Category Archives: Harry Potter

It’s time to say goodbye to "teams"

Team Edward. Team Peeta. Team Draco. Team Zekk. Team Jacob. Team Kyp. Team Harry. Team Gale. Team Jag. When did romance become a sporting event?

Years ago, while reading the Twilight series, my friend asked me who I liked better: Edward or Jacob. (Neither one was a good partner, but then again, Bella requires others to define her.) She told me about the “teams” discussion on a forum we both visited. I said Edward because not only did Jacob drive me nuts, but also it felt like Jacob saw Bella more as a prize to win rather than a human being.

That idea right there is what bothers me the most about the team concept: the woman becomes a prize.

The perpetuation of the team concept comes mainly from marketing around the Twilight movies. While it found its way onto message boards, icons and social media, various companies pushed the “Whose team are you on?” question. A Burger King commercial ran a few years ago (think around the time of Eclipse) that completely ignored Bella, the main character of the movie, in favor of the two sides. Despite the type of flimsy character Bella is, it seemed rather wrong that she was made into some medal or trophy.

With The Hunger Games movie, scads of merchandise with the statements “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale” flood the internet. The idea of team-themed merchandise could work for the movie, if it wasn’t based on romance. Show your support for Katniss, Peeta or District 12 to win the games. However, if I walk around with a shirt that says Team Peeta because I want him to win the games, the idea wrongly projected is that I’m a part of some feud.

The teams idea creates conflict. These conflicts would exist without the term, but thanks to the popularity of the word, these conflicts become larger than the story itself. Back during the New Jedi Order days, plenty of debates ran about whom Jaina Solo should be with: Jag, Zekk or Kyp. While these discussions still exist today, they don’t seem as frequent or volatile. I remember reading several arguments that largely ignored Jaina’s characterization and the actual events in the books. The same problem exists in The Hunger Games. Team discussions often ignore the main ideas of the plot.

These types of conflicts do serve a positive purpose: continuous discussion, new perspectives and character analysis. If everyone agreed on each aspect of a story, conversations would die out quickly. Taking the romance angle is just one of the many ways to look at a character.

The idea of rooting for a particular suitor isn’t wrong or disrespectful to the female character. The problem arises when it takes the woman out of the equation except for her mere presence. From Jacob’s comments and the part of Breaking Dawn that was written from his point of view, I had the impression that he was more interested in winning. He seemed to lose sight of Bella’s happiness.

Mobilizing teams the way it happened throws out the choice of the female characters. Fans don’t have to agree with it. I still don’t like Harry and Ginny together. It’s far too easy to ignore actions and essence of a character, be it the female in question or one of the suitors. One of the major differences between Edward and Jacob is that Edward was willing to stand aside if Jacob was whom Bella wanted. Jacob made no such concession. This argument rarely comes into play in Edward v. Jacob debates. In The Hunger Games, this isn’t really an issue. Katniss doesn’t want a relationship nor is it much of a possibility, what with Snow’s threats.

The whole team concept has gotten out of hand. It’s impossible to enjoy a book that has more than one romance interest without someone bringing up a team, regardless of genre. The Hunger Games isn’t the story of a love triangle. There isn’t a strong sense of “who is Katniss going to choose” throughout the series and yet, it’s rapidly falling into that trap. It’s one matter to discuss who you think is the better choice. It’s another to ignore the importance of a story and belittle the female character by turning it into a dating show.

I hate the insinuation that I’m a member of a team. It implies that I only care about who the character is going to choose. Before Explosive Eighteen, the newest book in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, hit shelves in November, I read several reviews on Amazon stating that “Team Ranger” fans weren’t going to like it. Basing the entire opinion of a book on Stephanie Plum’s love life and ignoring the rest of the plot seems rather close-minded. I don’t read the Stephanie Plum books because for Ranger or Morelli. I read them because I enjoy Stephanie’s characterization and the rich cast of characters (who doesn’t love Lulu?)

Thanks to the label coupled with Twilight, some are hesitant to dive into The Hunger Games or other works of literature that “team” crept into. If the whole “Team Edward/Team Jacob” debate annoyed you, would you go into a movie that appears to use the same idea? Probably not. While I’ve yet to see Lionsgate use the Team Gale/Team Peeta monikers, there’s enough outside merchandise to make the average consumer aware of the idea. A simple online search pulls up the Team Gale and Team Peeta concepts.

This whole team epidemic kills romance. When I viewed New Moon in theaters, I felt as if the theater was broken up into groups: Edward lovers and Jacob lovers. There was a sense of hostility in the room. It was awkward. It was even more awkward when the middle-aged women in front of our little group writhed in joy when Taylor Lautner removed his shirt (who was 17 at the time with a baby face). Take out that I thought New Moon was a horrible book and mediocre movie and it was still hostile environment.

