I am—was—a self-confessed Potterhead, but I am past my Potterhead phase. A lot of it has to do with the author’s recent social media snafus. But even before the mess that is J. K. Rowling, I realized I haven’t felt connected to the Potterverse in a long time.
Mind you, while I re-read the first book multiple times, I read the rest of the books just once. This was only because I had a copy of the first book, entrusted to me by my sister, while the rest were borrowed. Later on, my eldest sister got copies of books 2-6, but I never really felt the need to read them again because, at that point, the movies were already out.
At the peak of my Potterhead phase, I would visit Rowling’s website for Easter eggs. I think it was a flash-based website where certain actions would unlock drafts of the book or doodles by Rowling. I even read fan fics while waiting for the next books to drop! That was a trip.
Eventually, life got in the way and my Potterhead cleared. The movies, while I still thoroughly enjoyed them, did not quite match my expectations. Hermione was too pretty, Hogwarts looked smaller, and the magic just seemed more impressive in my head. But that’s par for the course. I mean, how many times has the phrase “the book is better” been uttered.
The last time I indulged my inner Potterhead was a couple of years ago when my family went to Universal Studios Japan and we visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. What I took away from the trip was that I was no longer enamored by the world… and I also got a mug.
The boy who lived
During this never-ending pandemic, I unearthed an old copy of Reader’s Digest with Rowling on the cover.
The year was 2001. The fourth book of the Harry Potter series had just been released, the first movie in production, and Rowling was gearing up for a marathon book signing in north London. The writer described her as “soft-spoken, birdlike 35-year-old.” In the cover story, Rowling appears in a whimsical composite flanked by an owl and a Nimbus Two Thousand.
Rowling was quoted as saying, “I started writing these books for me, but I really like my readers. They are very likeable people.”
I wonder what she would say now. How those children grew up and lived in a much more cynical world, yet managed to cling on to Harry Potter’s message of love, acceptance, and the value of belongingness. Sadly, Rowling seemed to have stagnated.
The writing on the wall
The Potterverse kept expanding while I was busy exploring other worlds, both real and imagined. There were companion books, spin-offs, websites, games, and merchandise. At the same time, Rowling was becoming a meme on social media with her constant revelations of character backstories nobody asked for.
Then in 2020, then she went fully radioactive with her controversial opinions about transgenders which I will not link here.
For an author preaching acceptance and being saved by love, her exclusionary statements borne out of fear were a bit hard to swallow. This is where the books diverged from their creator.
I think it’s admirable for Potterheads everywhere to reclaim Harry Potter amid all the controversy. Harry Potter’s message of love still stands. For me, however, I had been out of the Potterverse for so long, it was easy to disengage.
I never liked Harry Potter, the character. Maybe I’m misremembering the stories or it’s hindsight bias, but Harry seemed too entitled to me even when faced with his mediocrity. Hermione and adults had to bail him out on numerous occasions because of his bad decisions. This is why Snape was the true hero to me, for not tolerating a self-important Harry Potter.
Perhaps Harry’s attitude problem stemmed from people’s special treatment of him. Prophecy, fate, destiny—those were his undoing. But he also could’ve worked harder and treated his friends better. Instead, he fixated on problematic heroes like Sirius Black and idealized his father who was, himself, a bully.
Harry Potter was a kid and, as an adult, I simply know better. That’s why when I think of Harry Potter, I think of it as a tragic story, full of characters trapped in the myth of their own making and engaging in self-destructive habits in the service of a prophecy.
It was magical, but it has not aged well. Harry Potter was as short-sighted as its author.