Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Harry Potter and the Inanity of Quidditch

In 2003, the word muggle was offered a spot in the Oxford English Dictionary.  Now, this is perhaps not the honor it once was, considering that the English language consists of nearly ONE QUARTER MILLION individual words that have been borrowed, invented, conquered and bastardized.  But this word, muggle, was added due to its use in a beloved series of books collectively known as the Harry Potter Septology.  Having worked in the children's section of a library for some 5 years, I inevitably had to read the entire series.  I even had the privilege of reading several books in the series before their official release dates, which is something I probably shouldn't mention given the sensitive nature of highly popular book releases.  At first, I was highly skeptical of the series, perhaps due to my natural aversion to sensationally popular fads - because I'm apparently a dirty fucking hipster.  But some thousands of pages later (in an exceptionally quaint font, I might add) I was completely enamored with the series.  Like all great works of literature, Harry Potter isn't without its flaws, however... and I now see fit to share some of the pitfalls and plot holes that have bothered me since I've read the books and seen the movies.
But... why now?  Why am I suddenly griping about Harry Potter after all these years?  Why am I acting the Johnny-Come-Lately?  Well, I just happen to be watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone right now.  Also, my most popular blog entry of all time combines television shows that began in the 1960s.  So... here we go!
Item 1: Quidditch
The sport of quidditch makes NO FUCKING GODDAMNED SENSE WHATSOEVER.  I can already hear the bellyaching of hardcore Harry Potter fans.  "But BillChas, Rowling explained quidditch later in the series!  Just look at --"
"BULLSHIT!  She explained nothing!  And you are an IDIOT and a REPROBATE if you still cling to the idea that quidditch is anything but page-filling nonsense!"
In the sport of quidditch, two sides compete to score the most points.  If only it were that simple.  Each team consists of seven players who are constantly riding broomsticks.  Three chasers try to catch a ball called a quaffle and throw it into one of three rings on either side of the field for 10 points per goal.  The three rings are guarded by a goaltender called the Keeper.  Now, as if this sport weren't dangerous enough, these wizards who apparently have no regard for human life also release two enchanted balls into the air whose sole intent is to BLUDGEON people off of their brooms.  That's right!  There are two things flying around on the field with the expressed intent of hurting people!  Fret not, for each team is equipped with two players called Beaters, whose job it is to knock away these death-balls, quaintly named Bludgers.
Now if all this seems too much to understand, at this point quidditch is kind of like soccer, hockey or handball, only with flying around on broomsticks and - oh yeah - balls that are trying to kill you flying about as well.  Score the most points and you win the game?  Oh, but did I mention there isn't a game clock?  That's because the way the game ends DOESN'T FUCKING MAKE SENSE.
On each team is yet another player named a Seeker.  It is his or her job to find a small golden ball with wings with the adorable name of Golden Snitch.  Why is this Golden Snitch so important?  Well, that's because the moment that a team's Seeker catches the Snitch, the game ends - AND THE TEAM THAT FOUND THE SNITCH IS AWARDED 150 POINTS.
Did your head explode?  If so, I apologize.
So all that flying around, dodging death balls, scoring points, and basically putting yourself in constant mortal peril is rendered entirely pointless because of a little golden ball words 15 individual goals with a quaffle.
Later in the series, perhaps due to an enormous volume of hatemail, JK Rowling tried to explain away the problems with quidditch, namely:
  1. Catching the Snitch is the only significant event in quidditch and renders all the goal scoring and Bludger-dodging unexciting and pointless.
  2. A Seeker whose team is losing by more than 150 points SHOULD NOT CATCH THE SNITCH.
She explained that world-class Seekers whose teams were getting creamed would often catch the Snitch as a matter of personal glory.  You can imagine how the Seeker who catches a Snitch under such circumstances would be treated in the locker room.
"Yo, dude... why did you catch the Snitch back there?  We scored like 40 points in 3 minutes and were making a comeback."
"Oh... I just wanted the glory.  It's like... a matter of pride."
"You know what?  Fuck you, dude.  Just... fuck you."
Just today, I was discussing these very grave problems with quidditch with my wife.  And in a matter of minutes, we did something that neither JK Rowling or her editor were capable of doing with 7 books worth of ret-conning; we made quidditch almost kind of make sense!  And let's face it - it's a made up sport from a book about a magic teenager.  The sport CAN be slightly ridiculous without turning into the inane FARCE that it inevitably turned out to be in the actual books.  Here are a few suggestions of how to make quidditch make sense.
  1. Have the game end after several Snitch catches - perhaps 3 or 4 - each catch being worth significantly less than 150 points, say 50.
  2. Add a time limit.  Catch the Snitch as many times as you want for 150 points each time.  But at the end of the theoretical time limit, the game ends!  Simple.  Elegant.
  3. ...and my personal favorite... Time limit.  If at the end of regulation time neither side has caught the Snitch, the Quaffle is ruled dead, all Chasers and Keepers become Seekers, two more Bludgers are added, and it's an all out war to catch the Snitch.
That is a decidedly more sensical... and in many ways more AMERICAN form of quidditch.
Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2 of this series on the problems I have with Harry Potter.  Next entry?
Harry Potter and the Inequity of the Wizarding Educational System.
And then part 3...
Harry Potter and Making Everyone Related to Everyone; or Ret-Con Gone Wild

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