Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is Harry Potter Steam Punk?

I took the kids to see the latest Harry Potter film last night and I came away wondering if HP was Steam Punk.

They ride to school on a steam train!

They attend boarding school in a castle filled with tradition.

Where they learn latin for their spells.

Have you seen their uniforms?

The society is very stratified. The lowest of the low are the Muggles, anyone with magic is above them, and within the magic society there are the pure-bloods, the half-bloods and the muggle-born.

Hogwarts school is filled with fascinating and arcane magical machines and devices.

If all of these aren't elements of Steam Punk, what am I missing?


Felicity said...

Huh. Never thought of that, but you definitely have a point. Even the colour scheme is (usually) steampunk. It'd be great if there were some evil robots, whirring clogs, and constant clanking in the background - but I guess you can't have everything.

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Rowena Cory Daniells said...

I think they do a great job with set design in the HP movies. But story and character are what linger in my mind when I finish a book or see a movie.

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David Cake said...

I don't think so, myself. All of those are associated with steampunk, but none of them are the defining element of steampunk, which is the retro-futurism, 'way the future used to be' technology.

Rather, HP and steampunk both have the same roots -- UK colonial era fiction, in HPs case that whole genre of school stories.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

David, I love Retro-futures. I've called them called Antique Futures, too.

I see what you're getting at. Divergent time line.

Also agree on the school story angle. The a familiarity makes HP a comfort read, a bit like Enid Blyton's famous Five, solving mysteries but with the added element of magical danger!

Flinthart said...

I agree with Mr Gateau on this one... HP is more a 'secret history' than Steampunk, despite the shared tropes.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

A secret history -- good call, Dirk.

KylieQ said...

But there are no goggles or corsets!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Have you tried doing anything, let alone fighting demons in corsets????

Flinthart said...

Demons in corsets are less common than you might imagine. Most of the demons I've fought have been more of the loincloth or even 'hideously flapping genitalia' variety. Frankly, I'd probably be quite pleased to see a demon in a corset. Maybe.

jeremygbyrne said...

I had the same thought, but I've decided that in most ways it's actually anti-Steampunk. The design may be superficially "old fashioned", but everywhere anachronistic technology could have been used, magic is used instead—even in cases where the analogy would seem natural such as memory retrieval, or something as aesthetically Steampunk as Mad-Eye Moody's monocle.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Jeremy, couldn't you argue that the 'Transference Chest' in the latest Harry Potter is a form of Steam Punk. Instead of using steam energy, it used magic energy.

Bearing in mind David Cake's point that Steam Punk arises from a divergent time line, I'm suggesting that HP uses quaint, apparently antiquated machinery that is powered my magical energy, so it is a variation of Steam Punk.

Magic Punk, maybe? But where are the nose rings and nipple piercings?

Dirk, take off that corset and stop annoying that demon!

Carol Ryles said...

I agree that HP has a nice assortment of steam and gadgets. You could even argue that the magic is a reflection of early Victorian society where the occult still held sway alongside the newly emerging discipline of science. Harry, therefore, lives in an alternative reality where magic is real instead of imagined. However, I'm not sure if HP and gang are punky enough. They are in trouble a lot with the establishment, but they have pretty much the same goals as Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic and don't make a point of reacting against them like punks would. Hermione's and Harry's muggle ancestry has the potential to set them aside as punks but it's not the establishment that hates them for it, it's the bad guys.

Carol Ryles said...

Having said all of the above, I realise that HP treats magic like some steampunk treats its fantastic machinery: both fears and reveres it. However, Fantasy does that to magic as well. Better stop...I think I'm rewriting my thesis here :)

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

LOL, Carol.

You're right, Harry and his gang are too much on the side of the establishment. Where is their revolutionary spirit? Mind you, they do have a real threat to combat.

In Thatcher's Britain the Punks only had a sense of displacement and disempowerment and so were revolting against the establishment in general.

People are much happier (in one sense) during a war. There is a common enemy, a sense of belonging and being united against the threat. People I've spoken with who lived through the last war as adults in the UK said that was what they missed after the war ended.

Nina Tabbal said...

"The society is very stratified. The lowest of the low are the Muggles, anyone with magic is above them"

Excuse me, Voldemort???

Nina Tabbal said...

but you¿re right, Harry Potter is really steampunk. The hogwarts express, mad eye's eye. The uniforms, Weasley's house looks like those flyin houses, Sirius' motocycle is really punk, Sirius himself is punk as fck