A Conversation for Harry Potter
Researcher 201516 Started conversation Aug 26, 2002
In this whole Harry Potter lark, I'm seeing a hidden desire among Britons to get back to England the way it was -the land of Hobbits and Elves, oak panelled Jennings Goes To School type b*******s.
You'll note it's Harry Potter, Hermione Grainger, Bertie Pooter, etc. not Sanjeev Ganeshadrava, Rajiv Ganapathy or Saajan Singh. Potter's world is all white, all terribly middle and upper middle class, and rooted in some fantasy remembered dream world of Victorian supremacy and post-war pride.
Psybro Posted Sep 8, 2002
Have you ever actually *read* a Harry Potter book?
Phryne- 'Best Suppurating Actress' Posted Dec 9, 2002
apart from the fact there are non-white characters in the books...
it is to be expected that the person writing the book will base the main characters on their own ethnic/cultural/social group. JKR is white. I cannot comment on her social stratum, depends what you determine it by, i.e. earnings, job classification (these are not necessary similar) or the weird, vague and obnoxious Daily Mail sense of the word. Why would she base characters from a group she does not belong to? UNLESS she had studied it at great length and was familiar with all possible effects this might have on them as a person. There is also the risk that she might have been pilloried for doing this, since some people seem to think you can't write about a group you don't officially belong to no matter how much research you have done. If I were writing a story the main characters would be white British/European and not Southern, since that's my area of influence.
As for hidden desires... England was never that way. That's a myth, probably perpetuated by aforementioned DailyMail nutters... boarding schools were, and are, either hideously abusive formal places populated by only the rich, who could afford it, or simply schools where children live. As well as non-whites, the non-middle classes are well-represented (and I can sniff 'em out a mile off, mind!) in Hogwarts, being epitomised by the Dursleys whom we are rightly required to hate. How can you be more middle-class than them?
I tend to see Hogwarts as a self-sufficient community- more like a kibbutz- than a Victorian boarding school. And where else would do? since children have to be educated outside the Muggle world, they couldn't really go home every day.
Shelly Posted Dec 10, 2002
There may be non white characters in the book but it is true to say that they are marginal at best, I can't remember any!
Also, though you might expect an author to write about their own social group, I believe that a woman of her age in modern Britain would have at least some knowledge of different ethnic groups.
As for her books harking back to a 'better' age. Surely this is just a biproduct of borrowing of characters, places and plots from previous childrens books?
Phryne- 'Best Suppurating Actress' Posted Dec 10, 2002
well... Ron goes to the ball with one of the Patil sisters. Lucky for her. Also there are Lee and Angelina- and Seamus, who goes in a different category on most of the official forms I've filled in lately. Plus numerous other Hogwarts-goers. There might be other characters not important enough to merit a thorough visual description- which JKR generally doesn't go into much anyway- so could fit into one particular ethnic group without their culture being relevent to the plot. No one really outside of Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco, + teachers, are discussed in great depth in any case.
I'm not making much of an issue of it. I wouldn't consider bringing wide cultural diversity into the book as much , since if it's not really central to the plot it would just complicate matters.
well, if I were writing a book- which I am- I would not, and don't intend to, feature any group which I haven't thoroughly researched. If I had done that research it would be because I needed it for plot reasons. (fr'instance 90% of the characters I'm currently fadging about with are Welsh, based in said country (in a horrible mythical town), which I am pretty familiar with. I wouldn't attempt to base a story in say, Ireland, unless I had done a similar amount of reading. Same with any other country. Even with any other region outside the one I live in. I have some knowledge of different ethnic groups, based on several sources- excepting what the newspapers maintain. (Which I find outrageously wrong, and if anyone should be getting upset 'bout much they are top o' the list.)
Borrowing how- any specific examples? or just a general osmosis from all the kiddie books that have gone before? I don't believe that they hark back at all, as discussed above, for the main reason that that age never actually existed. The setting was all vaguely familiar from Enid Blyton-style nonsense, and characters are always archetypes whoever is writing them, but at no point did I think I had read it all before.
