engine
 member, 547 posts
Sat 10 Feb 2018
at 20:59
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
Togashi Kenshin:
TL;DR: For the Potterverse to function as it is, it must be in that state because anyone who could smuggle in any working modern weapons would be a killing machine. Also if anyone was halfway competent, Voldemort would never have been anything resembling a real threat.

Exactly. Do we want fun but rather unrealistic books, or do we want a thought-experiment that is perfectly logical and self-consistent, but only a paragraph long?

Above what I quoted are several good ways to think about it for people who want the books to be the way they are. People who don't, who aren't bought in, are likely to dismiss them.
gladiusdei
 member, 613 posts
Sat 10 Feb 2018
at 21:05
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
I didn't mean my post as total criticism of the books.  They are actually really good for their target audience, as you said.  I was just wondering if I missed something that was left out in the movies, or in other books or things JK has written since then, that better explained it.

I get that the threat has to be big and serious, but also center on the kids the story revolved around.  So it had to be big and small, at the same time.  I just think her inclusion of the Nazi-esque regime in the last two books stretches that plausibility a bit too far, for me anyway.


My wife had never seen the movies and wanted to watch through them, so this question came back to me.  That's why I asked.  Honestly, watching it again just made me think of ways it could be made more serious and realistic in that sense, and what sort of story that would make.
Togashi Kenshin
 member, 55 posts
Sat 10 Feb 2018
at 21:08
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
engine:
Exactly. Do we want fun but rather unrealistic books, or do we want a thought-experiment that is perfectly logical and self-consistent, but only a paragraph long?

Above what I quoted are several good ways to think about it for people who want the books to be the way they are. People who don't, who aren't bought in, are likely to dismiss them.


I don't know. Is it not possible for it to be both? To both incorporate fantastical elements but be internally consistent and logical? The Dresdenverse from Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books and the setting of American Gods by Neil Gaiman both have magic in our contemporary time but still are far more logically consistent than the Potterverse.

Granted even the Forgotten Realms can be more internally consistent than the Potterverse sometimes so that is not exactly a high bar. Personally I think the Potterverse does lie on the far side of suspension of disbelief because its internal consistency is so low.
bigbadron
 moderator, 15505 posts
 He's big, he's bad,
 but mostly he's Ron.
Sat 10 Feb 2018
at 21:16
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
engine:
Exactly. Do we want fun but rather unrealistic books, or do we want a thought-experiment that is perfectly logical and self-consistent, but only a paragraph long?
More to the point, do kids (the original intended target audience, even though many adults read them) want their fantasy literature to be a fun read, or something more logical and realistic?

Whatever the actual audience turned out to be, JKRs earnings from these books might suggest that the answer is "Fruit realism, fun all the way please."
engine
 member, 548 posts
Sat 10 Feb 2018
at 21:24
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
Togashi Kenshin:
I don't know. Is it not possible for it to be both? To both incorporate fantastical elements but be internally consistent and logical?

No, by it's very nature.

Togashi Kenshin:
The Dresdenverse from Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books and the setting of American Gods by Neil Gaiman both have magic in our contemporary time but still are far more logically consistent than the Potterverse.

"Far more." It meets your personal level of realism, but it's not, on the whole, substantially more realistic. Another entirely reasonable person could find it laughably unrealistic.

Togashi Kenshin:
Granted even the Forgotten Realms can be more internally consistent than the Potterverse sometimes so that is not exactly a high bar. Personally I think the Potterverse does lie on the far side of suspension of disbelief because its internal consistency is so low.

You say "the far side of suspension of disbelief," but there's not really anything that's intrinsically harder or easier for anyone to believe. It comes down to what they find interesting and what they want to believe. Some people want to believe Star Trek is real, so they ignore the blatant unreality of it, or maybe come up with huge technical manuals that explain away (for them, if not anyone else) why it all actually works. Some people want Harry Potter to be real, so they do the same thing.
gladiusdei
 member, 614 posts
Sat 10 Feb 2018
at 22:03
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
I guess I disagree with your subjective view of realism.  But that, too, could be subjective I suppose.  I agree with Togashi in that the Potterverse is built a lot more on rules that don't follow the way most people would act or think.

again, I only think it really starts to show when she begins to contrast it so much with real world horror.  She wanted to make a statement about Nazism, fascism, and how people could go along with evil because they were afraid.  But it makes the rest of her set up look very childish in comparison.  Prior to Voldemort's return, that contrast is a lot less front and center.
engine
 member, 549 posts
Sat 10 Feb 2018
at 22:24
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
gladiusdei:
I guess I disagree with your subjective view of realism.  But that, too, could be subjective I suppose.  I agree with Togashi in that the Potterverse is built a lot more on rules that don't follow the way most people would act or think.

