Saturday, August 29, 2009

Oh No...What have I done?!??!

Readers, I have made a horrific, terrible mistake. I have succumbed to an anime I swore I would never watch - something that I use to view with horror and disgust and make fun of those who watched it.

Flashback to two years ago: Anime Boston. Darci and I were attending and noticed a whole bunch of girls and boys dressed in these silly, Renaissance and German hybrid influenced School Uniforms for some anime called, "Ouran High School Host Club." Then we saw a bunch of AMV's devoted to Yaoi (read as girls that like to watch homosexual tenancies between boys because they think it's sexy) influenced aspects of this show. Ugh, we said to ourselves, that just looks stupid and for the 16 year old crazy Otakus (super fan girls) that want to rape young boys. Gross.

Fast forward to last month. Darci and I were running low on the Netflix list and said to ourselves, "Hey, what haven't we watched in the anime section yet?" Our eyes scrolled over Ouran High School Host Club and we thought to ourselves, "Well, out of morbid curiosity we could check it out."



Oh, my, what were we thinking? Not only is this anime actually GOOD, but it sucks you in like Japanese crack that will never, ever let you quit. The story is amazing, well written, and the golden gem of this anime is that it makes fun of Otaku's while writing a ridiculous otaku-driven plot, while at the same time pulling in the comical influences of Japanese dating sim video games, Shojou cheese, and any teenage drama film or novel EVER. I especially enjoy the show's ability to poke fun at yaoi fans (and shojou otaku girls in general), which makes me lol, a lot.

Now, for the plot. I'm going to admit to you right off that I normally am not a watcher of a lot of Shojou (girly anime usually containing a romance driven plot and/or a lot of drama). I do enjoy the occasional cheese fest with a romance backdrop, like that featured in Fushigi Yuugi and the ever classic Sailor Moon, but there are only so many flower covered, glitter driven panels that I can take before I want to barf. But this anime does all of these things: roses fluttering about ridiculously, people with shining eyes dripping with tears, the color PINK thrown about like it's always in season, and RIDICULOUS high school drama and romance, and yet I want to just inject myself with this anime like it's a delicious otaku drug because the plot and making fun of itself makes it not only bearable, but enjoyable.

The story opens with Haruhi, an Honor Student who is stated as obviously only being accepted into the super elite Ouran Academy for her grades and to fulfill a quota. All the other students are so absorbed in opulence, decadence, and being rich that it is obscene. They make the royal families of European countries look destitute. The show, like many European influenced anime, takes all the beautiful and ideal aspects of historic elite culture in Western Europe and makes it terrifically Japanese. Read as: instead of a banquet with escargot, you have fancy tuna.

The one major difference from mainstream Japanese cultural influences is that these students are not obsessed with their grades at all, because they are rich, and you never seem them in class, pretty much ever. Haruhi is the only one ever seen studying because she has to put forth effort to maintain her scholarship. The other students, as the show frequently reminds us, are there to have fun and go to social events that the elite generate with obsessive style and flair. The majority of these events, of course, are hosted by what has driven the title of the show, "The Ouran High School Host Club."

You may say to yourself, WTF Mate? What is a High School Host Club? Aren't hosts in most cultural circled whores and therefore they have no place in a high school environment? Well, yes and no. They are really more like Westernized Japanese Male Geisha. Yeah, I know that seems complicated, so allow me to explain. First off, they are geisha in the sense of "a person of the arts" (so please do not misinterpret the definition of geisha). Now, this host club walks a very thin line. They have a clientele of beautiful, rich women who come to the club to be essentially flirted with and served tea and go to fancy parties or theme dinners. (Cultural note: in Japan there are actually many male host clubs where this is becoming an escape for single women. Some women drop thousands of yen on these places, and if you don't believe me look here)

The boys in this show range from 1st to 3rd years, meaning by Japanese scholastic standards they are about 14 to 17 years in age. There are 6 of them, and each has their own "moe" (meaning sexual appeal or fetish archetype). The six archetypes featured in this are: the wild type (the bad boy but not really bad), the boy lolita (obsessively pretty and cute and drives every girl in the room to say "Awww", borderline incestuous twins (boy love or yaoi which makes a small niche of girls go crazy), the lonesome prince/king (leader of the group and the one who demands he be the center of attention and have the most clients as well), and the cool guy (the vice president who is the CEO of this crazy establishment and as Darci has told me is most definitely her "moe").



