Saturday, July 04, 2009

Maybe Just a Little Bit More

I check the Entertainment Weekly online site pretty much daily because I'm trashy like that (but I don't read tabloids or People, honest). And this article caught my attention because...okay, because I'm kind of guilty for thinking it.

I admit to wishing that the Harry Potter series - Books 5-7 only - were just a tad bit more sexy.

I'm not talking about graphic, lurid details. Heck, I don't really like erotica all that much and I tend to skim long sex scenes in other romance novels because they can get kind of boring.

But I'm talking about more...romance? More focus on that buzz you get when you fall in love and discover the feelings are returned and things move forward into that very first kiss and it becomes not enough so things start to progress even farther...That feeling, so unique and perfect and elusive, is the one I'm always searching for when I read romance novels, or any book for that matter. It's my particular brand of crack, and I'm hooked on it completely. I'm always hunting a fix. Even in innocent fantasy books aimed at kids.

(Spoiler warning - spoilers after the jump)

One of my favorite scenes in the entire 7 book series is the one in which Harry, without stopping to think, marches up to Ginny Weasley and just smacks one on her. In fact, HP and The Half Blood Prince might be my favorite title in the series because I love the romance aspect of the book. Harry's awakening knowledge that he has other-than-brotherly feelings for Ginny, presented as a monster that lives inside his chest and alternates between growling with jealously over Dean and Ginny's relationship and purring when thinking about a Ginny/Harry pairing.

And while I fully appreciate that J.K. Rowling wrote the HP series for children to read, and that the focus is good versus evil and growing from child to adult, and romance between the characters resides not just in the back seat but in the back of the bus, I have to admit to wishing that this weren't so. I know that these books simply couldn't be written any other way and still appeal to younger kids the way they do (or be considered appropriate for them by their parents). But the grown up in me wishes they were a tad bit more sexy.

That Harry's feelings for Ginny were demonstrated to be more than just a burning desire to hold her hand or a warm cozy feeling when he smells her flowery scent. I'm willing to bet that 99.99999% of all heterosexual teenage boys are burning to do a whole lot more than hold hands and that their noses aren't the only body part that is strongly affected when they catch a whiff of their crush's perfume or shampoo. That monster in Harry's chest? In reality might be more accurately placed a few states southward in his pants region.

J.K. does give a tiny hint of a stab at showing us that Harry might be having some impure thoughts about Ginny.
"There isn't anyone I want to invite," mumbled Harry, who was still trying not to think about Ginny any more than he could help, despite the fact that she kept cropping up in his dreams in ways that made him devoutly thankful that Ron could not perform Legilimency.
But the closest we ever get to a suggestion that Harry and Ginny might have any sort of physical relationship is in a single sentence, is very vague, and could, in fact, be talking about them pouring over the latest issue of Mad Magazine for all the descriptive it contains:
On one such evening, when Ginny had retired to the library, and Harry was sitting beside the window in the common room, supposedly finishing his Herbology homework but in reality reliving a particularly happy hour he had spent down by the lake with Ginny at lunchtime...
For the adult me, this is the romance novel equivalent to shutting the bedroom door. I've invested time and emotion into these characters, and I've thrilled along side of them as they've found love with each other. But now I've been cut off, disallowed from seeing them in love. So not fair.

Oddly enough, this same lack of detail in Ron and Hermione's relationship doesn't bother me. Like Harry and Ginny, we get not much more than a single, spontaneous kiss between Ron and Hermione and a suggestion that maybe they'd been holding hands while sleeping side by side (in separate sleeping bags, of course). You would think given the full 7-book lead up to this particular relationship, the feelings of being cheated by any lack of expressed affection between them would be a huge let down. But it's not. Not in the least.

