Thursday, September 12, 2013

Reasons Why I'm Not a Fan of Harry Potter

Back when I was in 7th grade, a girl in my class came up to me and said, "Have you tried reading Harry Potter yet?  It's really good."  Being an avid reader, I was always willing to try new books.  So, I read it.

At the time, there were only three Harry Potter books written.  At first, I really enjoyed Harry Potter.  The books are well-written, the story line is fun and exciting, and the setting was foreign.  (Which is probably because its based off of the British school system.)  Though the idea of a magical school for children wasn't really original (Tamora Pierce had already written about quite a few, as had some other authors I was reading at the time), I was a fan of those kind of books and enjoyed them.  I really liked Harry too.  He was a good hero character.

When the fourth book came out, I read it as fast as my hands could get a hold of it.  It took me a day to finish it.  I liked that book too.  However, I began to see a pattern in Rowlings books that I didn't really like, though I could appreciate.

This is a completely personal preference, but you can argue with me if you want.  Rowling was notorious for having a twist at the end of every book.  However, by the second book, I had discovered that the twist was almost always the same, in a way that I didn't like.  I'm the kind of person who likes the main character.  I usually become the main character when I read, so I like someone who I can identify with, who is moral, and tries to do the right thing.  At this point, Harry had all those qualities.  However, I also like this protagonist to have the world hanging on their shoulders and to have the bad guys out to get them.  In other words, I like the story to center around the main character.

However, over and over in Harry Potter, it would appear to be about Harry.

*Spoilers ahead*

In the first book, it seemed like Snape was out to get Harry.  In the end, he just happened to get in the way of the bad guy's plot.  It had nothing to do with him at all.

In the second book, it appeared that someone was trying to set Harry up, but again, it was just innocent little Ginny being manipulated.

The third book was my favorite at first.  It appeared that the prisoner of Azkaban was trying to kill and take revenge on Harry, which is my absolute favorite plot sequence.  The whole book I remember thinking, "Don't be another twist, I like the way this is going!"  Unfortunately it was.  The prisoner was just after Ron's rat.

I was a little disappointed, but then the fourth book came out.  Really, that's probably still my favorite book!  I really enjoyed it, and I was really looking forward to the fifth one. 

Between the fourth and the fifth is when the movies began to come out.  Really, the acting was pretty horrible at first, but that didn't get me down.  The ever growing hype was beginning to though.  I had liked Harry Potter before it became a cult, so the fact that everyone was liking it didn't annoy me too much.

That is, until the 5th book came out.  Just as quickly as I devoured the fourth book, I consumed the fifth, and to my horror discovered that someone had turned Harry into a monster!  What had happened to the stalwart hero that I had learned to love?  Somewhere between the fourth and fifth book, Harry had become an obnoxious, angsty, shallow teenager!  To my horror, I found that I simply didn't like Harry the character anymore.  My love affair with Harry Potter began to find itself on shaky ground.

The madness of the fans pushed me over the edge. Like I told someone yesterday, if I am already unsure of how I feel about something and people began making too big of a deal about it, then usually I find myself disliking it.  I'm not a crowd follower, and I don't want to be one of many.  I enjoy being unique.  It would have been different if I still could love Harry, because I liked him first, but as the character deteriorated into self-pity, I found myself feeling less and less empathy for him.

In my opinion, heroes are meant to be strong and selfless.  They are meant to be as much like Christ as its possible for a human to be.  No, I don't like my book characters to be perfect.  They all need their flaws and their growing, but at the time I read Harry Potter Book 5, I WAS a teenager.  If I was going to be able to identify with Harry Potter as a teenager, it would have been when I was a teenager, right?

Yeah, that's what I thought, but I couldn't find common ground with the new Harry Potter, and the way that she treated her adults as well just made them all look incompetent.

I still read the 6th and 7th book, but it wasn't when they first came out.  I just read them whenever.  I watched all the movies (and couldn't stand Ron's actor), but I just had lost of lot of my Harry Potter fire.  The books just weren't what they had been either.  Harry grew up a bit, but to me, the books had lost a lot of their magic.

