Monday, August 08, 2011

Stephen King, Harry Potter, and The Series-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named

I've seen a quote, attributed to Stephen King, circulating the interwebs lately:
Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength, and doing what's right in the face of adversity.  Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.
I really can't express how happy this quote makes me.  First of all, because Harry Potter is a legitimate work of literature and Twilight is not.  Okay, maybe the finer points of the term "legitimate work of literature" can be argued, but either way, I loved reading HP, and reading the ridiculous vampire saga was an awful experience all around*.  That fact alone speaks for itself.  But going into the finer points of King's viral quote, he really is getting at the heart of what makes Harry Potter so wonderful and Twilight, as popular as it may be, a very minuscule--nay, nanuscule--contribution to society.  The HP experience is something we (or at least I) can relate to, and beyond that it enlightens.  Based on the reactions I've seen of people reading the books and watching the movies, it even inspires people.  I'm pretty sure it has inspired me, anyway--to be a better person, to overcome difficulties, and to look inside myself and find strength I didn't think I had.  Cheesy?  Definitely.  True?  Absolutely.

But Twilight is relatable, too, you say.  And to that I say, yes, it is relatable.  Its relatable to teenage girls with a skewed view of love, and to disappointed middle-aged women.  Its relatable to people who think its a good think to have a controlling, manipulative partner, or to people who think that co-dependency is the best thing since sliced bread.  Harsh?  Definitely.  True?  Okay, maybe not as true as that stuff I've said about HP, but there's certainly a truthiness to it that hits home.  But really, what else does Twilight have to offer besides, as King so succinctly states, "how important it is to have a boyfriend"?  Its difficult for me to find anything beyond that, other than the extension that, once obtained, its equally important to retain that boyfriend at all costs.  ALL COSTS.  Does it teach anything about inner strength?  No, it teaches you to rely on the strength of others (in this case, boyfriends).  Does it inspire you to do the right thing in the face of adversity?  Not really, unless protecting your boyfriend, blindly and in every situation imaginable, counts as "the right thing."  It teaches girls to have unrealistic expectations for relationships.  It teaches guys...well maybe it doesn't teach guys anything (except, perhaps, how to be more manipulative and controlling than they already are--as if they needed more of that).  Its popular, sure.  People like it.  But as far as the value of the story goes, I'm sorely disappointed.**

But this quote is so great for another reason:  the fact that it was Stephen King who said it in the first place.  Stephen King, while he gets a bad rap in many literary circles for anything from his decision to write horror in the first place to the loads of money he has for doing it, is actually a rather brilliant writer with quite a solid head on his shoulders.  His book/memoir On Writing is easily the best how-to book on writing that I've read, and I've read a good dozen or so.  He's direct and to the point and doesn't bother with any of the crap that so many other writing books attempt to shove down your throat.  A friend of mine recently brought to my attention the edition of Best American Short Stories edited by King--easily the best collection I've read of said series.  The man knows his craft.  Sure, he's presented a number of legitimately bad books to the world.  But I challenge anyone to produce the number of works that King has and not come up with something awful.  And some of his books are quite intriguing, if not downright good literature (his Dark Tower series and The Stand particularly come to mind).  Anyway, to get to the point, I trust King's judgment, and agree with him wholeheartedly on the point he's making here.

Plus:  Stephen King likes Harry Potter.  How cool is that?

Since I'm on the subject, I went to the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and it was fabulous.  I dressed up as a dementor, my wife was Bellatrix (nothing fancy, mostly with stuff we just found lying around the house), and we had a grand old time.  The movie was a fantastic end to the series.

So the moral of the story here is:  read Harry Potter if you haven't already.  And give Stephen King props for being awesome.  And . . . well, that other thing we talked about doesn't really deserve any more thought.

A dementor's kiss to you all! :-X

*  Although I will admit that I enjoy watching the Twilight films, if only for the fact that they provide such a massive amount of all things make-fun-able that I can't help but be entertained.

**  To say nothing about the writing, of course.  I won't get into the finer points of why Harry Potter is a solidly crafted and written story while Twilight is neither of those things.

No comments:

Post a Comment