To save time I have copy/pasted the character definitions from wikipedia because they are very accurate and I have more to write about:
Haruhi Fujioka
Haruhi is the androgynous heroine of the story and the Natural type. She comes from a lower-class family, but is very intelligent, so she is a scholarship student at Ouran. Her mother died when she was five years old and so her cross-dressing father raises her on his own. She is a seemingly apathetic and reluctant heroine who has no interest in pretty and flashy things, sweet food, or frivolous males. The members of the Host Club all have a sort of weakness for her and either openly or secretly adore her. Haruhi appears as if she doesn't care about the host club member's feelings; however, she actually studies each and every one of them individually and cares for them all very much. She eventually discovers that her feelings for Tamaki have grown into love.

Tamaki Suoh
The president of the Host club and the Prince type. He is extremely passionate and kind, always ready to help people, and has an interest in many things. He is considered the most attractive of the hosts, as he is the prince "type" and the president of the club. He is also very intelligent (2nd in his class behind Kyoya), and a gifted piano player. He is very sincere in what he says, and takes his role to please girls very seriously, which stems from his deep love of his mother. However, the other club members recognize him as an idiot most of the time because he is very dense about his own situations (though perceptive about others), very silly and melodramatic at times, and somewhat selfish and narcissistic. He also has an odd obsession for the "commoner's lifestyle" and loves ramen and instant coffee (considered "commoner food"). He considers the Host Club to be a family and named himself father and Kyoya as the mother. His father is the superintendent of Ouran High School and his family is one of the wealthiest families in Japan. His mother was forced to leave him so he would hopefully one day be recognized as the heir of the Suoh family by his grandmother, who does not like him. Tamaki is half-French and half-Japanese and considered to be very beautiful. He later discovers he possesses feelings for Haruhi, yet, he believes this love to be fatherly love and not romantic. Later, in chapter 64 of the manga, he comes to realize that he is indeed in love with Haruhi, not as a 'father' but as a man. This is revealed in chapter 67.

Kyoya Ootori
The vice president of the Host club and the Cool type. He is often called "Mother" by Tamaki and "Shadow King" by the rest of the club. He is behind most of the Host Club schemes and the other club members tend to go along with whatever Kyoya says, sometimes even favoring his leadership over Tamaki's. Despite their opposite personalities, Kyoya and Tamaki have been best friends since their last year of middle school, when Tamaki transferred to Ouran. He is a third son and has spent his whole life honoring his family name and yielding his true abilities so as to not overshadow his brothers; however, it is clear that Kyoya has more ambition, drive, and talent than both of them. Throughout the series Kyoya refers to the fact that as he is a third son he won't inherit his father business, although he has slowly started to come out of that mindset after his becoming friends with Tamaki. He believes life is a game and will lose out if he doesn't have 'fun'. He also manages most of the finances with the club and has a habit of not revealing important information to the other hosts until the problem at hand is already over.

Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin
Identical twins who used to reject others and are the Little Devil types. Only recently after they joined the Host Club did they start to open up and allow other people into their world. They are the same age as Haruhi and are in her class, and so have a special bond with her; Haruhi was the first and only person who is able to tell the twins apart, something that both had secretly longed for. They enjoy playing "games" and tricks on classmates, especially Tamaki. Kaoru is nicer, more sensitive, soft spoken and more mature than Hikaru. Hikaru, on the other hand, is very immature and somewhat mean but has a shy and sweet side, the mean part of him is mostly because he has trouble expressing his feelings. Kaoru tends to have a more high pitched voice compared to Hikaru, who has a lower voice, which makes it easier to distinguish which twin is which. Episode four comically insinuates that Hikaru is the "seme" of their relationship when the twins are concerned over the script of a Host Club movie in which they play basketball players which seems to reverse the roles. The twins later on discover that they too harbor feelings for Haruhi. Kaoru doesn't love Haruhi enough to want her only for himself (because he values his relationship with his brother more), so he ends up letting Hikaru be the twin who loves her romantically. After this development, the twins begin to attempt embracing their differences.

Mitsukuni Haninotsuka
Also known as "Honey" and the Boy-Lolita type. He looks like an elementary school child rather than the 17-year-old third-year student he actually is. Honey is obsessed with sweets and anything cute, much like his youthful appearance would dictate. Honey is loved by the other characters for his cuteness and has a nickname for everyone (such as Haru-chan for Haruhi). Honey carries a plush bunny (called "Usa-chan") around with him. Despite his childish looks, he is deceptively strong and highly skilled in martial arts. He is usually found with Mori, his cousin by marriage. Honey comes from a family that owns a nationally-renowned dojo and are known for their martial arts abilities. In one episode it was said if his full combat abilities were unleashed, he would be considered a threat to national security. Though it appears to be a fa├žade, his cute side and serious side are both very real. After Tamaki explains to him that being himself is "true strength," he resolves never to change.

