I Now Interrupt Regular Programming To Obsess About Harry Potter

Harry Potter Shell Cottage Freshwater West

Photo Credit of Shell Cottage: Russ Hamer (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re not a fan, or you’re sick of all this talk about “Deathly Hallows,” skip this. Also, Spoilers A Plenty!

I remember when I dismissed the “Harry Potter” series as a fad before I ever read one of the books. I lived in London at the time, and Bloomsbury had redesigned special covers of the first few books to look less childish, so adults wouldn’t be embarrassed to read them. Every other adult riding the tube was reading one. I was in an insufferable book snob phase (it was the year we decided to not have a TV) and was working my way through “The Famished Road”, which…most incomprehensible book ever? (Sorry, “Ulysses.”) I went back to the states for a wedding, and I remember telling my friend about the adult book covers. Her response? “Don’t knock it ’til you try it.”

So I bought “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” at the airport and put “The Famished Road” in my carry-on luggage. And thus began my love affair with all things Harry.

Mommy Odyssey is writing a bewitching (sorry) series for “Key Pulp,” which details how the movies stack up against the books: mostly, unfavorably. It’s a must-read for Potter-philes.

I don’t want to talk about the movies, but rather what I loved, and didn’t love, about the books.

LOVE:
– The messages J.K. Rowling imparted throughout the series. It is our choices that define us, not our talents. Courage Matters, whether through small gestures like standing up for a friend or facing down a major fear, like fear of spiders or by reliving our past mistakes or worst memories. Love is what makes life worth living.
– Hermione. She’s a fully formed, flawed, likable main character who is involved in the main action of the story. She’s a girl/woman who often saves her heroic friends with her considerable knowledge. She’s smart but works hard to be the best in her year.
– NEVILLE! Neville is a nerdy, kind boy whose parents were tortured to the point of madness by Voldermort’s supporters. He’s an unlikely hero, who mainly demonstrates courage in small, non-showy ways. But the courage he demonstrates makes a crucial difference.
– Luna. Wise, unearthly, kind Luna. She’s spiritual, yet strangely practical and is the yang to Hermione’s yin. She reminds me of CookedHeads 🙂
– Fred and George. Maybe I’m predisposed to pay particular interest to twins, but I hearted them before I even got married. Their sense of humor, charm and mischief is wonderfully portrayed and they have the best lines: “Seriously evil wizard coming through!” Poor Fred. Sob.
– Mrs. Weasley. I know she’s somewhat controversial, but now that I’m a mom I’m simply amazed by her parenting skills. With limited resources, she raises seven superstar children, who achieve much success as adults. (Except for Fred. Sob.) She’s bossy, nurturing, a good cook, manages her household with aplomb and darns everyone’s socks. We all know how important socks are in the Harry Potter universe. And she has arguably the best line in the whole series: “Not my daughter, you BITCH!”
– Snape. Rowling had me guessing about his motives until the very, very end. I suspected that he MIGHT have feelings for Lily, but I didn’t see how important they would be. He’s deeply, seriously fatally flawed but he’s a romantic hero in the end.
– Historical echoes from World War II. I noted when I lived in the UK that World War II is a much greater part of the fabric of literature, movies, TV programming and even what’s covered in the news. It’s understandable: the UK stood basically alone against the greatest military power the world had ever seen. So many people died, the country was physically attacked and bombed and WWII is a great, pivotal point in the history of the country. Obviously, Voldemort is inspired in part by Hitler and his creepy “blood” policies were inspired by Hitler’s racist policies. The scariest scenes in all of the books to me are the scenes in “Deathly Hallows” of the Ministry of Magic. The Dark Lord has taken over, and his followers are free to persecute witches or wizards based solely on who their parents were. And Umbridge (shudder) runs a propaganda bureau in a Goebbels-esque fashion. Truly frightening stuff.

