Harry Potter and the fitting fashion

I have made an essay where I argued the film adaptation of The Half-Blood Prince boasts more artistic merit than its source material for its ability to convey the characters’ psyche and the story’s general atmosphere more effectively.

I wrote that because I am annoyed by how easy it is for people to dismiss screen adaptations. While it is true filmmakers enact unnecessary changes and omit certain crucial elements from the narratives, we also have to remember literature and films are two different formats.

The former tells stories entirely through written words (with bouts of illustrations) while the latter does so through audiovisual means. Surely, there bound to be differences in how each format unfolds the same narrative! If you expect the films to be the exact copies of the novels, then why bother adapting them in the first place?

While I have condemned the Goblet of Fire and Order of Phoenix for their unfaithfulness to the original stories, there is one change in every HP film which I do appreciate.

When I first watched the films, I noticed how the Hogwarts uniforms include neckties, similar to the real-life British school uniforms, albeit with robes replacing the blazers. I also noticed that while some adult characters wear clothes we associate with witches and wizards, some also adorn muggle-ish attire, albeit with pointed hats and longer coats. So, I was shocked when I finally read the books.

I was (and still am) rather disappointed by how the characters’ original costumes are very much cliches of the fantasy genre! Unlike the films, the source materials determine clear boundaries between muggle fashion and one of witches and wizards. In fact, Rowling also made recurring jokes in which wizards and witches try to emulate the ways muggle dress and, more often than not, end up with hilarious results.

For a long time, I didn’t know why the alteration was enacted. I still don’t. But, on a personal level, I am glad it happened.

As I said before, literature narrates through written words. For me (and I don’t know if this is common or not), any written descriptions of physicality never leave strong mental images in my head, unless they are accompanied by illustrations; so, when I have the mental images, I am influenced by the illustrators’ interpretations.

The copies of Goblet of Fire and Order of Phoenix I possess contain illustrations by Mary GrandPr√© (at the time, the Indonesian editions lazily used her works). Sometimes the characters are drawn with muggle clothing, sometimes they are drawn with forgettable and bland-looking robes and pointed hats. This is why even after reading the illustrated copies for countless times, I still don’t associate overtly-cliched fantasy outfits with the Harry Potter universe.

Now just imagine if the films base the costumes entirely on the source materials: the cliches would be even more pronounced for me! Visually, the film series would be just another fantasy motion pictures featuring ‘weirdly-dressed’ characters!

(Okay, admittedly, there are many other fantasy films featuring characters wearing ‘muggle’ outfits; Harry Potter is not the only low fantasy series in existence. But, I will explain later why I support the filmmakers’ decision to alter them.)

Because my mind still associate magical human beings with pointed hats and robes -especially the colourful ones-, the fact that HP characters wear muggle-ish clothing is very refreshing for me.

But, at the same times, the characters’ outfits are still not entirely muggle-ish. The style seems to be a hybrid of muggle and ‘magical’ fashion; they look realistic enough, while still looking from out of this world… literally. Oh, and the muggle-fication is very gradual.

While the film version of Philosopher’s stone does feature muggle-ish costumes, they are mostly worn by the students as their uniforms and casual dress; the adult witches and wizards wear very much stereotypical ‘magical’ outfits. Then, as the series progresses, the costumes become more and more muggle-ish; the men wear more neckties and both men and women wear more suit jackets.

The characters’ muggle-ish outfits make them more real to me. The way they dress (somewhat) remind me of how real-life humans dress, remind me of how I dress! Their fashion, in a way, makes them more relatable. Admittedly, it does sound unnecessary and shallow.

Unnecessary because the Harry Potter universe’s thematics already includes grittiness with characters often put in situations not unlike the real-life injustice and prejudice any sane individuals know persistently exist. Shallow because judging a character’s relatability should be based on his/her substance, NOT her/his look. Surely, not only grittiness is more than enough to increase the relatability, it is also a significantly more profound way to do so!

