RSS Feed

Tag Archives: opinion

Why I’ve Never Read Harry Potter and the Deathly Stone of Secrets

For some reason, many of my friends seem to believe that I’ve read all the Harry Potter books. For the most part I play along, not wanting to get into any confrontational situations. I don’t want to step on my friends dainty toes and I don’t want them stomping all over mine.

Kids these days…. Credit: baloo-baloosnon-politicalcartoonblog.blogspot.com

In truth, I once tried to read the first book, but didn’t get to far. I must have been around ten years old. I’d seen the first (and possibly the second?) movie, but for some reason I had assumed that the book would be way too smart, and boyish and difficult for me to handle. Then one day, my  younger brother’s (probably unread) copy was lying around, so I picked up and started reading. I was actually pretty impressed. It wasn’t above my reading level. And I actually liked it.

But then an unforeseen predicament arose. I got bored. Reading it felt too easy. I’m not really sure what this means, or what it meant to ten-year-old me, but I distinctly remember feeling unchallenged and putting it down and never picking it up again. I don’t even know where this copy is to date. My family does not (and has never) owned any of the other Harry Potter books. My siblings and I are perhaps the only products of our generation, living in North America, who have not read this cultural phenomenon of a series.

I am very entertained by the fact that, because I’m ‘a reader’ and a future English major, my peers assume I commiserate in their love and admiration for Harry Potter. I think that our interpretation of these facts about me are a little off base. The way see it, the facts that I’m ‘a reader’ and a future English major are why I have still snobbishly avoided reading this series. I also I have better books to spend quality time with.

Along the same lines is this little scenario: Knowing that I read, a girl in my gap year program asked me if I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey. She was literally aghast when I told her I hadn’t and made a general inquisition to those in the lunchroom, beginning with the question, “Okay, who here’s a reader”.

Really, this was the cutest thing I’ve ever witnessed. I’m sorry — very, very sorry — but the term ‘books’ is not synonymous with the term ‘literature’. The fact that someone reads a lot means nothing in my highly pretentious mind. And to me, Harry Potter is not literature. (Although, I will be the first to admit that Anne of Green Gables, i.e. my most favouritest book in the world, is not really literature either. But that’s entirely different. Obviously.)

Anyways, going back to “HP”, I find it very entertaining to think about how far back my snobbery goes. Even as a little kid I was pretentious with regards to reading material. Sorry, the little hipster in me seemed to say, this is just too mainstream. This was before I was conditioned to be pretentious and judgmental in order to feel good about myself and my life-choices. This was before I even started reading real literature — what already was I reading back then? Junie B. Jones? Little House on the Prairie? And yet, I closed Harry Potter and the Something or Other a few pages in, already thinking that it was just not good enough for me.

Of course, it’s not like I’ve ever read the books, so I can’t truly comment on this without coming off and kind of ignorant — and seeming ignorant is something I try to avoid when possible. Which is why I’m choosing this forum to make my somewhat pointless point. Real life conversations about such things freak me out. I don’t know how to think on the spot and then make my mouth say the things it should. I’m terribly afraid to offend people and spit all over their personal preferences and tastes when we’re face to face. And they tend to respond to my points, because apparently that’s how conversations work.

Also, I try not to ruin my friends’ illusions about my commiseration in their fandom. And I’m pretty good at playing along. I think my brother and I had a marathon of all the movies a few years ago (although I really can’t recall how the series ends, maybe I didn’t make it to the end) so I do know enough to keep up. One of my good friends even sends me Mean Girls/Harry Potter mash-ups on a regular basis, knowing how much I love the former and probably assuming I feel the same about the latter.

So, to be very open with you, this post is in response to situations I keep finding myself in. My friends (and teachers and teachers’ children) here keep finding out that I’ve never read these darned books and they are always being so shocked about it. So this is my crummy rebuttal that the people to whom this response is directed probably won’t even get. But those of you on my side will get it. And I much prefer preaching to the choir over preaching to the ignorant masses anyways.

