A while back, I got to meet one of my dad’s work friends, and he asked me what I had in mind as per the whole “life” thing. I told him I had the writing equivalent of “hoop dreams” -- though not in those words, because that would require me to be witty on the spot. In any case, the conversation ended up shifting to J.K. Rowling and the mind-crunchingly famous Harry Potter series -- which he didn’t think was all that great.
Not being a devoted, diehard Potter fan, I can’t say his opinion filled me with rage. It caught me off guard, sure, but I understood what he meant. Failing to do so would bring me closer to believing that the canon is perfect, which -- as you know -- is impossible so long as it fails to focus on Sir Neville M.F, Longbottom. But for what it’s worth, I think that overall, the Potterverse has its fair share of juice. It wouldn’t have become a cultural tour de force if it wasn’t. Although considering what other book series also became a tour de force, that might not have the hallowed status it once did.
But enough about that. Let’s talk Potter.
No matter your feelings on the series, I think it’s safe to say that it’s had a huge impact on the world -- on fiction, on fans, and more. At once personal and large in scope, the seven-year journey of the scar-saddled boy wizard took plenty of readers through a magical world full of mystery, danger, and wonder. The battle between good and evil -- some doofus regularly locked under a staircase versus a snake-obsessed warlock with an evil army -- may have come and gone, but there’s still a whole lot to remember about The Boy Who Lived and his wild adventures.
Oh, and it got like eight movies, too. So that helps…even if I’d argue that it only needed seven, but whatever.
As you can guess, I have some fond memories of the canon. I’ve read all the books, even if it’s been a long time since (though to my credit, I’ve got a couple of them nestled barely a foot away from my bed). Put simply, I liked what Rowling was selling -- and still do, most likely. The story evolved the further it went, at once keeping familiar elements and shifting to reach a definitive conclusion, with all the twists and turns you’d expect. And damned if there wasn’t a verifiable army of memorable characters. I’ve got a soft spot for Sir Neville, but the canon deserves some serious props for introducing Hermione, who absolutely ran shit pretty much from day one. I’d bet that she could have taken down Voldemort if she wanted to, but decided to let Harry have a shot. Such courtesy.
That all said, I don’t have ANY problems acknowledging the faults of the canon. They’ve seen enough exposure to have been pointed out excessively (CinemaSins may argue that “the books don’t matter”, but I have my doubts that even the books could offer up an answer). I remember how frustrated I was at the end of The Chamber of Secrets, knowing that Harry couldn’t pull off a win without a timely assist -- and how that trend continued throughout virtually every final fight. If you think about some of the world-building elements for too long, then it threatens to unravel the whole damn series. I suspect that the power dynamics between the kids and adults is off-balance; the former may very well be at the mercy of the latter. And I’m starting to wonder if Harry was that interesting of a character to begin with, or if he was interesting by way of being next to interesting things and people. (Though if there’s one thing I remember about him, it’s how much he went into RAGING CAPS LOCK MODE in the fifth book.)
Still, those are complaints that I mostly have long after the series’ completion. That is to say, the series offered up enough to make me overlook its flaws -- as any good story should. I got swept up in the madness, and followed along at the Potterverse’s pace rather than try to pick it apart. Granted I probably wasn’t being as critical back then as I am now, but I’m not in much of a mood to reread four thousand pages just to confirm the quality (or lack thereof). Besides, in a lot of ways it goes beyond just “how good” Harry Potter is.
Past or present, the series captured the hearts and minds of the people. It showed us the power of the written word, and the potential of a good story. For men and women, elders and children around the world, it made magic real -- if only for a moment. And that ability to be idealized -- to be something more than “just a story” -- is important. It can and will inspire people to see the world in a different light. Maybe convince them that, hey, maybe there’s more than one way to look at things. Or maybe they, too, can make a change with one good story.
But I could be projecting here.
So I think I’d better turn it over before I get too ahead of myself here. The question’s well at hand, people: how good is Harry Potter, really? Is it something special? Is it overrated? Is it high-quality, or low? Has it helped us out, or set a lot of bad precedents? Does it mean something to you, or make you want to leap headfirst into the Whomping Willow?
Got an opinion? Tired of references? Then work your magic. Ready? Set…comment!
All right, I’m out. I’ve got magical stories of my own to work on -- only mine, as you’d expect, feature more wrestling and ghost-punching. Also dimensional anomalies. Also some metal-ass headless horsemen. Also the struggle against futility and the veil of despair plaguing the better part of a cultural zeitgeist, the likes of which may or may not be beatable despite the best efforts of a squadron of superpowered city-dwellers largely due to the fact that they themselves are wracked with psychological traumas threatening to corrupt them inside and out.
Hey, is it just me, or did Rowling really get a lot of mileage out of the word “indignant”? Then again, I’m one to talk. I’ve got a crapload of literary vices.
On the other hand, I wrote a scene where a giant is on the receiving end of a giant swing, so it all evens out.