TBT – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

alan rickman, Daniel Radcliffe, films, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, Maggie Smith, meh, review, TBT

I’m so far behind my schedule today that I’ve left myself with no fucking time to do anything. I’ve left this to the last minute as I tried to get everything else done. I’m also tired so I can’t promise this will be the best thing I’ve ever written but I’m determined to get it done. After all, I sat through one of my least favourite Harry Potter films in order to have a subject this week. I’d have to say that my least favourite in terms of both book and film is Goblet of Fire but, thanks to their childish nature, I’ve never revisited the first two stories for years. I saw the first film at the cinema with my family for my mother’s birthday. I was 13 years old and completely obsessed with the books. I remember leaving the cinema feeling disappointed with some differences but, ultimately, I loved it. I mean it was faithful to the book and that was all that mattered to me. Let’s be honest though, that’s all that mattered to anyone.

The Philosopher’s Stone was the biggie. It was the book that let us enter into Harry Potter’s world and the film was the finally put that world on the big screen. There was a lot of pressure on it as the book’d had become a sensation with adults and children alike lapping up every word JK Rowling was writing. The writer was also incredibly protective of her books as she was still in the process of writing at the time and didn’t want to jeopardise her later books by giving the rights away. Thankfully, the films were made and they were a huge part of all of our lives for 10 years. We grew up with the child actors who took the massive roles. So it’s weird to go back and see where it all started.

The Philosopher’s Stone is a very faithful adaptation of the first book. It sets out everything about the wizarding world but with much more haste than the book. Sections are shortened or deleted to save time but there’s nothing really vital missing. For my own part I always wished the centaurs scene could have been more book-like but that was mainly down to my fondness for that part of the book. In real terms, the main criticism I have is that some explanations seems rushed, such as Hagrid introducing Harry to his wizarding heritage, but that probably has something to do with my familiarity to the book. All of the key points are there but it just feels more brusque that it should.

It’s not the story that I really have a major problem with when I rewatch this film. It’s the acting. I’m not a massive fan of Daniel Radcliffe in any of these films but he’s particularly annoying in these films. He’s young so it’s not exactly fair to call him that but I think Harry’s character in these films is just too vague and undefined. There isn’t really any proper characterisation for any of the major characters and there is a lacking of development. Even the background characters seem more gimmicky that real. Other than his overall look, I’ve never been a fan of Richard Harris’ Dumbledore if I’m honest as Michael Gambon really captured the darkness that’s hidden at his core. He feels too Disney for my liking. Alan Rickman is incredibly hammy in the first few films and Maggie Smith is just whittled down to that one withering look. It sees like a waste of good actors.

Then the main trio all seem too confused by who they are trying to be. Ron seems as though he belongs in Eastenders rarther than Hogwarts, Harry is just forgettable, and Hermione is the worst kind of smart girl stereotype. Watching these films just makes it more apparent how useful age and understanding is for actors. The older and more comfortable the main actors got then the better their characters became. The first two films don’t feel like Harry Potter films because the character’s feel like strangers.

Still, there is something great about revisiting this film. The Quidditch scene, though it seem aged nowadays, is still one of the best scenes. It’s fun and exciting seeing this amazing sport come to life before your eyes. The tests that need to be passed to find the Philsopher’s Stone are also well adapted in the film and the game of wizards chess is still incredible. Still, this feels like a long and slow film. It takes ages to really get going and it isn’t quite magical enough to make it work. I kind of see this film in the same way I see the Beatles if I’m honest. Everyone says that The Beatles invented popular music as we know it today and that they’re one of the greatest bands of all time. Now, I understand that they were important in the 60s but it’s not the 60s anymore. If I listen to their music now it just feels so juvenile and simplistic. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone opened the door to some great films but, if I’m honest, it’s lost its sense of importance and achievement as every new film was released.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

books, Eddie Redmayne, exceeds expectations, films, fucking sweet, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, Johnny Depp, rant, review

Yesterday I finally saw the next stage in JK Rowling’s plan to dominate the word of literature and film. I mean I have nothing against the woman but everything about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has just screamed of “how can we squeeze more cash out of our loyal fans?” I mean the decision to release the screenplay may be no-nonsense from a financial standpoint but it just seems like a shameless tactic to earn more cash. It kind of feels as though Rowling and her backers just see the Harry Potter fandom as bags of cash and are doing everything in their power to exploit them for continued financial gain. You know me by now; I think Harry Potter should have ended at the final book. It was complete and it was satisfactory. Rowling herself once said she wouldn’t revisit the world again but has continued to prove that was a huge fucking lie. Yes, she gives loads to charity and helps people and I admire her for that. However, her constant flip-flopping on this and inability to leave well alone just makes me lose respect for her. She’s like the literary world’s George Lucas. So I wasn’t exactly convinced I’d come out of Fantastic Beasts feeling much love… especially when the Rogue One trailer showing beforehand gave me literal tingles. I mean my legs actually went numb. I haven’t felt that kind of emotional response to anything Harry Potter related for years. I’ll always be a fan but I’ve been over it for a while now. At least Disney don’t try and pretend that you’re anything but bags of cash in their eyes.

