Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Author Beat-down: J.K. Rowling

So it's been like three straight articles we've posted without really any hating involved, which we're sure is disappointing to most of you because let's be honest- that's what we do best. But the mounting heat of rant-provoking inner rage can only sit idle for so long before erupting in the form of an extremely opinionated article by an amateur writer criticizing the merits of immeasurably more successful authors. But if us inexperienced people weren't allowed to criticize those far more qualified than us, how would we deal with our deep-seated jealousy of the rich and famous? If we can't take shots at those uber-successful individuals we watch on TV and find joy in yelling at them for totally sucking (despite their professional status), would anyone even know who Tony Romo is?

Makes 11.5 Million this year; considered "really not very good" 
by 83% of the country [citation needed].

Here is the first of what will almost definitely become a regular feature here on Mind Grenades, "Author Beat-downs", which means pretty much exactly what you're thinking it means.

J.K. Rowling Sucks.

This is what your face looks like right now.

Yeah, we went there. There's one popular criticism of Rowling's Harry Potter series that we aren't going to make- "It's too childish". You know what? It is childish, because it was written for children. 

The first book in the series was published in 1997, when the generation that would one day push the series to record-breaking popularity wasn't allowed to hear mom read them a chapter until they brushed their teeth and got into jammies.

Picture of "Kid in Jammies" unavailable due to our photo department's unwillingness
to be tagged by every NSA watch list in existence.

First of all, kids don't really need character development. They open up a book and read about Emily Elizabeth and her really big dog and don't really question what Emily Elizabeth's hopes and dreams are, her aspirations, her faults, none of that. For a more mature crowd, character development is like, really important. That's the basic principle that forces movie studios to make every first superhero movie in a trilogy an origin story. It's why Iron Man came before Iron Man 2; nobody would've liked Iron Man 2 without the origin story that got our attention in the first Iron Man. Actually, bad example, because Iron Man 2 really wasn't that great. Let's start over: Batman Begins came first to show everyone what a real superhero looks like, then came Dark Knight to capitalize on all the goodwill Batman Begins earned the franchise. You have to be invested in a character to care about the story.

Character development is what George RR Martin uses to lure you into his trap 
before he makes you cry bitter tears

Let's examine the Harry Potter franchise for a moment. There isn't any interesting character development in these books; Harry's success as a protagonist is baffling, because in addition to being dull, passive, and a bit troubled, he's also completely unlikable. Maybe he's so universally popular with our generation because he gets to go to a magical school in Europe where he has a vault of infinite money and everything is handed to him for free because he's so special, since that's basically every high school girl's dream anyway.

It's especially painful to observe Rowling's female characters, of which there are like five. Quick, describe Cho Chang in five words. Um...pretty? Probably? And Asian! Definitely Asian. Despite literally every other person in the whole Potter universe being from the UK. I guess we're looking past that. How about Luna? Odd? Docile? Quiet? Unimportant for 97% of the series?

The entire Harry Potter franchise has less female eye-candy in it than Nolan's Batman trilogy.
We didn't even think that was possible.

And Harry Potter, the future savior of all wizard kind, what's he have going for him exactly? His personality is not one of humility and grit and hard work as his harsh upbringing mistakenly denotes, instead he's pretentious and completely lacks the inner fighting spirit it would take to conquer a truly formidable foe.

Seriously, summon that little spirit-deer of yours again, Harry. That was friggin' adorable.

Even as Harry ages he just becomes more hot-headed, irrational, self-centered, and kind of a douche in books 5-7. Sure character flaws are important, but they have to be balanced out by something good; his only positive character trait is that he's destined to save the world. So what? That doesn't automatically make him awesome, he's still a little snotty teenager. Even if your central character is going to save the world, you have to give people a reason to actually cheer for them.

You either know why this image is here, or you don't. If you don't, you have homework to do.

His sidekick Ron is even more dull and is basically Harry's adopted family, so we're treated to like 10,000 pages of boring unimportant stuff that happens at Ron's house throughout the series. Hermione is a stand-in for J.K. Rowling herself. She just is. Fred and George are your standard Merry and Pippin knockoffs. Ginny is mentioned like twice per book and is void of any personality whatsoever until Harry notices she has girl-parts around book 6, at which point Ginny...still has no personality but is now accidentally a main character. We can't list all the dry generic characters in Potter's universe here because it'd just take too long and we'd lose your attention, so just know that you're not missing anything. Let's move on...

