<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Monday, July 18, 2005

Is J.K. Rowling anti-American? 

Professor Bainbridge persuades me that she is. Like him, though, I don't care enough not to read her books.

19 Comments:

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Mon Jul 18, 05:44:00 PM:

I'll offer an alternate opinion:

JK Rowling pokes fun at nearly every authority figure. The PM, the media, businessmen like Mr. Dursley, etc... But let her write one quip about an unspecified foreign President, and she's suddenly anti-American? Aren't we being a little sensitive?

Here's a real-life anecdote... my mother is a 5th grade teacher in Connecticut. A few years ago all the 5th grade teachers at her school gathered their classes around some old computers for a special on-line question and answer session with JK Rowling. Sadly, they had some technical issues and did not get to chat. The class sent a letter to JK expressing their regrets at missing her. She sent back her own letter, along with hardcover copies of the first three books for everyone in the class. She also sent hardcovers of the 4th book a few months later when it came out.

Anyway, that doesn't strike me as too anti-American. Maybe she wants the movies filmed in England because that's where they're set. Maybe she thinks it sounds dumb when Americans use words like "snogging". Maybe she was scarred for life by Kevin Costner's portrayal of Robin Hood: whatever. She's a nice person and entertains us with her inventiveness. Let's be happy for her and not burn her at the stake of international sensitivity.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Jul 18, 06:06:00 PM:

Lanky, I certainly don't suggest burning her to the stake, and you will note that I was quite complimentary of Rowling in my "book burst" post only Sunday morning. Nope. I like J.K. Rowling. And, I might add, in the pantheon of anti-Americans she certainly is on the subtle side -- she is not nearly as anti-American as, say, Michael Moore.

I still think that Bainbridge is on to something, though.  

By Blogger Sean O'Hara, at Mon Jul 18, 06:31:00 PM:

Most of the evidence Bainbridge sites is wrong or stretching the point.

1) There were Americans at the Quidditch World Cup -- Harry sees the Salem Witch Institute as he's wandering the camp grounds, and they're not portrayed badly at all, especially compared to the Irish fans.

2) She didn't like her American publisher changing the "Philosopher's Stone" -- an object that appears in folklore -- to "Sorceror's Stone" because some kid might not know what philosophers have to do with magic. I don't see the problem -- it's the sort of dumbing-things-down that Bainbridge would complain about.

3) Her comments on the movies seem to use "American" as a synonym for "Hollywood".

4) Her books are quintesentially British; casting Americans in the lead as Speilberg wanted to do would ruin it.

5) She has one throw-away line that might be construed as bashing Bush even though it doesn't mention his name or even the US. Over-react much? (Besides, the evidence suggests that the books don't take place in the present. Book 2 apparently took place in 1992/93, so the President in Book 6 would be Clinton.)

6) Rowling portrays all politicians as self-serving idiots, and government as generally ineffectual. Even the good people in the Ministry of Magic, like Arthur Weasley, disobey rules when it suits their purposes (Arthur even writes laws to give himself loopholes). If she is anti-American, at least it's doubtful she's the raging lefty type.  

By Anonymous GoLakers, at Mon Jul 18, 07:03:00 PM:

Good comments above.

The stories are not remotely connected to international politics, but rather to what is clearly a land of make-believe. Yes, good does have to battle evil (without have the schoolkids clamoring for an "exit strategy"), but they are more a story of an individual who battles self-doubt, fears, and has to deal with a life that is simply unfair.

Like a lot of us.

Who knows? Maybe the President to whom she referred is actually Putin - who may actually better fit the description.  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Mon Jul 18, 08:50:00 PM:

It's cool Tiger. I just wanted to share the story. Anyone can portray anything through a narrative voice, but from the single data point I have, she seems genuinely nice in real life. As always, you're free to think what you like. Moreover, I'll apologize for any offense. "Burning at the stake" was a witch pun, not a hyperbolic ad hominem.  