I suppose for me romance isn’t a contest. It’s not a race to the finish line. Some love stories fizzle out. That doesn’t mean they weren’t good. Take the movie The Notebook, for instance. Just because Allie and Lon don’t end up together doesn’t mean their love story was unimportant or uninteresting. I didn’t feel as if we Jaina/Jag fans “won” in Omen after the proposal. Just because Jaina and Zekk didn’t end up together as adults doesn’t mean that their young love in the Young Jedi Knights series was pointless or a waste of time.

Romance is more of a continuous journey with no end rather than an objective based race.

Pushing the idea of “teams” onto a movie or book only causes harm. While it may be true that a group of fans band together in support of a pairing, referring to it as a team diminishes characterization, story and romance in general.

It’s time to retire the term for good.

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Filed under Harry Potter, Jaina Solo, NJO, romance, teams, The Hunger Games, Twilight

Where’s the love? A look at the lack of romance in the EU

Romance is a fickle thing in writing. Too much will make the story seem too soppy or distract from the main plot while too little leaves readers unsatisfied. Finding that balance is one that many writers struggle with. When it comes writing romance, I shy away from the long, love-filled speeches. I prefer to use actions and gestures, like a touch or favor. There’s no set formula, though, about how much or how little a story needs.
Romance plays a vital role in so many stories we love. Think about Empire Strikes Back. The love story between Han and Leia was phenomenal. It wasn’t drippy or character killing (go Harrison Ford’s improvising). It wasn’t awkward. It was believable. Their actions made sense for the characters, making their love easy to see. It was a vital chain in the story, not some silly side plot.
Take Harry Potter as another example. While love is a major theme of the book, it’s not romantic love. The romance in Harry Potter is much less than some fans wanted to see. Hermione and Ron don’t have grand, loving moments. In the books, we don’t even see their first kiss. The movie handled that scene well. It was the moment we were all waiting for—and expressed the same amusement as Harry did about the situation.
Romantic pairings come into play in Harry Potter. The Ron and Lavender incident caused severe friction between the three. And who can forget about the Yule Ball fiasco? Bill and Fleur’s wedding and the pairing of Remus and Tonks added not only a touch of romance, but hope to the latter books.
Even Harry’s crush on Cho and feelings for Ginny were rather muted. He pined for them, but it wasn’t as if they were the focus of the books.
When it comes to Harry Potter, I don’t think that the books needed more romance. It wasn’t about Harry’s relationship with Ginny or Remus learning that he can have love too. The romance added a bit of flavor to the book, the topping if you will.
Romance is something severely lacking from the Star Wars EU. It didn’t used to be. The best example of this recent problem is the Fate of the Jedi series. It started with great romantic interactions with Jaina Solo and Jag Fel. These continued through the series until Backlash. There was nothing in Backlash. No real Jaina and Jag or Han and Leia. Allies? Yeah right. Vortex, a sliver. Conviction? Not really. Ascension? I’ve already expressed my feelings on the “romance” in that book.
What doesn’t make sense with FotJ is that there was a love story right there to work with and expand upon. Jaina and Jag were prominent characters in Outcast, for one. After that, their roles dwindled. It’s important to maintain some type of character balance in a long series, but it was lost along the way.
When I think of romance in Star Wars, I don’t think of chats in the starlight or candlelight dinners. It’s more action orientated and animated. It’s possible to have a romantic interaction without gooey language or even a kiss. It’s all in the wording and the character point of view. A person’s reactions are more telling than anything else is. Look at the Hunger Games trilogy when Katniss thought Capital was going to torture Peeta. She wanted to kill him to save him. Even though she didn’t realize it, it was clear she loved him.
The EU books need romance to balance out the story. Think about a book or story. Now categorize what is going on in the book. Each piece acts as a building block to make the perfect tale. Too much of something and the story feels odd.
Romance is something that most can understand. Most people want to love someone or already do. It’s an emotion we can understand, even if we don’t have any experience with the situations or emotions the characters are feeling. I’ve never been hunted, or as good as dead, but I understood Peeta’s need to keep Katniss alive in The Hunger Games, for example.
Star Wars is a space opera. Love plays such a vital role in the overall Saga. Anakin’s obsessive love for Padme influenced his decisions to go to the Dark Side. Would Anakin have fallen had he not fallen in love and married Padme? It’s very possible, but the story wouldn’t have been the same.
Romance also appeals to everyone. We all know the arguments about romance novels and “chick flicks.” They’re for “women.” Plenty of men enjoy these types of stories. The concept that romance is only for women is a pointless, old stereotype.
One of the many questions I’d love to ask the editorial team and writers is where the romance went. Including some aspect of it would not only make the books feel more “Star Wars,” but would also make the stories more appealing to a wider audience. Without Mara and Luke, the content falls mainly on Han and Leia’s and Jaina and Jag’s shoulders, yet we don’t see too much of either.
When writing, I can’t put the number of pages or romantic interactions into a calculator to determine how much more or less I need. Reading the story and finding feedback is the only way to accomplish this. Receiving feedback from multiple sources is even better. That way, it’s possible to see multiple views of the scenes in question. Some stories only need three or four romantic moments or bits while others need a chapter’s worth of content.
The argument for balancing romance is similar to angst, tragedy, comedy and other genres. Each has a place in a story—and a certain amount called for. While not every story needs romance, that factor was established as a key factor of Star Wars during the OT. It’s time for it to come back.