Takashi Morinotsuka
Also known as "Mori" and is the strong but silent type. He is the tall, stoic character. Mori dedicates his life to Honey by protecting him and only gets angry when Honey is injured or harmed. However, he is also very close with the other club members and many classmates look up to him because of his quiet but gentle nature. He usually only speaks when he deems it necessary, and responds to questions mostly with monosyllabic answers. Mori's family has served Honey's family for years, until a marriage two generations ago made them cousins. Even though the servant-master bond was technically broken, Mori still serves faithfully as Honey's guardian and best friend.


(Haruhi trying to flirt with clients.)

So how does Haruhi end up in this crazy circus? Our protagonist is searching for a quiet place to study when she stumbles into the host club, who think she is a boy. While scaring her and confusing her simultaneously with their ridiculous personalities and unusual habits, she stumbles into an 8,000,000 Yen Vase and breaks it. This puts her into the debt of the host club and thus she has to work off the debt by becoming a host (after they realize under her crummy clothes and hair cut that she is actually quite beautiful in a gender-bending way). Soon into the first episode, they discover she is actually a girl but decide to help keep that a secret so she can continue to be a host (and so that the king, Tamaki-kun can hit on her as much as possible because he is obviously falling for her).

The show spirals into a series of dramatic plot lines and exaggerated character stories that would suck in just about anyone. We even know guys who like this show and admit that it is addictive! Sexual tension and sexuality-driven jokes are frequent, and one of my favorites so far involved the pitcher/catcher metaphor IN AN INNOCENT JOKE which is just ridiculous. Tamaki-kun's constant attempts at making Haruhi love her are poor and funny at the same time. The characters break the fourth wall and the art, character design, and animation are super pretty. Just take my word for it, get past your shame and rent this anime. If you are a guy, just netflix it and no one will ever know. Just do it people! I'm serious! (Darci says if she buys this anime as a box set she is almost positive it will be a little bit sticky...ahahaha awesome)

Alright, I've ranted enough. Get out there and enjoy some cheese, people. Cheese is good for you!

Your 23 Year Old Secret Otaku
Lady Lara Jones

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why I should never be left alone with the internets

So at this point in our blogging relationship, I hope most of you realize that not only am I a hateful, bitter person, but that in most cases my brain actively frightens me, which leads to some very interesting results. And by that I mean I can draw some crazy conclusions from even the most innocuous of statements (see everything I have ever written about Alan Moore). I like to believe this is what makes me a good writer, but deep down I know it just means I am insane.

This also means much like the Japanese pop singer Gackt, I should never be let out in public without a handler (if interested, I will perhaps one day explain the reasoning behind this sentence). For example, let us explore what I loosely call my "thought processes."

My hetero lifemate, bless her little enabling heart, sent me a couple of links to a picture of a moth which led to me wishing that Alan Moore had his own television show. If you cannot see how those two things can possibly be connected then congratulations: you are not insane!

Alas, I have long ago lost any shred of good sense I ever had and thus my brain leaped and bounded and cartwheeled in the batshit crazy territory with abandon.

Let us try to follow the overgrown corkscrewed paths of my thought processes, shall we?

It started with this. This is a normal moth:

This is a hell beast that just rubs its legs together and whispers Latin in your ear at night:


This was my initial response: OH SWEET ZOMBIE JESUS GET SOME HOLY WATER AND KILL IT.

Eventually, after I could look at the screen without flinching and searching for a flamethrower, I told my hetero lifemate thus: "Oh god, I bet it's one of the elder gods. Actually, like those moths in the Lord of the Ring movies, I bet Alan Moore doesn't use the mail and instead employs this to deliver his messages. His beard whispers instructions to it in dead languages that have not existed for thousands of years..."

My enabling hetero lifemate's response: YES!

And this is the point where it didn't so much as spiral down into craziness as it leaped off with a faulty jet pack to plummet down the cliffs of insanity ala Wile E. Coyote style.

I have named the moth Yad-Thaddag, because if that hell-moth isn't an elder god I don't know what is (my hetero lifemate maintains that it is really Beezlebub. That is also highly likely, oh god, look at it, I need to hide under my blankie now.)

This is what I told my hetero lifemate:

Oh god, can you imagine poor Neil Gaiman's wife coming downstairs in the morning and seeing that waiting on the counter for her? Poor woman would try to beat it to death with a chair. Nothing short of divine intervention can kill this thing.

