Sunday, February 20, 2011

M****e, Or, the M-Word.

So.. I finally got goaded into giving J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series another go. I last read the first book, Sorcerer's Stone aka Philosopher's stone when I was in 8th grade.. Needless to say I was too old for it at the time and I was also being forced to read it by a teacher who bought into the media hype about it being the bestest book that was ever written.. I didn't like it and pretty studiously avoided anything connected to it from then on..

I've never even seen one of the films. That's going to change in July.. I plan to watch all 8 of them. I'll probably be doing a series of reviews of them.. since I feel I do have a rather unique perspective on them.. much like some one having never seen Star Wars.. I first started toying with the idea because of the obvious influence the books had on the last three of Stephen King's Dark Tower series which I read last year. He made a lot of references too them, and they clearly meant a lot too him.. well I wasn't particularly impressed with the ending of the Dark Tower but thought I'd take his recommendation and give Rowling another try.

My opinion has clearly changed, in the last 10 years or so I've moved away from the phase of thinking that just because something is popular than I clearly have to hate it.. well.. mostly.. I still dislike Twilight, and Justin Beiber, but thats more because he's an annoying little pratt who is worth 200 million dollars at age 15.. that's enough to piss off even the most even keeled person.

I've so fared enjoyed the first three volumes in the series.. the characters are mostly charming.. and apart from a few oddities in the books due to obvious Americanizations.. they are good fun in the vein of Ronald Dahl. I'd still not put Rowling in the same running as Tolkien or Lewis.. but I'd happily include her stories along with Flemming's Chitty Chitty bang bang and the bulk of Dahl's work.

The descriptions of food and cheer and general camaraderie are heart warming, the books nearly feel like a comfortable sweater, but unlike the Hobbit or Wind in the Willows.. it's more of a mass produced sweater rather than one your grandmother knitted for you.

But. And this is a big But. I have to call foul on the word "Muggle". It's an invented word, yes, but it fulfills the same job as a certain strain of words. Those words are typically called Derogatory, or sometimes, Racial Slurs. I'm not sure which Muggle would be.. but I'm leaning towards it being a racial slur since clearly, wizardry is genetic. It crops up in families which are not attuned to it normally.

Whats worse, is it is one which the adult's encourage the kids to use. It's the sort of thing that if it was in real life used to name a group, the ACLU would crawl them for it. Sensitivity classes would be attended, and radio announcers and comedians would lose their jobs. Can you imagine if they substituted it with any number of racially insensitive words?

Now, the wizard's don't demand the muggles wear yellow stars, but they certainly don't attend the same school. Separate but equal I suppose is ok when its Wizard's. I wonder if they would have a "muggles only" lunch counter? Or a muggles only swimming pool? The Anti-Muggle laws are very reminiscent of Jim Crow... Though as far as I can tell there have not been any Muggle Lynchings.. but the wizard's don't seem to think anything of involuntarily wiping their memories if it suits their goals.. It's maybe more similar to Apartheid, with the Minority actively persecuting the majority for having no magical aptitude.. How is it that this has never, to my knowledge, been remarked upon?

maybe I'm over thinking things a bit.. but just something about the laissez-faire usage of the word just irks me... I hope they've toned it down a bit in the films.

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