Letters to the editor

Hands off Harry Potter! Plus: Good grief! Don't dis Charles Schulz, an American icon; no one's forcing third-world techies to come here

Published January 18, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Harry Potter's girl trouble



As a woman who came of age at the height of the feminist revolution, I object to the idea that Harry Potter's world is sexist. I read all three books with my two preteen sons and was delighted to see that Hermione is the brightest and most capable character. Many other female characters show spunk, athletic ability and wisdom. Hermione is the savvy, intelligent problem-solver who guides the boys through many precarious situations. The quirks for which she is criticized simply make her a more complete and interesting character.

The article unfortunately is one of the many written by detractors jealous of Rowling's success and talent. It is true that the Potter books have more boys -- so what? Girls as well as boys find likable characters to enjoy. Hooray for J.K. Rowling!

-- Solveig Peters

As a 50-plus father of a 13-year-old girl who could not put these books down and still rereads them, I had to check out the content. I was a science fiction junkie at her age. She has no problem with the characters and how they are portrayed. She is an excellent student, athlete, clarinetist, leader and thinks most girls are wimps and boys are nerds. She likes a good story that includes good vs. evil and surprises. The books offer that. She will not be bothered by the lack of a leading girl or role model; she easily sees that what Harry can do, she can do too.

-- Frank Buehner

Where was all the complaining when the "American Girls" series was all the rage? What about the "Little House on the Prairie" books? Why wasn't an article done about the damage that was being done to young men who had no counterpart to this female series? Nancy Drew always seemed to be in control and no one complained about the absurdity of what she did. Why can't we just enjoy good books and be glad that everyone is excited about this wonderful series and people are reading!

-- Karen Litke

Christine Schoeffer is right on the money. As a father of an 11-year-old girl, I can appreciate all the qualities that are driving the success of these books at the same time saying to myself, "This is not what I want for my daughter. I am not rearing her to play a supporting role, or worse, to take a seat in the audience. I am not teaching her that boys can assume the hero's crown uncontested."

-- Alex MacDonald

Reading Schoefer's article about the sexism in Harry Potter really struck a strong chord with me this morning. I immediately went upstairs to review my 10-year-old daughter's book shelf. There among the mountainous pile of books I found Mary-Kate and Ashley, Nancy Drew, "Dear America Diaries," "The Baby-Sitters Club," "Matilda," "Pippi Longstocking" and some series about some girls that solve mysteries riding horses, all surrounding the three Harry Potter books.

Here I saw many strong and resourceful girls that Christine demands. Does she really think that all that is somehow voided because my daughter reads a book that shows a boy doing the heroics? No, I don't think so. I think the worst symptom of the pervasive sexism in America has killed the joy, imagination and sense of wonder that the young Christine knew years ago. Now she is so defensive that she cannot just enjoy a wonderful and imaginative work of fiction.

-- Richard Justice

What, no mention that J.K. Rowling was encouraged to use her initials instead of her first name in the fear that no one would read the books if they knew that a woman wrote them? Tsk, tsk. How did that little detail get missed? This is a wonderful story, even if it is about a boy. As a youth services librarian I have found more females than males adding their names to the extensive reserve list I have for these titles. Gender has never been an issue here, only heroism and just plain fun.

-- Eve Engle

I would like to congratulate Schoefer on her incredibly insightful article. The books only reinforce the notion that little girls and women have to work within a male-created paradigm rather than creating one of their own. Stereotyped characters as portrayed by Potter only serve as a negative reinforcement for the sexual stereotypes that are so prevalent in our society.

-- Lucy S.

I was so glad to read Schoefer's story on the sexism in the Harry Potter books. I've only read the first one, and though I enjoyed it very much I couldn't help wishing there were more female leads. I felt that as a female author and mother of a daughter it's a bit odd in this day and age her book would not include more girls or women that were powerful, brave and resourceful. I found myself cheering the character Hermione on and becoming disappointed when she would only get so close to realizing her true powers only to relinquish them to Harry or some other male character. I thought because I am the mother of daughters perhaps I'm a bit too sensitive to what I perceive as slights to our gender and I should just get on with enjoying the book like everybody else seems to be. Now I know I'm not alone.

