Sex and the 'Harry Potter' movies: Does anyone want this?

Half-blood-prince_l With only a week and a half left until the long-delayed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince finally hits theaters, media outlets are jumping on every angle possible to cash in on Pottermania. Most recently, James Parker from The Atlantic examined the different approaches each Potter director has taken in adapting the books for the screen, which another Atlantic writer took to task in a blog on Tuesday.

Alyssa Rosenberg wrote that ''the problem of keeping the Harry Potter movies fresh as filmmakers tackle the later books and deal with their characters' development into sexually mature adults'' is because ''J.K. Rowling, for all that she's created a compelling universe, is really awful at writing about adult sexual and romantic relationships.''

Uh…wha? Last time I checked, the Harry Potter books were a children's series. Sure, the audience grew up as the characters aged, but this is not adult fiction. And I mean that in both respects of the term: The books aren't targeted toward adults, and they're not supposed to contain graphic descriptions of a sexual nature.

Rosenberg makes two main points. First, ''in Rowling's universe, everyone ends up with their first real love.'' Okay, well, this is a fantasy series. The hero defeats the villain in the end. Is there a problem with that, too? Second, Rowling never gives ''a single detailed description of any adult sexual relationship.'' What Rosenberg forgets is that although they're third person, these are fairy tales told from a teenager's perspective. Despite illusions to the contrary, teenagers don't actually have adult relationships. We're following 11- to 17-year-old Harry, not an older, wiser narrator. Rowling doesn't ever give a single detailed description of any adult relationship, sexual or otherwise, because teenage Harry wouldn't really pick up on the complexities of the Weasleys' marriage. Besides, do we want detailed scenes about what happens in those canopied Hogwarts beds? This is a book about wizards. If you want romance, look for a paperback with Fabio on the cover.

As for the films, why do they have to be sexy at all? It's not like people were clamoring for a Prince Caspian/Susan flirtation in the second Chronicles of Narnia movie. The fact that there is even a sex issue baffles me. Is it because a movie needs to have some form of sexual tension to sell tickets? (Tell that to box office smash Up.) Is it because the stars themselves are pretty foxy? (The producers must've let out a heaving sigh of relief when their cherubic young child stars grew into attractive young adults.) As far as I'm concerned, Rowling's glossing-over of the subject matter would have suited the movies just fine.

Why do you think the directors have sexed up the later Harry Potter movies? Are you fine with Rowling's interpretation of adult relationships in the Potterverse, or do you think the books should have gotten a little more complex? Are you baffled that the sex issue is actually an issue at all? Or do you think a more realistic depiction of teenage sexuality is necessary for the films to connect with audiences?

More Harry Potter:
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Will you reread it before the film's release?
New Harry Potter posters: Love! Jealousy! Betrayal!
Summer Movie Preview: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Jeff Jensen visits the Half-Blood Prince set
Harry Potter star Rupert Grint has sex, does drugs, and makes me hide under my desk


Comments (218 total) Add your comment
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  • sosist

    First love…wha? So Harry ended up with Cho, Ron with Fleur, and Hermione with Viktor? I think not. There’s quite enough “snogging” in the books to satisfy the preteen readers. No, we don’t want more sexual tension in the movies. They are ACTION movies for kids and adults. Harry’s decisions are all the more poignant because he’s not just pining for Ginny when things go bad, he’s also aware of his whole legacy of sacrifice from his parents, Dumbledore, and his friends. A healthy, “adult” relationship is situated in a larger network of family and friends, anyway. And that’s the nature of Harry getting over a first crush and ending up in the comforting arms of his best friend’s (talented and brave) sister. Also, did I miss something about Rupert Grint being either “cherubic” or growing up handsome. Uh…OK. The Atlantic writer is messed up.

  • Austin

    I agree with you about the perspective of the books making sex a non-issue. I haven’t really found the films that sexual, aside from the kisses, which, um, are in the books. So I don’t think the films are becoming more sexual as we go. Also, I doubt this one is, because it’s PG, and the last one was PG-13…can we talk about this rating change, actually? I find it more interesting.

