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Harry Potter and the "disturbed" non-fen - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Harry Potter and the "disturbed" non-fen
Okay, so I'm reading and listening to some of the non-fan lead-up to HP7, and several times now, I've run across people saying that HP is fine for children, but they're "disturbed" at the numbers of adults reading it. This, I don't get. If they were in the camp that believes fantasy is ever-so-evil, I could understand them being disturbed by everyone reading it... but then they wouldn't say that it's "fine for children."

So why "disturbed"? "Perplexed," maybe, if you're not a fairy tale sort of person. But disturbed? If you think it's harmless enough for children, then why be troubled inordinately by adults, even if it's not your cuppa? I mean, I don't have any great fondness for those boring "slice of life" stories, but the most I've ever felt about their devotees is a mild pity that they have such a narrowly circumscribed imagination. This doesn't "disturb" me, per se, just makes me a little sad on their behalf. But apparently, my tastes are "disturbing."

I'd say that it's because they realize that fantasy is dangerous, as Tolkien points out, but in that case, why not keep the kiddies away as well?
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vytresna From: vytresna Date: July 19th, 2007 11:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maybe it's like grown men playing with toy soldiers in their eyes - some sign of poor mental development?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 20th, 2007 12:01 am (UTC) (Link)
They have something against toy soldiers, too?
ziasudra_fic From: ziasudra_fic Date: July 20th, 2007 12:17 am (UTC) (Link)
I had to explain to my boss that, yes, I read and love the Harry Potter series, when I asked her if I could leave work early tomorrow because of "Harry Potter reasons." With the surprised/what's-wrong-with-you look she gave me, I felt like I was five.

Perhaps not a lot of the people in the "disturbed" camp have read the books, especially the later (darker) ones? It's kind of like people who think adults who like cartoons are "mentally childish" -- it's a broad-stroked opinion that could easily be countered by pointing them toward Adult Swim or manga, but how many of them are actually going to *gasp* watch cartoons in order to find that out for themselves?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 20th, 2007 12:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Of course, that begs the question of why "dark" is considered more adult, as well. I mean, yes, it's less "child," but there's nothing inherently un-adult about light.

But yes, most of them have proudly prefaced their statements with something like, "I haven't read these, nor do I intend to..."
dessieoctavia From: dessieoctavia Date: July 20th, 2007 12:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure why this is, but I have noticed people using the word "disturbing" inappropriately of late. For instance, one person remarked that she found a book about mythical archetypes "disturbing" because it had *gasp* ideas she didn't agree with.
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: July 20th, 2007 10:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Could you possibly explain the icon? It looks oddly like David Tennant in drag...

*is curious*
lilacsigil From: lilacsigil Date: July 20th, 2007 12:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Most people I know consider SF and fantasy of any kind (yes, even TV shows like the new Battlestar Galactica, which is so disturbing that I can't watch it) as childish stuff. Of course, they're so busy reading gossip magazines and watching reality TV like real adults, that I'm surprised they have time to pass judgement on other people!
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 20th, 2007 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. I don't take people seriously when they say Harry Potter is just for kids when they watch sitcoms or Beavis and Butthead or something. So much stuff that's not for kids is so much more immature than stuff that is for kids.
toastedcheese From: toastedcheese Date: July 20th, 2007 01:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I suppose the assumption is that children's fantasy literature cannot possibly be intellectually stimulating. (Did these people even read books as children? Seriously now.)

Even if this was true, it's a pretty weird accusation, considering that a lot of popular literature (and most television) is not particularly intellectually stimulating. But it's okay, because they're intended for adults. Obviously sex and violence = aesthetic merit.

Luckily, the naysayers are outnumbered by the fans in this case (which is probably what's making the naysayers so uncomfortable in the first place.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 20th, 2007 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Sex and violence=aesthetic merit".

Aaaaand that is why fandom looks down its nose at genfic in a nutshell.

I also wonder if some of this is the old "if it's for children, it needs to be/is educational" crap again.
springdove From: springdove Date: July 20th, 2007 01:19 am (UTC) (Link)

My 48 cents

I think it has a lot to do with this idea that once you become an "adult," you're supposed to act a certain way and leave certain "childish things" behind you. There's this idea in our society that adults are supposed to suddenly change their ways of having fun from the stuff you did as a kid...you know, that adults shouldn't find things of childhood fun unless they're doing it with their own kids. I say Psssh to this. :P Who made the rules for how adults should act anyway? And who said that those rules are the best? Just because something is originally intended for kids doesn't mean adults can't enjoy it, too. I imagine these people would probably find it "disturbing" if they heard of an adult enjoying the TV show Blue's Clues (which I watched until I was about 22, when I stopped having as much time), also. People are "disturbed" because, in their opinion, adults are acting like children. Again...who really gives a crap?
From: lianna_blanca Date: July 21st, 2007 10:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: My 48 cents

