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There's a very generic, no-research-needed "oh, I'll bang that one off in half an hour" piece in today's Grauniad about non-PC kids' books. Babar, Tintin, Blyton, Biggles - all present and correct, and no arguments from me. But then, at the end, this piece of idiocy:
It's tempting to think that all these politically incorrect indiscretions belong well in the past: after all, the scary "gollywogs that live in the woods" have been excised from Noddy and Big Ears, and most modern children's books are full of positive role models and delicately nuanced sensibilities. And yet ... most people read the Harry Potter books as a straightforward battle between good and evil. But with its subtext of muggles and pure-bloods, you could say that - even in the 21st century - breeding will out.

Yes, you could, although you could also say that the subtext of the Potter books is not very sub at all, and that the mudblood/pureblood stuff is used to express a clearly liberal and anti-racist view. I mean, really. I'm certainly not a diehard fan of the Potter books - they're entertaining and exciting and very readable, but they're not the best children's books of the last decade, let alone the last century. But they do seem to get criticised a lot by people who clearly haven't read them, and that always makes me defensive.

Also, look! An excuse for me to use my pedantry icon!


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 9th, 2006 10:57 am (UTC)
"Children's books, they're all the same, really. Why no, I haven't read any book since I was seven, why do you ask?"

My life would be so much better if I could just crawl through the computer and slap people.
Aug. 9th, 2006 01:28 pm (UTC)
I just want to say "word" to both of you, and also use my own pedantry icon.
Aug. 9th, 2006 01:53 pm (UTC)
Pedantry icons unite! By the way, the more I edit, the more pedantic I become. And the more unimpressed with the standards of writing among Ireland's celebrated journalists.
Aug. 9th, 2006 04:55 pm (UTC)
Wait till those journalists start winning awards based on articles that you salvaged... It's not something that ever gets really discussed openly, but there are editors around town who've seen Pulitzers and National Magazine Awards go to writers on the back of articles that the editors effectively ended up ghost writing... Still, if you get known as an editor who really will work on an article without making a grab for the byline, writers will keeping coming back to you, which can be v. good when they're trying something new or have something scoopish. Also, doesn't it make you feel much better about your own writing? :)
Aug. 9th, 2006 01:33 pm (UTC)
Except that I don't think J.K.Rowling is going to go there. It's too complicated for her. Yes, the Pureblood stuff is coded as Bad, but it's considered more or less acceptable for people to look down on Muggles, and the only Muggles we see in any detail are the Dursleys. And because the books are told from Harry's POV, Hermione's SPEW is mostly shown as ridiculous and pointless, with all the elves except Dobby actually enjoying their servitude.

I really, really did think at the end of Order of the Phoenix, when the Magical Co-operation Statue was destroyed, that the war against Voldemort was going to involve the systematic dismantlement of all the hierarchies in the wizarding world - wizards over magical creatures, and wizards over Muggles - so that they could all work together to defeat Voldemort. But I think she's bottled it: there was absolutely nothing about the blood and magical races stuff in Half-Blood Prince (despite the title!), and the last book is set up to be straightforward as Collect All Ten Artefacts of Doom and Exchange For World Domination (TM ajhalluk). Blah.

So what you're going to end up with is Overt Racism = Bad, but there's no need for us to examine and consider our own prejudices and remake the system. And that's just your basic New Labour/Guardian reader's liberal hegemony, rather than anything actually radical.
Aug. 9th, 2006 01:52 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, I don't expect anything radical of her either, and didn't say I did. Her analogies are all very clumsy and heavy handed (although I don't think it's true that it's totally acceptable in the books for decent people to look down on Muggles, despite the vile Dursleys - and loads of the characters are of mixed blood). But the implication in the Grauniad piece is that the books are actively conservative and the modern equivalent of Babar, which just isn't true.
Aug. 9th, 2006 02:40 pm (UTC)
On a similar note, did you read this awful misogynist anti-intellectual article in this week's Observer? Pure lazy crap, I thought, and really unworthy journalism.
Aug. 9th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
Yes! I saw it (although not your comment about it, until now) and indeed meant to post about it. It's ridiculous, I'm not a Potter fan (nor do I read fic) and yet I keep feeling the urge to defend the books (and fic) purely because of these stupid articles. That piece was just idiotic as well as being offensive - as you said in your post, what was the logic in sending someone completely unaware of this genuine cultural phenomenon (she's so astonished that fic exists, let alone slash) to cover something like that? Such revolting, ignorant snobbery.
Aug. 14th, 2006 11:48 am (UTC)
They should have discussed the size-ism in the Potter books - lots of the baddies are fat and ugly, and all the goodies are thin and attractive.

Or the elitism, it's pretty middle-class, jolly hockey sticks kind of stuff.
Aug. 14th, 2006 08:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the books are pretty lookist in general - whatever their size, the baddies are always physically unattractive. I actually think the middle-class elements aren't as offensively elitist as the whole house-dividing stuff - "all right, Tim Nice-But-Dim, off you go, you're a Hufflepuff. You'll never do anything interesting for the rest of your life. And you, Slytherin child, are evil. The End."

By the way, not only is my name Anna, but I have an identical icon to yours. How spooky.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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