Neil Gaiman: Oh, hey, honey, Alan Moore wants to know if we can come to dinner. Honey? Why do you have that axe?

It did not stop there. There is more:
Alan Moore: Neil, why did Yad-Thaddag return with its wing bent?

Neil Gaiman: Um, yeah, sorry about that, Alan. But my daughter was trying to stab it with a carving knife.

Alan Moore: I was just wishing her a happy birthday.

Neil Gaiman: Alan, it...it came at her at head height.

My hetero lifemate responded with "Hee! Oh, Alan, this is why you have like two friends and they are AFRAID to unfriend you!"


If you doubt that this would actually exist, here's a picture of Alan Moore being inherently creepy for no other than reason than he can.



Is it wrong for me to now wish that Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore had their own show? And by that I mean the persona of Alan Moore that exists inside my own head. I'm sure in real life Neil Gaiman would be charming and say delightful things and then Alan Moore would silently stare through the television screen and into your soul for thirty seconds until Neil Gaiman came back to talk you back down.

No, I want this show where Alan Moore is being bitter and crazy and Neil Gaiman is just being dragged into these adventures against his will and every episode ends with Alan Moore staring into your soul through the television screen while Neil Gaiman makes you a cup of tea to help stave off your nightmares. Because I would watch that show. I would watch the hell out of it.

In a related note: I am now taking applications for anyone interested in becoming my handler. All the job entails is slapping my hand and saying in a loud, authoritative voice, "No, Jayne! Normal people don't think about Alan Moore and Gackt this much!" when I look thoughtful and start to giggle to myself. Then you just have to keep me away from all computers until I calm down and am capable of having a rational conversation again (note: this could take hours. Applicants must be patient).

In conclusion, I just want to say DON'T YOU JUDGE ME.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Think I'm Just a Little Gay for Felicia Day

The Guild, which everyone whose ever looked up after six hours of obsessive gameplay and realized that they have no friends and should maybe do some groceries, then followed that thought with "One More Level" should watch, love and obsess over THE GUILD as I do. THE GUILD has a new season starting August 25! YAY!

Squee!
~Darcy

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Okay, that's it. I've had it.

I'm about to do something i don't normally do. Or at least here. Not only will i have posted twice within a week, I'm about to rant, though i promise it won't be as well played as some of Darcy's or Laura's.
You know what REALLY kicks me into overdrive? Men. Stupid men who think abusive relationships are fun, or just plain ok. You knows what makes me even angrier? Women. These dumb little creatures who spout lines like "but i can't live without him" and "i can't leave him- he's the only one for me." Now, don't get me mixed up with a cold hearted beast who wishes death upon anyone in a relationship, in fact I'm very sympathetic when actual relationship troubles begin and the two are reaching to make things right.
What makes me a psychotic eye-twitching, lip-curling beast from the lowest reaches of hell is when a man says something to make a girl cry, on purpose, just for the sake of seeing her cry, and then manages to convince her to do something for him, because "he's the only one who'll love her like he does".
I hate that. Emotional abuse is still abuse. In fact, it's the kind that makes me sooooooo angry because society in general ignores it, and to some extent, makes excuses for it. Hell, the entire Twilight series is just that. A long story of emotional abuse and hastily fixed plot holes. I swear it says in the small print in the side chapter of some obscure section of the book;

"Girls, when a man loves you, and is willing to risk his life, his friends, and his emotional boundries for you, he's not good enough. No no, girls. The nice boys out there who are your friends and protectors and the men who bend over backwards to keep you safe and happy and loved are NOT the men you should be with. Those who admit their feelings for you, stay with you, and go out of their ways to do what's right for you are weak and not worth anything but the ignored status of 'friend'. You should be with the boy who yells at you, talks down to you, throws things and tells you he never wants to see you. If he's cold and emotionless, he's the one. If he leaves you and tells you you are worthless in his world, then you should do anything to follow him. Yes girls! Abuse is the right way to go about your lives! Never settle for happiness with a nice boy who works hard; be with the one who's never lifted a finger in his undead life for anyone or anything. Be with the boy who makes excuses for stalking you and then leaving you with no warning! Love the child who has done nothing for you but look at you in lust and not in love. Marry the man who puts you consistently in harms way!"

I swear it does. In the epilogue or something.