Here, here. That's exactly why I make no secret of the fact that my favourite music is Disney, as are many of my favourite movies. I see absolutely NOTHING wrong with "childish" things - I mean, adults read escapist stories (whether fantasy or just a trashy romance novel) all the time; I don't think anyone, at any age, can spend their entire life facing the "dark" and "serious" parts of the world.
dreagoddess From: dreagoddess Date: July 20th, 2007 01:24 am (UTC) (Link)
See, this is why I adore my boss. About 4:30 today, I suddenly hear "Drea!" from his office. (We're next door to each other and shout out all the time.) "Yes?" "Snape. Good or evil?" I laughed, said "Dumbledore's man through and through!" and went into his office, where we proceeded to discuss predictions for the next 20 minutes or so. ;) He's an awesome geek. He's always quoting movies or playing the Star Wars soundtrack in his office or something.

Anyway, I think people are "disturbed" by it because they tend to view it as a sign people aren't growing up. Some thing are fine for kids, but you're "supposed" to out-grow it as you get older.
a_t_rain From: a_t_rain Date: July 20th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh, I've been asked "Snape: Good or evil?" in a job interview :) (To be fair, it is clear from my CV that I'm a Potter geek, so it wasn't coming out of left field.)
merlinssister12 From: merlinssister12 Date: July 20th, 2007 01:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I find it disturbing that some people are disturbed by adults reading, what is considered children's literature. I think good writing is often just good writing. I'm not recommending that adults fill there bookshelves with the likes of "Goodnight Moon" or "Love you Forever," but I've seen "Ender's Game" and "Lord of the Rings" both the teen and adult sections of my local bookstore. I'd also like to take this time to plug a book, for after "Deathly Hallows." It is "Ysabel" by Guy Gavriel Kay, another modern fantasy with a teenage protagonist, but not really intended for kids. There is a fair bit of sexual tension, although not actual sex. 'Nuff said, you can read it for yourselves.
victorialupin From: victorialupin Date: July 20th, 2007 01:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm rather thrown off by the use of the word 'disturbed'. It's hard to believe there are people who would really define their surprise that strongly.

The sad thing is that more people probably claim to be disturbed about adults reading children's lit than about the lack of reading in general. :(
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 20th, 2007 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said that he knew he had become an adult when he was no longer scared to be caught reading fairy tales.

First, I got interviewed while waiting in line for the movie by the local news. They asked me about that, and I said that, two hundred years ago, there was no such thing as children's literature. There were just books that everybody read. I said I thought it was great that we were getting back to that.

The interviewer looked at me like I'd fallen off another planet. That quote did not appear in the segment they showed on people waiting to see the movie.

The thing is, I could give you a fair history of the prestige slip of fantasy in our culture and our culture's thing about what's too childish for adults and what isn't. There are places in the world where telling someone "Oh, just grow up," wouldn't make any sense in their culture (which is a real pity when you're sure there's got to be a way to get the basic idea across of you're-behavior-needs-improvement-and-I-think-you've-had-enough-time-in-this-world-to-have-learned-how-to-act).

Oh, well. I suppose if I'd told the news guy that only the most childish readers limit their reading based on what other people consider childish, he'd have given me the same look.

I guess he needs to grow up.
alkari From: alkari Date: July 20th, 2007 06:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Amen to those sentiments! And especially the very recent development of "children's" literature.

It's interesting that these adults are so disturbed about other adults reading HP Fantasy novels - but they wouldn't bat an eyelid at an adult who was reading a book of Greek mythology. Flying horses (hello, Buckbeak and thestrals), beings with a hundred eyes (Filch, anyone, LOL) , women with snakes for hair, teeth sown into a field which grow into warriors, a god who changes into all sorts of animals and seduces women (Animagi?), a woman getting kidnapped by some fantastic being and taken to the underworld from where her lover tries to rescue her - yep, that sort of stuff is quite OK for Superior Adults.

Seems to be a delightful case of double standards.
mylla From: mylla Date: July 20th, 2007 03:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Maybe they're "disturbed" by the strength of the emotion adults feel towards the series? I know I wonder about myself sometimes, if it's entirely... right to care so much about something fictional. Adults are supposed to live more in the "real world" than children need to, right?

If the complaint about adults reading the series really does just come from the fact that it's supposedly a children's series, then I'm stumped. I can only guess it's a misunderstanding based in the perceived fact that children's books are inherently less complex or relevant than those for adults.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 20th, 2007 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)
I know I wonder about myself sometimes, if it's entirely... right to care so much about something fictional.

Oh, yes, me too, a lot--but it doesn't seem to be heavy-duty fandom that they talk about. They seem as disturbed by adults having conversations about it as by adults conducting ceremonies for fictional characters on the astral plane.

