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Harry Potter Not Sexy Enough For Some Folks

July 6, 2009

Two articles in the most recent Atlantic magazine take the Harry Potter film franchise to task for either not dealing with sex enough, or not dealing with it properly.  James Parker’s “Sex And The Single Wizard” starts out complaining that Hogwarts is nothing like his grammar school upbringing, in that Hogwarts has girls!  This occupies very little of the article, though, making the reader feel a little snookered by the title.  Most of the piece doesn’t deal with sex or romance at all, but highlights the difficulties directors encounter in translating J.K Rowling’s books into film.  Alyssa Rosenberg, on the other hand, writes in “Sex and Harry Potter” that Parker’s got it all wrong: it’s not the directors’ faults, it’s J.K. Rowling’s, for her inability or reluctance to “writ[e] about adult sexual and romantic relationships.”

While Parker is correct in that the directors face a serious obstacle in condensing hundreds of pages of prose into a couple of hours on screen, audiences seem to think they have done pretty well.  The five Harry Potter movies shown so far (the sixth is premiering this year) have taken in well over $4 billion worldwide, with none of the films grossing less than three-quarters of a billion dollars.  The first installment, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which Parker chides for its “clunky” pacing among other things, accounted for almost $1 billion.  Not bad for a movie that lacks a single scene where a young Harry beds a Hogwarts co-ed, or that shows anyone getting it on for that matter.

What Parker and Rosenberg fail to realize, or at least put to paper, is that this is a fantasy world written for and about children who become teenagers.  The books don’t need, nor would they benefit from, gratuitous sex scenes and moments dealing with the “characters’ development into sexually mature adults” (Rosenberg), especially since they haven’t even reached the age of majority by end of the series!  And while Parker thinks mixed-gender dormitories don’t mirror his early educational experience, and Rosenberg believes all the romantic relationships in the series are idealized, they again are forgetting that the Harry Potter books are about wizards, and magic, and fantastical beasts.  The normal rules regarding Western social structure and the foibles of human intimacy may not apply.

Besides not making good sense in the books, cramming sex scenes into the movie would simply feel inappropriate and out-of-place, a pander to a demographic that probably isn’t going to see the movies anyway.  The movies are good enough that adults have obviously seen them, many with their children, but many by themselves.  Tell Pixar, whose movies, starting with 1995’s Toy Story, have grossed $2.4 billion in the U.S. alone (about triple that worldwide), that a little clownfish-on-turtle action would have pushed up the box office receipts.  I think Pixar’s happy with the numbers they have.

Funny that it hasn’t taken explicitly showing asses, even in soft lighting, to “put asses in seats” (Parker) for the Harry Potter movies.  Let’s continue to allow J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter directors to call the shots.  They’ve done pretty well so far.

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