And that brings me to my reasoning for this whole near-strangulation attitude. At work a girl told me her life resembled Twilight. After slowly turning my head so to not show her my half-murderous grin, i asked her how. She told me about her emotionally abusive ex, who still called her even though they couldn't be friends. She went on to explain to me that he was on her facebook, and bugged her repeatedly with emotionally painful statements that he knew would make her cry, but she didn't have the heart to de-friend him because she still cares. But not really, because he's a jerk. And she KNOWS it's an abusive relationship, but she just can't go without.
That makes me sick. I almost slapped her. Really.
So then she tells me how the guy is like Edward in so many ways and my caring factor? it shut down. I could have just puked.

And on top of that, earlier that day i had found out that i lost weight. Ten pounds might not sound like much, but going from 170 to 160 on a very tall girl shows. And the response i got was that i could do better. I was happy that my healthy changes were making an impact, and the result was people suggesting i could be thinner. Somehow, i was still being judged even though i fit the norm. This strong trend for thin and drop dead pretty makes me crazy as well. When women as a majority grow up and take themselves seriously, maybe men will fall in behind. Or maybe when men start taking relationships seriously, women will too.
Side note, if you don't fit the categories, then don't take it personally. i know for a fact that many women and men survive a day-to-day life as functional humans. It just bugs me when some people can't. Welcome to life people, it's up to you to make it out alive.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

You might be a nerd if....

Yes you. Right there in the middle. No, not you, with the polo, i mean YOU in the t-shirt who's not looking me in the eye. And you, with jersey on, but you don't know who the team is. Yes, i know your secret. You make me so sad.
You who are closet gamers.
Yes, those of you who think of Zelda and Peach as damsels in distress. Those who look at a massive fluffy thing and think to themselves how snorlax-like it is. Those who deny it, but not only play Wow but have decent knowings of the classes and races. You people out there who play halo with your buddies, but who really know the plot by heart and respect the game as more than just an opportunity to shoot something.
Yes, you must come out of the box!

And i say all this so that i can compile a list of nerd-jokes. Feel free to add to them.

You might be a nerd if-
~you think of peach and zelda as damsels, but also feel that sometimes it's just not worth the struggle.
~large fluffy things are related to snorlax or jigglypuff.
~hypothetical questions about a worst case scenario start of with the words, "When the great Zombie Apocalypse happens..."
~Someone you hate (and/or your boss) gets nicknames like "Voldemort", "Darth Vader" and "Sephiroth"
~You cried when Aeris died. And all the way through that boss battle too.
~D&D is not a joke to you. Nor is Scion, Vamp-the Masq, Werewolf, or any other paper and pencil game. It's actually Saturday night with the boys.
~LARPing isn't a joke either. You put a lot of time and energy (and love) into that armor set.
~You don't think Avatar: The Last Airbender is seriously a child's show, but you would definitely watch it again with your kids!
~You talk about Bleach with your friends, but it has nothing to do with laundry.
~You mention Tier 4 armor comfortably in conversation, and you know how it looks on your night elf hunter.
~You know "WOW" isn't a verbal intonation of surprise, but an addiction that someone you know struggles with.
~You play Final Fantasy battle music while you work on homework.
~You find yourself muttering "I am a leaf on the wind, watch me soar!" whenever you play a flight simulator.
~You wish the super market carried more types of mushrooms, like the one that gave you extra lives, or the one that made you bigger.
~You either love or hate ninjas. And you think ninja/pirate hybrids are just people who can't pick a side.
~You have already tried mixing the Horde and Alliance drinks together, have come up with a new name for it, and found it doesn't taste very good.
~You move things like boxes or tables to the Tetris theme in your head.
~You know the Orange Box has nothing to do with the food, and you can name what's in it.
~You show this to your friends because you can all enjoy it on some level:

http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1912670

~You KNOW what movie luigi got slapped over. And you laughed.
~You know...this mess: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Mario_Bros._%28film%29
~Hell, you've laughed at some point already about this stuff.

I'm running out of good ones, so I'll stop while I'm ahead. Have fun peoples!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Oh for god's sake, are you kidding me?

I am not, in fact, dead, despite my homicidal oven's best efforts. I won't go into details, but there was gas and a small ball of flame that blew open the oven door, blew out my pilot light, and tried to singe the skin off my finger. Also, I suspect my oven is conspiring with other elements in my apartment because not five minutes after the tiny fireball the blinds fell off my window for no other reason than to add insult to injury. I expect any day now for my fan to turn on me.



Murderous household appliances aside, I decided it was good a time as any to share some of my bitterness, because why be spiteful if you can't spread it around? (Note: this explains Alan Moore's existence.)



In a fit of boredom as I waited to counter the oven's latest attempt on my life, I was surfing the internet when, lo, I came upon this gem of complete and utter bullshit craziness. Go read it. No, seriously. I'll wait.



