Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Fundamental Truth of Harry Potter

Every so often a fanfic writer tries to introduce realism, technology or simple practicality into Wizarding society. This inevitably fails. Something about the realism of it reinforces the entire unrealism of an organized war against a civilian population all of whom have flying machines they can shrink into their pockets.

These people need rescue? What the fuck for? Can't they hop on a broom to the edge of the anti-apparition wards the enemy have put up and then just teleport out?! And that's even with an ambush. Yes, that's right, even with an ambush, the enemy needs 5 sides x 2 people = 10 people to trap just one person.

And that's assuming the victim doesn't get their head out of their ass and burrow their way out. Or burrow enough to hide. Attacking anyone in an organized fashion when brooms and apparition exist is completely impractical. It follows then that anyone who needs rescue from a death eater raid deserves to die. They are literally too stupid to live.

The whole notion of a "wizarding war" is utterly fucking ridiculous. Honestly, it is the province of lame emo do-nothing idiots like Harry Potter. Not, you know, PRACTICAL people. The only proper kind of story that has non-magical technology is the kind where wizards get curbstomped by sniper rifles at 1000 meters. And where stupefied death eaters have their throats slit by kitchen knives.

To put a cap on this, there actually are a couple of fanfics where wizarding magic is shown to be superior to technology and where wizards are sane individuals. These stories are massively and wildly AU. In Raven's Wit, magic is superior to technology because wizards have technology - magical technology. Including Other Realities played in a world-spanning Great Magical Web. And in More Equal Than You Know, protego shields against nuclear explosions.

The fundamental truth of JKR's Harry Potter universe is that wizards are insane, stupid, cowards. Any serious attempt to show otherwise will inevitably fail.


Josh said...

I largely agree with you- there's no freaking way the wizarding society could stand against technology as they are now. I'm pretty sure that's why the Statute of Secrecy came into being. Considering how wizards view witch burnings, it's ridiculous to say the Statute is the result of persecution. What's more likely is that's when gunpowder became a serious threat. For the first time, muggles didn't have to get down and personal with a wizard's wand to fight them.

And, naturally, like any society that has every need met, they became lazy and complacent. Why do anything when you don't have to? Why invent something when a simple wave takes care of what you need? The only reason they haven't collapsed is- well, actually, they're on the verge of collapse. The decadence has come to its end and the rot has almost finished. Wizards are, as you say, stupid, cowardly, and not a little bit insane.

To make matters worse, they split the intelligence from the courage, the cunning from the common sense. Hogwarts trains them into the adults you see today, which explains why the kids are so often several steps ahead of the adults.

Though, of course, it doesn't take for everyone- all the strong-willed and rebelious people that buck tradition still have their faculties: Tonks, Sirius (well, mostly), Harry's parents, etc. The Twins, who act like the world's a joke, are two of the most intelligent people in HP, developing new charms and potions and coming up with fresh ideas.

The notion of a wizard on wizard war works for two- maybe three- reasons. The first is, as you said, wizards are generally stupid. If they're attacked, they're either too slow to realize that yes, your life is suddenly in danger, or they fight back instead of pulling out. They're not only civilians (who don't think tactically unless they're taught), they're wizards, and they believe their wands can protect them. Any muggle would be out the floo in five seconds.

The second is that people don't think clearly when they're under attack unless (again) they've been trained. An ambush triggers flight or fight, and if your first instinct's to apparate and you can't- well, switch to fight. (Most people don't carry around brooms.)

The third is that for all intents and purporses, the Aurors are a civilian police force, which makes them ill-equiped to fight in a guerilla war, especially when they can't trust half of their own force. The wizards have no standing army- they have police trained to stun and subdue individual idiots. They don't have the resources or organization to respond quickly to attacks, and worse yet, they have no idea how because, as stated before, society's become so stagnant that they trained the innovation out of them.

JKR's world is made of a ridiculous surreality- it can't help itself, it's a children's story made to appease them. But it's not so far gone that you can't put some sort of structure to it.

(Er, just in case, my comment on TTh is story-specific, not a cc of this one)

Richard Kulisz said...

Regarding the Statute of Secrecy, you might want to search for 'misapplied current situations onto past circumstance' in which has an excellent canon explanation for it.

Richard Kulisz said...

Oh man, I'd forgotten about floos!

> they fight back instead of pulling out.

and as you pointed out, Hogwarts trains them for this!

Hogwarts reminds me of this story about a Brazilian university during the war where the physics professors were gone during WW2 and so the students had to learn by themselves. They did great! Then the professors came back and got back to the textbook and it went back to nobody understanding a damned thing.

The stagnation and idiocy explanation works sortof, but it doesn't take into account goblin rebellions and european competition. And indeed Beauxbatons has far less racism. One wonders what else it's got.

Then again, Common Sense has a good explanation for why Wizarding Britain hasn't been invaded despite all other countries in the world despising them. It's all those powerful old magics they've pillaged from across the world that are locked up in the Department of Mysteries.

I still recommend Raven's Wit and to an extent, More Equal Than You Know. They show to what lengths you have to alter JKR's HP universe in order to make Hogwarts REALLY the best school of magic in the world. Those two and Time To Spare impose a delightfully sensible structure over JKR's rather disorganized magic.

JBern rounds out my recommendations, if only for Kwan's School of Silent Casting. On the second day he shoves old socks in HP's mouth then tapes it shut. :D And then there's his best lines ever (multiple) such as "Fear me now bitches!"

Richard Kulisz said...

I bet you know the other good fics like 'Oh God Not Again' by sara? (for Sybil and Lockhart inversions) and Catharsis by nuhuh. Methods of Rationality I've already mentioned in another blog post.

I think Jbern's are the only fics that stick to canon while being entirely original. In one of them, HP praises Professor Binns as the most worthwhile teacher in Hogwarts.

Josh said...

Mm. My impression had always been that Great Britain is pathetically behind the rest of the world, partly because of their insular (and quite frankly, xenophobic) nature and partly because of- well, currently because of Voldemort, but before him was just their own damn fault.

There is no way they are the best in the world. The best in Britain, I can believe- no way the British wizarding world is in the craphole it is if there are better schools.

Richard Kulisz said...

I think you should read Raven's Wit to see what I'm talking about. That it's possible to rewrite the JKR universe so that Hogwarts is a top-notch school. Of course, that story also rewrites the entire British Wizarding society. Which is pretty much my point; you can do it, but look what you have to do to achieve it!

Top-notch if you subscribe to certain competitive theories of learning and motivation anyways. Which I don't since I knew better even before I read No Contest: The Case Against Competition. In fact, it's why I couldn't go through that book, because it was hundreds of pages of tediously obvious stuff as far as I was concerned. Nonetheless, Raven's Wit makes Hogwarts into a really interesting school.

Garland said...

woah I never thought of any of this before. this has really opened my eyes. I can't wait to reread all the books with a less naive eye

what hogwarts house do you think you would be? since you think bravery is evil i guess not Gryffindor. whenever i take an online quiz I always get Hufflepuff

Richard Kulisz said...

How old are you, 15?

Garland said...

no, I'm in my 20s why. do Hufflepuffs skew young