By Anonymous Bob Hawkins, at Mon Jul 18, 10:34:00 PM:

Only a few countries are represented in the Potter books. I don't recall any German, Italian, Dutch, Scandinavian, African, Asian or Australian witches or wizards. (Karkaroff and his Durmstrang students aren't identified by nationality, other than Krum. Cho Chang and the Patil twins are British.) South America? A mention that one of the Weasley boys once had a pen pal from Brazil who sent him a cursed hat.

The Salem Witch Institute, flying the Stars and Stripes, at the QWC campground, gives the US more presence than other countries that are not involved in the plot.

From a marketing point of view, JKR is missing a bet here. Based on all this, I think she's just very British, and deals with all that foreign lot only as the plot demands it.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Jul 18, 11:22:00 PM:

All good comments, and apologies to the Lanky Bastard for missing his witch reference. Doh!

There's a story about William Faulkner that's perhaps instructive. Supposedly, while at the University of Virginia or some such center of southern learning, a student asked Faulkner to describe the "deeper meaning" of a particular image. Faulkner just said, "I don't know, I was just trying to tell a good story." All good fiction gives thoughtful people something to discuss, or argue about. That we're all writing about Rowling is proof enough that she has written some great stuff.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Jul 19, 07:42:00 PM:

According to the Leaky Cauldron fansite dedicated to JK Rowling and her works, book 6 takes place in 1996-1997.

If so, and assuming "that wretched man" her Brit PM was referring to was indeed the U.S. President, it would be... Clinton. So, perhaps not an anti-Bush dig after all.

Like Bob Hawkins above, I do remember that some American witches from Salem, Mass, were seen by Harry at the beginning of Book Four, during the biggest wizarding sporting event, the Quidditch World Cup.

On another matter entirely, the thing that strikes me about the Potter series is how completely Christian the world he inhabits seems to be. At Hogwarts there is no mention of religious holidays except "Christmas Break" during the winter. Not Hannukah, or Ramadan, or anything else that I was used to hearing about when I was growing up here in NJ.
It's pretty ironic, given how anti-Christian some folks (including Pope Benedict XVI) characterize the series as being.

-- Eric  

By Blogger Thorley Winston, at Wed Jul 20, 12:14:00 AM:

Actually I always that the “wretched man” who was “President” of a “faraway country” was supposed to be Jacques Chirac. Or is it too far fetched to imagine a British author taking a swipe at the French? ;)

Seriously though, I agree that the “evidence” is quite thin for her being anti-American although it does rub me a bit the wrong way that her publisher pushed her into changing the title of the first book to the “Sorcerer’s Stone” but that isn’t so much a reflection on her as it what her publisher saw as a sensible business decision.

BTW: as far as the characters and religion, I believe it was implied that Hermione Granger might have been Jewish. I seem to recall a passage in one of the earlier books about her celebrating a holiday by lighting candles around the time of the Christmas and I took that to mean Hanukah. Someone else can corroborate or correct me if I’m misremembering.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Aug 03, 01:03:00 PM:

Well thank you fortheintelligent comments here. It's nice to see at least some people have thought for a moment or two rather than just react. However, I am offended that this issue arose in the first place. Is this Brainbridge a real professor? What University would possibly hire someone who would assert such drivel? It sounds like the new McCarthyism is here; in the form of "that's/you are anti-American"! Good to know Americans have learned absolutely nothing from their experiences, still strutting about on the world stage, the ever-powermad cock-of-the-walk. Just a piece of advice here; the reason for America's unpopularity with the rest of the world is that America is ridiculously unfair in it's dealings with other nations. The successes of the U.S.A. typically come at the expense of other nations (and I do not blame individual Americans for this, it is just how your government conducts itself- that being said, American people are typically isolationist- "anti-internationalist" if you will.) I know Americans cannot deal easily with criticism, so I apologize for offending any in advance. I suppose all of this has nothing to do with the Potter books, but kudos go to Rowling for not buckling under and allowing the movies to be Americanized (yes, I refer to the partially successful attempt of American captialism to establish a sterile monoculture of easily recognizable "American" institutions across the world, such as Mcdonalds, Wal-Mart and opulent, yet terribly boring formula Hollywood films and yet even worse American television.) Oh yes, would someone explain to me why Michael Moore is anti-American because he has made a few thought provoking and critical films? Isn't that democratic? Is democracy not what justifies all American action on the international stage? Surely, if freedom and democracy are the justifications for a murderous and pointless slaughter in Iraq (we all know the WMD excuse ran dry pretty damn quick, as if anyone believed it in the first place)and all other "foriegn adventures", then logic dictates Michael Moore is quite safe making a few humourous and thoughtful movies under the auspices of democracy. What could be more American than that, I ask you. Anyway, I digress. The point is, if J.K. Rowling wants to take a few shots at the U.S.A. in a tasteful manner, no American asks why. That's what is most disturbing. In psychological terms, I think America has sociopathic tendencies, if not psychopathic tendencies. I strongly urge America to get help immediately! With the treatments that are available today, you may soon become a functioning member of international society!!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 01, 08:08:00 PM:

