With only a week and a half left until the long-delayed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince finally hits theaters, media outlets are jumping on every angle possible to cash in on Pottermania. Most recently, James Parker from The Atlantic examined the different approaches each Potter director has taken in adapting the books for the screen, which another Atlantic writer took to task in a blog on Tuesday.
Alyssa Rosenberg wrote that ”the problem of keeping the Harry Potter movies fresh as filmmakers tackle the later books and deal with their characters’ development into sexually mature adults” is because ”J.K. Rowling, for all that she’s created a compelling universe, is really awful at writing about adult sexual and romantic relationships.”
Uh…wha? Last time I checked, the Harry Potter books were a children’s series. Sure, the audience grew up as the characters aged, but this is not adult fiction. And I mean that in both respects of the term: The books aren’t targeted toward adults, and they’re not supposed to contain graphic descriptions of a sexual nature.
Rosenberg makes two main points. First, ”in Rowling’s universe, everyone ends up with their first real love.” Okay, well, this is a fantasy series. The hero defeats the villain in the end. Is there a problem with that, too? Second, Rowling never gives ”a single detailed description of any adult sexual relationship.” What Rosenberg forgets is that although they’re third person, these are fairy tales told from a teenager’s perspective. Despite illusions to the contrary, teenagers don’t actually have adult relationships. We’re following 11- to 17-year-old Harry, not an older, wiser narrator. Rowling doesn’t ever give a single detailed description of any adult relationship, sexual or otherwise, because teenage Harry wouldn’t really pick up on the complexities of the Weasleys’ marriage. Besides, do we want detailed scenes about what happens in those canopied Hogwarts beds? This is a book about wizards. If you want romance, look for a paperback with Fabio on the cover.
As for the films, why do they have to be sexy at all? It’s not like people were clamoring for a Prince Caspian/Susan flirtation in the second Chronicles of Narnia movie. The fact that there is even a sex issue baffles me. Is it because a movie needs to have some form of sexual tension to sell tickets? (Tell that to box office smash Up.) Is it because the stars themselves are pretty foxy? (The producers must’ve let out a heaving sigh of relief when their cherubic young child stars grew into attractive young adults.) As far as I’m concerned, Rowling’s glossing-over of the subject matter would have suited the movies just fine.
Why do you think the directors have sexed up the later Harry Potter movies? Are you fine with Rowling’s interpretation of adult relationships in the Potterverse, or do you think the books should have gotten a little more complex? Are you baffled that the sex issue is actually an issue at all? Or do you think a more realistic depiction of teenage sexuality is necessary for the films to connect with audiences?
More Harry Potter:
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Will you reread it before the film’s release?
New Harry Potter posters: Love! Jealousy! Betrayal!
Summer Movie Preview: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Jeff Jensen visits the Half-Blood Prince set
Harry Potter star Rupert Grint has sex, does drugs, and makes me hide under my desk