I write this as a former member. I was obsessed in elementary school. I was obsessed in junior high, though I have to admit by that time I was starting to see it as less of a piece for enjoyment and more as a vehicle for interaction with girls I wanted to date. I liked it in high school, but by now I didn’t openly profess my once staunch support. I reserved my member’s card for close friends and those who had already passed my screening, who I knew wouldn’t scorn me for liking something that wasn’t a car, a video game, a drug, a liquor bottle, or a woman’s bare body. I reacquainted myself with my enjoyment when I got to college, because college is the time to embrace all those pastimes you’ve previously hid out of insecurity.
Now, I don’t know. I think I like it, at least I like parts of it. But if I’m being honest my relationship with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise has cooled significantly from when my mom first walked into Barnes and Noble with a purpose in her step to locate the book she’d heard about, the book she seemed positive I would love. I don’t exactly know why. Rowling’s creation has certainly provided me hours of entertainment and plenty of opportunities to forge friendships and pass the time in the company of like minded people, be it playing Hogwarts on the playground in elementary school, banding together with friends in high school to wait in line for hours to see the midnight premiere of the latest in the movie series, or curling up on the couch with a significant other to binge a Harry Potter weekend on
ABC Family Freeform.
But for all that positivity, there is so much animosity and I think fear. I don’t like cults, so I don’t like those among our fandom who have made the books their religion, who have forged their identity around a work of fiction and who operate in synchronized groupthink. I also don’t like those who have projected their wishes for the characters onto the characters. I don’t subscribe to the notion that if, IF, (IF dammit) Harry were real he would say, believe, or do ____. I don’t subscribe to it because Harry Potter is a character of fiction. One can say Harry Potter would have banded up with Hitler just as easy as one can say Harry would have killed Bin Laden because the possibility of those occurring is simultaneously 0 and 100%. All it takes after all is for someone to either write “Harry Potter and the SS band of Dumbledore’s Army,” or “Harry Potter and the night he dropped in with SEAL Team Six.” Both would be equally true and untrue, because both deal exclusively in the realm of fiction. Finally, I can’t as both an English major and insatiable reader reconcile the argument that Harry Potter is some profound piece of literary craftsmanship, that it’s the peak of the English language and is perfectly acceptable as being the penultimate of a person’s reading accomplishment. I mean for God’s sake have any of y’all actually read any other books? Like any?
So maybe that’s why my relationship with Harry Potter has not been pleasant in recent years. I’ve had to listen to far too many people insist that Harry, Dumbledore, or whoever the hell ever would never stand for (insert policy a politician they disagree with is proposing) and thus if it’s no good for The Boy Who Lived then it’s no good for us Muggles either. Or, I’ve read reader after reader gush over Rowling’s confirmations that, yes, the Muggles are a euphemism for undocumented immigrants or that yes, good job, you discovered the clues and correctly surmised that Hagrid was gay. Imagine thinking Rowling’s saying these things because she actually planted hundreds of cues throughout the books and not because her creation is valued into the billions and she wants to keep her consumer base happy. Or, and I think this one might get to me the most, I’ve had people actually insist a collection of books that at their peak read around I would guess a fifth grade level are the masterpieces of fiction and exceed the actually proven and earned classics. I mean good Lord people Harry Potter isn’t even J.K. Rowling’s best work. Go read The Casual Vacancy or any of her crime fiction.
At the end of the day however I think my problem with HP boils down to it transcending the fictional realm. It’s all well and good to enjoy something. It’s all well and good to postulate and pretend what could be and what might have been, or to don glasses and lightning scars. But when we actually start treating the books as more than books, when we try to theocratically govern our lives according to the gospel of Potter, that’s when my Jonestown hackles get raised and I start worrying I’m going to be sacrificed to the basilisk by a bunch of maniacs outside Universal Studios. At the end of the day there is no Dumbledore’s Army, there’s no spell to resolve whatever is bothering you, and as bad as you think your situation is there will never be an owl waiting outside your window to whisk you away from all your present problems. Harry Potter is a successful, enjoyable work of fiction, but it’s just that, fiction. I wish more Potterheads would try to remember that.
If you liked what you read feel free to leave a little something here. Besides keeping my dog in luxury it’ll boost my self esteem and help me decide if I want to make a run at this