Living Together in Harmony?

Are you ready for some Harmony?

If my HP-related feeds this morning are any indication, JK Rowling’s latest bombshell is the spark that could re-ignite the fandom. What was the bombshell, you ask? Just that little tidbit that she now regrets the Ron/Hermione relationship.

According to those who participated in the HP fandom pre-Deathly Hallows, the “Shipping Wars” made the infamous “Snape Wars” pale by comparison. According to Morgoth (founder of the Chamber of Secrets forum), reading through Shipping War threads was like reading lengthy dissertations in which even the footnotes had footnotes.

So what’s with the “Harmony” at the top of my message? It’s the name of the Harry/Hermione ship. Followers of this ship are known as “Harmonians.” JKR just give this ship new life. No, she didn’t come out and say that Hermione should have ended up with Harry, but that IS how the Harmonians will read it.

Last night at supper, I was in the process of saying to my husband, “And this is just sooooo irresponsible. JKR knows about the Shipping Wars. She knows what happened the last time Harry/Hermione was on the table.”

And then, in mid-sentence, I stopped and turned around and said… “But wait. All the forums are closing. There’s really NO PLACE anymore for engaging in a Shipping War. What if…. What if this is all just a ploy to bring back the forums? What if she did this just to give fans something to buzz about?”

One little comment re-opens the Shipping debate… and also sparks questions about “What constitutes canon?” Will those Hermione/Ron shippers who have been so certain that any random utterance out of JK Rowling’s mouth is canonical gold still believe that point now that she has demolished their ship with a single random utterance?

Anyway, get ready for the fireworks. It looks now like the Chamber of Secrets may not be closing…

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A Deeply Horrible Person

Wow. I’ve just been reading up on the Potter fanwars that have taken place over the past decade. Apparently, there’s been some serious craziness among various character factions. (I have to admit my favorite bizarro concept, because it’s just so bizarre, is the snapewives.) At any rate, reading up on the fanwars helped me understand something I’ve seen on Snape sites – the hostility to JKR and Dumbledore. Apparently, some people want a woobie. And Snape is not written, or treated, as a woobie.

So, let me talk about where I’m coming from. I did Ph.D. work in literature at UCLA. That doesn’t make my insights better than anybody else’s. (Actually, there’s some great stuff being written out there by people who were probably not insane enough to study for a Ph.D.). I’m mentioning it because one of the first things you learn to do in literary criticism is look at the text, then at the author.

My training – good, bad, or indifferent – taught me that in a good work of fiction the characters take on a life of their own. The text lives and breathes. What matters is what the text says about the characters… because ultimately (in a good book) the text should be able to speak for itself. Consequently, if JKR has a different interpretation than I think the text warrants, I’m not going to waste my time getting angry… but I’m also not going to slavishly bow down to her reading. And that brings us to her comment, made long before Deathly Hallows, that Snape is a “deeply horrible person.”

To my blunt American mind, “deeply horrible” means a character beyond all hope of redemption. Rotten to the core. To her British mind, it may mean something more nuanced. I think, certainly, the text in the first six books supports the possibility that Snape will turn out rotten, and Rowling clearly needed to protect that possible outcome. But the text of Deathly Hallows, with its story of Snape’s true loyalties and sacrifices, does not support the notion that there is nothing redemptive about him. That would be Voldemort.

Snape is instead a deeply flawed person. A deeply horrible teacher. A deeply frustrating and infuriating person. A sometimes horrible person. But he’s not a deeply horrible person. If he were, then he could not have warranted Albus Dumbledore’s trust… and there would be no question of naming a child Albus Severus Potter. Unless, of course, “deeply horrible” is just a more British way of phrasing exactly what I just said about Snape’s character.