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Filed under Han Solo, Harry Potter, Jagged Fel, Jaina Solo, Katniss Everdeen, Luke Skywalker, Peeta Mellark, Princess Leia, romance, Star Wars, The Hunger Games, writing

Come On Ladies, Get Your Geek On This Halloween

Halloween is the time to spread the word that female geeks are here to stay.

Think back to when you were a child. What types of costumes were in the “girls” section of the costume aisle at the local department store? Disney Princesses (specifically Jasmine and Belle), Thumbalina, Pink Power Ranger, witches, genies, maids, Wednesday Adams and nurses come to mind. I can’t recall seeing a Princess Leia costume until recently. Padme also joined the costumes, but the prequels weren’t out when I was a child).

On Halloween in 2006, while working at a Victoria’s Secret in an outdoor mall, I stood outside and handed out candy to trick-or-treaters. That year I saw over a dozen Hermione Grangers from Harry Potter. I remember thinking how awesome it was to see such so many girls dressed up as such a great female character.

As women become a stronger market in the sci-fi/fantasy market, the amount of female-geared costumes for these genres seems to increase. It was next to impossible to find a Princess Leia action figure growing up; imagine how difficult it would have been to find a Leia costume for a child!

With the addition of stronger female leads in books, TV shows and movies, we have more options. There still aren’t as many options as I’d like, but at least the market is improving somewhat. Many sites and stores also offer options to coverage, so consumers don’t have to abandon the Wonder Woman costume in the name of personal modesty.

Halloween is the perfect opportunity to show our love for a great female character.

And we don’t need to modify a men’s costume to do it.

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Filed under female geekdom, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Star Wars, Wonder Woman

Rue’s Lullaby: The scene we need to see in "The Hunger Games"

Contains spoilers for “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

“Tonight it sends me Rue, still decked in her flowers, perched in a high sea of trees, trying to teach me to talk to the mockingjays. I see no sign of her wounds, no blood, just a bright, laughing girl. She sings songs I’ve never heard in a clear, melodic voice. On and on. Through the night. There’s a drowsy in-between period when I can hear the last few strains of her music although she’s lost in the leaves.”
“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
Pg. 235-6)

With any movie based off a book, each fan has a particular part they wish to see. For example, I wanted to see Fred Weasley’s death in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.” I felt that this scene helped solidify Harry’s resolve to meet Voldemort. Harry’s determination to stop others from dying for him is a major theme of the entire series. Watching Fred die, someone close to his age and like family, was necessary to back up the point. Unfortunately, all we saw was Fred’s corpse. Another set of books will arrive on the big screen next spring with its own variety of vital, emotional scenes: The Hunger Games trilogy.

Countless moments stood out to me while reading “The Hunger Games.” Had someone asked me immediately after I finished reading the book what scene I wanted to see the most, I’m not sure what my answer would have been. The parade? The Cornucopia? The berries? Now I now: Rue’s dying scene.

That Rue, the young Tribute from District 11, died was no surprise. Her death acted like a turning point in the novel.

While Rue lies on the ground dying, she asks Katniss to sing to her. Katniss complies, singing a sweet, comforting lullaby. Tears fall from her eyes and her voice grows quieter as she sings Rue to her final resting place. Katniss then lines Rue’s lifeless body with wildflowers. Between the song and the flowers, Katniss shows the people of Capitol that the ones the government continues to abuse are human, are real people. Her actions make the reader wonder if a spectator had a second thought about watching children die for entertainment.

With any book to movie adaptation fans fear the changes. I hope that this scene is included in the film exactly as Suzanne Collins wrote it in the book. To lose such a powerful moment would harm the story.

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