You can decide that, or you can decide that it does, in some way the author was unable to make readily apparent to you, make sense. If you're enamored of the concept you'll do one, if you're not, you'll do the other.
Wyrm
 member, 647 posts
Sat 10 Feb 2018
at 23:51
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
In reality, I doubt the book was ever meant to go beyond The second (if even that) when she first penned The Philosopher's stone. It is too dependent one one evil and one good person that even the most mighty of contemporary wizards would find themselves "outmatched". And yet Harry can foil him out of pure luck and the benefit of others. As is shown in later books, he's also only really handy with two spells specifically designed to be combat of evil. And blows it with a third "evil" spell.
Der Rot Konig
 member, 149 posts
 Educated Pirate
Sun 11 Feb 2018
at 14:32
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
Just to go off on a small tangent, but if we're going to throw around the hat of realism...why do they hire half the teachers/workers at that school?!  You've got Filtch, or something like that, who is the most horrid person to have around children.  Snape...that man loathed anything under the age of 21.  The bullying was rampant!  The only sport they had put the students dozens, if not hundreds of feet in the air sitting on a stick!  And not to mention, some of those classes were straight up dangerous as hell!  Why not teach defense day 1 cause, you know, super dangerous forest surrounding said school with all manner of death awaiting the unwary.

Ok, I feel better now :D
facemaker329
 member, 6991 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Mon 12 Feb 2018
at 04:11
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
Another way of looking at it...how many of the 'problems' that have been pointed out may just be cultural baggage?  Someone pointed out that Bellatrix was one of the few people to use a practical weapon...what if they've been raised, since ages long past, that resorting to physical weapons is 'Muggle stuff', and wizards just don't do it that way?  I mean, there's a locality in South America that doesn't bother with legal wrangling...twice a year, anyone who's got a gripe with his neighbor can call the guy out, and they settle it by fighting until one or the other concedes that he was wrong.  Several Native American tribes used to fight against each other by counting coup, rather than actually engaging in lethal combat.  We humans do some very silly stuff in the name of tradition...

I always took the lack of lethal weaponry amongst wizards as something of an insight on their society...they solve their problems with wits and/or guile and magic, not by making sure they've got the biggest gun or can fire faster than the next guy.  Combat with actual weapons is gauche and unappealing.
gladiusdei
 member, 615 posts
Mon 12 Feb 2018
at 04:27
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
I guess that's the sort of thing I was looking for, something like that that JK Rowling might have written in to help explain it.  But it isn't, and even if it was, it sort of goes out the window when it's a full scale war resulting in hundreds or thousands of deaths and horrible pain and suffering.  People are very quick to give up that sort of feeling when pushed to fighting for their life. Not to mention the wizarding community still gets a small injection of muggle blood at a consistent rate, bringing in people who would not see things the way they do.

But I guess, ultimately, it doesn't matter beyond making me feel a bit dissatisfied with the story.  I'm not the target audience, though, so I guess it doesn't matter much beyond that.
icosahedron152
 member, 842 posts
Mon 12 Feb 2018
at 04:36
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
The books were written piecemeal over a number of years, as the author's own children grew up. The initial stories were aimed at young children, for whom 'realism' would have been inappropriate. Later ones were aimed at teenagers who were a little more worldly-wise and needed a more realistic story to maintain their interest. In Rpol terms, the early books were General rated, and the later ones maybe ventured into Mature.

Trying to make a single canon fit such a range of stories is never going to be internally consistent and, with a series of novels, you can't recall all the earlier stories and retcon them. Even if you wanted to.

You need to accept this changing remit as you read. The early stories were never meant to be realistic, they were fairy stories for children. You do not teach children to kill their enemies before their enemies kill them. Nor do you teach them that fairy magic can be defeated by a bad man with a gun.

