Archives for May 2013

The Red Hen Updates Her Invaluable Interlibrum Website

For those of us who are old enough to remember when dinosaurs walked the earth and the Hogwarts Saga was not yet finished, the ‘Red Hen,’ aka Joyce Odell, is a VIP of the first order. Her Red Hen Publications website was the online place to go for the most closely and cleverly argued speculations about the artistry and meaning of the books. My Ring Composition work, all of which was done post Deathly Hallows, owes a great deal to work that Ms Odell did as far back as 2003 (when she detailed all the Stone-Phoenix connections and parallels) and to her post Half Blood Prince work in which she predicted that Hallows would resonate in like fashion with Prisoner.

Did I mention that she predicted the Horcrux story line years before we knew there was such a thing? Check out ‘The Changeling Hypothesis’ for some amazing literary detective work — and browse through her fanfic publications while you’re there (the Red Hen is a graphic artist of the first order, as well). There’s enough fascinating Potter Punditry collected here and here to keep future academics (and serious readers of Potter canon) who really do their homework busy for weeks.

I was delighted, consequently, when I learned in our e-correspondence, that she updated her web site at long last to reflect Hallows realities and her disappointment with the finale. I asked her for a statement to publish here and she obliged me with this note: [Read more…]

MISTI-Con MuggleNet Academia: Janet Batchler and the Films

MISTI-Con in Laconia, New Hampshire was a blast! This joint production of The Group That Shall Not Be Named and MuggleNet.com was set on a lake-side resort whose buildings, Big Top tent, and props (can you say, “Life Size replica of the Fountain of Magical Brethren”? Wow.) had a Hogwarts feel, especially with the nearly 500 attendees who all seemed to have five or six Wizarding World outfits to change into. The Beauxbatons uniforms were stunning and the spot-on Gilderoy Lockhart outfit Clay Dockery wore to the MNet podcast still makes me laugh.

And the live podcast with MNet host Keith Hawk and special guest Janet Batchler was a big hit. Janet is a long time friend of this blog and she blew the full house (well, tent) away with her insights and observations as a screenwriter about what worked and didn’t work in the film adaptations of the Hogwarts Saga. Listen to the whole thing; I’m no friend of the movies but I loved talking with Janet about Hollywood realities as well as the effects of the Franchise on Fandom’s experience of story.

Two other MISTI-Con notes below concerning Leaky Con and a delightful Potter Pundit I met with a mind-blowing idea: [Read more…]

Help one of your Hogpro Faculty on a research project.

Hunger Games readers and movie fans are needed for a study being conducted at Mary Baldwin College on empathy for fictional characters. If you are age 13 or older and a native speaker of English, you are eligible to participate. It will involve taking an anonymous online survey (Click here for the link) and should require no more than 30 minutes to complete. This study is approved by the Mary Baldwin College Institutional Review Board.

PS.  If you run into any problems with the survey, please alert me at lfreeman@mbc.edu  Thank you, friends!

Literature, Film and Legacy: Reflections on a Random and Completely Unbalanced Sample

As promised, here is my sampling of books and associated movies that I experienced in my own childhood, and my own thoughts looking back at them, in view of the question asked earlier about whether the films destroy the book legacy. I am interested in hearing from others, older and younger than me, about how their experiences compare.

Doctor Dolittle: Hugh Lofting’s Newberry-winning series was published between 1920 and 1950. My father adored the series as a boy and he, in turn, read it to me, when I was in elementary school; eventually, I re-read the entire series for myself. As much as we both loved the books, neither of us had any affinity for the 1967 movie musical. No one who understood the charm of the books about the mild-mannered, dumpy and completely asexual animal doctor from Puddleby-on-the-Marsh could relate to Rex Harrison’s handsome, singing vet with an ongoing love interest. Besides being a pretty unsuccessful film in its own right–Leonard Matlin’s review suggested its one merit was its ability to put unruly children to sleep–it apparently triggered backlash against the books by drawing attention to the unfortunate 1920’s racial stereotypes that were no longer acceptable in the 1960’s.  Attempts in the 1970’s to edit the unflattering ethnic portrayals into a more acceptable format (a move taken with the permission of Lofting’s son) unfortunately produced rather clunky stories and destroyed key plot points. I doubt many kids today read the Doctor Dolittle books at all.