I’ve had a bit of a tough relationship with JK Rowling over the years because of her constant need to present herself in a way that just feels false. She tries to act as though she’s all about her art but she’s still really driven by cash and fame. It’s why we’ll never see and end to her Harry Potter writings and why she’ll continue to allow Warner Bros. to release films in the franchise. She had a huge idea a few years ago and she’s trying to cling onto that high. I get it but I don’t respect it. You need to know when to quit. Before he started getting super annoying and twattish, I really respected Ricky Gervais for knowing when to let go of an idea. He let The Office and Extras go when they were at a high and people love them even more because they never went shit. Harry Potter is in danger of outstaying his welcome.
Still, I love Eddie Redmayne with all my heart so I was quite excited to see him front Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The first film in the quintet introduces us to Newt Scamander, the who will go on to publish a textbook familiar from Harry Potter’s school days. Set in the mid 1920s, Newt (Redmayne) is visiting New York City on an errand. Whilst there his magical suitcase, full of magical beasts, finds itself in the hands of a No-Maj (the American version of muggle), Jacob (Dan Fogler), and some of the contents escape into the city. Before Newt can track down his missing menagerie he is apprehended by ex-auror Tina Goldestein (Katherine Waterston). Tina plans to take Newt and Jacob to her bosses at the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) to help revive her reputation. Unfortunately for the trio, a magical related No-Maj death could derail all of their plans and land Newt and his creatures into even hotter water.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes it’s name from a small book that was released by JK Rowling to raise funds for Comic Relief in 2001. It contained information about the various magical creatures that inhabited the world of Harry Potter. Obviously, the film is not an adaptation, per se, but takes us to the time before Newt began writing his magnum opus. To say that I went in with lowered expectations I actually found the film to be an incredibly welcome entry into Harry Potter canon. Especially after the disgustingly bad Cursed Child. It is helped by a fantastic cast, which to my surprise included Colin Farrell as auror Percival Graves. Eddie Redmayne perfectly encapsulates the character of Newt and is completely believable as the animal lover.  Katherine Waterston manages to do what I felt Emma Watson never quite managed to pull off in her 7 films and provided us with a worthy, young heroine who can hold her own against all those wizards. Tina is fabulous and I want to be her with every fibre of my being. And Ben Fogler is the perhaps the greatest part of the trio as the lovable and clueless Jacob. You bond with him instantly and stay with him as you both learn more about this mysterious wizarding world.
The film is exciting and dark but has the inherent British charm and humour that comes with all of the Harry Potter films. It manages to breathe new life into the franchise by being primarily new and different but with enough similarities that you feel at home. The snippets of the old score coming through or familiar references and in-jokes will give a tug on your heartstrings whilst you’re exploring American wizarding customs. No longer focusing on students, the magic is more powerful and the special effects more exhilarating. There’s a lot going on but director David Yates just about manages to keep control. There are things that characters and plot lines that feel a tad underdeveloped and the whole thing could probably have been a bit shorter but that’s just me nitpicking.
Ultimately, this film made me feel good. It’s the closest I’ve been in years to feeling the same excitement I felt when I was a young Potterhead. It’s sweet, unassuming and just fun. There is a lot in Fantastic Beasts to show that it could be a great addition to the franchise but I can’t help remember The Hobbit. People were up-in-arms about the fact that a short children’s book was being adapted into 3 movies. Now an even smaller book has spurned 5 films and nobody gives a shit. I worry that after a couple more things will be starting to stretch a little. I know Dumbledore avoided fighting Grindlewald for a long time but 5 fucking movies worth? Come on! Plus, I have major issues with the casting Johnny Depp as a key character. I’m really dubious about his abilities these days. He’s too repetitive with his character choices and each of his eccentric characters are just the same person with a different wig. Still, having JK Rowling in charge of the script could actually mean that these films stay on the right course and keep the Potter spirit alive. This film certainly gives me hope.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

book haul, books, currently reading, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Netflix, recently watched, Roald Dahl
This week feels like a victory because not only have I finished 1 book but I finished a second only a day after finishing the first one. Of course, since then I’ve done barely any reading but we can gloss over that. It hasn’t helped that all of my shifts got changed this week and I’ve had over a week of 7am starts. It’s really fucking with my sleep patterns and I’m finding myself going to bed at Grandma standard times. I can’t even make it through a whole chapter of a fucking children’s book before my eyes start to droop. Is it too much to ask that I find a job will more sociable hours? Oh, and one that won’t continually scar me and fuck up my nails and skin. As you can tell, I’m so tired that I’m in an extra ranty mood. I’ve been a joy to work with.
Just Finished
  • The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
It’s a fucking miracle. I’ve finally finished this book. Looking back on my previous rundowns then it will feel like I was doing this forever. However, it’s done now and I’ll try and write a proper review on Tuesday. It was supposed to go up last Tuesday but I accidentally started and finished another book before I started writing it. 

  • The Cursed Child by by J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne
Bought this on a whim despite telling myself that I didn’t want to read it. Anyone who wants to read my full thoughts on this then feel free to read my review from Tuesday. Suffice it to say that I have a lot of feelings that I needed to work out. However, we all know that JK Rowling and I have a history. 

Currently Reading
  • The BFG by Roald Dhal

As I mentioned on Thursday, I am desperate to see Spielberg’s adaptation of The BFG. In preparation for the film I decided it was time to reread the novel. So I bough a cheap eBook and started it as soon as I finished The Cursed Child. It’s proving to be a lovely trip down memory land and it’s pretty easy to read. I’d hoped to have it finished by now but, having only worked on the early shift this week, I end up falling asleep before I can read at the moment.

