Well it’s time of the year again. I’m kind of pissed off and I’m not sure why, so let’s take a piss at something. Today, it’s Harry Potter. Look, admittedly it’s kind of a low hanging fruit, but that’s why I’m going to do something a little different with it. Where I stand right now, I feel like the series is a perfect platform to commence a rant on a whole sleuth of problems with fiction far bigger than the story itself.
I’ll start by saying I liked Harry Potter, once upon a time. When the last book came out, I was thirteen, and it was fun to me. I also had very little (read: none) experience with writing or even proper English, so it doesn’t really strike me as odd now that I’m looking back at it. So, I suppose, if one were to willingly disregard all sense of continuity and read a Harry Potter book once a year, it really isn’t that bad. That’s how I felt, after all, since every time I picked up a new release I could barely remember who was in where and just let the flow take me.
That is, of course, the first pitfall the series has. When I say ‘series’ I suppose one could encompass both the movies and the books into it, since they’re not really that much different. Sure, the book had a lot more content and some substitution for nuances, but essentially they grew into the same thing. It doesn’t really help the distinction how the actors grew with the movies too. But, unlike those aging actors, the series itself isn’t coherent with each other. You might say “well this took quite a few years to write, maybe everyone just kind of forgot”. Well, apparently the author forgot about it too. Considering how many deus-ex-machinas ended up taking place everywhere, it’s all the kind of ‘but why didn’t they use this before when situations were going awry’? Yeah, that’s called retroactive continuity, also retconning. It’s not necessarily bad. Surely, J. K. Rowling grew a lot as a writer throughout the entire process, and surely at some point (or a lot of points, rather) she would look back at what had been previously published and realise how dumb it all read, and try to fix that. The problem is, she fixes it all by pure coincidences and direct contradictions, which will lead me to a further point in a little bit. I guess I should wrap this up by saying this series has absolutely zero consistency to it, which is the primary reason why it fails as a series, but succeeded so amiably as a media franchise. It just take a whole lot of luck to make yourself a millionaire, don’t ever forget that.
So now comes the world building. I’ve to be honest, for all the shit that I might give the author, the world building was a pretty immense part. Though she still fails horribly at keeping her own arbitrary rules consistent, it’s a beautiful world still. The prospect of Hogwarts (I laughed at how MSWord didn’t underline this) being a super-secret (except not really that secretive) and super-interesting (except not really that interesting) castle-school-hybrid-thingy was an amazing premise. Rowling had to do quite a bit in shoe-horning the muggle world into it all, something which she never succeeded in doing, but at a lot of points it was so great that we kind of forgot that in a world of spandex, guns, and sneakers with lights in them, wizard robes and hats aren’t exactly practical. I mean at the end of the day, the entire wizard stereotype was purely a romanticised disposition, as robes with capes are actually quite dumb. Then again, these people live like they’re in the Middle Ages so I suppose that’s fitting. It’s even more fitting that it’s in England, instead of Kansas or something. The whole scenario thing got somewhat desperate in the end, with all of the forest traverse and all that nonsense, but it was pretty good while it lasted. Ghosts, goblins, dragons, trolls, wizards, and witches, all fine traditional ingredients for a fantasy story. There was also a pretty interesting pseudo-racism angle tackled in this series, regarding muggles, the pure wizard blood and all that. Of course, this was never played up anywhere further than jokes and apt discrimination, because there’s actually just no way Rowling can write something like that decently, and it’s good that she decides to leave something like that out.
So I guess it’s about time to talk about plot. Considering the implied significance of the latter books it’s best to focus on them, rather than anything before book five where people just kind of mucked around and the author was still figuring out how to tie it all together (not that she did it very well in the end, she at least managed it). The plot was, essentially, the Dark Lord Voldemort trying to kill the infamous Harry Potter (who was only infamous because he tried to kill the kid) for being one of the two people prophesised to be able to stop him in the future. Mind you, the only prophecy that prophet was actually right about was this one, and only because Voldemort brought it upon himself. The Dark Lord was killed because apparently being as powerful as he was really didn’t mean anything, and so Harry was left with a scar. Now, in classic unknowing-character-lead fashion, Harry is lead to Hogwarts, the school of magic, where he mucked around for about three and a half years before anything really important happened. By the end of the fourth book, Voldemort has returned into his physical body, but decided to be all emo and shit and stopped trying to kill Harry because vengeance-is-mine, again in typical noseless villain fashion. So, Snape kills Dumbledore, the entire Ministry of Magic is taken over with no real consequence, and then everything ended with the battle at the school. Now I’m trying to stay brief here, but the entire thing was really fucking stupid. I mean how could it not be, considering how Rowling had to rewrite the ending just to appease the fans’ outcry? The biggest problem here is that this series doesn’t really have any weight to it. People died, but no one really cared too much about them, the only exception being Dumbledore and maybe Snape (since he dies before the reveal) if you’re into that sort of thing. Considering how Dumbledore died but then went all limbo on everything it’s hard to take his death seriously ever. In a universe of ghosts and magic, ultimately people’s death really doesn’t mean too much. Of course that aspect is kind of shied away from in the end, else the plot will have no impact, but knowing that it’s there make a huge difference. The entire series started with Harry, and built him up as the potential saviour of the universe and shit. At the end, bam, he becomes exactly what we all have suspected all along. That’s some amazing subtlety there.
