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Monday, April 18, 2011

Harry Potter Retrospective Part 5

You know what I just watched?

A preview clip for the final Harry Potter movie. It's just a few months away people. But before I'll experience that grand nerd event I'll have moved, seen my latest second cousin get baptized, taken a trip to and from USA (Logan and Las Vegas to be specific) and hopefully I'll have read through the last two books in the series. But that's in the future, a concept which some say doesn't actually exist but that's an entirely different discussion.

At this point in time I'll be talking about Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix. Possibly my favourite book in the series, at least as far as I can recall.

So this was the first book of the series that I read in english. The main reason for this was the very long wait between OOTP and GoF. Three years the fans waited and during that I just got horribly impatient and decided that I was good enough at reading english that I didn't have to risk getting spoiled by the internet. And I never looked back. It was also during these three years that I discovered fanfiction, many of which actually were fans' own interpretations of the fifth book, and actually tried to... and I'm digressing away from the topic at hand. Let's never bring up fanfiction again.

Anyway, because of the wait my expectations were sky-high and when the book just blew straight past them I more or less fell in love with it and Rowling for being so awesome a writer. It's the thickest book in the series and while some may find that a turn off I on the other hand love it because there's just more of everything for me to read and enjoy. And there is so much here to enjoy.

There's the introduction of the series truest Ensemble Darkhorse, Luna Lovegood. She stole the heart of all the readers with the first scene she's in and started oh so many shipping wars with how well she got along with the main cast. The magical world gets a big old expansion as we get to see the minastry of magic for the first time and the introduction of the various members of the order of the phoenix, and their death eater counter-parts. One of the smaller battles in the great Harry Potter shipping war was won when Harry's disasterous relationship with Cho Chang obviously wasn't gonna work out at the same time as Ginny Weasley got comfortable enough to talk to Harry. That might not be all that important to others but I'm totally a shipper at heart. And there's the little bit about how DUMBLEDORE DUELLED WITH VOLDEMORT!

Yeah... when I was 15 years old this was basically the closest thing I'd seen to Good and Evil duking it out in a last man standing kind of battle, the second closest being White Ranger Tommy fighting Lord Zedd one on one. Now, as a fight scene connoisseur I have to say that the Voldemort/Dumbledore wizards' duel just rocked even to this day. It had all things needed to make it feel really epic. Wordless magic was used and countered by both parties, the symbol of the arrogant image that most witches and wizards have of their relationship with other magical species was torn to bits and Harry could do nothing but look on in awe at the display of magical might. Also, you know... it was Albus Dumbledore fighting Lord Voldemort. That alone made it awesome in my book.

But even though Voldemort is very much the big bad of the series and this book he sort of takes a back-step for most of OOTP in favour of Dolores Umbridge the new DADA teacher for the year, sent to Hogwarts by the minster of magic Conerlius Fudge to enforce his rules and regulations on the school. The fun thing for me about Dolores, at least at this particular point in time, is that I can kind of draw parallells to a series of recent articles that have sort of revealed how inadequate most educators in sweden actually are. Dolores follows the minastry approved teaching schedule that says that students should just read through text books and from that they'll know perfectly how to use the information they've acquired without ever having to practice it. That of course is not actually teaching and yet it's kind of similar to what happens in a lot of swedish schools today.

Another notable thing about Dolores Umbridge that I find interesting is her antagonistic relationship with characters that aren't Hary Potter. To him she's just a road block, an obstacle that needs to be overcome, a personafication of the minastry's foolish stubborness that everything is ok. To me Umbridge seems more like an appropriate adversary for Minerva McGonagall, deputy principal of Hogwarts and head of Gryffindor for those that don't know, and the always hilarious Weasley twins, Fred and George.

With McGonagall it's like Umbridge is her twisted mirror self. They're both basically the person closest to their respective bosses, Dumbledore and Fudge respectively, and are unwaveringly loyal to them. But there are many key differences that makes them come to blows more than once. Where McGonagall is strict but unwaveringly fair, with quidditch matters as the possible exception, Umbridge is cruel and biased. McGonagall is open enough to at least listen to students and can consider bending the rules when the situation calls for it. Umbridge is horribly narrow-minded and will only bend the rules when the outcome will benefit her personally. McGonagall can get things done all on her own while Umbridge often requires back-up by either minastry workers or the political power of the minastry itself to get her way. There's more but you get the picture. Because of these glaring differences between the two the times when they come to blows are some of the best in the entire book.

Then there's Umbridge versus Fred and George Weasley. To the twins Umbridge is basically anti-everything that they stand for, namely fun, chaos, inventiveness, being loud and rude and breaking the rules. She pushes all these buttons for them and they just can't let her get away with that without making some kind of statement. That statement turns out to be one of the greatest crowning moments of awesome in the entire series. The twins volountarily dropping out of Hogwarts and using all of their resourcefulness to show Umbridge what they think of her is so glorious that I could just go back and read that bit alone over and over. Hell, a large part of this book is about showing that despite their clownish behaviour and unstudious tendencies Fred and George are really freaking smart. Brilliant in fact. You just gotta respect two mad geniuses going their own way and sticking it to the uptight witch that's trying to tell them what to do.

But interestingly enough, despite all the heaps of hate and ridicule one can throw at Dolores Umbrige and everything that she stands for the book doesn't really have a anti-authority message. Harry and co still follow, sort of, the rules of the teachers and their parents. They show respect and appreciation to these people when it's been deserved and in general think highly of them. The book is more about how people will lose sight of what's importance if they try to cling on to that all too comfortable sense of security that is so easy to attain. The minastry does it in this book when they refuse to accept that Voldemort might be back and because of that the dark lord has it fairly easy to gather together followers for his cause. And of course, the lesson can be carried over to oh so many situations in real life. Which naturally is another point in Rowling's favour as a writer.

There's so much more I could praise this book for in great detail. I love Harry's growth through the secret club meetings he organises under Umbridge's nose. I greatly enjoy the chapter detailing most of the advanced exams that Harry's class has to take as we're finally shown how far they've all come. And I absolutely adore the glimps into the tragic past of Severus Snape's youth. It is heart-breaking once you have all the facts and even without them it explains so much about Snape's feelings towards Harry. It's just another piece of the puzzle that is the complex character of Severus Snape. And yeah, I actually didn't mind Harry's temper problems in this book like a lot of other people did. I can see why they did, I just don't agree with them.

Harry's life alternates between being really good and being mind-tearingly horrible and tragic on a yearly basis. It would make anybody pissed. The problem, as I see it, lies in those close to him that get to experience his wrath first hand. A lot of the times they just let him chew them out, often for good reasons. I'm not sure how but they probably could've handled it better. Also, Harry's a teenager. Being moody comes with the territory. And personally I think that the scene where Harry lets out all of his frustration by tearing apart Dumbledore's office after Sirius death is one of the most emotionally touching scenes in the entire series.

So yeah, lots and lots of stuff in this book me like. It'll be interesting to see what I think of the last two books as I've read them fewer times than the other five. So join me next time when we come face to face with The Half-Blood Prince.

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