-- Coral Love

Your writer asks why a female writer with a daughter at the end of the 20th century has such difficulty creating strong female characters. The answer is that J. K. Rowlings has pillaged so many male authors for her stories, from George Lucas to Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis, that she has imported the mores and philosophy along with the plots and imagery.

-- John McMahon

Forget Charlie Brown



Loved your hit piece on Charles Schulz. I'd always had a sense that he'd been recycling ideas for his daily comic strips. Way to call him; he's been coasting on his rep for too long.

Now, here's who you can go after next: Mister Rogers. That sweater and sneakers persona is just too lame to believe. And anybody that happy all the time must be on crack. While we're at PBS, let's smack Barney upside his purple ass. Face it, our kids can learn more about life from playing "Doom" and watching "World Wrestling Federation" than being "entertained" by a guy in a dinosaur suit.

And I'm sure your readers would enjoy an in-depth profile of that notorious right-wing crank, Dr. Seuss. Most people don't realize that "I do not like green eggs and ham" is actually code for "Hillary Clinton is the Antichrist."

Shame on you. If you need to fill your daily news hole, give us another indignant, breath-holding, foot-stamping piece on one of those GOP lawmakers you think are such insensitive creeps. Don't piss on an American icon.

-- Allen Taylor

I laughed when I read your article, but I must stick up for my dear friend Sparky (Schulz), because I have grown to appreciate his work more and more, the older we both got.

I think it's tragically reductive, albeit totally in step with the times, to mistake the Zen-like simplicity of "Peanuts" with infantilism or banality.

And as for the quality of his work, making fun of the repetition of his jokes is like saying Alexander Calder didn't do anything new after creating his first mobile, and so he should have moved on once he first figured out how to balance figures on wire and sticks, or that once Christ said, "Blessed are the meek," he should have shut up because the remainder of the Beatitudes were just a rehash of the same tired love, wisdom and compassion.

Of course it's fun to watch someone throw eggs at an icon. But that means you're really just egging that sentimentality in all of us.

-- Matthew Brandabur

While I can't help but agree with Dave Cullen in saying that the media has gone way overboard in praising Charles Schulz since he announced his retirement, his bile toward "Peanuts" is misguided. Schulz never claimed to be a revolutionary, a genius, or a source of unending originality. As he has stated in interviews, it was his sole wish in life to write a daily cartoon. He did just that.

Schulz was faced with the task of writing a new comic strip nearly every day for five decades. The fact that he repeated himself from time to time is nothing more than a reflection of the daunting nature of such an undertaking and the love that his readers had for those ideas. I challenge Dave Cullen to write 50 years worth of columns and not repeat his ideas.

-- Craig A. Calcaterra

Brain Drain



This is a very interesting article, but sort of sad. The author diagnoses the problem -- brain drain to America -- and then absolves India of having any part in its own salvation. Sure, it would be great if the United States could do something to curb its intellectual mercantilism, but it would be even better if Indian talent could be harnessed at home to address some of the country's intractable problems. Waiting for Bill Gates seems deliberately pointless.

Could this be slightly self-serving? Why is the author uninterested in returning to India, either in the flesh or in kind? I don't mean that to be accusing, just that the answer may well be more revealing and interesting than pointing the imperialist finger.

-- Sharon Burke

After reading Sarvate's article, one would think that American companies are literally kidnapping India's finest technical minds. The phrase "stealing brains from the third world" brings up images of Delta Force commandos raiding Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) graduation ceremonies and bringing planeloads of engineers straight to the hungry maw of Silicon Valley, where they are chained to desks and forced to design or die!

Yes, an exaggeration -- but not much more so than the article. What Sarvate sees as theft, I see as personal choice -- individuals seeking to make a better life for themselves and their families. If India can't keep its best and brightest, perhaps instead of taxing U.S. and European companies to support a nebulous initiative in "social thought," India needs to be more attractive to them so that they stay.

In the long term, it is true that India needs to build a resilient social and physical infrastructure, but the prerequisite for that is not social thought but wealth -- wealth that Indian emigrants are generating daily and which many of them reinvest in their homeland, and the knowledge that many of them bring back after their sojourn abroad.

Also, one should ask -- who do the engineers of India belong to? They don't belong to India or Intel; ultimately, they belong to themselves.

-- Randall Shane

By Salon Staff

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