member, 612 posts
Sat 10 Feb 2018
at 20:33
Realism in Harry Potter Question
I read the first five books of the Harry Potter series years ago, and I've seen all of the movies.  It really struck me that there is a disconnect from reality in them, and I don't mean the fantasy world.

it just strikes me as unrealistic that nearly no wizards use weapons aside from their wands, and have no real sense of how to fight except dueling each other.  What makes it really stand out is the few times weapons ARE used, they are dang effective.  The story about the brother from the deathly hallows who has the elder wand has his throat slit in the night.  And Bellatrix's use of a knife seems pretty effective as well.

add to that, the characters just don't really come across like they are fighting for life.  Real combat is a horrid, chaotic mess of people scrambling to do anything they can to win and not die.  That doesn't happen in this story.  Even when faced with their mortal enemies that have killed many of their friends, they so rarely resort to actual deadly violence it seems a bit ridiculous.  Why disarm bellatrix lestrange?  why not kill her in one shot when she doesn't even know you're coming? (yes, I know, it's good versus evil, but that just doesn't fit in the situation she builds.  It's war.  you fight to the death in war.)

I guess I'm wondering if JK rowling ever gave a better explanation for why this is so.  I know it is a teen novel series, but she brings in a lot of adult themes and really ramps up the seriousness and sombre tone, yet her characters never truly seem like they are at war.
 member, 546 posts
Sat 10 Feb 2018
at 20:42
Re: Realism in Harry Potter Question
I don't feel a particular need to explain why the books are the way they are. They're either enjoyable as is, or they're not. There's no reason that the characters do anything, or don't do anything, other than to make the books entertaining enough to sell, and sell to a rather specific audience.

I keep this in mind with every aspect of popular culture (especially role-playing games) and it helps me relax immensely.

This message was last edited by the user at 20:45, Sat 10 Feb.

Togashi Kenshin
 member, 54 posts
Sat 10 Feb 2018
at 20:47
Realism in Harry Potter Question
I agree with your main points. The Potterverse is honestly a little wonky on its metaphysics and the working of both magic and magical society. It was meant to be a commentary of the worst aspects of the Britain that Rowling grew up in, a horrifically abusive public school system and an ineffective government leading to a society that is honestly repressive and ossified.

If memory serves me right, the main reason that weapons are absent from the Potterverse is that wizards are just that vulnerable to them. A trained longbowman can kill a wizard outside of hex range and Rowling herself did intimate that the average muggle armed with a shotgun will defeat a wizard handily. I have heard the theory advanced that in-universe the number of wizards is small enough that they evolved a non-lethal form of duelling as their main mode of combat to decrease the lethality of any armed conflict.

Theoretically just lopping off both hands off a wizard would make it very difficult to work spells, a punishment that has been around since the Bronze Age. Perhaps their society has grown in such a direction because they have become so insular, they are still stuck with the notions of "romantic combat" from Chivalric Romances as opposed to the blood and guts battle of real life. Most of the cast have absolutely no idea how to fight physically. There are no sports that promote it, no popular media or cultural touchstones. Wizards in the Potterverse trying to fight physically would be pretty inept at it.

A part of me is sad that Harry's trump cards did not come from his muggle heritage like a can of pepper spray and half a brick in a woolen sock.

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.
 member, 263 posts
Sat 10 Feb 2018
at 20:52
Realism in Harry Potter Question
I've never seen any of the movies, read the first book after some pressure at an unrelated book discussion group. I made it through the first, and have tried get into the second- to no avail after at least five tries.