Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter and the Overblown Emotional Response

I have seen a bit of the first Harry Potter film one Christmas and it didn't seem that bad in an easy-to-watch-slumped-on-the-sofa-with-the-family-at-Christmas kind of way, but I have never read any of the books. It might partly be snobbery - there are so many books out there that I should have read that I don't have time to spare reading kids books. But mainly, its that I have no interest in wizards.

But I don't really care that other adults read them. I'm not one of those people who think that anyone over 14 caught reading a HP book should be sentenced to ten years hard labour and a crash course in Dostoevsky. Its good in this digital age to see that people can still be excited by books. Its just not for me.

I'm not even going to pass judgement on those people who camped out over night to be the first to buy it or the American girl I heard on the news who was on holiday for the weekend in London but said she'd be sitting in her hotel to read the book as it was more important. That's their choice - it wouldn't be mine.

But now we come to my problem with this.

I read yesterday that ChildLine is concerned about their switchboards being jammed with children unable to cope with end of Harry Potter. ChildLine provides an invaluable service for children who are being abused or bullied or feel they can't talk to anyone they know about their feelings, and I'm certain I read recently that the service was under threat due to underfunding. It will be a disgrace if their time and resources are wasted on kids upset over the end of book, if the lines are blocked dealing with calls about this so that a child who is in need of real help can't get through.

I'm sure many children will be genuinely upset if their favourite spell-caster is bumped off at the end (or falls nobly on his own wand), but surely this is something that their parents should be able to console them over? And if they really fear it is going to have this effect on them, why on earth let them read it in the first place? But I suspect in many cases it will be the parents encouraging this over-the-top response (like that woman who claimed her 4 year old had depression because she didn't get in their choice of school who was blatently using her child's feelings to gain attention for herself because really 4 year olds move on pretty quickly when it comes to friends). I think this will be an occassion for great one-upmanship at middleclass dinner parties and school gates, parents competing to see whose little darling was most upset - rather than distracting them with a Playstation and a bag of sweets, which for once does seem like a good option.


Roses said...

Yes, I must admit I was gobsmacked to see Jenni Trent, a counsellor, on BBC News 24 giving advice for the parents of children reading the book. Nanny State or what?

SandDancer said...

I'm glad you thought that too, especially as you are a parent.

I remember being rather upset by the death of Charlotte at the end of Charlottes Web and of Bambi's mother when I was a child but my mother was able to cope with my tears and I don't think any lasting damage was done.

M said...

I watched the first movie but managed to avoid all the rest and all the books. Maybe someday, when they're all out on DVD, I'll have a "Potter-a-thon" and watch them all through in one setting. But I doubt it. :)

I hoped Harry wouldn't die in the end, for the very reason you mentioned. I can hear the whining now...and that's the parents, not the kids.

Girl With The Golden Touch said...

I do like HP, have all the films and read the books, but this is erm...a tad too far. Pathetic in a word!!

Mrs Fashion said...

The Childline news made me shout at the TV.
It's. Just. A. Book.
I've been blog-surfing today and everyone has written about how much they bloody love Harry Potter, and are so sad it's all over (shut up) so to find a disident group is very refreshing.
Thank you!
Mrs F x

SandDancer said...

A disident group - that makes it sound quite exciting - like we are group of political revolutionaries!

Miss Forthright said...

Don't get me started on Harry Potter. Having worked as a manager/ buyer for a bookshop for years I can tell you that most of the people who are for some reason nuts about it, are largely indifferent to other books in comparison. It's a kid's story for god's sake!