As for the later “Dr. Dolittle” movies with Eddie Murphy, they had so little to do with the original books that it is pointless to mention them. Calling Murphy’s character “Dr. Dolittle” just because he wound up talking to animals (against his will, of course, as opposed to the diligent study of the original) makes about as much sense as calling the  “George of the Jungle” cartoons Tarzan. The only thing these movies could do for the books is leave potential readers wondering where the fart jokes are.

To Kill A Mockingbird: Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning book (1960) was followed by an Oscar-winning movie that won the author’s full approval; Ms. Lee was so impressed with Gregory Peck’s legendary portrayal of Atticus Finch, a character inspired by Ms. Lee’s own father, that she gave him her father’s gold watch. For myself, I read the book around 1980 and watched the movie for the first time a year or so after that. These were, after all, pre-VCR days when you had to wait for an old movie to show up on cable.

The To Kill a Mockingbird movie is arguably the best and truest film adaption of a great book ever made. It’s also the reason I say that a true book fan will always be disappointed by the movie. As good as it was, upon my first viewing, I was left very let down by all the details that were left out of the movie: the visit to Calpurnia’s church, Miss Maudie’s house fire, the mud-and-snowman, Miss Dubose the morphine addict and pretty much every action of Dill (I think Walter Cunningham had more lines).

But, even if it failed to capture some of the richness, there is no doubt that it was a very, very good movie. I would be interested to know, today, how many people encounter the book before the movie and vice versa. But clearly people are still enjoying both; To Kill a Mockingbird was #3 on NPR’s 2012 top 100 novels for teens, right behind Harry Potter and Hunger Games. I think this is a case where the book and movie complement each other and both contribute to Mockingbird’s continuing popularity. [Read more…]

MuggleNet Academia 20: How the Films Destroy the Legacy

The 2oth installment of MuggleNet Academia, a pet project to raise the quality of conversation in Greater Fandom, is an Anniversary Special. We invited the guests who joined the show in its first year to return for a second look at the topics of their program and Potter Punditry in general.

It’s a fun, rollicking conversation — twelve animated, intelligent people who know Harry Potter very well, talking with one another at full clip! — but I think if there’s one take away from the event it was John Mark Reynold’s observation that the Warner Brother films, while creating a second and much more populous wave of Potter Mania before the book inspired mania had even crested, may also have sowed the seeds of Harry’s demise as a Shared Text for those born after Generation Hex.

His argument is hard to refute. Simply put, most perhaps almost all young and older people who are discovering the Hogwarts Saga today are entering the story first through the DVDs of the WB movies. If a percentage of this horde will almost certainly go on to read the books, probably on hand-held devices, they are experiencing the text series as “expanded screenplays” rather than the “real thing.” Think of the Star Wars novels that were written after the first trilogy of the Lucas films. And that experience is not  anything like the imaginative depth of the ‘Book First’ experience because it is tied to and imaginatively dependent on their ur experience, Daniel as Harry.

Prof Reynolds, the Provost of Houston Baptist University, a Great Books scholar, and a mythopoeic novelist himself, notes, too, that Harry Potter has become for middle and high school students, their older siblings’ thing. The movies do not create the identification the book experience did for the older brother or sister because, for one, the films are already stale and “dated” in terms of their special effects, film techniques, and consequent atmosphere. Not to mention the much lesser impact of a sense versus an imaginative entry into and engagement with story!

Please listen to the whole show — but let me know in the comment boxes what you think of Prof Reynolds’ ‘Potterdom Passe’ theory.

  • Have the films undermined not only the author’s hope that we “might imagine better” but the legacy of the books themselves?
  • Is the legacy of Harry Potter to be, as we have it in Twilight, Hunger Games, and Divergent fandoms, not only the literary magic of alchemical rings, but more obviously and lasting, the diminution of story by the inevitable degrading rush to celluloid with its pre-packaged sense experience and pre-digested meaning?
  • Has Harry Potter jumped the shark because of the fading movie franchise?
  • Will Catcher in the Rye outlive Harry Potter because Holden Caulfield’s creator had the courage and good sense to resist Movie Millions?

Your comments in response and your original thoughts are coveted, as always!