Recently Purchased

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Found a beautiful edition of this book in a charity shop and fell in love with it. I haven’t read a great deal of Bradbury but have enjoyed everything I have. So I guess I was just waiting for the right novel to land in my lap to really start my exploration. No doubt you’ll see it on my Instagram some time soon.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I couldn’t resist this absolutely beautiful copy of Neverwhere. It’s the new illustrated hardback edition and I love it. Probably won’t read it any time soon as I reread the novel a year or so ago. Still, it’s classic Gaiman and it never hurts to have a few copies just lying around the house. I hope that more of Gaiman’s books get this treatment. There’s nothing better than finding a book soulmate, is there.

Recently Watched
  • OITNB
Finally finished the latest series and I’ve been in tears ever since. Okay, that’s a tad hyprbolic but the final couple of episodes were fucking heartbreaking. Poussey was one of my faves from early on. The flashbacks in the final episode were just perfection. I’m officially hooked on this show. Wish I hadn’t waited so long.

Top 10 Wen-sday: Top 10 Harry Potter Characters

books, favourite, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, list, Top 10

Yesterday I wrote my review of The Cursed Child and expressed my disappointment that the characters didn’t sound the way I was used to. That’s always the problem when another writer tries to put words in the mouth of another person’s creations. JK Rowling put a lot of work into her characters and really made them people we, the readers, wanted to return to time and again. When it comes to the characters of the series I’ve never really followed the opinion of most readers about who is the stand-out. I can’t say that I ever really got on board with the character of Harry because he was always too whiny and self-important. In fact I’ve always maintained that Harry was the worst member of the Harry Potter universe. I understand that he’s important as fuck to he proceedings but I could have done without him. Plus, I don’t get this whole Dumbledore is amazing thing. He says some memorable things but all of his actions are super questionable and shady. He’s the worst headmaster imaginable and his relationship with Harry is just weird and inappropriate. I don’t care how many soundbites the guy has, it doesn’t make him fucking Ghandi. As for the other major fan favourite? Well, I think I’ve made my feelings about Severus Snape pretty fucking clear by now. So, this Top Ten Wen-sday I felt it was time I made it clear who really matters to me in these books. It’s about bloody time. And, despite what I said about my fantasy fictional husbands, neither Oliver Wood nor Charlie Weasley appear on this list.

Tuesday’s reviews – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

books, Freud, fucking tragic, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, meh, review, Severus Snape, time travel

So, the Sunday that has just gone happened to be 31st July, which is a big day for Harry Potter fans. It is JK Rowling’s birthday and, subsequently, the fictional birthday of the boy wizard, Harry Potter, himself. As I’m sure there is no need to mention, the final day of July 2016 also happened to be the release date of the rehearsal edition script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This is the critically acclaimed theatrical tale that has become the supposed 8th ‘book’ in the series. I wasn’t sure if I would buy the script but, having such a small amount of self-control when it comes to books, I bought one on Monday and proceeded to read the majority of it that night. I started work at 7am this morning so I fucking regretted that decision as I was waking up today. Still, I finished it with just enough time to get my review out for today’s Tuesday Reviews. As we’ve already established on this blog, I’m a pretty shitty Potterhead and can’t promise I’ll be positive as most about this book. Still, I doubt anyone is actually coming here for sound advice when they could have my mindless rants instead… with added spoilers of course.

It’s not as if I’ve been hiding my negative feelings towards any future stories that JR Rowling may write concerning the Harry Potter series. I’ve always thought the idea of writing sequels, follow-ups and spin-offs as a move almost as desperate and cringey as the fucking epilogue. The story was finished and we didn’t need to delve back into Harry’s post-Hogwarts life. Still, as I always knew would happen, JK Rowling proves once again that she just doesn’t know where to stop. So we have the so-called 8th book: a story overseen and co-created by Rowling but written by Jack Thorne. We were promised by Rowling that the new tale would be a completely knew story and not a rehash of previous material. What we were given is a time-travel rehash of old plots with a bunch of new characters. Oops.

Since Prisoner of Azkaban JK Rowling has had to deal with the issue of time travel in her wizarding world. What gave a super dramatic and magical plot in the third book opened up a bunch of plotholes that Rowling just didn’t want to let herself fall into. I mean if Hermione could utilise time travel to attend a fuckload of classes then why couldn’t someone go back in time and just give Voldy a hug once in a while? It was an issue that she resolved as quickly as she could by destroying all of the time turners in the Department of Mysteries in Book 5. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? Well apparently not. As not all the time turners were destroyed. Which is lucky because without the one remaining device Rowling might not have been able to charge loyal fans the considerable ticket price for her new sell-out production.

Basically, The Cursed Child is the Back to the Future 2 of the Harry Potter world. BTTF 2 revisited the timeline of the first film after a brief stop in the future and The Cursed Child, after reintroducing us to the kid with the most vomit-inducing name in the history of English literature, revisits some of the most major events in Potter history. Albus Severus and his best friend, Scorpius Malfoy, go back in time to prevent Cedric Diggory from dying during the Triwizard Tournament. Of course, as cliche dictates, their benevolent act ends up royally fucking everything up. Scorpius enters a hellish world in which Voldermort lived, Harry Potter died and, most joyful of all, never ended up having the power to name any offspring. The Cursed Child tells the story of how the boys can return the magical world to it’s non-Voldermorty ways before it’s too late.