Back already? In case you're wondering, yes, Harry Potter just got turned into a religion. Everyone together now: what the fucking fuck?



All right, tiny little warning before I get into this. I'm actually going to discuss the Harry Potter series, something I've had really no inclination to do before because the series is finally concluded, it's been two years since the last book was released, and, to be honest, I care little for the series itself. Yes, that means I am going to be very critical (read: bitter) about the books and Rowling, so if you hold a deep love for the series you might want to go read Darcy's quite lovely review of the movie. You could also stick around and argue with me in the comments and that would be equally as awesome, because I love a good argument (I fully expect Darcy to take me up on this).



That out of the way, let's move on. I don't know whether to sit these people down and take away all pointy objects or perhaps buy them puppies and kittens and hope the cute little animals distract them from interacting with the world, because damn, people, damn.



Look, I'm not about to dispute that Harry Potter is a huge cultural phenomenon--at least it's less inexplicable then, say, Twilight--but it's not the pinnacle of children's literature, or any literature at all, actually. It started as a few series of books about a boy going to a magical school and having magical adventures and then spiraled out into Rowling's message bout Love and Death and other nonsense.



I am all for books that get kids excited to read, but people have been writing fantasy series with deep layers far longer and better than Rowling. Just off the top of my head you have Pullman's His Dark Materials and Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series (which a tragically few people know about and I have now made it my mission to introduce as many people to it as humanly possible). I didn't cite Narnia here because everyone knows Narnia, and, to be honest, the last book in the series is problematic if you're anything but a white, hardcore Christian.



I will admit that I quite enjoyed the first three Potter books, especially Prisoner of Azkaban, which took risks for a children's book. Goblet of Fire and onwards was just an increasing mess, not helped by Rowling's undeniable success and the fact her editors apparently just gave up. For example, is there anyone out there that thought it was vital to the plot of The Deathly Hallows for Harry and co. to sit around under a magical tent in some field for what felt like 900 endless pages? Anyone?



Not to mention that Rowling's writing itself started to decline, which became evident in the last book where the pacing was shot to hell, and we had gems like this: "The suddenness and completeness of death was with them like a presence." I'm sorry, but on what planet is that considered good writing?



A lot of people cite the sheer amount of pages of Harry Potter as a mark of the scope of the work. I won't deny that Rowling did put a lot of effort into making the series rather epic, and she did, arguable, succeed in that sense. However, the sheer amount of words you write doesn't making anything epic or deep.



For example, take Cooper's The Dark is Rising. It's only five books to Harry Potter's seven, and only a fraction as long. In fact, the third and fourth books, The Green Witch and The Grey King respectively, don't even break two hundred pages. And this is absolutely not at all a weakness. I'll be the first to admit that Cooper's writing is dense enough that so much can be packed into one page that I often find myself reading it to get everything. This is a strength, because Cooper does not waste one word. The same cannot be said about Rowling and the magical tent of pace killing boredom.



In fact, Cooper is such a master of making use of her space that one of the most important characters in the entire series only appears in the last two books, but by the end I knew him better than Harry, who I had spent seven books with, and Dumbledore of the interminable exposition back story dump of oh my god Rowling seriously.



And, for the record, killing off characters does not make one edgy or dark, especially when the characters you kill off only include secondary characters and an owl. It says nothing about Death other than that Rowling thought she was being dark and edgy. You killed an owl, Rowling. Shut up.



As seen in the article about Rowling's website, Rowling has an interesting relationship with her readers and with fandom. I'm not even going to get into Harry Potter fandom because it's a giant, frightening beast, but will discuss the way that Rowling and fandom intersect.



In this day and age with the internet making things so easy, fandom is an entirely different creatures than pre-iternet days where you had to go hunt down convention and 'zines to get your fanfic fix. Now you do a simple google search and viola! You can find porn for any pairing your twisted little heart desires.



Most authors and creators take a rather ambivalent stance to fandom and transformative works (i.e. fanfiction, fanart, and fanvids) and pretty much stay away from it. Some, like Robin Hobb, see fanfic as encroaching on their ownership of the work and destroying her carefully constructed novels (I do not agree with this, because people are going to take away different things from your work and you cannot control that or how they expound on those interpretations). Others, like Terry Pratchett, accept it but make no move to actively seek out transformative works based on their creations.



Rowling...is an interesting case. Harry Potter fandom is so prevelant that even if you are not actively seeking things out, you're going to pick up some idea of it via osmosis if nothing else. In Harry Potter fandom it's pretty apparent that one of the major pairings is Sirius/Remus. It may have no canon basis, but a lot of fandom extrapolates what they want from cannon and then runs with it.