I'm not going to lie, J. K. Rowlings' world still fascinates me.  I've read some pretty neat crossovers where other main characters from other series went into Harry Potter's world and took Harry's place as the main character.  I still like Rowlings' world.  I just don't like Harry anymore.

We'll probably still own the books and possibly the movies, but they will never be my favorite.  I appreciate what they have done to help children learn to enjoy reading, but I like Peter and the Starcatchers and some other children's series much more.  The Harry series is still well-written and fun, but personally I'd rather read something else.


  1. I didn't read any of the books until last year, because of the cult following, but what I liked the most about them once I did read them is the underlying framework that is driving the books, and the fact that Harry is not perfect (tho he is sometimes annoying), because he is not meant to be like Christ; he is meant to be like the rest of us, who struggle and have terrible flaws. But by the end he chooses to make a Christ-like sacrifice for others, and he doesn't have to, and I feel like there are gospel parallels to that which I really like. But I also like a flawed character who manages to overcome his flaws in the end. :)

    1. Yeah. I think his flaws just didn't jive with my flaws :). A perfect mary sue character is really annoying too (even more than Harry Potter), but self-pity or angst is something I really have a hard time with. I didn't feel like he even had a good reason. If book 5 had come after Sirius had died, maybe I could have seen more internal suffering, and yes, the end of book 4 was rather painful for him, but I feel like Rowlings could have handled that differently without making him annoying. Thank you for your opinion though. I like a good discussion. I'm not trying to say that no one should like Harry Potter, just expressing the reasons that I do not.

      As they say, you're never going to make everyone happy, and the majority of the world seems just fine with Harry's angst, so it must not be so bad. But then, my favorite superhero is Superman, so I guess I like to strive for perfection

  2. So, this is probably going to stir the pot a little, but I have some pretty strong opinions on this.

    1. Not reading something just because everyone else is reading it is the same thing as following the crowd and reading something because everyone else is. I have never been a crazed Harry Potter fan who bought the books at midnight or dressed up like a dementor to watch one of the movies, but I did read them almost immediately after they came out because I absolutely loved the books and J.K. Rowling's writing style. If you like something, why should it matter whether everyone else likes it, too? Being a "noncomformist" just because you want to seem unique is not any different. You should read what you want to read and not worry about how many millions of other people like (or dislike) the same thing.

    2. I have never read a book with a hero as strong and selfless as Christ, and I think that you're setting yourself up for disappointment if you expect your literary heroes to always measure up to that. To each his own. I find that the truest heroes are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and I love reading those stories and wondering if I'll ever measure up. However, I most identify with people like Alma the Younger and flawed characters like Harry Potter, who are not perfect but rise to the top anyway and do extraordinary things.

    3. I was not a big fan of Harry's angst in the fifth book at first, either, but reading that book several times since has completely changed my mind. I think a lot of teens (and adults) can identify with the frustration of being left out of things and ignored. Even as an adult, I identify with Harry because of the way many people acted when I was diagnosed with cancer. Angst can certainly be overdone, but I think J.K. Rowling wrote about it in a tasteful way.

    Anyway, I'm glad to know that you have a differing opinion about Harry Potter, and I hope you don't mind that I shared a few thoughts. These are some of my all-time favorite books because of their honesty and brilliant character descriptions, and I had to talk about why I love them. :) You always get great dialogue going!

    1. Thank you for your comments. Sorry. I didn't mean to imply that I wanted all my characters to be perfect. That wasn't what I meant at all. I simply meant that I like main characters who are continually trying to be the best people they can be. I like it when they make mistakes and learn from those mistakes, but as they keep trying they make fewer mistakes. In fact, some of my favorite characters are ones that actually start out evil and eventually turn to the good. I guess I just didn't feel that Harry was still trying. I felt like he was just enjoying his own pity-fest.

      You're right about non-conforming. It's a weakness of mine, but I'm willing to admit that this is one of the reasons I have a hard time with Harry Potter. Not saying it's right, just saying it's there. And to be honest...I may have written this article partially just to get dialogue going. I know there are a lot of people out there who really like Harry Potter, and I'm always interested to hear why.

      Again, thanks for commenting!