Way back in 2012 I suggested that the film War Horse suffered in comparison to the critically acclaimed theatrical production because it lacked the interest of the puppetry. It’s true that the staging of the play had a lot to do with the fact that War Horse became such a popular story. That’s how I feel about this play. After The Cursed Child came to the stage people were raving about it and, with any play, you lose a lot of the magic when you don’t see it performed as it was intended. Without the special effects the staging directions add very little and without hearing them spoken out-loud the words just seem stilted and not very natural. Although, I can’t really complain about that if I’m the fucking idiot who insists on reading a script instead of a book.

However, I can and will complain about the story that sits within those pages. The Cursed Child is basically a terrible example of fanfiction that has someone become super famous. I know I’ve comapred it to about three different things already but I’m going to say it’s Fifty Shades of Grey with less BDSM and more time travel. The story itself is very weak and, frankly quite dull. We don’t really get to grips with the modern day Harry Potter world anymore than we did in the epilogue and spend more time in the past we already know. This isn’t about moving Harry Potter’s story but is all about revisiting his glittering past. This isn’t JK and co trying to write a new and great story. This is them cashing in on the old tales that everybody loved.

We get to know Albus and Scorpius a little but much of the tale set in modern times basically concerns how shit a dad Harry is. It’s basically a hyperbolic melodrama that belongs in a daytime drama and not on the stage. Then we just go back to the three trails of the Triwizard Tournament and the moment that Harry’s parents die. We don’t learn anything new or interesting… except one thing of course. Now I was serious about those spoilers so if you don’t know turn back now. You gone? Good. Voldermort’d fucking daughter is the most ridiculous and fanfiction-esque plot I could have imagined. It doesn’t even make sense. It doesn’t fit into the timeline. Plus, the idea that Voldermort would have had a moment of clarity within the haze of narcissm to say “hmm I might die one day better pass on my genes” just doesn’t fit with the character. He never expected to lose so the idea that he needed to reproduce would never have occured to him. It’s fucking stupid.

This isn’t an exercise in literary genius but a shameless attempt to speak to people’s nostalgia. The play knows people want to meet of these characters again and happily rolls them all out one after the other. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Draco, Minerva, Hagrid, Dumbledore, Cedric, James, Lilly, Snape, Voldermort, Umbridge, even the fucking Centaur comes back. Except they aren’t really back because it’s not actually JR writing it. Now I know I’ve not always been complimentary about her writing style over the years but there is one thing Jo knows and it’s her characters. The characters in The Cursed Child are just pale imitations very obviously written by someone else. Nobody sounds right. The Severus Snape we see here is just the disgusting image that Tumblr has of him being a tragic Romantic hero. Dumbledore and Harry keep having moments where they express their love for each other, which just feels wrong.

The Cursed Child is both warmly familiar yet so disturbingly different that I couldn’t get on board with it. If it weren’t the stuff of time travel stories like the play itself, I’d happily say that Freud wrote his theory about the uncanny around it. However, that’s taking things a bit too far. Freud told us that the uncanny would bring about cognitive dissonance due to its paradoxical nature. We are simultaneously drawn to something yet wary of it and so we reject it completely. If Freud hadn’t been utterly refuted over the years I would say this sums up the negative feelings that a lot of fans have experienced since reading the book. I know that I, for one, want nothing more to do with it. It was a thing that never needed to happen and the fact that it’s now canon could have potentially destroyed the good work that Rowling had already done. I hope she eventually goes back on this and, like the epilogue, we can all pretend it never happened.

Monday Mini Rant – Moony’s meaningless murder

death, Harry Potter, J K Rowling

Bank holiday Monday was a bloody difficult day and I certainly haven’t been the happiest bunny in the herd. So I could have plenty of stuff to rant about here but this isn’t the place for my professional frustrations. For one thing, I don’t really enjoy ranting about silly work things and, for another, nobody else wants to hear about it. It’s also not incredibly good practice to anonymously moan about my employer on the internet. So, I’m returning to an old favourite. Something I’ve ranted about many a time but not for a good while.

Today marks the fictional anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts and, to mark the occasion, JK Rowling continued her new tradition of apologising for the death of one of her characters. Last year she said sorry to fans of Fred Weasley for killing him off. I’m not against this in general as the idea is kind of sweet and the death of one of the twins has always been a sore point for fans. This year, Rowling expressed regret for killing off everyone’s favourite DADA teacher, Remus Lupin. Rowling openly admitted that it wasn’t her plan to kill him off and it only happened once she had decided to spare Arthur Weasley.

Now I’m not saying that I’d have preferred to live in an world where Arthur had died in the Department of mysteries but Lupin’s death was always one of the most difficult deaths to deal with in the books. Partly because he is such a fantastic character and one of the few genuinely decent people in the books. Aside from Luna, he’s probably one of the few totally “good” guys. He’s always been one of my top characters and is one of the main reasons I have such a soft spot for both book and film number 3. His death actually devastated me when I first read The Deathly Hallows because he was such a huge loss.

Although, the other reason for the death being so hard to cope with, and the reason behind this rant, it because it was done for a such a fucking stupid reason. Not the saving of Arthur Weasley, of course. I’m talking about the shitty mirroring of Harry. Rowling decided she needed to show the death of a parent or parents because she wanted to showcase the effect war has on the children that are left behind. I get that. The whole orphaned child of war is a pretty dramatic and emotional literary device. However, there were plenty of ways to get this idea into the story.

The only reason that she specifically chose Tonks and Lupin to die was so that we could have another Harry figure. The story opens with newborn Harry’s parents dying in the fight against Voldemort and the story ends with newborn Teddy’s parents doing the same. The mirroring argument was spouted by a lot of people who wanted to defend the book against my annoyed rants about these senseless deaths but it’s really just a load of shit. The use of mirroring in this case is just lazy and uninspiring. It didn’t need to happen because Teddy is such a non-character.