What Colour Best Defines Me as a Person and Other Dilemmas

I have trouble going to the mall — or really partaking in any shopping related activity — without thinking about Brave New World, Fight Club or both. Since reading/viewing these works, I’ve been acutely aware of our consumerist culture and what a bad thing it is for our humanity and our individuality. This, in itself, isn’t so awful. But, I’ll be brutally honest with you, I’m very materialistic. Which creates quite the internal conflict when paired with my immensely introspective nature and my awareness that my materialism completely goes against all my morals and beliefs. 

Credit: cartoonstock.com

When I say I’m materialistic, I don’t mean in a I-like-a-good-pair-of-shoes kind of way — that is completely acceptable and normal behaviour.  I mean I’m materialistic and consumeristic the way consumerism is portrayed in Fight Club. You know how the narrator reflects that he would wonder about which Ikea dining set defined him as a person? Well, yesterday I was at the Apple store, on the verge of a panic attack. Why, you ask, was I on the  verge of a panic attack? Because I needed to buy a protective skin or case or something for my new MacBook and I couldn’t decide which colour best defined me as a person. Not which case — I had already decided to get the same one everyone else has — but which colour. Because that’s the kind of thing that concerns me. What colour best defines me as a human being. What colour best conveys my personality, my strengths and my vulnerabilities. 

Of course, then we could have a whole other conversation about how Apple plays into the whole advertising-consumerism-identity debate. Whenever we have one such discussion in class, iPhones and iPads and Macs (oh my!) always find their way into the conversation. One of my favourite points to rehash is that Apple’s ads and products (sometimes subtly, other times overtly) claim to sell you individuality. Buy an iPhone, there’s an App for whatever you need, so you can customize your phone and make it unique to you. But then, half the reason people are switching to iPhone now is because everyone else has one. Buy our product, so that you can be an individual — just like everybody else!

I may be making some valid points, but while I was making them I paused to check my iPhone. And, if that weren’t enough, I’m typing up these points on my shiny new MacBook. The real irony of it is how I came to my decision to switch to a Mac. Earlier this year, I had to give a presentation for my English class about how Brave New World is relevant to today’s society, including quotations from the book and examples from modern-day society. I chose to focus on consumerism, identity, individuality and conformity (which I put together into a brilliant thesis that outlined how interconnected they all are).

For my current examples, I obviously picked out an Apple ad — I wanted to find just the right one from their “I’m a Mac — I’m a PC” campaign. So I spent an evening watching them all on YouTube. While I did this, I was taking notes and making connections to the novel and figuring out what to say to my class about basing one’s identity on material possessions. In the end, I went with an iPhone commercial, because it fit my purposes better and related more clearly to my argument. And those ads, that I though so deeply about and “completely saw through” were what pushed me over the edge and made me realize that I really needed to make the switch to a Mac. Of course, when I finally got one, I had a panic attack because I didn’t know how to use it and I wanted to get it all personalized (and individualized) but that was just too overwhelming. I was also concerned that it was stealing my individuality one click at a time.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that a laptop isn’t anything on its own. It’s a vessel, it’s a vehicle. It’s what you do with your laptop that counts, that makes you an individual. I use my laptop to blog. I use my laptop to write. I use my laptop to watch movies like You’ve Got Mail, Emma (the one with Gwyneth Paltrow) and Romeo and Juliet. And maybe that’s what makes me an individual, not the fact that I’m doing these things on a MacBook Pro and not that my fancy new Mac is covered in a hot pink case. 

At least that’s what I keep telling myself… To reconcile with the fact that maybe I shouldn’t have gone with hot pink — because really, that’s just not the type of person I want to portray myself as.

Do you define yourself based on arbitrary material things? What colour would you say defines you as a person (this is different than just your favourite colour. Obviously. There’s, like, an exact science to it — I’ll let you know when I figure out what that exact science is.) Are you a Mac or a PC? Do you think that reflects or affects your personality? Maybe that’s just me. It could be that I’m just crazy… And a little to susceptible to manipulative advertising campaigns (despite my ability to notice how manipulative they’re being).

%d bloggers like this: