One more on “Breakfast in New York”

Út 23 března 2021

(second round of my comments on “Breakfast in New York” by Radaslab; the first post)

There is this author’s note:

Eros Syndrome was not named or defined back then, but it was there. Eros Syndrome was needed to explain certain things. Namely, how could Hermione have let that happen after she made it clear she was not that kind of girl? Before I wrote the first sentence, I knew she was going to have Harry's kids out of wedlock and knew she would be pregnant again following their reunion. I needed a way to explain it, because both of my main character are not that way as people — absent the Syndrome. Hermione would never give her virtue up absent a wedding ring — or at least almost never. Yes, Harry may have been (and was) and exception, but I needed and explanation.

First, author notes are what programmers call a code smell. Not necessarily an error, but something suggesting that not everything is right, and the programmer should check that part of the code much more thoroughly. When you feel the need to explain something in the author notes, it usually means you haven’t explained it well in the story itself, and that’s the only place where such an explanation should happen.

But more importantly, this whole explanation is completely wrong! Before I got to this awkward explanation, I was perfectly happy with Hermione and Harry forgetting themselves and having a one-night stand. Of course, not happy meaning I would support their behaviour, but it made their story interesting.

Explanation, why not-that-girl did this is exactly the main point of any literature! See the awesome short film “The Saga Of Biorn” by The Animation Workshop. It starts with this line: “Some might ask: who is this Viking and what made him throw a dwarf off a cliff?” Many good stories start exactly with this: why somebody did something very strange, against their character or against what we would expect from a person like him? Why this not-that-girl does things which she shouldn’t do is exactly this question that made me interested in the story.

Jim Chamberlain writes in one of her interviews how the character flaw is the required element of every good film plot: not only a hero needs to get from point A to point B but that moving from that point A to point B must be struggle, particular fight in overcoming of some of her character flaw: Michael Dorsey in Tootsie is bit of a sexist pig who despises women and yet he must pretend to be one to overcome this flaw, Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” must step out of her cynicism which builds a cage around her heart to find her true love (and cat), and so on and so forth. That is exactly my biggest problem with most Harmony stories: their protagonists are just too perfect, they don’t have any flaws, and they don’t need any development.

And what’s true about any literature generally, is even more true about a story that at least tries to be inspired by Catholicism as this story. Especially Catholic (or any Christian) literature should acknowledge that “There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12) Meaning, that all-perfect people, who don’t make mistakes (or who don’t sin, to keep the lingo), are just dream-like creatures not capable of real life. And the question is, how come these good people, how come we, sometimes do really stupid things? Why would a good Catholic girl sleep with a boy on a one-night stand while leaving to the other end of the world (and she thinks leaving permanently)? Why would he? What would they do afterwards, when the baby happens?

Where good people do bad things (think Graham Greene, if you want to have a good writer who is a Catholic) is exactly the place where graphomania ends and literature may begin. “It was magic who did it!” is just a valiant attempt to avoid making good literature.

Another point, if the author wants to have their pair have the Quiverfull marriage, it is dishonest to hide their courageous decision behind the magic. They should have many children, because they are good Catholics (in their opinion), because they love to have a lot of children, or because they were too ashamed to learn proper anti-conception techniques, but not just because magic forces them to it.

So, why would not-that-girl do that? Another pair of completely perfect boring people in all Harmony stories are her parents. They are always supportive, always accepting, always perfect (in sharp contract to Dursleys, who are not), always enabling. When we stop pretending that all good guys are completely perfect, we can see that most of them have some obvious flaws. So, for example, the explanation of many problems in Hermione’s actions could be explained by her parents. If Hermione was a daughter of two perfectionist overachievers, and which successful entrepreneur is not a perfectionist overachiever, she would learn that all her problems could be resolved by more hard work, and that her approval is based upon the amount of work she produces. And it seems that canonical Hermione acts exactly based on this template! Whenever she screws up, whenever she feels guilty, she works harder to ease her conscience. So, for example, when she lies to her parents about her second year, she drives herself to a breakdown in her third one.

And when she is overcome by stress, loneliness, guilt (she did effectively enslave her parents, she, a founder of S.P.E.W.!), unfulfilled desire, and perhaps a bit of wine (of course, Catholics must drink wine, not Scotch!), she breaks down and sleeps with Harry, from all that stress. And when she finds later that she is pregnant out of wedlock, she does the same: being the overachiever, perfect student, perfect single mother (and by God’s grace, she actually is). Fortunately, she is Hermione Granger, so she has the brain to back up this drive, and she manages to pull it off.

Perhaps, you have another explanation, but anything is better than the Eros Syndrome.

Category: faith Tagged: review harryPotter blogComment