I started this blog to express my love for reading, and part of that means I want to talk about my favorite books and authors and genres. Its appropriate for my first Friday Favorites post to be about Harry Potter, because Harry Potter is more than just my favorite book series. For a good portion of my childhood and teen years, Harry Potter was a lifeline.
I got my first Harry Potter book in 1998, just weeks before my 8th birthday. I grew up with Harry. I attended my first super awkward middle school dance the year that Goblet of Fire came out. I had my first serious boyfriend at the same time Harry was stumbling about in confusion with Cho Chang in Order of the Phoenix. I lost someone very important to my life, and found an outlet for that grief with Half-Blood Prince.
For so very long, Harry Potter was the very definition of brilliant, beautiful writing: a world filled with awe and magic, characters bursting with life, tightly written plot that grew more intricate with every book. I aspired to be the sort of writer that JK Rowling was, amazed at her skill at weaving in foreshadowing that went unnoticed until your second, third, fourth read through, and constantly astounded by her ability to pull everything together in ways I’d never imagined, tying things from the earlier books into later ones and seeming to never lose track of the details. I thought JK could do no wrong.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Its been almost a decade since Deathly Hallows was published, and as an adult I can see so many faults and flaws in a series that I more than adored as a child. I’ve found myself disappointed and let down in the things that JK Rowling has publicly stated in those years, the things she has put up on Pottermore, the comments she has made in interviewers and to fans on Twitter.
Tomorrow, I plan to make the two-hour trip to Barnes and Noble so I can attend the midnight release party for Cursed Child. I’m excited, and nostalgic. But, I’m also weary. In November, the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts becomes available. Again, I’m weary. If Cursed Child turns out to be a terrible letdown, will I even want to buy Fantastic Beasts? Will I want to see the movie? Will these new additions to the fantastical world I was introduced to at seven-year-old take the magic and wonder out of the series for me?
I hope not, but its a worry.
Already, as an adult I find it incredibly difficult to read the earlier Harry Potter books without becoming angry. I find that its impossible for me to regard Albus Dumbledore as the mentor and good man JK Rowling wants us to think of him as. It has nothing to do with what Deathly Hallows revealed about his past, either. It has to do with his decision to leave Harry, year after year, in an abusive household. His disregard for the safety of the children in the school he is Headmaster of. For his lack of action that resulted in Voldemort’s rise to power in the first place. I can’t see him as a good person; his behavior is manipulative and upsetting in ways that are glaringly obvious to me as an adult, but that I was blind to as a child.
I can’t consider Severus Snape to be a good, or even gray, character, either. As I grow older and become more aware of rape culture and its prevalence in our culture, its obvious that Severus might have had feelings for Lily but that he had no respect for what her feelings might be. Worse, is that JK Rowling herself sees Severus’ pining for Lily Potter to be romantic, and yet she chastised young fans on Twitter for considering Draco to be a romantic figure (reminder: Draco Malfoy was, at most, a boy of seventeen that was in over his head and trying to protect his family as best he could, a boy that didn’t choose to be a Death Eater and was a spectacularly bad one at that, and a boy that could have handed Harry over to Bellatrix in the last book but chose not to. Sorry, I have a lot of feelings about Draco Malfoy). Also, it dawned on me during a re-read of the books about a year ago that Neville was likely present at the time that his parents were cursed into insanity, and had been effected by the dementors almost as badly as Harry himself was, and yet his boggart was still Severus Snape, because Snape took so much pleasure in ridiculing and humiliating per-pubescent boy.
All of this aside, I was most troubled by JK’s recent posts on Pottermore about the American wizarding school and its houses. Not only is it basically impossible for all of North America to share one wizarding school, but the way she stole from Native American culture and yet still had the school founded by white Europeans was disgusting and blatantly racist. I worry for similar things to pop up in these new screenplays that are coming out this year.
One of the downsides of growing up, is you begin to see your heroes as real people. People that are flawed, that make mistakes, that let you down. As such, I no longer see JK as a perfect writer who can do no wrong.
What this post boils down to is this: the Harry Potter universe is something that is still quite precious to me and, ultimately, I fear that as I grow up and the fandom grows with me, that we’ll lose our ability to believe. That Harry Potter will lose its magic.
And I never want that to happen.