As a nerd, with a lot of nerdy friends, I end up getting into conversations about Harry Potter more often than I am comfortable with. With the release of what will undoubtedly be the final installment in Harry Potter canon (HAH!), I feel like this is the perfect time to air my frustrations publicly. Do know that I have read all the books, and despite my massive dislike for the series as a whole, I really enjoyed the 6th book, some of the 7th, and the end of the 3rd even though it was written like J.K. Rowling had never heard of a comma or a period or dramatic pacing or, you know, writing.
Final warning- here be spoilers, and the fact that I still feel like I have to say that four years after the last book was released is silly. Harry beat Voldemort for a dumb reason that didn't really make sense and had nothing to do with his personal skill or intelligence, just like all the other books. We knew that would happen from book one, but I'll get to all that in a moment. So yes, spoil spoil spoilers.
Everyone knows about the positive effects the Harry Potter books have had on the world, many of which even a callous old monster like me can appreciate. The bump in child literacy is huge, and it reinvigorated the Fantasy genre, which I have always been a big fan of. It taught people words like bezoar and hippogriff. In the 4th book, it shocked children with the suddenness of death and the impermanence of life, which I think is both awesome and hilarious.
Getting me hot and bothered just thinking about him dying. (The character… obviously.)
But we're not here to talk about the positives. Harry Potter has broken the young minds of a generation, and I'll tell you why. Harry Potter is the worst role model ever. He is an obnoxious, self obsessed jerk who spends the entire series whining about the fact that it's such a burden being the most important person in the world, even though he's not important because of anything he did. He's the Kim Kardashian of the magical world. He won the magic lottery. And all he ever does is bitch.
I know what you're thinking. He's had a hard life, hasn't he? To a certain extent, he has the right to take issue with it. Well, not compared to all the people who died or went through horrible torture to save his life. All of the intelligent, hard working people with inventive ideas and unshakable resolve die horrible, and often off-screen, deaths. And I was told it was coming. Lupin's corpse barely gets a mention while Harry is running off to save the world accidentally again. I didn't even know that Sirius Black, my favorite character in the series, had actually died until two pages after the fact. It's like Rowling's personal philosophy is that anyone who's good at what they do will fail horribly all the time, and the few chosen talentless hacks must be successful forever.
Actually, let's take a moment and look at how Harry solved the problems posed to him. In the first book, three children misbehave to the point where they might die, but survive because of a number of items they randomly received throughout the book, and in the process, stem the flow of evil. In the fourth book, he gets into a fight he has no change of winning, but wins because his wand, which he didn't even choose, happened to be the right one. And in the 7th book, he wins with some other silly wand nonsense that he didn't have to figure out and had nothing to do with him, really. It's all accomplishment by happenstance and inheritance.
Which brings us to the worst part of all. Harry Potter is an uninspired, uninteresting, unrepentantly banal person. He has absolutely no magic in his personality, no creativity, no charm. Yet he is the key to everything, and adored everywhere. Is this what we want to tell our children? That you don't need to be interesting to be great? In this world, skill and talent and brilliance all mean nothing in comparison to fate and lineage. If you were destined to be spectacular, you will be, and everyone else will be murdered by people trying to take what you have.
Who knew? Wizard celebs are just like our muggle celebs!
A brief aside: I noticed something while writing this article full of things I've been talking about for a decade. Did anyone else notice that J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter actually have a lot in common? I mean, that makes sense, that's what writers do, but it's more than that. They are both people who felt trapped by poverty and family, only to be whisked away to a world full of riches and unearned adoration. They are both much less talented than everyone gives them credit for, and deep down I think they know it.
Is it possible that the whole time Harry was whining about fame and other people's expectations that it was a metaphor for Rowling… whining about fame and other people's expectations? Is it possible that Rowling used Harry as a parable for her own lack of originality and talent? Well, no, because the plotline started before she was famous. But it could have become that eventually. I just don't know what the Horcruxes… oh, wait, there were seven books, and the first one was an accident. Ooh, and most of the Horcruxes were 'destroyed' by other people, weren't they? 'Ghost Horcrux Destroyers'. Heh.
So there's the moral of the Harry Potter books. If you have enough luck, and a bunch of people who are willing to die-slash-work for you, anything is possible. You don't need to be good at something to deserve fame and adoration. That… that's disgusting. It's teaching children to be selfish, entitled and lazy. Harry Potter, not the books, but the character, is without a doubt the most irresponsible literary role model since Patrick Bateman.
Am I saying that the books have done more damage to our children then good? Probably not. But all things have an upside and a downside. Yes, literacy is awesome, and if it's a gateway drug to Lord of the Rings, fantastic. But I am still positive that he was the single worst hero for our kids to have if afterward we were going to give them all Facebook profiles and put them on reality TV shows. Now we've got a bunch of people who feel entitled to an audience because they are the most special person in the world, and what do we give them? Yeah, that's right. Seems kinda like we did it to ourselves, doesn't it?