On JKR's Latest Interview.

Originally posted August 15, 2004:

some thoughts (like everyone else) on JKR's latest Q&A, which you can read here.

(Warning: Contains Interview Spoilers)

I'm going to use one part of this interview to talk about another part.

The part everybody is throwing fits about is the part that Adela711 and others have mentioned, the parts where JKR basically says, "Girls, stop obsessing over Tom Felton and Alan Rickman and go out and find yourself a real man!"


What I want to mention in regards to this is the following quote much earlier on in the Edinburgh interview--

There is a theory that every character is an extension of the author’s character, which makes me one of the most disturbed people, I think. ... When you get to someone like Dolores Umbridge, no way—I am absolutely not like her. She is a horrible woman.

--and then, later on:

I am sorry if there are Dudley fans out there, but I think you need to look at your priorities if it is Dudley that you are looking forward to.

By now, it isn't any surprise that J.K.R. has certain biases when it comes to her characters.  It really isn't anything new, what she's saying about Snape, and the Malfoys, and Dudley here.  She seems to want to lecture her fans about who they should like, rather than recognizing that she has given them something to like even in the characters she views as the most unredeemable of all.  This is not the first time she's said anything like this. 

What really takes me by surprise is her willingness to distance herself from Umbridge.  Not because it's Umbridge, because the woman really is horrible; but the kind of flat conviction that there's no connection there at all between this character she created and her own psyche.  If you think about it, on a certain level JKR always sounds so defensive about the characters that she doesn't like: so overhasty to assure us again and again that we're misguided if we think this character should be liked.  Even when discussing what a "gift" Snape is and how much she loves writing him, she cannot be charitable enough to say that she loves him or finds any part of him admirable; even when she's talking about how prominent a role he has in the books, she can't bring herself to say openly that the reason she enjoys writing him is because she responds to him as a character. 

Face it, folks.  JKR is not a fan of her own books--she is their creator.  And the creator, no matter how much she may love her creation, is not entitled to see her works exactly as the fans do.  She may have liberal and basic humanitarian ideas which she works unfailingly into her novels as overarching themes, but her ideas about people, as they come across whenever she talks about her characters in interviews, remain sharply conservative, highly moralistic in terms of her various repeated admonishments to her fans about who they should be drawn to, and why.  There is more of Umbridge in Rowling than she gives herself credit for--and no, before you rush to bring the wank, I am not calling her an Umbridge: rather, I am saying that subtly and with the best of intentions, Jo has exhibited again and again the same moralistic tendency to decide for others how they should think and behave that she decries in Delores.  And it's that blindness to her own connection to the characters she has created that cause her to become so defensive, again and again.

And there's nothing wrong with that.  There really, really isn't.  Jo Rowling is a middle-aged white English suburbanite soccer mom who, while doing an admirable job of keeping in touch with her fan base, is emphatically outside of that fan base, on a number of levels.  Partying with Mick Jagger? I mean seriously.  The woman is a total square.  She is falling in love with her new life of domesticity; she has a new child and another on the way and a still-shiny husband she appears to really love--she's got a certain set of life priorities that she brings to the table every time she gives an interview.  She has to make sure every statement she gives about the books also jives with the values she's teaching her children and the values she's bringing to her family; and honestly, isn't it just a hell of a lot easier to say "Draco Malfoy is bad" ad nauseum so your 2-year-old won't get mixed messages than to engage in what she must fully realise is a purely subjective debate about the merits of even her greyer characters?  If Sirius speaks to her as the last of the (good guy) rebels with a cause, taking time to explore the psychology at work in women who think Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy are the hottest things in print since Rochester and Heathcliff just isn't something she has the impetus to do right now.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

It doesn't make her right, though, any more than it makes us wrong to respond the way we do to certain characters.  No one can dictate to you how you should respond to a character or a story, not even the author of that story--if it were possible, negative reviews would never be written ever again, and all us book and theatre critics would be jobless.

But maybe it's time to just let the constant debate over JKR's interpretations of her characters as compared to our interpretations, fall by the wayside, at least with respect to how we view JKR herself.  She's human--she's got her favorite characters just as we do.  There's a little bit of shortsightedness in all of us, just like there's a little Umbridge in all of us.  It's not a personal flaw on her part--it's just another facet of how interesting, complex, and diverse these books are, and how differently they speak to every one of us.

And, for past reference, I've also argued that JKR sucks, etc. etc., in the past as well.

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