If my dream of Smithson being made into a musical TV drama, a la "Cop Rock," ever comes to pass, I would like the part of Professor Finnegan to be played by Chris Elliott. This is what I require to give my life meaning.
Confidential to my Vassar friends: I know a lot of these people were not in the class, but I needed screennames. Also, yes, I am a refrigerator.
And I hope you haven't missed this week's Chronicles of William Bazillion!
Over on his LiveJournal, Andrew has posted the greatest thing ever: Spider-Man Vs. Unsafe Sex! You really have to go look at this incredible 1970s classic.
No Overlooked Manga Festival this week. Instead of reading manga, I've spent the week rereading all the Harry Potter books in preparation for the release of Deathly Hallows tomorrow. I am such a Potter junkie. In fact, in lieu of Overlooked Manga, I'd like to share my personal Top Ten Harry Potter Moments. (Warning: Contains spoilers for all of the first six books. Does not include fanfiction, because then the entire list would just be various scenes of Sirius and Snape ramming their tongues down each others' throats.
10. The Bathroom Troll (Sorcerer’s Stone)
When a troll gets into Hogwarts, Harry and Ron change the course of their lives forever by deciding to warn that annoying know-it-all in their class named Hermione Granger. They wind up rescuing Hermione in the girls’ restroom. After Hermione takes the rap for them, the three become BFFs, because “there are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.”
This scene, which takes place about halfway through the first volume, is the point at which the Potter saga coalesces. Obviously, that’s partly because it’s where the central Gang of Three comes together; Harry and Ron just aren’t complete without Hermione. But there’s some other interesting stuff going on. In the earlier chapters, Rowling sets up Hermione as a typical overbearing know-it-all antagonist. Imagine the joy of overbearing know-it-alls everywhere when, instead, she becomes one of the central heroes of the story. She’s an inspiration to nerdgirls everywhere, even if she has decent social skills and cleans up nice.
Also, monster-slaying as a way to meet new friends is just cute.
9. The Polyjuice Potion (Chamber of Secrets)
First off, there’s no point in writing a story with witchcraft in it if you’re not going to include a scene where the characters change shape so they can find out what other people say about them when they’re not around. That happens in like Volume One of Naruto. So of course it’s awesome when Ron and Harry shapeshift into Draco Malfoy’s lackeys, Crabbe and Goyle, to find out whether Draco is the scoundrel who awakened the monster in the Chamber of Secrets. (He’s not, but he totally wants to meet him and do the makeouts with him.)
But the real fun is in the making of the Polyjuice Potion: Harry, Ron and Hermione camping out in Moaning Myrtle’s restroom, stewing magical ingredients over a toilet. I love the normally prim Hermione going all mad-scientist in her enthusiasm to create the potion, stealing stuff out of Snape’s supply closet and forcing Ron and Harry to drink the foul concoction. And of course it backfires on her, turning her into a cat-girl because she accidentally plucked the wrong hair off a Slytherin girl’s clothes. This brief moment attracted all the furries in the world to Harry Potter fandom, but it’s great anyway.
8. Snape Kills Dumbledore (Half-Blood Prince)
Spoiler of the CENTURY.
Daddy issues are crucial to all art, from Ulysses to “Lost” (a.k.a. “Bad Dad Island”), but the geekly arts seem particularly hung up on the tragic deaths of beloved and powerful father figures. You’ve got Gandalf offed by the Balrog, Obi-Wan snuffing it on the Death Star, and now this, surely destined to be remembered as one of the classics. The horror of Dumbledore’s death is overshadowed only by the shocking revelation that, after slowly convincing us of his good intentions, Snape may be one of the bad guys after all. Not that he is. I mean, come on. But it’s a riveting moment nonetheless.
In honor of the dire event, my friend Leia and I have created a LiveJournal icon:
Thank you, I'm the biggest nerd in the universe.
7. Voldemort’s Wand Backfires (Goblet of Fire)
How can Harry possibly survive his first encounter with the fully resurrected, totally badass and unstoppable Voldemort? How about a wizards’ duel that climaxes with Voldemort’s wand spitting up the shades of the last half-dozen people he killed, including the still-warm Cedric Diggory…and Harry’s own parents? And then how about all the dead folks jump Voldemort and hold him down so Harry can escape? That would be awesome! Fortunately, that’s exactly what happens.
What with Harry being an orphan and all, a lot of the most touching moments in the series involve his fleeting encounters with the parents he never knew. Seeing his family in the Mirror of Erised in Sorcerer’s Stone is another high point, as is Hagrid’s gift of a Potter photo album at the end of the same book. But this scene chokes me up a little extra, maybe because the dead folks don’t just come back—they take Harry’s side and help him live. That’s the kind of moral support we all hope we have from our loved ones who have passed on. Plus, Cedric begging Harry to take his body back to his parents…sniff.
“Wormtail, kill the spare” is one of those lines from literature that’s always funny when quoted out of context, right up there with, “Stay gold, Ponyboy.”
6. Harry and Ginny Kiss (Half-Blood Prince)
Or, as Leia put it, “the time Harry walks into the Griffindor common room and eats Ginny Weasley’s face.”
5. Goodbye To Sirius (Order of the Phoenix)
The whole sequence in which Harry comes to terms with Sirius Black’s death (or his passage behind the veil, whatever) is really well done. There’s his discovery of a mirror that can communicate with Sirius and his bitter disappointment when there’s no one on the other end. There’s his melancholy conversation with Nearly Headless Nick about the possibility of Sirius coming back as a ghost. (I was really hoping that this scene would be included in the movie, just because I’d like to see John Cleese play it, but no dice.) And then there’s Luna Lovegood, who unexpectedly turns out to be the one person who can comfort Harry.