While the arguments made by imaginary people living in my head do have points, I can provide some justification which is greatly influenced by my own bias.

One thing we should acknowledge is the characters live in a world almost entirely different from ours (apart from undeniable social and political parallels); don’t forget that despite the physical coexistence of both worlds in the same universe, the magical one is virtually concealed from the muggles. Inevitably, the (somewhat) lifelike clothing does significantly increase their relatability to me.

I also notice that, as the film series progresses (spin offs included), the increasing muggle-fication of the costumes and the increasing thematic grittiness (Order of Phoenix excluded) occur synchronously. As a result, the costumes as an indicator of relatability seems neither shallow nor pointless in my eyes.

But, I also do have an issue with muggle-fication. As said before, he source materials feature wizards and witches’ inability to dress like muggles which often ends with comical results. This running gag will be more hilarious in the films than it is in the novels due to the former’s strong emphasise on the visuality. There would be more reasons to love the screen adaptations!

But, as disappointed as I am by the missed opportunity, I accept we cannot have it both ways. If we want the filmmakers to muggle-fy the outfits, we have to eliminate the running gang and vice versa. Speaking solely for myself, I will be happy either way.

I have never discussed it with my fellow potheads regarding this. After finishing the previous paragraph, I was curious enough to do some googling and, unsurprisingly, I found out I am not the only one who have noticed the alteration.

There are forums dedicated to the discussions of films’ muggle-fied fashions. A Tumblr user actually sketched how Hogwarts’s uniforms originally supposedly look like in the novels. Even Bustle made an article (if you can call it that) about how fashionable the characters look in the film! Unsurprisingly, I also found an article written by the author herself.

She mentioned about the International Statute of Secrecy which requires wizards and witches to blend in by the means of fashion, their failure to comply, whether on purpose or by sheer incompetence and how the children and teens are more up-to-date with the muggle culture than the adults are due to intermingling with their muggle peers. Nothing new and mindblowing, really. Well, except for the last paragraph.

She stated that even muggle-hating individuals can’t help themselves from wearing the more practical muggle fashion in their daily lives! Interestingly, they try to express their sense of superiority by embracing ‘a deliberately flamboyant, out-of-date or dandyish style’, a sound tactic if you are a fashion snob with surface-level priorities, of course.

There are two reasons why I find this interesting:

Reason number one: it reminds me of real life bigots who enjoy the cultures of the people they have prejudice against. There are Chinese-hating Indonesians who love Chinese cuisines and there are Mexicans-hating Americans who love Mexican cuisines. Bigots love what the ‘others’ contribute to mankind while still refusing to humanise them. I wonder if this counts as cultural appropriation.

Reason number two: it defies how I imagine the books deal with clothing. While Rowling’s essay still draws strict boundaries between muggle and ‘magical’ fashion, I always thought the novels’ characters wore the former exclusively for entering muggle territories. And, to my surprise, it does not harm the overall narrative!

At times, Rowling’s authorial intent can be a nuisance; the revelation of Dumbledore’s sexuality, for example, seems to come out of nowhere as it was never hinted and his relationship with Grindewald is a shameless queerbait. But, regarding the fashion, it seems to complement the already-established universe.

While I indeed haven’t read the first three books, I clearly remember the characters utilising magically-powered muggle inventions like cameras, cars and radio sets. Hence, the idea that even the most prejudiced wizards and witches adorn themselves with the more functional muggle fashion is still within reason despite the absence of signs.

Before encountering the essay, I was very happy with how the filmmakers’ decision to muggle-fied the costumes, was disappointed by Rowling’s inclination to utilise cliched fantasy costumes (even though I still love that one recurring joke). But now, even though I am still delighted by the muggle-fication, I appreciate how this particular authorial intent compels me to see a previously unseen layer of the HP world-building.

It feels like a puzzle piece we didn’t know was missing.

