitwick. The hilariously pompous ghost who doesn't get that he's kind of a joke? Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington. The man who was first introduced to us as a dangerous mass murderer? Sirius Black. Sure, it turned out the guy was cool, but that name sure gave Prisoner of Azkaban some much-needed stormy atmosphere.

It's not just the characters, either. Look at the houses of Hogwarts: the heroic one we're all supposed to like is called Gryffindor, a word that makes me want to puff out my chest and raise my fist in the air and cry victory in the name of my homeland. The asshole house is called Slytherin and even before we know it's associated with snakes, we can picture the sneaky, underhanded, corrupt, slimy racists who sneer and hiss at everyone else.

What sounds more evil than a "Horcrux," with its dominant "x" sound and the word "whore" right there in the first syllable? More mystical and brooding than a dark, majestic "Thestral," only visible to those who've experience enough woe to handle it? "Muggles" are simple people living simple lives, "aurors" are the awe-inspiring heroes of the magical community, and a "snitch" is a tiny, quick-moving sneak that is difficult to catch.

If the real world was like Harry Potter, then earwigs would be called Scuttlecreeps. Roller coasters would be Whizwhipping Trackwagons, and platypuses would be Frumps. And why would anyone ever want to order a bacon hamburger with fries when they could ask for a Meat-Middle Breadbasket with pigstrips and crunchstrings?

Onomatopoeia and linguistic metaphor: do not underestimate the power of language.


So there you have it. I do believe I have just proven the sheer fabulosity of everything that is Harry Potter. Go read it. Then watch it. Then - as JK Rowling herself would say - "beam" at it and share it with your mates over a round of Butterbeers and treacle tart, because, Merlin's beard, it's bleeding brilliant.

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