I chalk up my not caring so much about Ron and Hermione to the fact that my identification as a reader belongs with Harry as the third-person point of view focus of the story. Through all of these books, I've felt Harry's emotions, I've heard Harry's thoughts and watched the world move through Harry's eyes. It's his relationships that I'm most heavily invested in - I'm most disappointed to all of the sudden be cut off from living vicariously through him. Indeed, I've viewed Ron and Hermione's relationship through Harry, and as Harry, I wouldn't really want to watch my two best friends in a heavy makeout session. I'm just pleased to know that they finally realized that they are meant for each other and will now be happily together. No PDAs necessary, thank you very much.

Too, I think the Ron/Hermione pairing was, although a long time coming, inevitable. I was never a Harry/Hermione delusionist shipper. From Book 3, I've always known that Ron and Hermione had feelings for each other even though they both fought valiantly against them. The entire series was a giant display of UST, a slow dance between these two that moved forward so glacially that anything more than a kiss at the end would have thrown the pace out of whack. Their relationship had the feeling of an old time movie when, to quote the magnificent Joss Whedon's lyrics from Buffy's perfect episode "Once More With Feeling", "The curtains close on a kiss, God knows, we can tell the end is near". The main characters flirt and fight their way through two hours of screen time to finally end with a passionate kiss right before the end credits roll. That works for Ron and Hermione. Their happily ever after starts with that kiss, and there's no more story left.

Not so with Harry. Maybe because when he finally acts on his feelings for Ginny, we know there is still an entire book to go. If their kiss doesn't signal the beginning of their HEA, then we need either one of two things to happen - a) more interaction between them to demonstrate the struggles and conflict in their relationship until they reach their HEA or b) them to move on and away from each other, their relationship obviously not the Real Thing.

J.K. made option B work perfectly with Harry and Cho Chang. Harry thought he loved Cho. They experienced some angst getting together. Finally, they kissed. Beginning of their HEA? No. Because Cho wasn't Harry's One True Love. They broke up, Cho receded to the background, and Harry realized that his feelings for her had disappeared. That relationship wasn't the Real Thing. Any disappointment that Harry and Cho only shared one kiss? Not one single drop.

Option A isn't actually an option. Because of what Harry's story is - a story about his triumph over evil and his successful transition into adulthood - the conflicts don't come anywhere close to living in his relationship with Ginny. Other than his fear that his feelings for Ginny could lead to Voldemort using her as bait and thus his breaking up with her to keep her safe(r) - an action that Ginny accepts if not willingly at least only slightly begrudgingly - Harry and Ginny have no conflicts. Voldemort wanting to kill Harry notwithstanding, there is no reason Harry and Ginny can't be together. An entire book of manufactured conflict between Ginny and Harry is beyond stupid. It's a different story completely.

It is true. Harry's story is not a romance, and therefore any focus on his relationship with Ginny is not necessary. It's the dollop of whipped cream on top of the icing on top of the cake. As a series aimed at children, this is only right. Problem comes from the fact that non-children have embraced the series so completely.
We got teased, and now we're suffering a slight case of blue balls. Because some of us adults prefer not a dollop of whipped cream with our cake and icing, but a glass of really good wine. Something with a bit of kick in it.

I'm very excited to see the movie and how director David Yates handles the Harry/Ginny romance. I've heard the movie "sexes it up" a bit, but I take this with a giant pile of salt and don't expect much. If they deviate too far from the book, they will be accused of exploiting the material and risk losing hardcore fans. Too, I think the HP movie makers actually care about quality, and they aren't going to risk the integrity of their franchise just to beef up the teen girls demographic. I'm guessing they're hoping that Dan Radcliffe and Rupert Grint provide enough eye candy for that particular crowd, clothing removal not necessary.

Even so, I can see how and why this sexing-up could happen. After the staggering success of Twilight, both books and movie, TPTB in Entertainment Land are finally getting a clue that teen girls (and their moms) are a huge, money-wielding market. And teen girls (and their moms) like to swoon now and then. You want to bring them back again and again? Provide some swoon-worthy moments, à la Robert Pattinson/Kristen Stewart. If that means letting Harry and Ginny get a little action above and beyond what happens in the book, who's to complain?

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