Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why Harry Potter and Twilight can Coexist and Everything Will be Fine (Or a Harry Potter Fan Makes a Case for Twilight)

Disclaimer #1: If you hate the Harry Potter vs Twilight debate, then use your common sense and don't read this post, it will just make you angry. That's how I ended up here, posting on this topic.

Disclaimer #2: I can speak with authority on all these things, having read them multiple times and seen all the movies more times than I can count.

First of all, let me just say I totally agree with the statement in the above image. "The Prince's Tale" (Chapter 33 of Deathly Hallows) is LIFE. It's beautiful and heart-rending and so, so tragic. It's why Snape became my favorite HP character. And JKR is a master craftsman. She built a world of Tolkien proportions--I would even argue that she built a richer world than Tolkien, in terms of character development and lore rules/standards/history. (And I spent years watching the LOTR trilogy quarterly, as in every three months, so you know I love Tolkien's writing. Reading LOTR goes without saying, as per Disclaimer #2.) Setting aside that brief comparison to LOTR, let's get back on topic.

Harry Potter is BY FAR the superior tale to Twilight FULL STOP.

HOWEVER, comparing Harry Potter to Twilight is comparing apples to oranges. The only things these two disparate series have in common is that they both deal with adolescents and they each have an equally rabid fandom. And Robert Pattinson.

Oh yeah, and Bonnie Wright and Jamie Campbell Bower were engaged for a while. And apparently Emma Watson and Kristen Stewart are buddies. The common ground stops there!

Yes, I agree that Bella Swan is an underdeveloped character who is often pigeonholed as the damsel in distress within the context of the story. And that, in comparison (as pointless as comparison is here) Hermione Granger is a strong, intelligent, capable young woman who GETS SHIT DONE. I also agree that the theme of Twilight is largely, "I will die without this other person."

But here's my argument: So what if that's the theme? Are we now saying that simply because the greatest fantasy epic of our time actually EXISTS that we can no longer enjoy a good old fashioned romance? How come we're not seeing this debate play out between Harry Potter and Insert Nora Roberts Novel Here? Well that's easy, because Twilight is YA; the characters in each series are roughly the same age as each other for most of it. With this logic, one could make the argument that Fenrir Grayback and Remus Lupin are essentially the same because they're both werewolves. What?! Or that Remus and Jacob Black are...okay, I digress. Forget this, let's move on.

People act as if the two are competing for the same title. They're not. They're separate genres. Well, they're both Fantasy, but one is Epic Magical Adventure and the other is Paranormal Romance. So I guess I should say they're separate sub-genres. The point is they can coexist.

Furthermore, I would like to set the record straight about this:

Yes, when Ron left, Hermione carried on. Because she's a total effing badass. Yes, when Edward left, Bella was overcome with depression. But that's okay. For one, Bella wasn't facing a genocidal war. There was no dark wizard for her to fight. So who cares if she wants to wallow? For two, the whole point of the story is her love for this guy. Would it really have been believable if she had just dusted herself off and said, "Oh, well, where's Jacob? He'll do just as well." I love getting into the melancholy and the malaise and the total emo-kid turns a character can take (like Harry in Order of the Phoenix). But then, I wrote The Lone March series, so, you know, it's clearly my thing. As a writer, it can be fun to explore the gloomy, moody emotions of your main character. When I wrote the character of March Howe, I straight up wallowed in her wallowing. I loved it!

And here's the other thing, by the end of that book, the same one where Bella spent four months somehow evading her clinical diagnosis, while the reader turned blank pages--which, by the way, I thought was pretty cool for the reader to be confronted with--she ends up rescuing Edward. She races across continents and runs head-first into a deadly coven's lair in order to save Edward from exposing himself and getting killed. Because that's the other side of this that no one seems to mention: Edward was just as depressed as Bella, arguably more so because he was actually going to get himself killed when he thought Bella was dead. It's all so wonderfully emo and narrowly misses its fate as being 'Romeo and Juliet with Vampires'. I mean, it kind of is, except for the tragic death scenario.

