Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Another Day, Another Jackass

Joining the likes of A.S. Byatt, Jack Markowitz, and Robert McCrum is The Scotsman's Brian Hennigan. Hennigan, an anthropologist whose field of expertise is pop-culture, sums up his exhaustive study, in which he interviewed hundreds of adult Harry Potter fans, and concludes...

No, wait, I'm sorry. Hennigan gets pissed off at being asked stupid questions when he reveals that he's from Scotland (specifically, does he know J.K. Rowling)*, and launches into a diatribe against adult HP fans, who are, he concludes, losers. He goes on to say
"There was not anything of entertainment value [in the HP book Hennigan read] for a fully-developed adult mind. I am sure that one or two adults read Harry Potter books in the same distracted way that soap operas are observed or crisps are munched - in a manner entirely consistent with the obliteration of whatever dreary day they have just got through and in search of some temporary relief from the trauma of an unjust world.

MAYBE they have more important aims, such as working out what is the most frightening thing they can use to make their own children be quiet before the first pint of Lambrusco kicks in.

My concern is those adults who style themselves Harry Potter fans - supposed grown-ups who waited for the latest release with all the decorum of a drunk cheerleader trying to earn a place on Big Brother. These people are not seeking relief from life - they are denying life itself, excusing themselves from the ordinary business of being an adult and the complexities thereof. A simple retort might be that life would be so much simpler if we all remained more childish and less-grown-up; that wars are caused by adults not children, etc. Such claptrap remains a sad part of modern life, flailing a ragged paw at reasoned thinking like a fat, rancid cat that just won't die.

Adult fiction recognises that the contemporary world is a complex, difficult place with demands on our reasoning that require careful consideration. I have nothing against Harry Potter or any of his genuinely juvenile followers - children should be bursting with juvenility - but his adult disciples are little more than cowardly escapists."
I know I've gone on at length about this already, but how is this sort of writing acceptable? Hennigan doesn't like the HP books and doesn't think there's anything in them that should attract an adult. That's fine. But how does he justify drawing these kinds of overblown and patently untrue conclusions about a group that numbers in the millions, simply because its members disagree with him?

(Link via Bookslut's Michael Schaub, and don't think I'm not mad at him too. He and Jessa aren't fans of the HP books, I knew that already, but that doesn't excuse endorsing bad writing. If Hennigan had written something like this about comics readers, Schaub would be baying for his blood.)

* I'm sorry, the only people who don't have to put up with stupid questions about their nationalities are the ones who come from countries nobody's heard of. Hennigan should try being an Israeli--I know at least one girl who was once asked if she rode a camel to school.

4 comments:

Kevin Holtsberry said...

It seems to me that Michael Schaub is not good for much more than putting up links that reinforce his prejudices with sophomoric snark. Sometime it is funny but it often gets old.

Of course, I rarely agree with him on political and cultural issues so maybe that's why he annoys me.

I am not an obsessive HP fan but I read and enjoyed the books for what they are.

Dana said...

Where in Israel are you? I teach at a Jewish high school in Georgia, USA, and many of our students go to Israel to study their senior year (not to mention all the trips they take anyway). I can't wait to go.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

I live in a suburb of Tel-Aviv, Dana, although I spend at least part of my time in the northern port city Haifa, where I'm wrapping up my degree at the Technion.

bingsy said...

Jessa's really the comic book fan, not Michael. Pay attention.

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