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How to review entertainment (and the arts)

*puts on a mask*

First thing first, be a simpleton! A good reviewer must be able to remove intricacy out of their ways of thinking. Embrace the glory of black-and-whiteness!

There are two ways to implement this superficiality: either become a snob or an uncultured swine.

In general, a snob hates entertainment. He/she thinks a good creation must be entirely artistic and meaningful. An uncultured swine is more or less the same, just replace ‘artistic’ and ‘meaningful’ with ‘entertaining’.

Let’s start how to be a snob first.

If you want to be a snob, you have to be watchful of any leisurely elements. I am speaking about traces of lightheartedness and escapism. Of course, some creators successfully meld low brow ingredients with high brow and that makes them a menace to your profound sensibility.

Visualise yourself immersing in an ostensibly artistic work. Suddenly, the thing you are profoundly appreciating makes you feel… amused… pleasured… entertained. Entertained? ENTERTAINED?!

HOLY SHIT #$@$#@$@@^@!! Drop everything you are doing and stay fucking calm!!!

Whew, you nearly cascaded into the escapist trap. After you have fully recuperated from such harrowing occurence, you have to immediately lambaste the work! Lambaste it for having the audacity to be whimisical, lambaste it for shrouding superficiality with wisdom! Flush its entire merit which it is worthy of anymore down the lavatory!

Just be heedful to not clog the pipes. You will do a lot of flushing in your lifespan.

Oh, and don’t forget to be a complacent prick. You must devote a large fragment of your time to disparage every single mortal who still can revel in entertainment! You may as well declare them guilty of egocentric detachment from the world we live in!

Whether your social awareness is whole-hearted or not, it does not matter. What matters is you seem to possess it in your heart. It is all about boasting a so-called higher moral ground!

How about being an uncultured swine? It is the opposite of a snob. Therefore, all we have to do is the complete opposite, right? Well, yes and no.

When it comes to dealing with purely artistic works, a swine must react the exact same a snob reacts to entertainment. If a creation seems boring or incomprehensible from the start, then it is artsy! Stop enjoying it immediately! Believe me, one near-depth experience is unpleasant enough, let alone hundreds of them!

After you recover from the shock, you should proceed to berate the creators and their admirers for being self-righteous, pretentious pricks! You don’t care about depth. Therefore, caring about it is a sign of deviance. Treat your personal interests as if they are the ideal criteria for ‘sanity’!

Now, what happen if the works blur the line between art and entertainment? Well, there is nothing to worry about. As the pleasure elements exist, you can only focus on them and disregard the profundity entirely. What you should be cautious of is the entertainment reviewers.

When you find ones who use their intellect, call them out! Employ the same method you use to put artists and art lovers to their places: by calling them self-righteous, pretentious pricks!

How dare they exploring the deepness that our favourite entertainment provides? How dare they resist against pure escapism? How dare they encourage us to contemplate about the world we live in? Fuck those bullshits!

Uncultured simpletons define what it means to be humans. Like it or not, they are humanity’s greatest assets! Sophistication literally kills humanity!

So, there you go! Those are the two ways to be entertainment reviewers! They all boil down to this:

Be a simpleton! Life is all about proselytising your absolute, black-and-white mentality! Life is all about establishing divisiveness among mankind!

And entertainment is the easiest way to achieve such state of being!

*takes off the mask*

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The unworthy finale of Harry Potter

No, neither Fantastic Beasts nor The Cursed Child are HP stories. One is a spin-off and the other is a Rowling-approved fan fiction. The Deathly Hallows (TDH) is and will always be the last HP story (not counting that one short and untitled prequel).

Just like with Half-Blood Prince, I also believe that the problem with The Deathly Hallows is it being a poorly-executed great idea! In this story, most of the characters endure their greatest adversity to date. Throughout their journey, they sacrifice their physical and emotional well-being and they have lost loved ones to Grim Reaper’s embrace. But, the eventual defeat of evil is worth the suffering. The ending should be overwhelming by stirring you with a myriad of emotions all at once. Ideally, we should feel what the characters feel. Ideally.