I've mentioned up there in an aside about personal interpretation and how an author cannot control it. An author can, of course, guide it by suggesting and outright stating things in the text, but at the end of the day it is the reader who takes what they want from the work. Now I'm not about to suggest all interpretations have equal validity, because anyone who has ever sat through a freshmen lit course knows what nonsense that is. What I am suggesting is that two people can read the same text and take different things away from it depending on their point of view, and that is what makes books and the act of reading rather amazing.



Rowling appears to disagree and seems intent on doing the interpretation for the reader. Look, as a writing student I can sympathize that it's frustrating if your audience doesn't take away what you want, but that suggests the fault lays with you the writer and not the audience. Rowling seems to be of the mindset it's the audience's fault and will do everything she can to rectify it.



Take the Remus/Sirius fandom created relationship that I mentioned paragraphs ago (I did have a point in that). In whatever book, six or seven maybe, Harry goes into Sirius' old room and sees that he had up multiple posters of half-naked woman. This is pretty much Rowling telling those who create work advocating that Remus and Sirius were going at it like bunnies to fuck off because Sirius is completely and utterly straight, damnit! That's a real mature response to your audience, Rowling.



To make matters worse, in her latest book Beedle the Bard after every story there are Dumbledore's notes, which is literally Rowling telling you how to interpret her work. In doing so Rowling is actively taking away the reader's own interpretation, leaving nothing for them to interact with. That does not make reading fun. It makes it boring and dull and insulting. Well done, Rowling.



Out of this cultural phenomena, you get The Harry Potter Alliance. I won't deny that the Alliance has done some wonderful things, donating books to schools in Rwanda, but the fact that they decided to make their moral compass a character from a mediocre children's book series is worrying and infuriating.



Look, there is a long history of books raising social activism, which is amazing and awe inspiring. But, I have to tell you, Harry Potter isn't exactly on the same level as Uncle Tom's Cabin or The Jungle. Harry Potter is only a few steps up from Twilight: How to Get Yourself into an Abusive Relationship.



Slack is using Dumbledore as an indicator of right and wrong, the same man who sent a seventeen year old boy off to willingly die. And, yes, I know, Harry had to die because he had a piece of Voldemort's soul in him and so on, that does not take into the account Dumbledore spent much of the series being some God-like figure who wouldn't get off his ass to perhaps find a way to keep a young boy alive. Awesome.



And then there's this paragraph in particular:



"Slack relates all sorts of social issues back to themes in the Harry Potter books. Using the opinions of Harry's mentor Albus Dumbledore as a moral compass, Slack suggests Potter fans should fight prison torture because Dumbledore was against Dementors, and that they should support fair trade because Dumbledore agreed on giving rights to house elves."



I don't know whether to frame this paragraph or go on a week long bender. Again, books promoting social activism is a good thing, but Jesus Christ, taking something as complex as free trade and relating it to Rowling's rather patronizing and condescending attitude to house elves and social classes is fucking ridiculous.



And, of course, Rowling has her own say in this: "What did my books preach against throughout? Bigotry, violence, struggles for power, no matter what. All of these things are happening in Darfur. So they couldn't have chosen a better cause."



Oh my god, shut up, you stupid, arrogant, smug little woman!



It is evident that Rowling was trying to make big statements about Tolerance and Love and Death in her books but if you look below the shiny surface she pretty much failed.



Yes, Rowling, you preached tolerance in that you literally turned Death Eaters into Nazis. That's as deep and profound as saying, "You know what? Hitler was a crazy, horrible human being and genocide is bad."



And you definitely fought bigotry by making your protagonists any ethnicity beside Caucasian and any class other that, say, middle. Oh wait, you completely didn't. In fact, your text is pretty much a construct of bigotry.



Let's take the issue of race first, shall we? Harry is white from a (albeit abusive) middle class family. Hermoine? Well, she's female, but still white from middle class family. Ron: white, but from lower middle class. That's not really ground breaking. In fact, everyone in your books are pretty much white, aren't they? Accept for Dean, who is black, and Cho Chang, who is Asian. In the movies I think those twins in Gryffindor whose names I never bothered to learn because you never bothered to give them personalities are British Indian, but I'm not sure if that was ever stated in the books.



So your hero is a white, middle class kid who literally gets turned into a Christ figure. Way not to subvert anything but to completely uphold the idea that only heroes get to be white. God forbid Harry was Indian or Asian or anything that wasn't white, because he was the hero, damnit, and how would kids identify with him if he wasn't white as the driven snow?