>>>>>>Good to know Americans have learned absolutely nothing from their experiences, still strutting about on the world stage, the ever-powermad cock-of-the-walk.<<<<

Good to know that you are an idiot and apply your logic to the entire country instead of the select few that it applies to.

>>>>>and I do not blame individual Americans for this<<<<

Wow you don't? You did a few sentences back.

>>>> I know Americans cannot deal easily with criticism, so I apologize for offending any in advance. <<<< No we don't as we tend to stick together even if our opinions differ from person to person.

>>>>I suppose all of this has nothing to do with the Potter books, but kudos go to Rowling for not buckling under and allowing the movies to be Americanized<<<<

No, it has everything to do with the Potter books that's what started this whole coversation in the first place. How do you give kudos to someone who sold out to us anyway? It's shear ignorance to pat someone on the back for standing up to us for her books yada yada when she sold the movie rights to one of our studios. Gee, probably because we paid her the most money.

>>>>(yes, I refer to the partially successful attempt of American captialism to establish a sterile monoculture of easily recognizable "American" institutions across the world, such as Mcdonalds, Wal-Mart<<<<

Damn, that's really funny, last I checked our imports out weighed our exports. And if you don't like McDonalds or Walmart don't go there.

>>>>and opulent, yet terribly boring formula Hollywood films and yet even worse American television.<<<<

Which formula is that? The one about an orphan or near orphan who finds a magical world? Please do me a favor and make sure to check out Chronicles of Narnia when it comes out.

>>>>being said, American people are typically isolationist- "anti-internationalist" if you will<<<<< Ok let's be honest wouldn't all of us rather our tax dollars go to helping our own country instead of another nation? And I don't care which nation you live in.

>>>>Surely, if freedom and democracy are the justifications for a murderous and pointless slaughter in Iraq <<<<

You really need to come over here and open your eyes. Not all of us agree with the war, but if you are a citizen of England, I suggest you shut your mouth as some of your troops are there too.

>>>>Oh yes, would someone explain to me why Michael Moore is anti-American because he has made a few thought provoking and critical films?<<<<

I can't because I don't agree with the guy that said he was anti-American. But let's take some of his films and look at them:

Roger and Me: yup saw yup agree with it. The head of GM at the time was a real dumbass.

Bowling for Columbine: Yup saw it, yup agree with some of it. Our media does slant towards the bad things in life.

Fah. 9/11: Yup saw it, and after I voted for Kerry, didn't change my opinion of Bush the day I saw it or the 4.5 years before. Bush like his father is a dumbass. (BTW, don't anyone here think because that I am anti-Bush that I am pro-Democrat. I'm pro-Common sense which most of our politicians seem to run out of)

Didn't see his other films.

>>>>The point is, if J.K. Rowling wants to take a few shots at the U.S.A. in a tasteful manner, no American asks why. That's what is most disturbing.<<<<

No, what's disturbing is she'll take pot shots at us and then still take our money. If that isn't the pot calling the kettle black.