So onto the characters for a moment. There’s very little else to encapsulates everyone but ‘shallow’. Now that’s not fair, but that’s only because after seven books people will start to show personality at the end. Rowling has a good excuse of the majority of these being teenagers, so she could start throwing angst around like no bloody tomorrow, but one had to admit at the end it was just all really samey. Harry was the void narrator, whose opinion of everyone colour the narrative without the capability to stop for one moment to think of how much of an asshole he is himself. Ron is largely the comic relief, and also apparently later became the embodiment of Rowling’s old crush just to sprinkle a little bit of creepy sauce on it all. Hermione was a somewhat interesting characters earlier on, though the whole ‘haha she’s smart’ thing gets really old really quickly. Then, she melts into the author’s self-insert and then stops having any semblance of personality except for one-off quotes of herself, but people still didn’t stop making fun of her for being smart. This is western civilisation, apparently. Dumbledore was a walking exposition machine, and was kind of a dick for keeping all the secrets he didn’t need to. For someone who’s supposed to be so smart, leaving Harry and his friends in the dark for the majority of it all didn’t seem too characteristic, especially considering the only adult he felt like trusting had to play double agent. That goes for every adult in this series too, being all incompetent at the highest level, and that goes double for the Dark Lord himself. For someone’s so invariably evil he never once thought of protecting his Horcruxes just a little better than he ended up doing, as though they seemed somewhat difficult to find and destroy, he could’ve just placed some actual death curses on those things and none of this random crap would’ve happened. Though, I suppose competent villains aren’t to be expected in young adult series, oh well.
Since we’re on this subject of character, let’s talk about romance for a brief bit. Now, it’s well known my opinion on romance, and that would be 90% of things with romance in it really doesn’t need romance, as such nonsense drama usually only leads to pollution of the plot (unless it’s a romance novel of course, bless your soul). In this case, I’m actually with little problem regarding the romance happening in Harry Potter. They’re teenagers after all, and it’s hard enough to not have hormones bursting out from every orifices when you’re a teenager. That said, since all the characters are kind of boring (except for Snape I guess, but that’s giving Rowling too much credit) none of them really fit with each other, so it’s about as much chemistry as the author has for her self-insert I suppose, which in the end really isn’t much.
And now to tie it all together! If you remember my Star Wars rant a little while ago, the majority of it applies here. Firstly, let’s talk about the division of the students in Hogwarts into houses. There’re Gryffindor, for the brave, Hufflepuff, for the virtuous, Ravenclaw, for the smart, and Slythern, for the ambitious. Of course, those are very brief descriptions, but from the onset, this system is entirely too stupid. Firstly, the sorting hat places students into houses upon their arrival, not based on the students’ qualities, but from their values and personal wishes. Not only was this a rule that was so full of loopholes it should have never actually worked, it also presumes everyone is always going to be the same person they were when they were ten years old, and nothing will ever change that. Even more ridiculous was the implications that the virtue of these houses were somehow exclusive to one another, and then it became purely plot-driven and lost all of its meaning. Of course, the Slytherin was treated as the evil house throughout the entire series, with nothing but brats and assholes. Funny thing was, all the other houses are also full of brats and assholes, it’s just that Malfoy’s only significant characterisation was being an asshole, so in the end it’s actually just lazy writing. Besides, putting all students into one group and then designate them as the evil group seems kind of unfair, don’t you think? Not only will they never have a chance to redeem themselves (something I’ll touch on later), they’re also surrounded by perpetual assholes just by the sheer account of their ambitions. That’s right folks, ambitious people are all assholes, because that’s how a single mom views the world. I didn’t mean it to be so attacking, but it isn’t really wrong.
So, into this whole redeeming thing. The line between good and evil is pretty well-defined from the start, and lo-and-behold no one really changes sides. That’s because everyone here really doesn’t battle with ideals and nuances, instead with picking an arbitrary side and sticking to it, since that’s pretty much the only kind of conflict Rowling is capable of writing about. Even Snape, who was a ‘bad guy’ for the majority of the series, was retconned to being the saviour of us all because he’s cool like that. Though to be fair to Snape, he only appears to us as an asshole at first because Harry thought he was an asshole. Harry, being the boy that he was, stayed completely oblivious to his own douchbaggery. But who cares, he’s the hero and the chosen one so whatever we’re supposed to like him I guess.
Banner is official art.