If you want to game the Potterverse, and you're unhappy with the changing degree of 'rose-tint' on the author's spectacles as the stories progressed, you should decide for yourself how much 'realism' you want in your game, state clearly in your house-rules what changes to canon you think are appropriate (spells to slow bullets, perhaps?), and then attract like-minded people to game with you.

If you want to play a General rated game with your kids, that's fine, if you want to play an Adult rated game with guns and secretive activities behind the bike sheds, that's fine too. You can make your game as internally consistent as you like.

But providing a consistent setting for a RPG was never the author's intention.

Regarding sacking the teachers:
In my youth (and in Rowling's too, no doubt) teachers like that were quite commonplace. They were employed for their ability to impart knowledge, not as surrogate wetnurses. I remember the days when Quidditch wasn't the only time sticks would have made contact with kids' backsides...

Realism may be in the eye of the beholder.
facemaker329
 member, 6992 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Mon 12 Feb 2018
at 20:43
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
Yeah...I had some well-respected teachers in Grades 7-12 who utilized disciplinary measures that would get a teacher fired for life, today...one teacher threw a roll of masking tape--hit me square in the middle of the forehead when aiming for the guy behind me...then, when I tossed the roll back, threw it again and nicked my ear (but got the other guy)...I asked for a different seat.  Had a Health teacher who prowled the class with a wooden dowel and would slam it down on a desk anytime he felt the class was getting out of hand...not necessarily the desk of anyone that was being noisy.  Another teacher gave a kid (ironically, the same kid sitting behind me in the first example) a black eye because he threw a chalk eraser at the guy for talking too much during class...it skippedoff the kid's desk as he was ducking and ended up hitting him, end-on, right on the edge of his eye-socket.  All three were teachers that were well-respected as instructors by their peers, the community, and the students.

So it wasn't all that difficult for me to buy the antagonistic attitude of some of the Hogwarts instructors...
dlantoub
 member, 245 posts
 Anime Fan
 Virtually all genres
Sun 25 Mar 2018
at 22:30
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
One of the hardest things for me with the potter verse was "if you weren't specifically out to target dark mages, what career options were open, and how did you make a living?" While there are specific examples of specifically magic careers, most jobs that you see in the potterverse are not ones you need magic to achieve. Sweetshop owner, cafe owner, clothes, cooking etc. Aside from the gringotts licensed tomb robbing, where does the money come from and who decides who gets how much? Aside from being in the order of the phoenix it is still unknown why harry's parents were so rich since it was an unofficial unsupported organisation.
praguepride
 member, 1242 posts
 "Hugs for the Hugs God!"
 - Warhammer Fluffy-K
Mon 26 Mar 2018
at 02:54
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
Harry Potter is a fun children's book but don't look to it for actual world building. As mentioned it was never intended to be the same epic scope as other universes that are crafted from the outside in.

She had a fun little story about an orphan going to wizard school. If it hadn't been super ultra popular it would have ended there. It's the same reason why Star Wars feels kind of piecemeal because it was designed with a story first and then a universe grew around it to fill in the gaps.

For an example of the reverse, take the Expanse series. The creator originally intended it to be an MMO-style setting so he designed  the whole functioning universe first and THEN when that fell through crafted a story within it.
Mr_Qwerty
 member, 48 posts
 Tagmar, D&D, oWoD
 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Mon 26 Mar 2018
at 03:11
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
dlantoub:
Aside from being in the order of the phoenix it is still unknown why harry's parents were so rich since it was an unofficial unsupported organisation.


Harry's mother was muggleborn, but I believe his father was old money, so they had a pretty realistic explanation for where Harry's inheritance came from.

I rather enjoyed the early books even though I was in my twenties when they came out. A fun little romp through a magic world, they were, but the darker and edgier tendency of the later books rather makes consistency, if not logic, necessary.
Dottie_V
 member, 121 posts
 The fifth in a series of
 odd things you saw today.
Mon 26 Mar 2018
at 03:24
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
Sorry, just to point out about Harry's wealth. It is explained in pottermore that Harry's paternal grandfather, Fleamont Potter, invented a very popular hair potion called Sleekeazy's Hair Potion (I think Hermione even uses it for the Yule Ball in book 4). Fleamont quadrupled his family's fortune and was able to retire quite comfortably when he sold the company off.

