I pretty much can’t stand people who put so much stock in being right about everything that they gotta knock down some kid’s sand castle and lecture the kid who was building it about how, ACTUALLY, sand castles aren’t structurally sound places to live and would have never passed code on inspection, and furthermore any idiot knows you can’t build a real castle with a shovel, so stop wasting your time and go get a degree in mathematics already!
That’s how I see the MoR series. Some flawed AI bot once read about fun in a children’s story and didn’t like it very much, and took it upon himself to deconstruct that story by writing an insipid cardboard cutout version of himself and sending it around inside the story to sneer at everything that isn’t scientifically accurate and gloat about how it doesn’t measure up to his walls of text about human nature and those rapey brown countries who weren’t descended from the Enlightenment.
And oh my god, the cheesy, shoddily written dialogue!
STRAWMAN!PROFESSOR: Magic spalz are done liek this ok wach and lurn *does magic, which violates all natural law*
AWESOME!SCIENCE!HARRY: Yes, well, I’m afraid I must disagree with you on your methodology, and in fact your entire worldview, as, in my opinion as an eleven-year-old boy, the very notion of waving a stick of wood around and spontaneously generating observable physical effects therefrom is utterly preposterous. I’ve studied all the spellbooks and none of the Latin used for the basic incantations is correct—although I’m sure someone like you wouldn’t be able to comprehend that, would you? *politely scoffs* And my goodness, I believe I can safely theorize, utilizing Muggle Osmicus Bublbat’s fourth dissertation on the dissipation of particulate odors and my own thorough studies of the olfactory processes of a standard eleven-year-old boy wizard, that you have had an accident within your robes. *politely smirks* This is, naturally, what comes of living an irrational life. Look at yourself, and your choices, aren’t they inferior to the way I live? You know, any God that created a world like this, where magic and “fun” are perceived as something less dangerous than a theist lie to be toppled and overthrown is a flawed God, and probably female, as well. *polite chuckle* I would despise and overthrow such a God on principle, were she to exist, and show her the error of her ways. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t anyone?
STRAWMAN!PROFESSOR: I… never seed it that way! I so confuse! Science… good?
AWESOME!SCIENCE!HARRY: *polite smile* Oh, naturally you would agree with me without having the slightest comprehension of the sentiments I’ve just expressed. It’s human nature for weaker and emotionally permeable lesser intellects to sense the existence of a superior mind and philosophy, even if he is only the tender age of eleven, as I am, and flock to his defense. Yes, friend, yes, science good. *polite chuckle* Do try to embrace it!
STRAWMAN!PROFESSOR: U teech mai class smartboy?
AWESOME!SCIENCE!HARRY: No, sir, I am afraid that’s not possible. I am, after all, merely a eleven-year-old child who knows a few small things and is only too happy to make this school and all the experiences found within more relatable for those of us who are too smart and too rational to foolishly tumble into the pit trap of “fun”. My name is Harry Potter, and I am an atheist. Now go and shower, Professor, and please use soap this time when you wash the feces from your buttocks!
DRACO MALFOY: Rape rape rape.
AWESOME!SCIENCE!HARRY: *sigh* Malfoy, when will you learn that it’s enough to merely humiliate one’s inferiors with words?
it’s like watching someone masturbate.
It’s not so much knocking down the sandcastle, as wanting to be able to play with it in a different way. Seeing the world be like, “Look, magic!,” some people react by being like “Magic? Wheeeeee! Explosions and poofings and unicorns!” And that’s fine, it’s awesome, but some other people are more like, “Magic? Wait how’s it work?” and part of the “Wheeeeee!” has to involve “DO SCIENCE TO IT! YAY!” or it feels unfulfillng.
And it shouldn’t have to mean destroying the magic or the world or being shitty to the characters, if you want to stop and say, “Wait, where does the rest of her go when she’s being a cat? Is her mind the same?” or “But WHY does the unicorn have silver blood? How does it work?” or “Wait, go back and tell me more about garden gnomes. Are they a kind of primate like us? Are they like weirdly bipedal gophers? Are they actually walking potatoes that bite?” The reward for me wasn’t watching the protagonist get away with being a such massive little shithead. In the case of what I (used to) enjoy about MoR, Harry initially just becomes a vessel for transporting Science to Hogwarts, because we want to play with how and why it works.