The death of Harry’s parents started a whole chain of events that allowed the Boy Who Lived to help destroy the Dark Wizard who killed them. The death of Teddy’s parents started a story that was never going anywhere. Yes, Teddy is mentioned in the shitty epilogue but, in response to the issue of orphans of war, the text does nothing to address the consequences of the loss of his parents. If Rowling really wanted to use Teddy to show the true horrors of war then she does a pretty shitty job. After Lupin’s death there is one brief mention of Teddy where he says he’s sorry he won’t get to see him grow up.

I’m all for writers making difficult decisions about killing off key characters. I have immense respect for George RR Martin for killing Ned despite the fact he was the only decent person in the whole of Westeros. It’s not realistic if good people don’t die in stories. However, I think it should only be done for decent reasons. Ned died because he had to. Any other outcome for him would have weakened his standing in the books. Had he gone to the Wall and had his happy ending with Jon he would have dissolved into a non-entity. Instead he died a hero who we all want to see vengeance for. Remus Lupin died for purpose of symmetry. It’s not right.

Hermione Granger: The Next Racebender

books, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, race

I was all set to write a review of The Lobster today. I watched it yesterday and really enjoyed it. Then something happened and parts of the internet went crazy… supposedly. It was announced today that the actress playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter play, The Cursed Child is Swaziland-born actress Noma Dumezweni. Now I’m pretty pissed with myself for talking about this because the whole idea of doing an eighth installment as a stage show is fucking stupid. Not just because it’s going against all those times Rowling said she was done with Potter but because it also means so many fans will miss out. However, the story has blown up on new sites with many journalists defending the decision to the naysayers. That, my friends, is the reason I’ve decided to break my silence. Not the defence itself: I couldn’t care less who plays Hermione Granger because, in my opinion, nobody can be more annoying than Emma fucking Watson. No, I’m annoyed because is there really any need to defend it?

The media tend to sensationalise things and there is nothing that gets them more riled up than matters of race. Now I agree that there is a definite whitewashing taking place in film and television at the moment that needs to be addressed. However, we can’t let every little thing turn into a platform to debate when there is no debate. I’ve read a fair few of these “Why shouldn’t Hermione be black?” posts today and have seen no real evidence of any of these naysayers. I’m not saying there won’t be. The world is full of small-minded idiots that can’t handle things like this. However, the overriding feeling seems to be that Harry Potter fans are in favour of this.

In fact the Harry Potter fandom at large probably has less of a problem playing with the race of their beloved characters than any other fandom out there. Just browse Tumblr for a moment and you’ll see racebent illustrations of the main trio all over the fucking place. Especially when it comes to Hermione. There is a great sense of mirroring when you imagine that she suffers prejudice in the muggle world only to be taken out of it and into a world where she is again viewed negatively by many. It makes the already strong and intelligent female an even greater character. Imagine Hermione as a girl who has spent her whole life being judged for something she cannot help whilst she still upholds her beliefs and her sense of self. Fucking brilliant.

There is no doubt that Emma Watson is, in many ways, the epitome of Hermione’s character. She is clever, articulate, strong and has a unflinching moral stance. She is everything JK Rowling wanted Hermione to be. Well, with the exception of her face. Rowling has stated often that Emma Watson didn’t have the right look to play Hermione. In fact, it was only after talking to Watson on the phone that the author decided she was destined to play the schoolgirl. Emma Watson is a beautiful girl which helps Hollywood execs but doesn’t quite fit in with the books.

So what do we know about Hermione Granger’s physical appearance? Well, other than her bushy brown hair, brown eyes and large front teeth, not very much. Hermione isn’t a character that is defined by the way she looks but rather by the kind of person she is. In fact, for the most part JK Rowling didn’t seem to give a shit about the physical appearance of most of her characters. It’s all about who they are not what they look like. Which of course begs the question, why does it matter that the new Hermione Granger is black?

There is the obvious answer of bigotry and the idea that race-swap is political correctness gone mad. However, I’d say the most obvious answer is the films. The hardcore Tumblr fans clearly don’t have much of a problem with the new actress playing Hermione and Rowling herself has come out in favour of the casting. It’s the fans of the films that don’t seem to be able to handle it. The fact is, we have gone from having a very beautiful, young Emma Watson looking Hermione to a very non-Emma Watson looking Hermione.

Nobody likes change and when you become so familiar with a character looking a certain way it’s an adjustment when they change. This isn’t about race per se, but about our unwillingness to move on. The Harry Potter films are such a big part of people’s past that changing it could feel like you’re whole worldview has been skewed. Fans relate to books and films in such a strong and emotional way that seemingly tampering with them in any way feels like a betrayal. I mean we’ve been witnessing the fragile emotional state of Star Wars fans since 1999. When something becomes set in a fans head it can be difficult to rewrite it.  We don’t have to immediately start to imply people are just bigots.

I’m not saying the media are wrong to discuss race in relation to this announcement. I think there will always be a platform to bring up issues of race in theatre, film and television. However, was it necessary to have the sheer volume of articles announcing that it’s okay to have Hermione played by Dumezweni? Doesn’t this only strengthen the idea that society’s major feeling is that it isn’t? The more you have to disagree with something the more you’re suggesting that viewpoint is the norm. How are we supposed to move past the idea that a hero is automatically white until stated otherwise if the media continue to treat ever announcement in this way? It’s not like someone’s just discovered Nessie for fuck’s sake. An actress of colour has taken a role originally played by a white teenager. Why can’t we all just see it for what it is? Absolutely fine.