Now let's do a little substitution for those that don't think she's anti-American:

"I was very prickly when I first met Steve. I knew that they'd chosen this Black man, and even though he wrote and directed one of my favorite films, The Fabulous Baker Boys, he's... Well... Black! Not to be... I don't know..."

Ok, for those that say she ISN'T anti-American can you explain to me how she doesn't sound like a complete and total racist in the above statement? And all I did was change the direction from one group of people to another.

See there's one important lesson that some people seem to be missing, it's one thing to be critical of something and it's totally different to be biased. Let me give an example, suppose you had a parent that was mean to you at every opportunity and one that was mean when you were bad and nice when you were good. Which one would you respect more?

One last thing, it's funny how many sites I can find that say she's anti-American, but a lot less that have proof that she isn't.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 01, 08:25:00 PM:

>>>>JK Rowling pokes fun at nearly every authority figure. The PM, the media, businessmen like Mr. Dursley, etc... But let her write one quip about an unspecified foreign President, and she's suddenly anti-American? Aren't we being a little sensitive?<<<<

One negative quip. Who knows if it was directed at the US or not, but when you learn to read critically you'll understand. Oh, and that quip with some of her other comments makes you tend to wonder.

>>>>>Here's a real-life anecdote... my mother is a 5th grade teacher in Connecticut. A few years ago all the 5th grade teachers at her school gathered their classes around some old computers for a special on-line question and answer session with JK Rowling. Sadly, they had some technical issues and did not get to chat. The class sent a letter to JK expressing their regrets at missing her. She sent back her own letter, along with hardcover copies of the first three books for everyone in the class. She also sent hardcovers of the 4th book a few months later when it came out.<<<<

Your point? Just because some people were quoted as saying John Wayne Gacy was a nice man doesn't make it so.

>>>>Anyway, that doesn't strike me as too anti-American.<<<<

"Too"? What the hell is that? Wake up, you either are or you aren't. You are either Anti-American or you are not. You are either racist or you are not.  

By Anonymous Ellie, at Fri Dec 30, 07:28:00 PM:

>>>>Now let's do a little substitution for those that don't think she's anti-American:

"I was very prickly when I first met Steve. I knew that they'd chosen this Black man, and even though he wrote and directed one of my favorite films, The Fabulous Baker Boys, he's... Well... Black! Not to be... I don't know..."

Ok, for those that say she ISN'T anti-American can you explain to me how she doesn't sound like a complete and total racist in the above statement? And all I did was change the direction from one group of people to another.<<<<

Different things entirely. You're right, if she'd said "black" that would have been racist, because the colour of someone's skin is completely irrelevant to their screenwriting ability, and to judge them on their colour would be appalling.

However, it's not surprising that she might be wary of an American screenwriter - Sean O'Hara's quite right, by "American" here she means "Hollywood". Hollywood does not have a good reputation in Britain for cultural sensitivity to British things (after all, it wasn't long before the first Potter movie was filmed that U-571 was released, a Hollywood movie that took a piece of legendary British military heroism from WWII and recast it as a US Navy battle, even though the US hadn't entered the war when it happened. That even got some criticism from our Prime Minister in Parliament). There is a lot of anxiety in Britain about how Hollywood deals with British history, and in fiction there is even less room for manoeuvre (though I don't really mind in fiction that we only ever get to play the bad guys!). And given that the early rumours were that Spielberg wanted to direct Harry Potter with Haley Joel Osment in the leading role, Rowling's fears are fairly understandable!

Also, given that she had had to Americanise parts of her books for the US audience, even to the extent of changing the title of her first book, it's not really surprising that she was a little anxious about the possible approach of an American screenwriter. It wasn't a prejudice about ethnicity, but an understandable anxiety that the key British cultural nuances of the books could be lost.

