By Daniel Kelly
Harry Potter is a wonderful series. They’re beautifully written books with fascinating characters and rich, deeply developed worlds. They’re precision-aimed at their audience and masterfully combine intricate human drama with captivating high fantasy.
The films are also very watchable. They’re usually well-directed, have fantastic soundtracks, wonderful visuals and (with the obvious exception of Emma Watson) a stellar cast.
Rowling might be a one-trick mule but it’s a trick worth 800 million pounds and the power of eternal retweets.
So why is the title of this SCAB obnoxious clickbait?
Because the Harry Potter character (gotcha) is by far the weakest aspect of the Harry Potter series. I’m not talking about Daniel Radcliffe. He’s a decent actor who did a commendable job making a boring character seem more interesting. I’m talking about Rowling’s little bowl-cut twink who is defined less by his personality and more by his John Lennon specs and his goofy lightning bolt scar.
I understand why bland placeholder protagonists are a popular trope of teenage escapist fantasy. Your Twilights, your Hunger Games, and your 50 Shades all share these interchangeable faceless everymen.
I think Rowling understands the fact that people want to place themselves in a leading role and apparently by having depth or flaws you can alienate your audience. Perhaps its wrong to judge a book of this genre so harshly in the realm of character development but many consider HP books to be masterpieces on par with Lord of the Flies or Chronicles of Narnia so for the purposes of this bitter, bitter rant I’m going to try to hold it to that standard.
Also: Rowling is great at creating layered, developed, flawed likable heroes. Hermione is socially-awkward but hyper-intelligent. Ron is funny and appears to act cowardly but is really brave. Harry has glasses.
Why is Harry Potter like Jesus? He meets people from the Wizarding World and they’re in awe of him because when he was a baby an evil sorcerer died in his immediate vicinity. If I was a baby in 1939 and I had a shit on the floor and Adolf Hitler slipped on it and broke his neck, I don’t think I’d be winning any Nobel peace prizes. Are magic people dumb? Perhaps this is the result of an education system which doesn’t value core subjects like Maths or Science.
Actually what’s happening here is Rowling is offering the readers the classic fantasy of spontaneous fame and adoration without any of the hard work that these accolades entail. Maybe this is ironic given her success is due to pure grind or maybe that’s what she was hoping for when she was writing the Philosopher’s Stone on napkins.
Things just work out for Harry all the time without him really doing anything. In the Philosopher’s Stone, he becomes the only ever first-year on the Quidditch team for the most spurious of reasons. Later he sees (oh spoiler) Voldemort and finds this wizard who is so terrifying and evil people can’t even speak his name can’t actually touch Harry’s skin because he’ll burn to death. What a relief! People complain all the time about how Voldemort is a boring villain but for me, Harry is even less interesting.
The things which are designed to make Harry interesting are also forced and circumstantial. Dumbledore’s dubious decision to place Harry with an abusive foster family does not result in a hardened or weakened character who finds the courage or has his façade peeled away through magic and new relationships. He just turns out to be a sound lad who manages to save Hogwarts every year usually around summer. The mirror, Hagrid, his mates and girlfriends, the pensieve, Dumbledore’s army or any of the plot devices seemingly designed to serve Harry’s character arc don’t (in my opinion (this is all my opinion friends)) seem to affect it at all. He just starts out as a sound lad and ends up as a sound lad.
I apologize for giving you a SCAB that doesn’t really have a point. But these concerns are at the forefront of my mind this week and I just had to share my reflections so you know where I stand on the Harry Potter character as a whole. Maybe you can glean some advertising wisdom here. Who knows.
Please take me aside and educate me if you feel I’ve been unfair. I’m sure I’m not as versed in Harry Pottery as some of you.