Because you know I’m all about that Snape. ‘Bout that Snape… no I’m just kidding that guy’s a fucking creep.

books, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, love, Severus Snape

For those of you out there paying attention, I’ve recently taken an impromptu month-long break from blogging. To be honest, I’d become a little jaded and incredibly fucking lazy regarding the writing of posts. I was out of good ideas and work was stressing me the fuck out so I just wasn’t getting anything written in time. I’m hopeful that whilst I’ve been away I’ve managed to come up with a few subjects and have, in my usual big-headed way, got some grand ideas about adding more to my schedule. So, if nothing else, the past few weeks have seen me grow even more deluded than I was before. Yay! It’s going to be fun seeing how long this ‘can do’ attitude lasts for. As I’m currently taking a holiday from work I’m guessing it’ll be the second I get back to the daily grind. Adulthood is super fun, y’all.


Speaking of adulthood, I was perusing Instagram the other day (you may not be aware but I’m an Instagrammer now… and I’m such a fucking dick about it too) and I saw something troubling on a photo posted by a member of today’s youth.

For those not wanting to enlarge that picture I’ll retype it, negating any real need to include the screenshot in the first place. “It’s September!!! Snape is waiting for you! He is and will ALWAYS be my top favourite male character. Who doesn’t want a love like Severus had for Lily? After all this time…” Hopefully, some of you out there can understand why I was so concerned. Now I may be someone who is firmly situated in her late 20s and unflinchingly cynical but it unnerves me that young women are actually hopeful that someone as fucking creepy and stalkerish as Severus Snape will fall in love with them one day. For fuck’s sake, this is the craziest literary-based romantic goal I’ve heard since I realised people still lust after Mr. Rochester!

I understand that people praise the character of Severus Snape because, as anti-heroes go, he’s fucking intriguing. JK Rowling created a complex and fairly delicious character for us all to get our teeth into. He’s angry, vicious and brilliantly sarcastic: the worst teacher in the whole of history but the sort of person you want making sassy comments about the unfolding madness at Hogwarts. Of course, there was never any doubt that he was working for Dumbledore all along, no matter how fucking desperately our author tried to convince us otherwise. So I don’t begrudge people suggesting that Snape was one of their favourite characters in the series. After all, he was incredibly important to the events of the Second Wizarding War. What I take umbrage with is people turning him into this romantic hero who’s love for Lily Potter was something to celebrate. Fucking “Always” has become a catchphrase for idiots who think Twilight is the ideal we should all be aspiring to. Whatever Severus Snape felt for Lily Potter, it shouldn’t be described as love. It was nothing more than an obsession. Snape shouldn’t be lorded as a symbol of undying adoration. He’s a child who lost his favourite toy to a tougher, richer, more popular kid and spent the rest of his life never getting past that moment. He’s no better than Miss Havisham. Actually, he’s fucking worse because at least Miss Havisham was engaged to the object of her affection.

I understand the appeal: Snape loved Lily from their childhood and never met anyone as wonderful as her again. It’s the stuff of fucking Disney dreams. However, it’s all just bullshit. Anyone who gets rejected in such a final way as he did and still mopes about it, over twenty years later, is just a fucking creep. Lily straight up told him that he wasn’t the kind of person she wanted in her life and he had the choice to become a better man or a bitter one. Well, I admit, accepting bitterness into your life is a lot easier than trying to improve your entire personality. It’s no wonder the internet has rallied around Snape though. I mean aside from the fact that both Harry and JK forgive him with the simple statement “he was the bravest man I knew” (so many issues for another time), Snape has become a mascot for every pathetic, lonely person out there who is too afraid to approach someone and instead hides in the imaginary ‘friendzone’. For someone born in the wizarding world, Snape is just like every other single nerd on the internet. From Snape’s point of view, he and Lily were perfect for each other but she ended up picking his schoolyard bully who had all the advantages Snape lacked.

Except that’s not what happened at all. Let’s get back to basics for a second: friendship does not equal love. It shouldn’t be the kind of thing I have to point out but it seems as though some of you haven’t been paying attention. Just because someone likes you as a friend doesn’t mean they are under any obligation to fall in love with you. It’s tough but it’s something we all have to fucking deal with. There was never any hint that Lily ever reciprocated Snape’s feelings. They were friends, yes, but from what we can tell they’d been drifting apart ever since they arrived at Hogwarts. She was making more friends and he became more involved in the pursuit of the dark arts. To put it in the simplest terms I can imagine: they just weren’t right for each other. He was a future Death Eater and she was a future victim of the Death Eaters. This isn’t Romeo and Juliet people. It’s about as likely a romance as Adolf Hitler falling in love with a disabled, black, Jewish woman. It went against the very doctrine Severus and his friends were willing to live their lives by. Severus didn’t love Lily: he just selfishly wanted her for himself. She wasn’t a human being but an object that held sway over his potential to be happy. It wasn’t so much that he wanted to be with her but just that he didn’t want to be without her.