Fleamont had only one child, James Potter. I imagine that James really didn't have a lot of time to spend the family fortune since he was in hiding for most of his adult life after leaving Hogwarts. It seems like a total reversal of what happened to the Gaunt family, now that I think about it.
truemane
 member, 2117 posts
 Firing magic missles at
 the darkness!
Mon 26 Mar 2018
at 12:20
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
Far be it from me to argue that the Potterverse is realistic, but a lot of the things that are listed here as strange are very British things, and specifically very British things as they relate to the school system.

The gap between classes is a lot wider in the UK, so the difference between people who just have money and the people who have to earn it is both deep and wide. British literature is filled with characters who embody that particular contrast. The whole idea of idea of who's rich, who has to work for it, and what that says about you as a person has pretty much been the driving force of British literature since the Victorian era.

That, plus smooches, is almost the only thing Jane Austen ever wrote about.

Eccentric professors has been a staple of everything British pretty much since there was such a thing as a school in such a place as Britain.

The idea that everything is handled in a non-optimized, questionably-effective, but elegent and respected way, is maybe the most British thing that has ever been. That's almost their defining trait. "Sure we COULD just get a gun and shoot the things that bother us, but that's so... common."

So the Potterverse strikes me quintessentially British. It's silly, but, as many others have said, it's no sillier than any number of other fictional universes. And even less so, as it's so clearly not meant to be taken seriously. I've always been more annoyed at the Hunger Games world, since it is, in fact, meant to be taken seriously, and is just as foolish.

(please note any or all of the above may be exaggerated for comedic or dramatic effect and is not meant to serve as a reference guide for academics or counter-arguments)
gladiusdei
 member, 654 posts
Mon 26 Mar 2018
at 17:12
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
I didn't really expect this question to reopen, but my originally complaint was the disconnect between this fanciful, rule oriented British world of magic, and the stark, dread ridden war she pushed the story into.  That's what didn't work for me.  When it comes down to fighting for your own life, or the lives of your family, your children, as death eaters literally torture them to death, people would throw the formal rules of wizard-dom out the window.

Not enough characters fighting tooth and nail, knife and gun, for it to feel at all realistic.  And, to me at least. It really undercut her attempt at real world political analogy.
praguepride
 member, 1244 posts
 "Hugs for the Hugs God!"
 - Warhammer Fluffy-K
Mon 26 Mar 2018
at 18:40
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
I wonder if it's supposed to be a vague allegory towards Britain between WWI and WWII. You have this ancient evil (Germany) that rose up and was defeated at terrible cost and everyone is saying "pip pip cheerio, good thing that will never happen again" and even though there are obvious signs that it is happening again the public is blissfully unaware until they get blitzed and it is up to the brave children to win the war and carry Britain onwards to the new century.
gladiusdei
 member, 655 posts
Mon 26 Mar 2018
at 18:58
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
I don't think it is particularly vague.  The death eaters are a pretty clear Nazi analogy, and the discarding world's reaction to the idea of voldemorts return seems to harken back to the appeasement era, and her modern views of fascism.  (Though, as a historian, I feel I need to point out there was very little in common between imperial Germany of WW1, and the Nazi regime aside from nationality)

The problem is, she is trying to fit this dark, real world moral of how people must stand up to evil and not ignore it, in a world that doesn't fit the dark, war like feel well.

Her newer works carry in that darker tone, which I think furthers the disconnect between the wizarding world she initially created, and what she's trying to say with it.

Again, this is just how I feel after reading them and seeing the movies.  If you disagree, and really enjoy them, more power to you.
facemaker329
 member, 7003 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Mon 26 Mar 2018
at 21:27
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
I see what you're saying, but as a counterpoint...when lives are on the line, most people are going to choose a,weapon they feel familiar and confident with.  As a real-world correlating point, I read an article a few years ago about which handgun was most effective for home defense.  After going through and analying all the traditional factors, they offered a tidbit of wisdom from a military instructor, that basically said it doesn't matter how dangerous the round in your weapon is, if you don't hit your target...so the best handgun for self-defense is whatever you're most proficient at.

