On November 23, 2001
, The Washington Post
ran an article in the Style
section by Hank Stuever
and the Nation
". In it, Stuever
attacked the Harry Potter
craze that was sweeping the nation upon the release of the film "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
professed position was one of exasperation and contempt. Sick of hearing children and parents alike spouting praise for J.K. Rowling's
sought to make clear exactly what he thought of the entire phenomenon. Stuever's main concern seemed to be that American children were no longer clinging to the values they had been traditionally fed for decades. He lamented the loss of the popular jock
figure as the aspiration of every little kid.
"America, your children have become major dweebs."
Stuever proceeded to explain that he felt that the Harry Potter generation had been coddled too much. They had been encouraged to be good-willed, liberal-minded and intelligent, which is all fine and good, but it had been taken too far and these "dweebs" had to be curbed in the name of good, old-fashioned family values. Stuever confessed to never having read the books and threatened to beat up the next person who told him he should. Stuever's tone is superbly arrogant and derisive. He uses Harry Potter as a stepping stone to take a shot at the threat posed by "nerds" everywhere.
This article was received rather poorly by some readers of the Washington Post, especially those parents who read Harry Potter to their children on a nightly basis and were more than happy to indulge their children's obsession ("They're reading, aren't they?"). In fact, most such parents are fans of the novels themselves and took serious offense to Stuever's article. The Post published a number of replies from irate parents in the Style section, which evidently, in their mind, settled matters.
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire had it entirely right. Stuever certainly has the right to an opinion, and a right to voice it. However, does not The Washington Post have some responsiblity for what it prints within its pages? Most likely, Stuever's article was written somewhat tongue in cheek, but that is no justification for such prejudicial imbecility. It is rather improbable that a grown man could dream up and defend such a juvenile position, particularly in a forum as public and as respected as The Washington Post. This article was most likely comissioned by the editors of the Style section. A little controversy is good for business, right? The Post is a highly respected, liberal-minded newspaper, and that it would publish, or worse encourage, such a blatantly offensive article is frankly bothersome. More than a few E2 noders have no doubt come across some intolerance along these lines in their day. It is hardly an uncommon view. It is however, an ignorant and infantile view, one that has no place in such a highly-regarded public forum. Mercifully, this attitude is something that even the most close-minded of people leave behind in high school. When The Washington Post goes out of its way to publish such narrow-minded, inflamatory articles, one must wonder about how well people are really able to unlearn this deplorable prejudice.
That children are learning proper virtues in droves from such sources as Harry Potter and other forward-thinking books is a welcome sight. It is an unfortunate truth that a myriad children are wronged by their peers every day, simply for being different. People are branded nerds and regularly mistreated for the simple reasons of intellect, or a lack of social graces or a harmless interest in science fiction. However, this is a view that hopefully loses appeal as one grows older. It is difficult to imagine that this view is productive in the modern workplace. Seeing it spring up in the hands of countless commuters on their way to work in the nation's capital is a lamentable occurence and encouragement that people don't need. It is pleasing to see that so many people, young and old, respond so favorably to the message of tolerance and equality in Rowling's novels. Thankfully, it appears that many people are receptive to such open-minded ideals and are willing to stand up for them, as witnessed by the collective outrage of those readers who replied to Stuever's article. It is important to stand up for these beliefs and to challenge ignorance. It can often come from the most unexpected of places.
I found it! Now you can be offended too!
Thanks to Zerotime for the correction on the quote.
<-- very very slightly edited for accuracy by Andrew Aguecheek at the request of squeezie -->