Don’t Love
– As much as it pains me to say, the books are not perfect. (Although they nearly are ;P.)
– GINNY – Among all of the heroes, she’s my least favorite. I personally think it’s weird that Rowling needed to pair up every member of the trio at the end. And while I know a few people who met their husband/wife in high school, most people don’t. I like Ron/Hermione a lot. But why the need to couple up Harry at age 16/17, too? And Ginny is a cipher to me. She’s MOSTly (but not entirely, as Mommy Odyssey pointed out to me: see the Ministry scene, book five), defined by what others say about her. She’s shy in the first two books, gets possessed by Voldemort in the second so we are unable to decipher who she is, seeing as she’s POSSESSED by, as Fred and George would say, a seriously evil wizard. Then we get a lot of telling, not showing, comments from Ron, Fred, Hermione in the next couple of books. Like: guys think she’s hot, she LOVES Quidditch, her boogey hex is the BEST, blah blah blah. Even when she is showcased, finally, in the last two books, I guess I just didn’t LIKE her. She didn’t seem very multi-faceted or real, but rather a conglomeration of characteristics that Harry might like in a girl. (Like being hot, liking Quidditch, being feisty, etc.) I even preferred Cho, who came across on the page as a real person. I have to admit that if I could trade Fred for Ginny, I would. To me, she is a Mary Sue.
– James Potter. OK, this one is going to get me in hot water. But I think he’s kind of a jerk. At least in the flashback scenes. I’m sure he must come around and be nice, otherwise Lily wouldn’t have fallen for him, but in the flashback scenes with the Marauders, he comes across exactly the way Lily describes him: as a toerag. I know that’s the point, and obviously he becomes the father who sacrifices himself for his son, but…I don’t know. Maybe Rowling will write the story of how he and Lily fall in love someday.

And, that’s really all. Before I read the whole series, I would probably have said that the whole S.P.E.W. subplot annoyed me, but the house-elf liberation front becomes crucial in the last book, and I like the underlying message of why the treatment of house-elves (and goblins too) comes back to bite wizards in the butt, so to speak.

What do YOU love about the Harry Potter series? And what do you NOT love?

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10 Comments

Filed under Discovering joy, writing

10 responses to “I Now Interrupt Regular Programming To Obsess About Harry Potter

  1. I love the things you wrote about and more. Mostly I love that the writing is good and solid with excellent grammar, plot, everything. I love that the world draws me in, and the characters are well fleshed out. I love the unlikely heroes and complex personalities.

    I don’t love the epilogue. I think it comes off as clumsy and hasty. It cheapened the book for me though I liked to know how they ended up. I wished some of the end battle scenes had just a bit more depth. I felt hastened along in some of the deaths when I wanted to linger some, but I think that’s a preference thing and not an actual flaw.

    • I love the world she creates too, and yes: she can plot like no one’s business!

      The epilogue, yes. I think a lot of people agreed with you about that. I was kind of bummed out that so much of it was about Harry and Ginny, because, well you know how I feel about Ginny. So I just focused on the Ron/Hermione bits.

  2. Mo

    Thanks for the shout-out! 🙂
    Now – time to geek out:
    I agree with all that you love, and almost everything that you don’t love. I had the same issue at first read with the fact that Rowling paired up everybody. But then I realized that it made perfect sense, and here’s why: these people went through war together. What they went through would obviously make them inseparable, as most traumas of that level would. These characters went through so much loss, it makes perfect sense that they would stick together.
    I also think that portraying James as flawed is an important part of Harry’s journey. In the 5th book, when he sees James being a jerk, he has a serious crisis over it. It’s a message Rowling brings up again – I think, to show how different Harry is and how much he has to deal with at such a young age. Dumbledore is flawed as a teen, Sirius is flawed as a teen, James is as well. Yet Harry, as flawed as he is at times, continues to make the moral and ethical choices that he does, making him extraordinary.
    I could go on for hours, but I still have a couple more articles to write! Better save something for that. 🙂

    • THIS is a great point:

      “…these people went through war together. What they went through would obviously make them inseparable, as most traumas of that level would. These characters went through so much loss, it makes perfect sense that they would stick together.”