Yeah, Muggle-borns may have been born in a world where knives and guns are real and valid weapons...but from age 11onward, they're taught magic, and never get any experience with those other weapons (with a few exceptions...Bellatrix LeStrange obviously knew how to throw a knife).  But never having learned how to aim a gun, why would wizards decide to pick one up when they've already got a very dangerous arsenal of magic that they've been trained to rely on since childhood?

Like I said, I can see your point...but I can also see validity in the way it was written.  It's hard for most of us to really understand how a Muggle-born would react, because few, if any, of us have been transplanted into a radically different culture and indoctrinated with that culture's mores and values from age eleven through adulthood.  Would such a person revert back to a culture they never really grew to understand, or cling to the one that had provided most of their upbringing, when confronted with a crisis?
gladiusdei
 member, 656 posts
Mon 26 Mar 2018
at 21:41
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
I just don't agree.  When life is on the line, people grasp, claw, scream, and struggle with everything in them.  She even has points in the book where wizards use knives, when the elder wand is stolen and when Bellatrix throws one into Dobby.  Both are pretty dang effective.  But at close quarters in fights to the death with dozens of wizards, even when a giant is striding through the fight with a massive club, no one goes hand to hand?  No one in desperation tries to knife headmaster snape, or pull a gun when the evil death eaters come to drag their wives away to be tortured to death? In an actual all out war of extinction between the death eaters and all muggle born, no one resorts to any other manner of fighting?

It just seemed very detached from reality to me.  Like the wizard world was playing a game, but she was trying to reinforce how dark and gritty this game is.  But it never breaks out of being a game.

The other big aspect of it is how the good guys won't kill in a war.  She wanted to keep them the good guys, but it just seems very silly for them to disarm the murderous death eaters, and leave them to fight and kill again.  They even did it to Bellatrix, who had already murdered some of their closest friends, and would eventually kill more.

Again, if you enjoy it, that's fine.  But I don't think it fits a real life war at all, no matter how ingrained the wizarding world's culture may be.

This message was last edited by the user at 00:57, Tue 27 Mar.

icosahedron152
 member, 857 posts
Tue 27 Mar 2018
at 06:49
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
As I said above, it's a matter of how the story developed over time. Without the ability to recall books off the shelves and retcon them, there's bound to be a disconnect if the author is telling a more adult story in the later books.

Nevertheless, they are all children's books, and although 'kill or be killed' is reality at its worst, it's still not something to teach children. JKR lists any number of spells that can cause as much, if not more, damage than a gun, but they are used almost exclusively by the bad guys, because JKR is teaching children that harming life is evil. It's not realistic, it's idealistic.

In terms of the good guys never killing anyone, I recall the A-team was similar. No matter how many guns or explosives they used, or how high a vehicle shot into the air with explosive force, the bad guys were always seen climbing unharmed out of the wreckage. It's what kid's books and TV shows do. If they didn't do that, they wouldn't get their G/U rating.

Nor is it limited to kids' stuff. There are hundreds of books and shows where the good guy utters something along the lines of "If I stoop to [defending myself realistically] I'm no better than [the bad guy]." Unrealistic twaddle like this is a staple of our entertainment. Why single out Rowling?

gladuisdei:
No one in desperation tries to knife headmaster snape, or pull a gun when the evil death eaters come to drag their wives away to be tortured to death?

Where exactly, in Britain, are you going to obtain a gun to pull?

Knives? A 'Sharp' spell on a wand could turn it into a knife, but as Truemane suggested, that would be so uncouth.

It would also be evil. Wars are hellish because in reality both sides commit atrocities in the desperate struggle for survival. If one side plays by rules of fair play and the other side doesn't, the evil side is going to win. Unless someone 'waves a magic wand over the situation'.
That's the whole point of the Potterverse - that by using good magic for good, you can overcome the evils of the world - both wizardly evils and muggle evils.

The moral of the story is that good magic and fair play wins the day. It's a fairy tale.
gladiusdei
 member, 657 posts
Tue 27 Mar 2018
at 13:38
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
And I feel her inclusion of intentional commentary on fascism and Nazism ruins that fairy tale quality and weakens the over-all story.  That's what I've been trying to say since the beginning.  She mixed tones, and it doesn't work for me.  To compare it to something like the a-team only reinforces that it has a very unrealistic feel....which is sort of what I said in the title of this thread.

This message was last edited by the user at 14:36, Tue 27 Mar.