Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Look Back on Harry Potter

2011 saw the last installment in the Harry Potter film franchise and for many it was bittersweet moment where a beloved chapter of their childhood was coming to a close. My reaction however was complete indifference, and when I tell this to people they often give me confused looks and ask how I can be so nonchalant about the whole thing. Here I shall look back on my relationship with Harry Potter and attempt to explain why I stopped caring long ago.

I’ve noticed that a big part of Harry Potter fandom, at least early on, was bragging about how often you’ve read the book or how many times you’ve seen the movies. Well I’m going to make a confession that may just blow your fucking minds: I’ve only read each book once and haven’t seen any of the films after the first one. It’s not that I’ve come to dislike Harry Potter. I still enjoy the books and consider myself a fan (albeit not a diehard one), but I never really saw much point in re-reading them over and over again, and the movies I simply found to be subpar and not as good as the books so I wasn’t all that interested in lining up for the midnight releases. Instead I just read different books that piqued my interest, rather than obsessing over one series. When people tell me, “I’ve read Philosopher’s Stone seven times, how about you?” I respond, “I’ve only read it once and then I read Animal Farm, Lord of the Rings, The Giver, Watchmen, The Once and Future King, One Hundred Years of Solitude, etc.,” and then they walk away thinking I’m a pretentious dick. My point being, I found a whole other world of literature and wonder outside of Harry Potter and felt no strong desire to return once I’d left.

I started reading Harry Potter some time in elementary school prior to the release of the 4th book. I enjoyed the charm, magic, and adventure of the 1st book, found myself incredibly bored by the 2nd, and enjoyed Prisoner of Azkabam most of all. There were plenty of interesting characters, but when I look back now I find it impossible to choose a favourite not because they are so many great ones that spring to mind, but because there aren’t really any who stand out as my particular favourite. If I were forced to choose I suppose I would go with Lupin, but I never really felt like I got to know him. Meanwhile the main trio I found myself mostly sick of by the end of the series. With the publication of Goblet of Fire, I felt that the series had lost the original charm I fell in love with, and I started disliking Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Most would argue that this is because the series adopted a more adult tone, but despite the increase in bloodshed and the higher word count, I didn’t feel that these were now serious novels. A bunch of romantic subplots were shoehorned in that I found cringe-inducing, the characters don’t really mature (if anything, Harry is more of a whiny brat by the end), and the plot got increasingly silly even for a work of fantasy. Before I read the last book I predicted that Harry would die and then come back to life in an inadequately explained manner. I was sorely disappointed to find out I was right. I’m not going to kid myself into believing that this was ever high literature, and to believe that it is misses the whole point to Harry Potter. It’s a magical world of escapism that’s fun to read and filled with adventure. At least that’s what it was at the start. By the end I found myself reading the final book only because I’d read all of the previous ones and decided that I might as well finish it off. That’s not to say it was a terrible book, but it just wasn’t the same anymore.

In many ways it’s rather sad that I became disillusioned with this aspect of my childhood which at its height comprised quite a large portion of it. I just can’t bring myself to see it with the same veil of nostalgia that everybody else sees it through. The same thing has happened with many other cultural touchstones while I was growing up. Everything to do with Pokemon other than the video games I now find terrible, Digimon wasn’t much better, Dragonball Z was mostly grunting, and the Redwall books were absurdly violent, repetitive, and overlong. Even Star Wars seems pretty silly now and I fucking loved Star Wars. Really the only thing I still view as being equally great now as when I first saw it is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. So now as I sit here reminiscing on Harry Potter and my childhood, I suppose it was more good than bad. It gave me more pleasant experiences overall than so-so experiences (I wouldn’t say I had any bad ones), but I won’t miss it and the only reason I’d go back to it is in the unlikely scenario that I have children of my own. For now I’ll just put it all behind me and finish up the far more magical and gripping Sandman series which I highly recommend you all read if you haven’t already.

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