There's actually an interesting passage in Misery, where Paul begins to realize the power of fiction. He'd been writing it for years, but always thought people were a bit over the top and pretending to care, rather than actually caring. But as he recovers from his accident, and both he and the villain Annie are bound by his Misery Chastain novels, he begins to understand how they function.

I don't know, at a certain level, that the brain has a really clear distinction between real memories and the created memories that come from reading. The rational brain knows the difference, of course, which is why we feel silly sometimes... but the lizard brain? It makes those connections. The good writer tries to hit the lizard brain without getting too much interference from the rational brain going, "Excuse me, but what does God need with a starship?"
cleindori From: cleindori Date: July 20th, 2007 03:14 am (UTC) (Link)
I think the folks who are "disturbed" by adults who read Harry Potter are equally "disturbed" by the thought of people over the age of 18 reading anything that could theoretically be found in a children's/teens' section of a library or bookstore. Me, I figure I need to keep on top of all the great kidlit (especially the fantasy stuff) that wasn't around when I was a kid! (There was a reason I started reading McCaffrey at 11, and it had much to do with running through all the sci fi and fantasy in my elementary school library and the children's section of the public library.)

Whatever. The more annoying people like that in the world, the fewer people there will be at my Deathly Hallows release party. :)
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 20th, 2007 04:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, unfortunately my library is propagating the idea that adults shouldn't read kids' books... it is technically against the rules for adults to go in the children's or teen's section unless they are accompanied by a kid. This rule was only implemented about a year ago, and I nearly died of horror when I found out. I'm 19, and I fully intend to keep checking out children's/teen's books even though I'm technically "adult"! I'd be spitting mad if they tried to kick me out. I think some of the motivation was safety-oriented-- they didn't want the random homeless people who use the computers and such to start wandering around and leering at little kids, but still!
aimeesworld From: aimeesworld Date: July 20th, 2007 04:09 am (UTC) (Link)
I like CS Lewis's reasoning that reading children's literature as an adult isn't a form of arrested development, but building up one's character. Instead of just liking Children's literature as an adult, you like Jane Austen and Tolstoy as well, not instead of. I didn't explain this very clearly as I've had about four english classes today and I'm all brain-ed out, but I hope it makes some sort of sense.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 20th, 2007 11:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Instead of just liking Children's literature as an adult, you like Jane Austen and Tolstoy as well, not instead of. I didn't explain this very clearly as I've had about four english classes today and I'm all brain-ed out, but I hope it makes some sort of sense.

Perfect sense (and I love that Lewis quote).

Growing up doesn't mean peeling away half of your joys; it ought to mean adding to them and deepening them. I'd be concerned if adults reading Harry Potter didn't discuss it or consider its implications--more adult pleasures in reading--or if the books didn't allow Harry to grow up and learn (I've discovered in the reading of a lot of YA books that one of the primary marks of one that won't catch adult attention is that the characters start out empty headed twits, have an adventure, then go back to being empty-headed twits). Joys deepen as the mind matures. To use vytresna's example of toy soldiers, it might well be disturbing to see a grown man playing at toy soldiers doing nothing but whispering, "Bang, bang, bang." But get a bunch of them together, put them on a board and start spinning scenarios, and you have a complex RPG, or even chess. (And the more serious RPGs, I think, are more complex games than chess, as you not only need to strategize, but keep track of your characterization and several sorts of statistics and rules... but those, somehow, don't get the same intellectual respect. It's the fantasy thing again.)
sonetka From: sonetka Date: July 20th, 2007 04:19 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm going to be a total bitca and say that they're "disturbed" because it's a fun and easy way to show how very superior you are to most people - you spend your time reading Really Important Things and what's more, you're selflessly concerned that other people may be missing out on how wonderful Really Important Things are because they're twaddling their time away with children's books. (How important can they be? It's not like J.K. Rowling ever got into [insert small, pretentious review name here]).
(Deleted comment)
From: lianna_blanca Date: July 21st, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do beg your pardon, but I'm an ISTJ. I write fanfic, original stories, I paint (not realism, either), I draw the most crazy abstract sketches, and I love to debate philosophy of possilibities. I would call that imaginative. (Yes, I do realise the E/I difference does have some effect, but my point stands. But as you were speaking generally, don't think I'm offended. I'm not.)

That said, I can see where you're coming from. I've made an effort not to be 'stuck' in the dreary, practically-oriented, often doom-and-gloom side of life. I'm sure there are many STJs who haven't, and it would certainly be easier for people like me to discard such "useless" things as stories.

I've never heard that 70% of America is ESTJ, though (particularly since I can't imagine there's an accurate census of personality types around); I don't remember the specifics, but I thought there was just a general percentage division (uneven, certainly, but not 70% for one of sixteen options) that was about equal all over the world.

Also, it's very nice to see somebody out there knows about Myers-Briggs (or whatever they're calling it) also. Thank you!
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