Neville, the most celebrated accidental main character in the series. 

But hey, they're not serious adult fantasy books, they shouldn't be taken too seriously. There's not a lot of character development for Sam I am other than the fact that he's a picky eater, and everyone's okay with that. But, since the whole world has decided to put the Harry Potter series up on the fantasy genre-defining pedestal and effectively making the Harry Potter brand worth over 15 Billion dollars, we probably need to look at these books with something of a critical eye, which will cause any major Harry Potter fans to throw a fit because the very implication that they read thousands of pages of cliche, entry-level fantasy writing insults their intelligence. Which is funny, because everything about the following list insults the intelligence of anyone who's read any fictional novel above a 7th grade reading level:

Harry's constant need to be rescued by others, Ginny, Quiddich, Rowling's gender stereotypes that set feminism and whatever the dude version of feminism back 200 years, the absolutely awful attempts at romance including Harry's "relationships" with Cho and Ginny as well as Lupin/Tonks, Hagrid/giant woman, Alan Rickman/Harry's Mom, and the entire Dumbledore needlessly being gay thing. The blatant ripoffs of every major Lord of the Rings character, Rowling's unoriginal use of latin for magical spells and stupid made-up nonsense names for all proper nouns ("Diagon alley"......seriously?), the fact that Rowling dragged the series on for seven books instead of like four, Rowling's refusal to explore her most interesting ideas in favor of examining the lives of her bland main characters and their seven years of magical high school angst, 

Also, Ginny.

...Hermione's stupid time-machine plot device that everyone forgets about, a main villain Darth Vader would have backhanded for being really not all that threatening ever, pointless made-up creatures that padded an extra 4,000 pages onto the finished series, the fact that Hermione is obviously a placeholder for Rowling, the very nature of magic being completely understood and controlled by stupid teenage kids which renders it wholly uninteresting, the laziest suckiest most boring wizard duels ever, Harry being completely unlikable, irrational, possessive, and only a fraction as cool as Percy Jackson, Ron's stupid face, the deaths of characters far more interesting than the entire rest of the series by unexplained means at random places in the plot which renders the potential emotional power of such a character death completely pointless,

Well I suppose I'm dead now. 
Yeah me too, and I won't be coming back as Dumbledore The White because Rowling
likes to keep her borrowed material subtle.
Why is everything in the wizarding world a bluish green tint?

...the almost-deaths of super boring characters nobody cares about at times when the plot really does call for some action, the lack of Chris Columbus' influence in movies 3-8, the fact that there was 8 movies, the fact that Harry just all of a sudden has that stupid stone in his pocket at the end of book 1 because "magic", the fact that 100,000 wizards attend a stupid Quiddich tournament and can't overpower a dozen or so amateur wizard-terrorists and their leader who's only at about 10% health for like six straight books, the very idea of a Quiddich tournament, people who refer to non-fans of the books as "muggles" despite their own complete lack of magical capabilities, and the fact that the first book in this series wasn't called "Sirius Black and The Escape From Azkaban".

The recent news of Rowling's interest in further exploring the Harry Potter universe should surprise absolutely nobody, since last year she branched out and tried to write another book, "The Casual Vacancy", and nobody freaking cared. Reviews ranged from kind of almost positive because columnists who criticize J.K. Rowling know they'll lose readers, to truthful:

"More than 500 pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature"-Jan Moir, Daily Mail

And then there were those critics who included in their review some crack about how the book lacked the "magic" of her previous writings. Har-har, idiotic book critics, we hope somebody goes all Joker on you with your own freaking pen.

J.K. Rowling is not a bad person. In fact, her rags-to-riches story is inspiring and she's the only person we've ever heard of to go from a Billionaire to "just" a still-several-millionaire because of charitable giving. All we're saying is if you can only write one thing, and even that one thing is actually not that great, there's a chance you might not be the best author around. Highest-earning? Sure. Record-shattering. Phenomenon-sparking. Good for her. But squeezing your only success for all it's worth years past its expiration date isn't cool, not when it's Harry Potter, not when it's Pixar, not ever.
For shame, Pixar. For shame.

If there's one thing that signifies a brilliant writer, it's the rare ability to take your readers in and out of different worlds and make them believe they were there with nothing more than just the ink on the page. You've proven you can tell us about your kiddish magical fantasy land, J.K. Rowling, now be an author and take us somewhere we haven't been seven times already, before Louis CK makes fun of you.


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