Let us look, if we may, at the relationship that Lily ended up having with James. We don’t know much but we do know that James was willing to die for her. He lay down his life in the hope that Lily and his son would survive. What was Severus willing to do to save Lily? Not sacrifice his own life, that’s for sure. He was, however, very happy to offer up her husband and only child to Voldemort so they could be murdered instead. Just let that sink in for a second: “Darling, I love you so much I sacrificed the two people you care most about in the world so we could be together forever.” That doesn’t sound like love to me. And nobody should be aspiring to experience the kind of ‘love’ that festers into a dangerous obsession. Any feeling that causes you to look into a seventeen-year-old boys eyes as you die so you can pretend it’s your childhood crush is something you want to avoid. I mean who knows what kind of disgusting thoughts entered his head every time he made eye contact with young Mr Potter? Blurgh! Anyone who thinks he makes an acceptable romantic partner really is just as fucking insane as Snape himself.

Just look at what became of him. He ended his life as an essentially friendless, loveless and very unhappy man just because he had pinned all of his future happiness on a girl who rejected him. It also destroys most of the reasons that made him such a wonderful character. One of the things that made Severus so fantastic was his inner struggle with morality. Dumbledore himself made a big deal about the “choice between what is right, and what is easy” and, up until the end of Book 7, Severus was the perfect symbol for that very decision. Until JK went all fucking fairy tale on us again and turned his story into a love story. For one thing, it is a massive cliche and a super lazy way for a writer to absolve a morally questionable character of his sins. I mean nobody discusses Severus’ years of muggle torture and murder; all they ever fucking talk about is fucking “always”. For another thing, when you accept creepy obsessive love as Severus’ only motivation then you remove any question of morality from the equation. He didn’t care about doing the right thing at all. He just let an old man manipulate his adoration for a dead woman to get him to change sides.

You know what, I used to be just like that person I referenced earlier. I always loved Snape as a character and couldn’t wait for his moment of redemption. What I got was an absurd and incredibly unsettling ‘love’ story that completely spoiled him for me. He deserved his moment of bravery that would show all the doubters just how fucking stupid they were. Instead, he was just Harry’s mother’s stalker who actually turned out to be quite useful. Seems like the perfect person to name your child after.

TBT – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

books, boring, CGI, dragon, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, meh, review, TBT
Today is St George’s Day: a time where the English get patriotic, in other words drunk, because of the story of some geezer slaying a dragon. It’s a day of English-ness, heroics and fire-breathing dragons. It’s also a day when you have to put up with fucking annoying people managing to irritate you with these aforementioned traits. It seems to me there is a perfect film out there that sums up the characteristics of the day. The film also happens to be celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this November whilst the novel it is adapted from will be 15 years old in July. Well it looks like the fates are with me this Throwback Thursday. I fucking love it when a plan comes together.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Firesaw the Harry Potterfilm franchise continue its slow descent into the world of dark fantasy. Following on from Chris Columbus’ family-friendly, slightly fuddy-duddy, opening duo, Alfonso Cuarón was the surprising choice to take up the challenge and certainly upped the game. With every new release, the series, and indeed its young cast, grew more confident, mature and willing to take risks. This fourth instalment was helmed by Mike Newell, a director with a varied professional history: he was an equally unexpected choice to try his hand at adapting JK Rowling’s much-loved novels for the big screen.
I have to confess, The Goblet of Fireis my least favourite of the Potter films and that includes the incredibly childish and twee first two. This has nothing to do with the book because, whilst it will never be my favourite in the series, I love the excitement of the Triwizard Tournament and I always cry over the graveyard scene. The film just doesn’t stand-out when compared to its brothers. This is probably an unavoidable consequence of the sheer scope of the novel. It was fucking huge and screenwriter Steve Kloves had a lot material to cut to make this happen.
The film is still a lengthy affair, running at over two and a half hours, and you definitely feel it by the end. So much goes on in the novel that you can’t help but think that maybe Kloves could have taken a few more bits out? Such as the annoying and unnecessary Rita Skeeter: despite my overriding love for Miranda Richardson, Skeeter added to nothing but the film-length. There are already an exhausting number of narrative strands to follow: a Quidditch World Cup; the drama of the tournament; the new characters that need to be introduced; the children’s everyday school-life; teenage angst; romance; the Yule Ball; and the unforgettable threat of Lord Voldermort’s return. Phew.
Everything is fighting for attention and, because of this, the editing often seems choppy. There are several moments when you can’t escape the feeling that scenes were originally longer and cut for the sake of time. Frustratingly, these bite size pieces only feel unnecessary and waste even more precious time. This doesn’t feel like the kind of film Newell set out to make and it doesn’t feel like the kind of feel Potter fans were really hoping for.
It’s certainly not what I was hoping for: Newell doesn’t quite live up to expectations when it comes to the action sequences. Harry’s encounter with the dragon is never as thrilling as the legend of St. George and the subsequent Triwizard challenges never quite reach the excitement levels that they should. Everything is rushing towards the huge finale that fans of the books have been waiting for but, in the end, even this is rushed through. Ralph Fiennes is an excellent choice to bring the Dark Lord to life but his showdown with Harry doesn’t resonate as much as it did in the novel. The Goblet of Firedoesn’t feel like a film in its own right but something rather perfunctory that is leading to something bigger, better and more dangerous.
Although, to give him some credit, Newell is strong when it comes to the focus on character. If the first two chapters gave us Harry Potter’s annoying childhood, The Goblet of Fireis oozing with teenage hormones. Our heroes have suddenly entered their adolescence and sexual awakening (with a little help from some a few Veelas). The boys also have suitably rebellious yet still conservative messy hair. If I’m honest, the focus on character over action is probably where my major problem with The Goblet of Fire comes from. It focuses solely on Harry and his increasing sense of self-importance. When you’re dealing with a hero that’s as fucking disagreeable as Harry Potter is then you need some thrilling action to distract you. I’m not going to sit through a film that wastes its dragon potential in favour of pathetic teenage arguments and God complexes.