And, yes, Rowling, you claim to be a feminist, but of your prominent female characters, mainly Hermoine and Ginny, both end up married to their childhood sweethearts. Hermoine is smart and way more capable than either Harry or Ron, but she's a girl and therefore couldn't be the hero either. Women are there to be the love interest or to help the hero, not to save the day themselves.



Moving onto a wider view point, the entire text is almost in support of bigotry and stratification. The wizarding world is presented as being better than anything else ever. Rowling pretty much outright said this in an interview, and while this is her creation and she can think whatever the hell she wants, I, for one, will take e-mail over mail delivered by owl any day.



Now the books, with one or two small deviations, are from Harry's point of view, and this idealization of the wizarding world makes sense. Harry came from a horrible family that abused him for years--anything would seem better after that.



The problem comes when Rowling widened the scope of the books. If this series were truly about tolerance and preaching against bigotry then it should become clear that the muggles and the giants and werewolves and all the rest were just as important and just as valid as the wizards. Sure, Rowling paid lip service to trying to bring together giants and werewolves to fight against Voldemort and his Nazis, but in the end were they important?



No. The day was saved by the white middle class Jesus, thus proving the wizarding world is still the best ever, no question, everyone else can just suck it and accept their status as second class citizens.



Except for house elves, because if we pretend you're people you'll get back in the kitchen faster.



Oh, by the way, that brings me to the houses of Hogwarts. Rowling made it damn clear that Gryffindor is the best and Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw are not even close seconds and anyone sorted in Slytherin is pure evil because ambition is the devil.



That's a really interesting theme there, because, let's face it, Harry Potter is the more passive character to ever passive in the history of passivity. He is the Boy Who Lived. All his heroics boil down to his ability to not die. If this were another writer I would suspect Rowling was subverting what it is to be hero, but since this is Rowling, I'm left suspecting that for her ambition is, by her definition, evil.



Take Philosopher's Stone for example. Harry gets the stone because he have absolutely no ambition or motivation to ever use it. Dumbledore said that if did have any sort of inclination to, you know, actually do anything the stone would be denied him. That's pretty much Harry's constant theme: he does these things because Dumbledore tells him to, not because he has any personal will or ambition of his own.



(Aside, Daniel Hemmens at FerretBrain.com has written a lot of really interesting articles about Harry Potter the themes in the book here. Be warned that he is way more harsh and critical than me, so you might want to proceed with caution.)



But I digress. Let's tackle the idea of tolerance, shall we? Harry Potter does preach tolerance, if by "tolerance" you mean that Voldemort is, in the words of Eddie Izzard, "a genocidal fuckhead." I think most people reading the books agree that wiping out and subjugating entire races is bad. Those that disagree are probably not reading Harry Potter and and are unlikely to have their minds changed by children's books.



You know what would have been a lot more striking about this book in regard to tolerance, Rowling? If everyone wasn't white and straight. Oh wait, Dumbledore was supposed to be gay, wasn't he? Even though you couldn't be bothered to state that in the actual text, because why would gay and lesbian kids out there need someone they could identify with?



Also, Rowling stated that Dumbledore fell in love with a man once when he was eighteen. We never know if it was requited, just that he became asexual afterwards. Um, Rowling? Yeah, that's not a basis of homosexuality. Asexuality is part of the human sexuality spectrum, but to be homosexual Dumbledore has to be sexually attracted to other men and have sex with them. What you've done is made an old man who wears robes (read: dresses) into a homosexual because any man that isn't married and dresses weird is apparently gay. Well done.



In fact, you know what would have been really interesting? If at the end of your book where everyone is happily paired off with their 2.5 children and the house and the fence and the dog if you had a happily in love gay or lesbian couple in there as well. You don't have to make a big deal about it. Actually, it would work a whole lot better if you presented it as being completely and utterly normal. Hell, you could make them childhood sweethearts to stick with the theme of you finding your true love at eleven. That would have said more about Love and Tolerance than your 9,000 pages about how Nazis are bad.



In short, I find the Harry Potter Alliance ridiculous not because of the work they do but that the fact they advocate these books as the be all and end all of moral guidance (for fuck's sake, Slack says it's "Talmudic." Fuck you, Slack.)



They ask What Would Dumbledore Do?



Based on my reading of the text, I would say he would find an eleven-year-old boy, who after years of physical and psychological abuse and neglect, would latch onto the first kind word from a father figure, and spend the next seven years shaping him into an unthinking sacrifical lamb he would send to the slaughter to end a war he can't be bothered to get up his ass for more than two seconds to do anything about. That's what Dumbledore would do.