  • Beverley

    I think it shows how downhill society is going when there is an expectation of sex in a books series for children and teens. They already grow up too fast, we don’t need to push them to go faster.
    There should absolutely NOT be anything more than a kissing scene because that is the level the target audience understands. People who like each other kiss. If there was getting naked and rubbing on each other, my son wouldn’t know how to process that, but kissing he gets.

  • Julie

    That’s what fanfiction is for.

  • A.R.

    I don’t think the films have gotten more sexual. They’ve evolved with the books, including flirtation and kisses between characters. I would feel weird reading or watching sex in a Harry Potter – it simply doesn’t fit. Sex is a non-issue, as it should be.

  • jen

    I agree that it’s a very sad commentary on our society that sex is required to make the movie good. It alienates the target audience and deviates from the books. Teenage sex is a fact, but that isn’t what was written and correct me if I’m wrong here, but weren’t the books HUGE best sellers without sex? Looks to me that the audience, both children & adults, didn’t need or miss the “adult sexual relationships” to enjoy the series.

  • LLM5326

    Since there was no sex in the book, it would be ridiculous to add it the movies! It is a children’s series. Yes, it grew with its audience, but there is no reason to throw sex in just for entertainment value. Keep the integrity of the series intact.

  • Jenks

    Wow. There is so much wrong with Rosenberg’s comments I don’t know where to start. Someone who writes for the Atlantic really should be more culturally aware (how has the premise and target audience of these books escaped any literate person on the planet) and a whole lot more familiar with the books she’s writing about (regarding everyone ending up with first loves; great recap on that one, sosist). The whole idea that Rowling should have explored adult relationships in a children’s series is so stupid it’s hard to wrap my mind around it.

  • kar

    I agree that the context is there. Especially in the sixth book when the protagonist finally gets a real girlfriend. However, romances even if they’re just puppy love are a part of children’s books and YA fiction, which HP basically evolved into over the series.
    Perhaps that’s her issue.

  • Sarah

    I think there’s a reason the HP books take place in an alternate universe… Plus, I would not want to watch Rupert Grint having sex in HP, he is MY MAN!!!! Jk.

  • James

    To those who want more sex in the Harry Potter movies —- GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE TOILET. Kids don’t need this. We didn’t have it when I grew up and we turned out okay.Let us return to those days and maybe we can raqise a new generation of kids who respect others and obey the law.

  • Martha

    Complaining that there are no adult sexual relationships in children/young adult fantasy fiction is like whining about the lack of gourmet meals on a camping trip. You know what you’re getting into from the beginning, so why expect something else? Parker is trying to create controversy where none exists.

    • lisa Strickler

      I agree that JK has just enough romance to balance out her audiance. Anyone who has read the entire series realizes that the last book would raise many a parental eyebrow with the cirmcumstances the three main characters place themselves in. The fact that there is nothing sexual involved is refreshing and may help teenagers deal better with the pressure of what they feel is expected in a teen relationship – not an adult relationship.

  • Martha

    (And by the way, I hated the Susan/Caspian romance in the second Narnia film. It wasn’t in the book and added *nothing* to the movie.)

  • Adam

    This is targeted for kids. Do you think we want the message of Wizards getting all the ladies. No! Someone please think of the children.
    Wizards having sex = hell!
    Harry, keep your wand to together.
    http://tvdonewright.com/2009/07/02/tv-tonight-friday-july-3rd-2009/

  • primaballerina5

    1) i dont understand why this is even an issue
    2) if you’ve read the actual HPB book youd know that theres enough realistic teenage romantic akwardness to last a lifetime, and im sure that they didnt have to add much more to the film.
    3)umm last time i checked… harry was kinda busy saving the world
    4)first and foremost, this series is aimed for children, but read by pretty much everyone else also. You wouldnt want your 8 yr old reading about mr and mrs weasly in the sack or anyone else for that matter, would you?

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