Shelly Posted Dec 10, 2002
I suppose it depends how you define different cultures
Just from growing up in London I have been exposed to different ways of life by a sort of osmosis, through friend etc. I know she was a quite poor, young mother and can't believe she didnt come across the same thing.
I don't think that she should have written an essay on multiculturalism in Britain, but it would be nice to feel that black and asian kids can be wizards too.
But I think this feeling may have been exacerbated by the film, which i think gave American audiences exactly what they expect from england, nicely spoken, middle class, white people.
So in ways not her fault-maybe.
Also my borrowing comment , well sorry i did kind of feel I'd read it all before.
But then maybe thats just because I read too much childrens fiction
Michelle-(with way to many spelling mistakes!)
Geoff Taylor - Gullible Chump Posted Dec 10, 2002
Well, in the films there is the character best described as the "Quidditch commentator", who is most demonstrably black.
Or was that just the token minority representation? (I'd agree that there's an unhealthy promotion of redheads. )
In the books, the name "Cho Chang" doesn't strike me as being particularly middle-english, and while Cho hasn't been a major character thus far I'd suggest she's being built up into one. It can't be that culturally blind if Harry fancies a johnny-foreigner
Yes, Harry Potter is a predominately white & english world; but it's not exclusively so. And in any case, when was the last time you saw a mancunian scally feature in a Bollywood film? Or a karateka at the Shaolin displays? Cultural diversity only seems to be a problem when the predominant culture is white & english. Lighten up.
Shelly Posted Dec 10, 2002
It is not the pedominance of the white and english that niggled but more the lack of anything else. It would just be nice to see a representation of the england I know.
And though i may not expect a mancunian in bollywood, I dont think that they should be out of place in Hogwarts.
Swiv (decrepit postgrad) Posted Dec 10, 2002
well, in the books both Angelina and Dean are described as being black, and it's been suggested that Lee is too - you don't get too many white 13 year olds with dreadlocks, at least, not where I am. The Patils are definitely asian, Cho is oriental I would guess, and those are only the students we've met so far.
Phryne- 'Best Suppurating Actress' Posted Dec 18, 2002
Compared to *some* bits of London there are places that are overwhelmingly white. And to others, places that are overwhelmingly multicultural.
Because it is not *said* that Cho is Oriental, we only have her name to go on. If she had a typically British name, which is entirely possible o' course we wouldn't be aware of any cultural difference. This could go for any number of other characters.
(Like with my own characters, any number of them could be black, Oriental, whatever; I keep names non-specific unless I want to make a feature of that character's ethnicity. In which case I would copy names from people I knew or get a book out...)
Medibot Posted Jul 8, 2006
JK Rowling gets it in the neck whatever doesn't she? First there aren't enough characters of different ethnic groups, then there are but their names are
Yes, there could be a few more ethnic groups represented but there's always going to be someone left out. I'm not particularly upset that there don't seem to be any Welsh kids at Hogwarts.
And what's wrong with using a name like Cho? Would it be better for her to be called Sarah but have JK at pains to demonstrate to us that she is British-Asian or whatever? (Or Scottish-Asian if the film is anything to go by). It would detract
I think JK does well to include positive aspects of lots of cultures, nice little touches which don't detract from the story but in fact make them a little richer. And the way that the theme of prejudice and bigotry is handled very well too.
Overall I think ethnicity is handled well in the books but don't get me started on gender roles...
Key: Complain about this post
- 1: Researcher 201516 (Aug 26, 2002)
- 2: Psybro (Sep 8, 2002)
- 3: Phryne- 'Best Suppurating Actress' (Dec 9, 2002)
- 4: Shelly (Dec 10, 2002)
- 5: Phryne- 'Best Suppurating Actress' (Dec 10, 2002)
- 6: Shelly (Dec 10, 2002)
- 7: Geoff Taylor - Gullible Chump (Dec 10, 2002)
- 8: Shelly (Dec 10, 2002)
- 9: Swiv (decrepit postgrad) (Dec 10, 2002)
- 10: Phryne- 'Best Suppurating Actress' (Dec 18, 2002)
- 11: Medibot (Jul 8, 2006)
- 12: ArthurDentrules (Oct 16, 2007)