So, finally, after years of being inundated with advertisements, glowing endorsements and media reports about its ability to create frenzy amongst pre-teens, I have read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Okay, so strictly speaking, I didn’t read it – I listened to it on tape – but I think that still counts and anyone who disagrees can please spell out their reasons below.
At any rate, I think Harry fell into that same trap that so many highly rated works of art fall into: I was expecting the absolute best. Not sure why. I think, because it’s the best-selling work of fiction of all time (excluding the Holy Bible), I was expecting something phenomenal. The same way I expected Gone with the Wind to be phenomenal for being the best-selling motion picture of all time.
I always seek out those “#1 selling” bits of art/entertainment just to see what all the fuss is about. Titanic, Thriller, Seinfeld, DaVinci Code, Citizen Kane and Roots are all things I initially looked into because they are, in their respective fields, some kind of superlative. I’ve met with different levels of satisfaction in each case. In the case of Harry, I certainly wasn’t blown away. I was never caught up in the action or emotion of the story so much so that I couldn’t put it (the car radio) down.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and am currently ‘reading’ book two in the mile-wide series. I appreciated how all-encompassing the world was: names of streets, names of potions; all sorts of things were detailed reminiscent of Star Wars in their ability to enhance a fictional world. As a side note, I wish we really lived in a world where you could tell if someone is good or evil based solely on their name.
At the same time I was listening to this book (well, not the exact same time), my wife and I were watching a TV miniseries entitled Tin Man, which billed itself as a ‘re-imagining’ of the Wizard of Oz.
I bring this up because both works of fiction had that same old worn-out premise: what I like to call “The Messiah Premise”.
Here’s the synopsis: A young person comes of age by discovering they are (in some ambiguous prophecy) destined for greatness. Only they can save the world! They are endowed with special powers, allowing them to cheat through their obstacles. In fact, they are so special that there was even something unusual about their parents: immaculate conceptions come to mind (or, perhaps we are just never told about their lineage). As they begin their world-saving journey, they are helped along the way by various friends – including one all-wise oldster who, for whatever convoluted reason, can’t do the job of saving the world themself. Along the way, they are told various bits and clues about their past and their future, all very cryptic and, without fail, would have been a lot more helpful had they known such things a wee bit sooner. In the end, they meet up with their greatest foe. And though their loyal sidekick may have been there with them right up until that point, through some twist of plot, they must face the demon alone. Oh – and they’re probably related to that demon. In the end, however, they succeed in saving humanity as we know it.
This story is perhaps best known in the gospels, but is also central to Harry Potter, Tin Man, Lord of the Rings, Superman, The Matrix, The Never Ending Story, Star Wars (twice!), The One Moses, King Arthur and a thousand other tales. I’m not saying this makes for a bad movie/book/comic/TV show, I’m just bored with it. I much prefer someone who rises to greatness through their own gumption. Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes and Captain Picard come to mind…