Instead, I feel nothing but disappointment. One cause for this is unfortunately not preventable.

The thing about Harry Potter series is each story’s plotline, excluding the prologue in Philosopher’s Stone and the epilogue in TDH, always occur within one calendar year. Almost every problem is solved within each fixed time period! Rowling seems to let her imagination limited by her characters’ strictly-scheduled school calendars, despite TDH being set mostly outside Hogwarts. That particular flaw is a sizeable contribution to the series’ unbelievability; counter-intuitively, the magical elements are more believable in comparison. As a result, the concluding work feels too rushed.

Someone (I forgot who) told me it would be better if TDH was divided to three novels… and I agree with him/her.

Prior to TDH, despite having moles working in the government, Voldemort and his followers were seen as criminals by the authorities. But, even then, they were already powerful enough to instill fear in the magical world, constantly breaking the collective morale; they were akin to real life terrorists. Now, imagine them taking over the ministry of magic. Oh, the power they would get. That’s what happen in the last installment.

Yes, they only took over one magical government. But, that was enough to give them dominance they had never had before! They had the legal legitimacy to reign a country’s entire magical community; they could easily instill their extremist ideology to its youths and legally justify their acts of violence and prejudice, both to the Muggles and their fellow magical beings!

And TDH asserts how such regime can be defeated within one school year.

I don’t know any totalitarian regimes that were toppled within such a short period of time. The Khmer Rouge were in power for four years. Afghanistan was entirely governed by the Taliban for five years. Nazi Germany lasted for twelve years. Fascist Italy lasted eight years longer. USSR lasted for sixty-nine years. And those are just the most notable examples! I haven’t mentioned the others who are not less notable globally and the ones that still prevail.

I would love it if the one-year-one-book rule is ditched at this point and Voldemort’s regime lasted for ten years! But, HP is an escapist entertainment; I would compromise by perpetuating the rule and I would agree that a decade can be a bit too long. But, the fact that our heroes’ last and most consequential adventure is only twelve months long and only covered in one book (which is not even the longest HP novel) is too farcical for me to swallow.

This is why I agree with my friend’s/acquaintance’s three-book proposal. Taking three years to defeat a regime is more believable than doing so in one! As much as I love submerging myself in escapism, my tolerance for shameless improbability is not infinite. No, being a fantasy work is not an excuse.

Oh, and this hastiness sabotages HP’s emotional immersion.

Throughout the series, the emotions refuse to take back seats; they proudly assert themselves as major performers. And yet, the ones in TDH don’t have any personal impacts on me as a fan. Despite the strong emotional content, there is a barrier that prevents me from relating to the earthly characters… and I blame it on the epilogue.

The epilogue should be the emotional closure. Rowling could have detailed about the characters’ post-Voldemort life; they would definitely have a problem returning to normal life, suffer from PTSD, mourn the dead, be disheartened by the many families torn apart and jubilantly rejoice Voldemort eternal defeat. For fans, the end of the series is the end of an epic they have been emotionally invested in; the ending should feel like the last farewell to our loved ones. Weariness, sorrow, joy and nostalgia. All distinct emotions which we could have felt simultaneously.

But, instead of treating it as a crucial integrant, Rowling saw it merely as tacky memorabilia sold at the exit of a tourist trap.

One chapter! Never mind that she didn’t divulge the entire Post-Deathly Hallows circumstances of the fictional universe. She didn’t even bother to include any emotions in it. Well, she did include one: happiness. A hollow and insincere happiness. There is nothing about the segment that signifies the existence of harsh reality. It disregards all of the hardships our characters have endured this whole time. It is one of those sentimentally pathetic happy endings.

I believe that you can fix the epilogue without altering the existing last chapter. All you have to do is to add more preceding ones. Personally, I want the entire segment to contain ten in total, each representing a different individual period. I want them to unveil how our characters are gradually leaving their turbulent past behind. If Rowling uses the multi-chapters formula to conclude the epic narrative, I can ensure the happiness would possess sincere wholeheartedness and actual artistic merit.