As for why she has not included Americans in the books - I hope this doesn't sound mean, because it's not meant to be, but America really doesn't impinge on everyday British life nearly as much as you'd think. Just like the US, as a nation Britain is quite parochial in its outlook, and events in Europe are often more immediately significant to us than events in America because it is much closer and because we are part of the European Union. Likewise, China and Japan are significant to us in much the same way as Germany and France are significant to Americans. So when Professor Bainbridge speaks of "the 800 pound gorilla of international affairs", you have to appreciate that although we know that's true in a political sense, that's not what it feels like to most Brits.

But really, I can't do better than to quote Rowling herself:

"Q. How does the Dark Lord affect American wizards and witches?

He affects everyone, but his plan is European domination first."

"Q. Will we ever see Harry in America?

A. Unlikely. The battleground is Britain at the moment. I got asked the other day, "Given the huge success of your books in America, are you going to be introducing American characters?" And I thought, You're an idiot. I am not about to throw away 10 years' meticulous planning in the hope that I will buck up to a few more readers. American kids have no need to see a token American character. This is another instance of people grossly underestimating children."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 25, 02:28:00 PM:

yes, she is definitely anti-American. She takes special pains to include characters fron nearly every corner of the earth, but not even one character from the most influential country in the modern world. There is no other explanation.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Nov 04, 12:47:00 AM:

Oh PLEASE! It is obviously a reference to George W. Bush. This does NOT mean she's ANTI-AMERICAN! Nearly 90% of Americans think George W. Bush is a wretched man! It's funny, accurate, obvious to us here in the states and well spotted.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 06, 06:50:00 AM:

We specialize in laptop battery,laptop AC adapters. All our products are brand new, with the excellent service from our laptop battery of customer service team.
the most convenient and cheap replacement battery online shop in uk. We specialize in laptop batteries,laptop AC adapters.
All our laptop AC adapters are brand new, with the excellent service from our customer service team.
the most convenient and cheap battery online shop in uk.  

By Blogger 沼泽地, at Mon Dec 22, 09:09:00 PM:

Dog tags
Metal Badges
Printing Badges
Lapel Pins Manufacturer
Cuff Links
Metal Badges
Bottle Openers
Medals
key chains
trading pin
Flag Lapel Pins
Police Badge
Coin
wristbands wholesale
Disney Pins Wholesale
mouse pads manufacturer
mouse pads
Lapel Pins Manufacturer
电脑外设
电脑周边
电脑周边批发
电脑外设批发
电脑配件批发
摄像头批发
U盘批发
鼠标批发
mp3mp4批发
饰品批发
水晶饰品批发
小饰品批发
韩国饰品批发
925银饰
情侣饰品批发
银饰批发
925银饰批发
流行饰品批发
珠宝首饰批发
泰银批发
小商品批发
饰品免费代销  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Jun 15, 06:36:00 PM:

Come on "guys", are you really that arrogant? Do you think that the world revolves around you? So even with your in-sensitivity towards other nations you expect us to grovel at your feet?

Harry Potter is set in Britain. That's it. The end. Why should it involve America in anyway more than any other country? It's not as if America pops up in our day to day lives. We're not gonna have Voldermort flying off to the USA to play a bit of baseball.

I am very Pro-Rowling in her reluctance to give away her great story to be mauled and shredded into an unrecognisable and frankly awful American Hollywood. Look at the US version of the Office. Its been milked dry and the original charm of the British one is lost.
Much Love, John.
xxx  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon May 09, 05:54:00 PM:

This is to the dude who signed his comment with "Love, John"......
"Wow, angry much? I could give a rat's patoot who JK includes in her books or movies, but you managed in a few short sentences to try and run down all things American. I think it's funny how Brits criticize us and yet buy our movies, watch our TV shows, etc. I think it's funny how you call us sensitive and yet you bitch and moan about the way we treat you. By the way, we DON'T sit around and think about you all the time, either. We live in an entertaining country that's about 50 times bigger than yours, and we have a few other things to do besides sit around and think about how the Brits hate us. Oh, and if you think the original "The Office" is anywhere NEAR as humorous as ours, then you're out of your freakin' gourd. Go drink some tea or something and tell it to someone who cares.  

Post a Comment


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?