Now, I'm not going to delve too deeply into the arguments about the themes that many claim Twilight promotes, like domestic violence and abusive relationships, anti-abortion, religious undertones, etc. and so on. Or the fact that Harry Potter's themes are just, like, way better, you guys. But that's a hefty discussion for a different day. I will say though that there is something incredibly readable about Twilight. It awakens the thirteen-year-old in many of us girls and reflects a common fantasy of finding the perfect guy, who loves you for you, even if you're not the prettiest girl in school, or the thinnest, or the most popular. It's about finding a guy who can protect you, and, above all, pays attention to you and listens when you speak. I think that may be the most enticing part of the romance genre in general, at least for me anyway. I'm not a Fifty Shades kind of girl--BLECH--the sex doesn't draw me in to a tale of romance. It's the part about commanding the complete attention of the opposite sex. And that's why Twilight is in the fantasy genre, ladies, because guys who give you true undivided attention AND actually care what you have to say 24/7--like 24/7--is rare in my experience. And of course the idea of living forever with the one you love. Nothing wrong with that.

The point is, it doesn't matter that it's basically an indisputable fact that Harry Potter is better than Twilight. Harry Potter is better than most things in the world--and not just books. But that doesn't mean that Twilight is the absolute worst thing in the world either. It's fun for what it is. And I will probably read it again. You know, when I'm finished re-reading Harry Potter for the second time this year.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Why You Shouldn’t Stop Spending Money on Your Kids
(Even if they Get an Allowance)

By Erin Irvin

Can you name two topics where unsolicited advice is flat out infuriating? My picks are Parenting and Money! Put your hands together and you’ve got an internet bomb just waiting to go off. However, after reading some articles recently about things you should make your kids pay for from their allowance, I have a rebuttal.

Yes, we should teach our kids the value of money, how to save and spend responsibly, but I don't agree with this increasingly popular notion of making your kids pay for every extraneous expense from their own allowance. I grew up in a family with four kids and parents with blue collar jobs, who did the best they could for us. But we also didn't get to set foot in toy stores and never got any new toys unless it was our birthday or Christmas. And as an adult now, I feel there was a level of deprivation there that kids shouldn't have to deal with.

I’m not saying I resent my parents for this. I understand where this decision came from. My practical mother, who was juggling four kids alongside a 9-5 job (and making home-cooked meals and cleaning the whole house from top to bottom every weekend by the way!) didn’t want to deal with taking us places where there would be things we wanted, like the toy store, when she couldn’t afford to get those things for us. So rather than seeing the disappointment on our faces (or hearing it in our voices) she circumvented the whole thing by just plain not taking us to those places. I get it.

But you only get to be a carefree kid for a few short years. Let them have an ice cream treat on a summer Saturday without stressing over spending their allowance. Let them have that action figure they've been wanting, even if it's not a holiday and, again, without pulling in the anxiety of wondering if they can afford it. My first instinct is always, "I can't spend money on that, that's too expensive, it's not necessary so why get it?" because this is what I learned growing up. I often heard, “No, you don’t need that.” It was true, I didn’t need another Barbie doll, or the stuffed monkey, or the travel size Guess Who game. But childhood shouldn’t always be about Need and never about Want. I can tell you that it taught me to be so strict with myself that I feel I’m never allowed to do anything fun because I feel like I don’t deserve it.

I understand this may make me sound shallow for valuing material goods, or ungrateful for all the wonderful things I did get growing up. I also know there are plenty of children out there who don’t get anything, who are abused or ill or wards of the state, and that toys and treats are low priorities for children who have little. But this is all the more reason to do what you can to make your own children’s lives magical and, yes, a little frivolous. Sadly, we can’t save every needy child from poverty, no matter how much we give to charity, but we can strive to do more to brighten our own kids' days.

So can we just be a little stricter with ourselves as parents, and adults, to save up our own allowances? We can still teach our kids the value of money with small allowances and take them places to spend it, but we should also set aside fun money, reserved for spending on our kids, in situations where they should just be kids and have carefree fun. These years are precious and finite, and they will spend the rest of their lives worrying about making rent and paying bills and saving for big expenses. Give them the break while they can get away with taking it.