Before I Take the Plunge, What’s My Beef with Harry (Potter)?
As I revealed in a previous post, I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and make a concerted effort to read the Harry Potter series. But what has taken me so long? What’s my (having not read it) beef with Harry Potter?
For one thing, I take pride in the fact that I’m above such popularity. Harry Potter is so popular that to not read (or watch) it is to have a certain cool factor. Yes, it is quite stupid. Especially if I do like Bleach and Naruto (which also have their issues with being “too” popular).
While I have avoided Potter in part due to its popularity (and Rowling’s attitude towards fantasy), that doesn’t mean that I don’t have set impressions of the series going in that will give me headaches as I finally read the books for myself.
The first problem I have with the series is the tone of the narrator. Yes, I have read the first two or three chapters of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. To me, the narrator is just too condescending. It feels like the narrator is talking down to the reader. And I find it personally infuriating, even if the work is written for kids. (This is, honestly, my big problem with Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. My word, the narrator’s tone is horrid).
And yes, never jump into a book series with the middle book. Even with spoilers, you have no idea what’s going on.
Now, lets look at a few plot elements, narrative streams, etc. that I’ve read from various sources that I’m worried about:
The abuse that Harry receives while being raised by the Dursleys is a huge source of anticipatory annoyance. I get that Rowling is writing in a specific narrative tradition- the oppressed orphan who makes good. But most of those narratives were written before the effects of abuse became widely known.
Harry, to my mind, does not act as an abused kid would. Unless you count his hero complex and (justifiable) distrust of (some) adults. But what gets into my craw is that it is so obvious that Harry is abused. And no one does anything about it. Seriously, no teacher, no neighbor ever questioned, ever called the British equivalent of Child Protective Services?
This leads into my second issue. Even as a theme of Harry Potter is tolerance, the series itself is not overly tolerant towards mundane humans. Muggle is as much a “n,” “f,” or “w” word as “mudblood” is in the context of the series. But there are no sustained positive depictions of ordinary humans. There are only the monstrous Dursleys. And, returning to the abuse, people aren’t that stupid or blind. Unless there is a spell involved.
While I’m at it, I’m not entirely too sure about the depiction of muggleborns. There are only two muggleborn characters of any consequence: Hermione Granger and Lily Evans. And one of them is dead. So, isn’t Hermione little more than a well written token?
And speaking of diversity, while Rowling does a fine job of including a diverse cast of characters, why couldn’t she include LGBT characters in text? No, Dumbledore does not count because he is outed outside of the narrative. Couldn’t Colin Creevey have had a crush on Harry? Or something?
And, of course, there is the blanket black washing of Slytherins into a bigot’s paradise. Yes, this is told from Harry’s point of view, but could there not have been a moment where a Slytherin classmate of Harry’s calls him out on Harry’s own bigotry? Maybe Theodore Nott or one of the little mentioned Slytherin girls?
Furthermore, what the hell is up with dark wizards? I know the scope of the series is relatively limited, but I just do not understand why being a dark wizard is equated with being a pureblood bigot. Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if Riddle cynically used pureblood bigotry for his own ends. But still, what would a dark muggleborn wizard look like? What about one on the level of Riddle or Dumbledore?
Speaking of Dumbledore, I seriously have issues with his relationship with Harry. Namely, there should have been a precision f bomb launched at the old geezer by Harry. Did Harry really have a choice, or is Dumbledore’s manipulations far more monstrous than is popularly supposed? (If you’ve read my criticism of Naruto, you’ll see a pattern. I don’t get why Naruto is so loyal to Konoha, either)
I am going to reserve judgement on Snape until I actually read the series. Personally, I get the impression that, much like the Dursleys, Snape is an unpunished monster. The Dursleys get away with abusing Harry. And Snape gets away with abusing at least three fourths of his students. Seriously, his value as a spy cannot be greater than the emotional scarring that he inflicts on hundreds, if not thousands, of pupils.
Well, no matter how my reading of Harry Potter goes, I feel that there will be a series of posts discussing my thoughts on the books.
(And, clearly, in reading over this post, I think I’m revealing bits of running interests and themes. If I were to write something influenced by Harry Potter and Naruto, there would be a significant amount of rebelliousness on the part of my young hero(ine).