heroic friendship – Buffy and Harry

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“Buffy and Harry, unique in their powers and ordinary in their insecurities, have one major strength in common: their friends.” (p.75)

Comparing Harry Potter and Buffy, Rhonda Wilcox points out the importance of friendship in both these tales. She makes a valid point!

Firstly, her comparison: “A young person who has suffered parental loss moves to a new location and enters a new school, at the same time plunging into a world of magic and danger. This young person is forced to accept a role as a uniquely powerful challenger of dark forces, but is aided by an older advisor and both a male and a female friend. Humiliated by the everyday world, the young hero nonetheless grows stronger year by year fighting the dark forces in the hidden world of magic.” (p.66) Yup.

She argues: “Harry and Buffy are both heroes for whom friendship is crucial: Buffy survives in part because of her “Scooby Gang” of friends, and Harry depends on schoolmates Ron and Hermione. Perhaps this is the most important commonality for a hero of our technologically connected but socially strained time.” (p.67)

Furthermore, “the dissension within the Order of the Phoenix, like the seventh-season dissension among the Slayers and Potential Slayers, shows that such cooperation is not simple; it requires labor and self-knowledge, only gradually gained as these long stories progress.
Both of these long stories work with and move beyond traditional forms. Propp’s structures include a category for helpers, but as he defines them, they are often animals or objects. The goal in the structures he describes is marriage. But in the Harry and Buffy stories, friendship is not merely a means to an end (as the helper categorization would suggest); it is an end in itself.¬†Every Harry Potter book thus far has ended with the rejoining of the friends and their subsequent separation for the summer holidays, with Harry’s longing to return to school and friendship. And while Buffy and Angel (and later Buffy and Spike) provide plenty of romantic steam, the series does not end with her matched to either. An examination of the structure of the episodes would show that those with happy endings [-p.76] are most often those which conclude with a group of friends.” (pp.75-76)

“Buffy, despite the voiceover which intones that she is the only one, actually repudiates patriarchal succession and the role of the lonely hero in favor of communal effort. The same can be said of Harry Potter. Put simply, these new heroes value and count on friendship as part of their heroism.” (p.76)

Ref: (emphases in blue mine) Rhonda Wilcox (2005) Why Buffy Matters: the art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. London IB Tauris.

Vandana Saxena – the dynamics of adolescence in Harry Potter

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According to Vandana Saxena:¬†“The subgenre of adolescent fantasy can be characterized as a mix of illusion, escape, entertainment, formula and also instruction and guidance. Fantasy and adolescence…reinforce each other. An adolescent can be seen as an ‘other,’ an outsider to the categories of child and adult, embodying the gap between the two states of being in the chronology of growth. Many critics agree that young adult literature expresses the trials of adolescence, the process of individual coming-of-age set against a specific social and cultural background. [-p.6] Sarah Herz and Donald Gallo point out the situational archetypes and themes in YA fiction, which include coming-of-age rituals, quest and search for self. The literature centers on the youthful protagonist as much as it centers on the cultural background that frames his/her growth.” (pp.5-6)

Saxena continues: “Robyn McCallum defines adolescent fiction in relation to the essential humanist ideology that traditionally underscored the idea of child and children’s literature: “preoccupation with a personal maturation … is commonly articulated in conjunction with a perceived need for children to overcome solipsism and develop intersubjective concepts of personal identity within this world and in relation to others’ (7). This feature of YA literature derives from the unique position that an adolescent occupies in society. On the one hand, an adolescent is an outsider to the social and political frameworks of the society. At the same time, s/he occupies an important position in the collective psyche – preparing adolescents to become responsible members of the community is a major cultural preoccupation. It is important to contain adolescence through the discourses of growth, development and maturity since an adolescent, by the virtue of his/her position on the cultural periphery, has the potential to question and subvert these very discourses. According to Roberta Trites, ‘the distinction between a children’s and an adolescent novel lies not so much in how the protagonist grows – even though the gradations of growth do help us better understand the nature of the genre – but with the very determined way that YA novels tend to interrogate social constructions, foregrounding the relationship between the society and the individual’ (Disturbing [the Universe] 20). Rowling’s series portrays this two-way relationship that characterizes adolescence. Adolescence …emerges not as a stage of life, but as a state of being – an existence on the margins and in a constant dialogue with the center, always challenging and negotiating with the attempts at containment. Thus, young adult literature emerges as a volatile field of engagement with institutional politics and dominant social constructions.” (p.6)

Ref: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold, mine) Vandana Saxena (2012) The Subversive Harry Potter: Adolescent Rebellion and Containment in the J.K. Rowling Novels. McFarland & Company: Jefferson, NC and London.