Reading Critically or Critically Reading?

by Azlin Murst

How to tell when you’ve gone a bit too far in your analyzation of Harry Potter…

For those of us who are longtime fans, we know that never before has there been such a massive collection of Potter worshippers congregating on the Internet. While this can be a wonderful medium to express your views to and enjoy a sense of camaraderie with fellow Potterheads, I think for some of us it may be a bit too much of good thing. This is why I have come up with a personal assessment to determine when your fandom may be interfering with your love of the actual series.

Please answer the following questions as honestly and thoughtfully as you can. (Trust me this is for your own good.)

Theorizing:

  1. Do you become hostile towards those who – while they may or may not be right – oppose your theory intelligently and politely?
  2. Rather than keeping an open mind and looking for what might be true in someone else’s theory, do you immediately censure that person and their ideas if they don’t agree with your own?
  3. Do you still insist, despite J.K. Rowling’s flat-out denials that either Harry, Voldemort, or Tom Riddle is the Half-Blood Prince? (Or that some other theory is true when it has been officially debunked by the author – such as: Arthur Weasley will be the next Minister of Magic)?
  4. Think over the comments you have left, or editorials you have written recently. Is there anything in them that states “this is definitely 100% true”, but is not actually stated to be so in canon? (One exception to this is jkrowling.com, which most fans regard as canon anyway.)
  5. Have you ever intentionally left a comment to start a rumor about the next book just because you wished that rumor to be true?
  6. Do you anticipate that if the next book does not turn out the way you predicted, you will feel let down or disappointed in it, and will subsequently not be nearly as interested in Harry Potter as you are now?

Chatting:

  1. Do you specifically avoid chatting with people you know from previous experience disagree with you on major fan issues in the series, simply because they disagree with you? (We’re not talking about avoiding people who are nasty or rude – that is extremely excusable – but just avoiding them because they don’t agree with you.)
  2. Do you begin insulting, harassing, or ignoring someone when they disagree with your prediction?
  3. Would you rather leave a chat room full of people who don’t think the same way as you do than have a friendly discussion about why you each think the way you do?

Shipping:

  1. Have you ever threatened to burn the entire series if your favored ship ends up sunk?
  2. Have you recently skipped chapters in your Harry Potter rereading because that *%#@ing Hermione or Ginny or Luna gets too chummy with someone they shouldn’t?
  3. In accordance with question 2, do you often feel a personal grudge toward any character that might stand in the way of your ship, to the point that it seriously affects your perception of that character?
  4. Do you read more than 10 fanfics a week featuring your chosen couple?
  5. Do you anticipate throwing down either of the next two books in disgust if something doesn’t work out for the ship(s) of your choice, and not picking them up again for at least an hour?
  6. Most importantly: If your couplings don’t work out, will you still be a fan of the series?

Fanfic-ing:

  1. Do you spend more time reading/writing fanfics than you do sleeping or talking with people face to face – specifically members of your household?
  2. In reviewing a fanfic, have you ever said something like “I love your story so much!!!!! I wish you really were J.K.! This is way better than the books!”?
  3. Do you often find yourself confusing canon facts with something that you’ve read in fanfics?
  4. Do you read fanfics specifically because they present an alternative to the series that you would rather have be true and plan to continue doing so rather than reading the final two books in the series because you cannot accept something that has happened in the books?

If you answered yes to any of the preceding questions (with the exception of #6 under ‘Shipping’ – to which you should’ve answered yes), it may be time for a healthy break from the Potter series and fandom. If this is too horrible to contemplate, at the very least spend a little time pondering your fan priorities.

I think everyone reading this agrees that the Harry Potter books are an amazing and wonderfully inspirational body of literature. Why else would we spend so much of our time reading and theorizing about them? I certainly don’t mean to suggest that those who are “obsessed” with the books are necessarily off their rockers or need to get a life. All I’m trying to say is that when we let our views get so narrow that we lose sight of the sheer brilliance of the novels, we’re missing out on so much of what made us love the books in the first place. Let’s not let our fandom interfere with really being a fan.

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