    2. So, of course I have a response. I'll address them in order.
      1) twists, and wanting a main character to be the one the plot centers around--I actually liked this about rowlings's books, because I think I have a tendency to feel it's too simple and convenient if the plot is usually centered around the main character. For instance, the False Prince series I struggle with, because it turns out so coincidentally to be about the main character in the end. It seems too convenient... I don't enjoy convenient plots.
      2) Harry and Angst: Oh. Man. I know so many people who struggled with this. The sad thing is, I identify so strongly with Harry in this book. I had a struggle with my parents at the age he was in book 5. I had a hard life growing up... nowhere near Harry-level, but it was hard living with my family and I didn't see my friends much. So Harry being all alone, getting upset about being kept out of the loop, struggling with living in a situation that was so un-nurturing, and being away from what he'd come to see as home and security... yeah. Any normal kid would react that way. I like my characters to be realistic. Plus, realize that Harry suffered a serious trauma, and has absolutely nobody to talk to about it. ... I'm surprised he didn't start lighting things on fire or something.

      3) (and now we're moving onto your Dad's objections... sorry. But this is convenient place to air my response to them) Dumbledore was emotionally unvailable to Harry for most of the series for one reason or another.

  3. Some would say that Dumbledore arranging for Snape to kill him was a selfish move, that he left Harry so he woudln't have to die a painful and undigifnied death. I see his reasons as different: he wanted to save Malfoy, who would either become a murderer, or possibly murdered by Voldemort. And Harry, who needed Snape to be in voldemort's complete confidence so he could help Harry gain the things he needed to defeat voldemort.

    4) The things I Love about the books (now we're moving on to stuff that will make me sound like some kind of deluded person who lives in the world JK Rowling created. Sorry... I just love these books a lot.)

    The characters. McGonagall, Hagrid, Xenophilius, Luna, Snape, the Weasleys.... who hasn't met those people before? I have.

    The humor. She slips in so much of it. Tiny things here and there. So perfect. Not a lot of fantasy authors manage that well.

    The moments I would never want to miss:

    Harry, in front of the Mirror of Erised, learning about why it's important to live the life we have and not pine away for another.

    Harry being told by a sorting hat, and by Dumbledore, how what we choose is what makes us who we are.

    Harry conquering his fear and trauma with Lupin. And developing that ability with such power that he saved someone he loved later in the face of that fear.

    Harry dealing with an impossible situation he didn't choose, and so many moments that proved his worth and character--saving three hostages instead of one, tying with Cedric, taking Cedric's body home, etc.

    Harry being inside a snake and then saving the Weasley Dad. And that moment in the hospital with Neville & his parents. I never don't cry when i read that.

    Dumbledore and a bitter cup.

    Harry and his struggle to do what he knows he has to do... that moment before he goes into the woods. All the people coming back. Also never don't cry reading that.

    The beauitful thing about Harry Potter, to me, is how Rowling uses characters to show something very important. We've got three people--Harry, Snape, and Voldemort, who came from the same background, basically. Neglect, abuse, orphans in one way or another. Voldemort chose to pursue power over love, and sought vengence against those who wronged him. Snape hated and was vengeful, and he made mistakes because of that, but ultimately, it was love that turned him the right direction and saved him and made him a hero. Harry was a hero from the beginning because he still had a heart open to love. He had a "great capacity for love" and that is what makes him special :) And different from Voldemort, or Snape. In a world where kids go through everything from neglect/abuse to starvation and being forced to march in armies in Sierra Leone, this is a message that I find very comforting... we choose who we are, and we can be wonderful people in spite of everything that happens to us, and how we do it is we choose to love.

    Anyway. Now you can call me a complete nerd. & you'd be right...

    1. Thanks. It's good to remember all the beautiful parts of the Harry Potter series as well. There is a reason these books are so popular. Most of the reasons I don't like it are fairly personal preferences, and they don't really have anything to do with the quality of the books. I respect the fact that others like Harry Potter. Personally, I had a wonderful childhood, and so it is possible that I just cannot relate to the rage Harry felt that caused him to be so angry.

      I'm grateful that I had such wonderful parents that helped me to have such a balanced childhood and helped me to want to be a good person. Good comparisons on the similarities of the characters and their choices.