Luna Lovegood is one of my favorites. As much as I identify with Hermione and want to be just like her, deep in my heart I know that the character I probably most resembled as a teenager was Luna. It’s the wacky jewelry that gives it away. I know she’ll probably end up with Neville, but I’ll be delighted if the last book ends with Harry and Luna getting married and having a dozen nearsighted, severely messed-up kids.
4. Weasley Is Our King (Order of the Phoenix)
Order of the Phoenix is probably the most harshly reviewed book in the series. Released when Pottermania was raging out of control and expectations were stratospherically high, it was criticized for being overlong, spottily written, and slow. But when I saw the movie this week, all I could think of were the countless great scenes that had to be cut or severely trimmed for film. Among the casualties on the cutting-room floor: the excellent subplot in which Ron joins the Griffindor Quidditch team and sucks, inspiring Draco Malfoy to compose the insulting song “Weasley Is Our King.” This leads to a spectacular catharsis, with Ron finally winning a game and all the Griffindors singing the Weasley song in his honor. (Of course, Harry and Hermione miss it because they’re off in the woods meeting Hagrid’s giant brother. Some friends they are.)
The books acknowledge that it isn’t easy being Harry Potter’s best friend. Your buddy’s a sports star and international celebrity who saves the entire world every year around June, and you’re a nobody with too many freckles and not enough money. Sure, sometimes you can win fifty points for Griffindor, but only on the days that he wins a hundred. But a rare Weasley victory is more satisfying than a dozen Potter victories combined. Plus, he scores with Hermione, so it can’t be all bad.
I have a program for a play called Kung-Fu Hamlet in which one actor’s bio reads: “Jerome Yorke was born in a bin, he always lets the Quaffle in.” I wish I’d thought of that first. (I just looked the cast up on Google, and Yorke has now stolen the bio from Dumbledore’s Chocolate Frog card.)
3. The Yule Ball (Goblet of Fire)
Yes, the nerd makeover is the oldest cliché in literature, but if you don’t dig Hermione making her big entrance on the arm of Quidditch superstar Viktor Krum, looking so hot Harry doesn’t even recognize her, then you, my friend, suck. Meanwhile, Ron and Harry have a crummy time because they’re with the Patil twins instead of the girls they really like, which is just what Ron deserves for taking Hermione for granted.
The Yule Ball provides a much-needed interlude of romance and fun; after this, the story gets darker and the stakes get much higher, and the kids can’t afford to be kids anymore. Let them have their prom. This sequence was also very well done in the movie. I think that, upon seeing him dance dreamily around the Griffindor common room after grooving to the sounds of the Weird Sisters (with Ginny Weasley—take that, Harry!), we as a people all fell a little bit in love with Neville Longbottom.
2. Time Travel! (Prisoner of Azkaban)
Many people feel that Prisoner of Azkaban is the best book in the series, and that has a lot to do with the socko ending, in which, following a typical overlong Rowling denouement in the Shrieking Shack, Hermione uses her Time-Turner to send herself and Harry back three hours and fix everything that went wrong. I love time travel stories on principle, and this one does everything right, with each element set up in the previous chapters sliding neatly into place.
The high point of the sequence is, of course, Harry’s belief that he saw his own father rescuing him with a Patronus during the first go-round. When he goes back in time, Harry races to the spot where he saw his dad, only to find no one there…and realizes that the man he saw was himself. He then produces a perfect Patronus, which takes the form of a stag, the same animal his father could change into. So! Perfect! To my mind, this is the most moving scene in the series, imaginatively and touchingly illustrating the idea of the son growing up to fill his father’s shoes.
Also, I identify entirely too much with Hermione’s determination to wear herself out using the Time-Turner to attend twice as many classes as everyone else. I spent my first day at Vassar crying until the English department let me into a 200-level Chaucer course. It seemed desperately important at the time.
1. Harry’s Dad Is a Dick (Order of the Phoenix)
Yes, this is my favorite scene in the entire series, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Harry pokes his head into Snape’s memories and witnesses one James Potter, age sixteen, pantsing a rage-filled, greasy loser named Severus Snape. Up to this point, there have been hints that Harry’s father wasn’t a total angel during his Hogwarts years, but from Snape’s perspective James and his friends aren’t just troublemaking rascals: they’re arrogant and mean. And Snape’s discovery that Harry glimpsed his spotty teenage self (and spotty teenage underpants) destroys any chance the two might have had to patch up their differences in time for the final battle.
Let’s face it: Snape is Rowling’s best character. Dark characters who strive for the light are always compelling, and Snape is a masterpiece of dark deeds, twisted motivations and reluctant bouts of heroism. But a lot of his fascination (well, aside from the way Alan Rickman plays him in the movies) stems from the way he skulks around the edges of the story. We only get to see Snape through Harry’s eyes, and Harry hates Snape and is too young to comprehend that hes not a monster, just a guy with a lot of problems. It’s remarkable that Rowling has been able to build such a complex character when we get only the briefest of glimpses under his surface.
This scene serves another crucial narrative purpose, and not just in the ten million billion Snape/Lily fanfics that immediately blossomed across the Internet. Previously, Harry’s parents and their friends had been held up as aspirational figures for Harry and his gang; they were the larger-than-life heroes our protagonists might someday hope to be. Rowling deliberately sets up the comparison by giving James’ gang a similar dynamic: a popular Quidditch champ, his cute best friend, a serious-minded bookworm, and a Neville. But when the fifteen-year-old Harry reacts with revulsion to the fifteen-year-old James’ bullying, we realize that the kids have already outstripped their elders. Harry and his friends are better people than James and his friends, and they might have the courage and heart to stop Voldemort for good.
...okay, what're everyone else's favorites?