Once again, I don’t know how to end an article. So, let me write an analogy.

I loved to play Pokemon Ruby. It was one of the very games I had ever fully been immersed in. It was the only game I ever played on Game Boy SP. I would spend many hours daily on it.

I often viewed catching and training Pokemons as my life goals. I felt triumphant every time I fulfilled them, felt like a failure every time I didn’t. I took the game very personally. It is obvious how playing it was more than just escapism for me.

Then, one day, two certain individuals decided to help after seeing my constant struggles. When I said ‘help’, I meant playing the game without my knowledge, handed it back to me AFTER the defeat of all Gym Leaders and Team Magma and expected me to be wonderfully grateful!

Well, wonderfully furious I was! Somehow, they thought I would be happy by being denied the satisfaction of doing most of the work! Maybe they didn’t realise that I was the player, NOT the spectator! Or maybe they are the kind of people who can get satisfaction from passing exams through cheating. Well, knowing my fellow Indonesians, that is very likely the case.

Yes, it is a rather off analogy. Pokemon Ruby is interactive and TDH (the one I have in mind) is literary. One is mostly a fun, lighthearted adventure and one heavily involves evil and death. Two different storytelling mechanism, two different emotional weights. But, there are undeniable similarities between them.

Both cases denied me to experience emotional sensations. I was denied the triumphant feeling for successfully battling the final bosses. Me and my fellow Potheads were denied the opportunity to experience the amalgamation of contrasting emotions for accompanying our beloved characters throughout their entire odyssey.

Obviously, this is not a form of psychological abuse. Our lives are not and will never be haunted by traumas because of it. But, it is still infuriating to come up against. Not only that, considering how we only had ONE chance to experience the pleasure, the denial is a fucking dick move! Admittedly, this sounds a bit too whiny. For some time, I considered the possibility that I complained a bit too much.

Then, I had the realisation: both cases are rooted in intellectual shallowness. In my world, that’s not and should never be tolerated.

The two people who ‘helped’ my Pokemon gameplay seemed content with the idea of ‘achievements’ handed to them on silver platters. The close-mindedness came into play when they never bother to ask if I wanted their so-called ‘help’. They assumed their pitiful mindset was shared by every single grateful human being in existence and refusing such ‘help’ is a sign of ungratefulness. I still regularly see one of the ‘helpers’ to this day and, despite his/her age and university education, she/he is still an intellectual simpleton. Profundity is not his/her strongest suit.

For some reasons, Rowling implemented the one-year-one-book rule all the way through. She had broken a few rules before and one of them she established herself. As a result, Harry Potter became a much more dynamic series.

The Order of Phoenix is packed with conspicuous political critique, inevitably elevating the series’ already-loaded thematics; for a supposedly escapist novel, it loves to remind the readers of their own harsh reality. Even TDH managed to break one rule: unlike its predecessors, it is set mostly outside Hogwarts; of course, because the school is utilised as the climax’s backdrop, its significance is still potent. With the dynamism brought by the deviance, why stop there?

Rowling failed to realise that by being clingy to the one-year rule, she unwittingly increased the unbelievability and churned out impotency. She failed to comprehend that, if you want the story to skillfully steer forward, alteration is a necessity. It is regrettable how she, an experienced writer and an educated person overall, tethers her own creative insight.

Either that or she was pressured to write ONLY seven HP books by her publisher. If that is the case, then it is equally unfortunate. While niche works are prone to pretension and self-righteousness, blockbuster ones are prone to the strong, heavy-handed desire to fill up the piggy banks.

I still don’t know why this massive pile of disappointment exists in the first place. I keep trying to find the rationales and I always end up rambling. Perhaps, I will never obtain any definite and satisfactory answers. Among fans, I also wonder if I am a minority regarding this.

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