I’ll say now, I’m actually pretty much in your camp about it at this point- I tolerated the gross stuff at first because I found enough other to be clever and engaging and fun, but… it started to become clearer and clearer that the schoolfeeding I kept expecting to happen to Harry, the one about respecting other people and not manipulating them and not throwing tantrums every time someone won’t admit that you are obviously RIGHT- was never going to happen.
And then the author fridged Hermione. He did it in a massively brutal, vivid, violent scene. We watched her bleed to death. We watched her end. And it was because the author believed he needed to make a point about death being bad. He apparently thought that people who held a philosophical position that death is not necessarily a bad thing, or is inevitable or maybe even necessary, had simply not yet been hurt enough by death to realize it was bad. So he set out to hurt his readers, such that they would agree with him.
I’ve struggled with suicidal ideation since about third grade. I know that there is a difference between mental illness and a philosophical acceptance of the phenomenon of death. I know that mental illness and abuse and rape are not just things that happen far off to other people, like irrationality and being wrong.
A few weeks before I read that chapter, my dog died. I watched it happen. She died in my arms, of something that I should have been able to prevent.
This is really hard for me to write. I don’t want to be like, “Owh maw GERDH, he TRIGGERED ME, how DARE!!!1!!” I know he was not responsible for the fact that I read that chapter at a time when I was psychiatrically vulnerable. But it bothered me, and I wanted to discuss it. So I started composing a response. And then realized I couldn’t do it, because, in wanting to explain to him that, no, I actually know what death means- I kept flashing back to her. How she was gone, and she was never coming back, and there was nothing I could do. My dog, not Hermione. I wanted to explain to him that it wasn’t because I didn’t hurt enough that I disagreed to him, and that hurting people more with the simulated death of a character they loved… wasn’t going to change their minds, because contrary to what he knows in his heart, people aren’t actually completely fucking stupid. But I realized I couldn’t get any of it down, because I was crying so hard my eyes were swelling shut and my throat and sides were aching.
I ended up driving in that state, because my anxiety meds were in a house across town. I probably shouldn’t have. I take responsibility for that- it was a shitty thing to do, I should have called someone else, I could have hurt someone, I’m really glad I didn’t. I just… found it kind of ironic that something that was designed to convince me that Death is Bad ended up inspiring me to take action that might have killed someone. Not saying that to be like “YOUUUUUUUUU! BAD AUTHOR FOR TRIGR MEH!” or that it’s anyone’s fault other than mine. Just that it was kind of an illustration of the author’s strategy backfiring, in my particular case.
Also, I realized that it was grounds for anyone with his value set to dismiss pretty much everything I might ever have to say, Because Irrational.
I am kicking myself so hard for letting myself get suckered in, for ignoring the warning signs because whee i wanted to ask those questions too, for not realizing how toxic it was when I let the first few gross things slide. For flipping so thoroughly the fuck out over a fucking Harry Potter fanfic. … and a dash of what looked a lot like PTSD symptoms, OK. … which BTW you can’t cure with rationality, contrary to what the fic itself heavily implies.
Anyway now I can’t think of the thing any more without getting violently ticked off and also flashbacks. Uh… sorry, this response was not supposed to be this long.
Man, that is fucking rough :( i’m so sorry that you went through that.
I think the line between “this series left so much unsaid/bungled it/didn’t do it justice, and now I want to deconstruct it/fix it/try new shit in that universe” and what the Methods of Rationality attempts to do to HP’s sandcastle boils down to a single word: contempt.
There’s no love or even hate for Harry Potter in this fanfic. I feel like it could have been fanfic for any fantasy series, with the same neverending babbling from the same self insert that passes for “Harry”, with very little changing except the backdrop before which the hand puppets do their jousting. The story is so impersonal and hostile toward the specific characters, setting, and spirit of the HP series that I can only assume he picked it instead of, say, the Circle of Magic books, because HP is massively popular and fandom attention is guaranteed.
Also ‘cause Harry is a guy protagonist and that makes the self-insertion thing less weird and icky.