greg (grysar) wrote,

F#$@ the Potter Haters

Good blog entry by Matt Yglesias responding to Ron Charles article on Potter in the Washington Post.

... Instead, the publication of each Potter book seems to herald the publication of a bunch of stuff like Ron Charles whine in The Washington Postwhich, to me, makes Charles -- and through his role as a stand-in for the larger enterprise, all the literati -- look like sneering losers who've decided to elevate their idiosyncratic hobby above everyone else's in order to look on the rest of us.

Not that the literary world is unique in this regard, but it's a weird impulse. If someone expressed an interest in some niche product that I enjoy I would, I dunno, try to convey some of my enthusiasm about the subject. Try to share some wisdom. Try to build further enthusiasm. Make recommendations. Anything other than act bitter and petulant.

Let me be clear. I believe in criticism, both good and bad. (Side note, Ratatouille actually did a good job of acknowledging the importance of criticism. The acknowledgment still had some gaps, but I won't go into details because they'd be spoilery. Even so, that's impressive for a piece of art. Artists have this way of sneering right back at critics). Anyhow, I do not believe that critics should lay off because some movies or books are just for fun. I greatly enjoy negative reviews. They're fun and they're important for pointing out when the Emperor has no Clothes.

That said, whining about the downfall of reading with this sort of article isn't pointing out that the Emperor has no Clothes. There are legit things to criticize Potter for, although Potter as black and white versus His Dark Materials as a world of gray is just weak. The third book was as black and white as they come, just a contrarian definition of what's black and what's white.

These criticisms aren't because Potter is bad. They're because Potter is popular. Does it deserve this level of popularity? Eh, mass phenomenons are no longer just about about the original product but about the cultural connections that build up around it. Criticism of popular culture, including negative criticism, is important. When crap, say 'The Secret,' becomes really popular then by all means tear into it. Similarly, I have no complaints about legitimate criticism of literature I like even more than Harry Potter. However, when something good reaches the level of mass-popularity, hating on it for being popular is for losers.

Also, while I do love reading, I think it is fair to acknowledge that we're in a golden age of television right now. The rise of the DVD really has changed that medium dramatically for the better. I'm still on the balance more of a fan of written material. However, I think if you're getting all of your fiction from books, you risk missing out of on some good stuff.
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