Mike Newell does a good job with a difficult task but it cannot be denied that it is problematic. It doesn’t necessarily feel like a Harry Potter film; maybe more of a cheesy American teen drama with a few CGI mythical beasts. The Goblet of Fire isn’t the black sheep of the Potter films but it is the awkward cousin who you do everything to avoid at reunions. 

Confessions of a Grown-Up Potterhead

books, Hank Green, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, rant
So I’m a pretty big Hank Green fan and I have recently put him back on my “Day to Day” Spotify playlist. However, I can’t help but feel a little guilty when I listen to his Harry Potter songs. OK not guilty but at least sad that I’m not that big of a Harry Potter fan. It’s something that has always made me feel a little awkward and constantly has me considering handing back my geek ID card. It’s not even like I hate the books: I’m just kind of ambivalent towards them. So whenever a song like ‘Book Eight‘ comes on I can’t fully appreciate how downright awesome the song actually is because I don’t fully understand the sentiment.

Now my relationship with the Chosen One starts out in very familiar territory. I received my first copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stonerandomly from my father. I don’t remember what led him to it but I quickly fell in love with JK Rowling’s wizarding world. I was 9 years old when the first book came out and I, along with basically every other child in the world, eagerly awaited the next chapter. To be fair, this wasn’t a great surprise: there were witches and wizards, centaurs, unicorns, a magical school, ghosts and plenty of other features to get an excitable and imaginative schoolgirl going.
Although, to be quite honest, it’s not until the later books that I actually remember the act of reading them. I do recall having the first book in class and my teaching making a comment about how much of a cliché I was (I grant you this may not have been her exact wording but 17 years and an increased vocabulary can do wonders for your memory). I remember loving the Prisoner of Azkabanbecause, duh, there’s a werewolf! I know I cried at the end of Goblet of Firewhen Harry’s parents turned up to motivate him. However, other than that it’s all very vague.
Of course this could be the expected onset of old age but I like to have more faith in my memory than that. I know for a fact that Harry Potter meant everything to me when I was growing up. I remember writing letters to a pen-friend where we exchanged our theories about certain characters and storylines. I remember constantly having to try and convince one of my oldest friends that Snape was obviously going to turn out to be a good guy. I adored the films, bought the PlayStation games and stayed up to the early hours to finish before my friends could spoil it for me the next day.

So yes, Harry Potter was a huge part of my childhood but I can’t say that it’s remained a huge part of my life. I still find some enjoyment in the films but I suspect that may have more to do with the fantastic British cast. Frankly, as the years go by I find both Harry Potter and Daniel Radcliffe to be increasingly annoying characters. (Although, in Radcliffe’s defence, I give him big props for openly admitting to how shit he was. As a result I’m genuinely looking forward to Horns.) Harry Potter just feels incredibly childish these days and, as a potential example of my inner child dying, I can’t help but focus on the fact that Hogwarts should have been shut down years ago. Far from being a hero, Dumbledore is nothing more than the shittest headteacher imaginable. Plus Snape’s all-encompassing and supposedly beautiful love for Lilly is actually creepy and worrying. I mean, dude she married someone else and died years ago. It was definitely time to move on.

Whilst I understand there is a lot to respect about her as person and there are aspects of her writing style to celebrate, JK Rowling just isn’t a good enough writer to keep me entertained any more. She’s supposedly one of the greatest British authors of all time but I don’t get it. Are people just confusing feelings of nostalgia with a respect for her prose? She came up with a great idea, I certainly can’t deny that, but it’s an idea that deserved a better writer. Someone who didn’t get bogged down in literary references and rushed to meet deadlines. I mean it gets super annoying that a lot of potentially exciting storylines are just tainted by her never-ending need for sentimentality.

I know big fans of the novels have probably read them countless times but I, honestly, haven’t been able to manage it and doubt I ever will. I tried so hard to read the first book again after my postgraduate degree but it just felt so cringey. Unlike my ex-colleague, I can’t remember the names of random bit characters or stupid little details. I’m not going to go so far as to say that children’s books shouldn’t be enjoyed but adults because it’s just not true. I just think Harry Potter has an age-limit. Whenever I see people nearing their twenties and upwards talking about how obsessed they still are I just don’t get it. I’m all for reliving my childhood but there’s an abundance of greater literature out there to constantly talk about instead.

Harry Potter will always have a place in my heart and it has undoubtedly helped shape my life and approach to literature. But, as Woody Allen was telling is in Midnight in Paris,nostalgia is a dangerous game. As I’ve grown up so too have my reading tastes. Harry Potter is the perfect series for young readers but there has to come a time when we all just calm down about it. So I’ll leave Harry Potter in my past and pray to god that JK Rowling does the same.

Of course, she’s proving to be a proper little George Lucas these days and I fear Book Eight really is just around the corner. Apologies, Hank, but this is one Potterhead who isn’t excitedly waiting for an additional instalment. Honestly, I can’t believe that anyone who read the fucking epilogue can still be hoping that she writes another. I don’t need to hear more about Albus Severus and his irritating father.

So I’m sorry internet, but I’ll have to approach my feelings for Harry Potter in the same way that an alcoholic deals with alcohol. I’ll always consider myself to be an addict but I’ll stay away from the thing at the heart of my obsession.