Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I am ill in bed and cross. It’s not really a proper illness; it’s a mild glandy thing accompanied by a wave of exhaustion so corporeal I cannot stand up. So, in the end, I gave in. I made some tomato soup for the children’s lunch and then I collapsed.
After some very unsatisfactory broken dozing, the kind that does not refresh or restore, but just makes you fretful, I thought I might cheer myself up by ordering some nice cut-price DVDs from Amazon. They would be there, waiting for me, when I got home, and I could watch them over Christmas. I have hardly been to the cinema this year, and anyway, a lot of the good films don’t get as far as Aberdeen (that brilliant documentary about the banking collapse was on for two performances; the brother-in-law and I had to drop everything and race into town like maniacs to catch it).
Anyway, I thought there must be some excellent, grown-up films with people like Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson in that I have missed. I turned to the Top Twenty section. And no, there are no grown-up films.
Shall I tell you what there is? Harry bloody Potter.
There is Harry Potter 3D, Harry Potter 2D, Harry Potter 7D, Harry Potter blu-ray, whatever that is, Harry Potter box set, Harry Potter every which way but loose.
I have not said this before because I love my Dear Readers, and I do not like to upset and confound you. By the law of averages most of you must love Harry Potter. The Beloved Cousin adores Harry Potter. The Godson thinks Harry Potter is magical. He is one of the boys JK Rowling got to read. My Political Operative once spent an entire summer holiday on Colonsay reading that Harry Potter that was the size of a small encyclopaedia, whilst I crossly read Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman. (You can tell I am a riot on holiday.)
Everyone I know bloody loves Harry bloody Potter. So I pussy-foot around, and say how much I admire Joanne Rowling, with all the being a single mother and writing in cafés stuff, and keep very very quiet about the truth.
But I can’t hold it in any more. The truth is: I hate Harry Potter. I am not indifferent or unmoved. I don’t think it is all quite fine but not my thing. I hate all of it. I hate bloody upright Harry with his stupid soppy glasses, and Hermione with her two expressions, and Ron with his comedy hair.
I hate the exclusivity of it all, like it’s some clever club. I was taken to the second last film, last year; I am a godmother, I do these things. I had only read the first book, and seen the third film, both of which had bored me rigid. I genuinely once had to ask my co-writer who Voldemort was. She had made a joke about ladies looking like Lord Voldemort in Backwards.
I said: ‘I do not know who that is or what he looks like.’
I said: ‘Should we not take it out, because some people might not get the reference?’
She gave me the kind of look people reserve for those who are very slow indeed. ‘Everyone will get the reference,’ she said. The thing stayed in. I’m still quite grumpy about it.
Anyway, I don’t bloody know who Lord Voldemort is, let alone the fleshcreepers or the anteaters or the transformers or whatever those screaming evil spirits are. You would think that the film-makers might have realised that there would be godmothers or aunts or grandmothers like me, and put in a little précis or potted history or at least some explication, somewhere, in the second to last film, a film so screamingly, agonisingly, nail-pullingly dull that I would have to invent new words for boredom.
But no, they did not. Everyone will get the reference, see? So not only did I have to sit through a plot so thin you could see through it, twists so laboured they cranked and creaked, characterisation so flimsy it practically fell over, and dialogue so flat it made Norfolk look like Tibet, I did not even understand a quarter of it, because everyone was talking of things about which I knew nothing.
Harry looked moody and bored. Ron looked confused and dogged. Hermione looked very, very pretty. They seemed to go camping, for a very, very long time. Helena Bonham-Carter got to do some marvellous dramatics, which was the one high point. The lighting was muddy and dour; the sets militantly fake. Robbie Coltrane, another of the few high points, was dead. There was a revolting little naked elf sort of creature, like a skinned Chihuahua, who also died, in what was supposed to be a very touching moment, but I found even duller than the rest of the dullness. Oh my God, it was boring. It actually hurt my eyes. I am being literal. My eyeballs ached.
Now, you may loathe lots of things which I adore. You may hate This Week with Andrew Neil, or the novels of Nancy Mitford, or the paintings of Stubbs, or The Today Programme. You may think the BBC is a viper’s nest of ghastly right-thinking, and you will find lots of happy people to agree with you, at county dinners and on the comments pages of the Telegraph. You might hate 19th century history, despise Scotland, have no interest whatsoever in trees, and all that is fine. None of those come freighted with value judgement, except maybe the Scottish one, because it makes you look a bit xenophobic.
But if I admit to hating Harry Potter, then I am a ruthless killjoy who does not want children to read and hates single mothers. I am out of step with perhaps 98% of the great British public. I am crossing swords with a global audience. I am mean-spirited, unimaginative, and generally rather unpleasant. Because everyone loves Harry Potter. Really nice people love Harry Potter. Harry Potter is a nice thing to like. JK Rowling is a lovely person who gives money to charity. Every single British national treasure has acted in the films. The books have made more money than the Bible. I am just sour grapes and bile; a Scrooge for our times.
And maybe that’s why I’m so cross, apart from the glands. All art is a little bit subjective, although I would argue there are objective lines which may be crossed. You, personally, might hate Picasso, but you can probably admit that he has reached an objective level of skill and brilliance. It’s just not your skill and brilliance. I can see that Nabokov is a literary star, I happen not to enjoy reading him. But with this Potter thing, you are not allowed to be subjective. It is as if one is living in a Potterish North Korea: Dear Leader says you must love Harry Potter or die.
People do not say each to each, when it comes to this particular series, they just think you are mad or wrong or sour or all three, should you offer even the mildest dissent. I resent that. I am furious that even as I type this I think: oh, I’m going to get fury now. I will make the Dear Readers sad and cross. Perhaps I should just delete the whole thing and put up some nice pictures of The Pigeon instead.
I do feel quite relieved, though, now it's out. I’ve been carrying that dirty little secret with me for years, ever since I read The Philosopher's Stone to see what all the fuss was about, and felt dismayed at the flat prose and dull plot. I felt the first jerk of me falling out of step with popular opinion.
What can I tell you? I’m not trying to be difficult. I just hate Harry Potter. I wish people would rediscover KM Peyton instead, and the children would read Flambards, or Lorna Hill would come back into fashion and everyone would read the Sadler's Wells series, or someone would remember how brilliant Noel Streatfeild was. I wish there was not only one game in town.
Stopping now. Really do feel most weak and peculiar. The Pigeon is snoring at my side. The lovely thing about her is that she really does not give a damn. Potter, Schmotter, is what she is saying in her doggy old head.
Usual apology for lack of pictures; too weak and other for taking photographs today. So here is the one compensation: