Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter and the Big, Inexplicable Crush

Betty fell asleep on Bimbo's shoulder during the Harry Potter movie last Friday night. The movie was a big, boring, crasscapade full of famous British actors doing their best to ham it up without losing face. They should make a movie about this whole series starring Will Smith and call it "The Pursuit of Medyocrity". Also, as others have noted, the idea of grown-up people who never read salivating and slapping each other to buy the new 8 billion page Harry Potter book is a little pathetic. But anyway, the next morning Betty woke up needing to watch everything Daniel Radcliffe has ever done on youtube. What's with that?!?!

I'll tell you what's with that. Dude is not only sexy as all get out (and only 17!) he's also extremely posied, intense yet soft, and more good humored and gracious than anyone really should be who is daily faced with a torrent of stupid questions from 10 year olds who worship him. Check out his recent appearance on Larry King Live to see what I'm talking about. [Note Radcliffe's magnificent recovery after Larry asks him "If you had Harry Potter's magic wand, what would you do to change the world?"] Also, he's a good actor. Granted, I only saw the first hour of the new movie, and none of the other movies, but he's the real thing. His scenes with Gary Oldman, Imelda Staunton, etc. etc. show he's on their level, and not so much on Hermione's. Somebody back me up here???

15 comments:

Nancy D., Girl Detective said...

Why does it matter if the grownups never read?

Nancy D., Girl Detective said...

What I mean to say is I think there's something exciting about a trend being driven by people simply wanting to know what happens. It's the triumph of the yarn.

betty said...

Sure, but isn't it pathetic that the only yarn the American public at large can be drawn into is in a BOOK FOR LITTLE CHILDREN?

Nancy D., Girl Detective said...

Well, many people are drawn into stories on television and movies. Nowadays everyone's a multimedia consumer, and there's nothing special about being a reader, you don't have a special insight into books because you read more. Reading offers a different experience than movies and TV, but I think even occasional readers can tap into that when they get into a story, even if it's for children. We elevate reading because of the love we have for great literature, but I think the real pleasures of reading are very basic parts of the experience: quiet, solitude, getting wrapped up in a story, place, or character. You can admire the artistry in certain books just like you admire the artistry in certain movies, but seeing movies can be a great experience even if they lack that artistry.

betty said...

"You don't have a special insight into books because you read more."

This is like telling a doctor that he doesn't have a special insight into helping people feel better just because she's been practicing for years. While I believe that we are all capable people with a lot of potential, I also believe that having read books besides Harry Potter books does give me the insight to, if nothing else, compare the Harry Potter books to a variety of many other books and conclude that they are shit. The contrast is helpful. To say otherwise is as naive as saying "I don't know art but I know what I like". When I hear people say that, I want to say "Well, maybe if you knew more art, you'd like more art."

I am not saying that reading is better than watching movies or anything like that. I do believe that experience with anything yields better judgement, however.

venus infers said...

Are we posing the right question here?
Reading (on whatever medium, mind you) is essential to vocabulary building. And if we can only know the world through naming, then the crisis we are living in is directly related to a reduced vocabulary, and hence, worldview.

In the United States a third of high-school graduates are basically illiterate. Some of the students I've TAd for (privileged, smart, lucky children) are unable to write a coherent sentence-- so much so that they are forced through writing lessons in order to level up their verbal skills. The newspaper with the greatest circulation in the United States is written in 6th grade vocabulary levels (USA Today); the NYT, which is written in fairly standard high-school vocabulary is deemed by many to be completely unintelligible.

If "HP" (the book) has fostered in any way the development of reading habits, that is in itself something praise-worthy. I suspect, however, that "HP" (the film) is not really helping in that regard-- and I think that the WaPo had an article saying that (oh, well, duh) indeed "HP" (the both of them) hadn't really had an impact on reading habits at all.

Nancy D., Girl Detective said...

I think I was getting more at the "pleasure principle" (incidentally the headline to one of my favorite art reviews by Peter Schjeldahl) than anything about quality. I just don't think there's anything pathetic about seeking out something that gives you pleasure, especially something as benign as this. If people were slapping each other, as you say, I would agree with you, but I haven't seen or heard of anything like that.

Nancy D., Girl Detective said...

Also, this is getting really off topic, but as to the phrase: "I don't know art, but I know what I like"--I agree it is infuriating. But I think part of what drives that attitude is defensiveness--people are so unsure of their own opinions they are afraid to express them, except couched in defensive language. They look at a painting, think they are missing some higher meaning or that it is mocking them in some way, and rebel against it. Definitely exposure to more art would help. But it's also knowing that you don't need some elevated insight to have an opinion. You can like a painting just because you like the color, not because you "get it" in some way others don't. I'm not saying that art lovers project this or buy into this, but I do think it's a perception that's out there, and people wouldn't need to feel defensive if they felt free to give their opinions.

I take your point about someone who has more exposure having more nuanced opinions. But when you're introducing a kid to books, you encourage them to say what they think of them. You don't tell them to wait to have an opinion until they've read the canon. What I'm saying is that expressing opinions about writing makes people think, whatever level they're at.

betty said...

Nancy D., I agree with you that children, and all people, should be encouraged to voice their opinions about art (and anything) freely, without being burdened by expectations of deep knowledge.

That said, the whole HP phenomenon makes me a little weary. Are there even any "opinions" to be had about such a book? Or is simply a race to the finish line? See what Venus says above about a stunted worldview. Plus, we really all so similar and so similarly unimaginative that we all have to read the same ($35) kids' book? Is reading really such a novelty in our culture that we have to do it up once a year with wacky kid costumes? I think this makes reading for pleasure seem like a wacky special holiday weird aberration from life, rather than a part of life. And do we (all 12 million of us who bought Harry Potter last week) have treat reading so fucking acquisitively? Why do we need make a mass shopping event out of a book that will be available forever? And to answer your question about the smacking: as one of my favorite humorists wrote this morning, "I got smacked by two (YES TWO) Harry Potter hardcovers on my train this morning by two (YES TWO) adults in business casual. Grow up, sheep! I am now going to try and finish The Indian in the Cupboard. I can't wait to see what happens next!!!"

Nancy D., Girl Detective said...

Funny, this conversation had me thinking about the Indian in the Cupboard...

Betty & Bimbo said...

And yet no one has addressed the question of flesh-and-blood HP's (slightly perturbing) hotness.

Nancy D., Girl Detective said...

Yes, because I can't make heads or tales of it. I think the other actors in the movie are much more appealing than he is, though I wouldn't call them sexy, either.

Nancy D., Girl Detective said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
venus infers said...

it's the glasses, dear. and his faux naïveté. lolito complex.

frankly, how is this newsworthy? at least the headlines during the HP-naked-for-"Equus" controversy were titillating...

Betty & Bimbo said...

Bimbo has asked me to add the following postscript, or post-post:

"Harry Potter is not as sexy, not as 'intense yet soft' as Bimbo is."

[signed]
Betty