Tag Archives: harry-potter

Prof Dawkins vs Prof Dumbledore – AND ONE MUST DIE!

Apparently Richard Dawkins thinks that Harry Potter damages children. Except he doesn’t.

Dawkins’ views on Harry Potter remain to be seen. Personally, I think the politics of Potter are slightly iffy (being a paean to meritocracy in which the bad old elitists get their comeuppances while the good new elitists get to inherit the earth and lord it over the “undeserving” muggles), but fail to see how anyone could describe it as damaging (that’s the role of religious nutjobs anyway). However, it does take me back to my undergrad dissertation in which I commented on Dawkins’ 1997 Reith Lecture (which, annoyingly, doesn’t appear on the BBC’s website and is misdated on RichardDawkins.net) where he said:

How do we account for the current paranormal vogue in the popular media? Perhaps it has something to do with the millennium — in which case it’s depressing to realise that the millennium is still three years away [it was four years away! Sheesh!]. Less portentously, it may be an attempt to cash in on the success of The X-Files. This is fiction and therefore defensible as pure entertainment.

A fair defence, you might think. But soap operas, cop series and the like are justly criticised if, week after week, they ram home the same prejudice or bias. Each week The X-Files poses a mystery and offers two rival kinds of explanation, the rational theory and the paranormal theory. And, week after week, the rational explanation loses. But it is only fiction, a bit of fun, why get so hot under the collar?

Imagine a crime series in which, every week, there is a white suspect and a black suspect. And every week, lo and behold, the black one turns out to have done it. Unpardonable, of course. And my point is that you could not defend it by saying: “But it’s only fiction, only entertainment”.

This of course is utter bilge. Generally speaking, the formula of the X-Files was that a rational theory and a paranormal theory was presented, both of which turned out to be cobblers, and a third, semi-scientific explanation was found. The monster wasn’t a figment of people’s imagination or a wolf, but it wasn’t a spawn of hell either. Generally speaking, these things were explained as freaks of nature.

In other words, while rarely ascending beyond its pulpy origins, the X-Files formula was the very epitome of scientific method. But Dawkins couldn’t see beyond the fact that it explored the supernatural and space aliens. He should have been celebrating a series which was, at its best, profoundly scientific and prised out these underlying themse. Instead he denounced anyone who enjoyed the show as lunatic irrationalists. Thanks a bunch.

So if Dawkins is to turn his attention to Harry Potter et al, I hope he will be paying a little more attention than he was back then.

Evening Standard piece on JK Rowling

This was published in the Evening Standard on Thursday, slightly edited:

The Harry Potter series is one of the most derivative works of fiction ever devised, from its boarding school setting (The Four Marys, Billy Bunter), magical theme (too many to mention) and even its plot (drawing from the same well as Star Wars and even The Matrix). He isn’t even the first fictional English boy wizard with spectacles and a pet owl, as fans of Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic will testify.

None of this is to deride J.K. Rowling’s genius for taking hoary cliché and making something new out of it, but perhaps one would have thought it would have given her a more enlightened view regarding intellectual property law. The Harry Potter Lexicon is clearly a blatant cash in but one which will only promote her original books. If she wants to produce her own, more authoritative encyclopedia, no one is stopping her.

In any case, existing copyright laws mean that while the strikingly original and iconic Alice in Wonderland books became public property 50 years after Lewis Carroll’s death aged 65, Harry Potter will be owned by Rowling’s estate for 70 years after her death. The state of modern medicine and her millions mean that she is likely to survive well into her 90s. I don’t begrudge her money, but I do have an issue with her great grandchildren continuing to rake it in during the 2120s.

James Graham

Is J.K. finding it hard to let go?

Can anyone spot the inconsistency between the following two statements?

There will be just seven volumes of The Tales of Beedle the Bard and they will not be published.

One copy will be auctioned to raise money for her charity, The Children’s Voice, and the author will give away the rest of them.

She said the books were a “wonderful way” to say goodbye to Potter.

And:

JK Rowling and the makers of the Harry Potter films, Warner Bros, are suing a US publisher over its plans to release a book version of a popular website dedicated to the boy wizard.

The legal action claims that RDR Books will infringe on Rowling’s intellectual property rights if it publishes the 400-page Harry Potter Lexicon.

It adds that this would interfere with her plans to write her own definitive Harry Potter encyclopaedia.