      You’re right. That does make perfect sense.

      I think maybe my problem with James Potter is that I always see him through the eyes of Snape. Snape informs most of the flashback scenes with him, and has some solid reasons for hating him. We just generally get the impression of Snape being oppressed and ridiculed by the Marauders, and get no real sense of what James was like untainted by those bad memories. Whereas we see Sirius and Dumbledore in action, doing unselfish things and generally being pretty awesome. Poor James doesn’t get any of those scenes. You know, because he’s dead and all 😉

  3. I have yet to read Harry Potter but I’m looking forward to the possibility of reading them for the first time with my son when he gets older.

    • You are in for a treat 🙂 I always wondered what the experience of parents reading HP to their kids (and reading it for the first time) is like. You’ll have to let us know in a few years..

  4. Love the comparison of Luna to Cooked Heads. 🙂

    I love the fact that the nerdy kids and the underdogs win. I love the kind teacher and mentor in Dumbledore (I always wanted someone like that in my life … sort of like the Hobbit’s Gandalf).

    Some of my son’s 5 year old friends are having them read to them … I think it’s too early, but they seem to get it. I’d be curious to see what others think.

    • Luna IS CookedHeads…grown up 🙂

      That’s a good point about Dumbledore. I’ve had a few mentor figures, although none were anywhere NEAR as cool.

      The kids’ cousin is six, and he’s now on PoA, which ?!? I was super tempted to let the kids watch the first movie, but I want to read the book to them first and I think it’s too scary.

      Common Sense Media says age 8 for the book, age 7 for movie. But YMMV 🙂

  5. I had deliberately waited to comment until today so I could work out my pre-midnight screening excitement here in the comments. Because srsly? I’m losing my effing mind for tonight.

    I too was hesitant to get on the HP bandwagon. I didn’t start reading the books until I was probably a freshman in college, after the announcement of the 1st movie. Once I saw the movie, I was HOOKED. In fact, I still remember basically grinning from ear to ear as soon as that iconic melody began playing, and then smiling even WIDER during the 1st quidditch match on screen.

    Random things I loved:
    Dumbledore was gay.
    The sheer complexity of Snape’s loyalties. Brilliant.
    The depth of exposition surrounding everything with the Ministry of Magic, wizard lore, spells, creatures, etc.

    Things I didn’t love:
    Order of the Phoenix. I nearly stopped reading the entire series because of this one.
    The horcruxes. The whole damn concept was confusing as hell.
    Also: Ginny. I was rooting for Cho Chang all the way b/c, as an Asian female, it just bought into my dirty Dan Radcliffe fantasies so much more nicely.

    And… here’s my most controversial statement about what I didn’t love:

    Harry should have died at the end of Deathly Hallows. This “Avada Kedavra killed the horcux but not Harry” thing is BULLSHIT. Went against all established spell mythology. Also – Harry would have been the most amazing tragic hero EVER. It reminded me so much of the end of the movie “Stranger Than Fiction” where Dustin Hoffman tells Will Ferrell’s character that he has to die otherwise Emma Thompson’s novel will be crap.

    • Love your points!

      Dumbledore being gay was brilliant, and made him a bit more relatable to me, because I didn’t understand why he was friends with Gellert Grindewald, who was clearly bad news. But when you’re crushing on someone, you don’t necessarily see them very clearly. Rowling announced that after the book was released, right?

      Another Cho shipper! Totally see your point on that. And, I kinda think Cho got the shaft unfairly. Poor girl was depressed her boyfriend was killed. It’s understandable that she was so weepy. I don’t know: she came across on the page to me as a cool, kind, nice person. Whereas Ginny the Awesome: not so much.

      I agree that there was something disappointing and cliched about Harry returning from the dead. I loved “Stranger Than Fiction” too. But I was too emotionally attached to him to see him die. I wept through the whole chapter where he walks to his death. Even if he just goes on to marry Ginny the Awesome, I’m happy he survived.

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