Whoa. Whoa whoa whoa, put down your pitchforks and torches. This is not a roast of the most beloved book series in history. Like most millennials, Harry Potter was a huge part of my childhood, formative years, and daily adult life. This is an incredible series, even a masterpiece, but it’s not perfect.
Here’s my problem with Harry Potter: Wizard school is so much more interesting than prophecies, quests, and defeating dark lords. The best part of Harry Potter is the day to day life of attending Hogwarts. I just wish we were able to experience more of it.
That’s not a knock on the insanely well plotted and beautifully crafted story that overarches the seven books. I love Harry’s journey as much as the next person. There is great merit to how the story deals with grief, love, and power. I will fully concede that this story would never have made the impact it did without that side of it. Hogwarts, however, holds a power that very few fictional settings have. Do you remember picturing the castle in your mind on that first reading? It’s a visual that stays with people because of what Hogwarts has come to mean. It’s not just the setting for a story about destiny to play out. It’s the glue of the series, the aspect that pulls us in as readers and made way for JK Rowling to tell the amazing story that she did.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is probably the most masterful conclusion we could’ve asked for from Rowling. It’s also my least favourite, the only one among the seven I’ve never reread. Let me be clear, from a writing standpoint, I absolutely applaud Rowling’s boldness in removing the trio from Hogwarts. As a reader, it was a bummer. Yes, it was powerful but, I enjoyed it significantly less than any other in the series.
Harry Potter books follow a basic template. We arrive at Hogwarts, Harry resumes his magical life of Quidditch practice and potions homework. Then a dark problem arises and it’s up to Harry to fix it, in between Quidditch and potions, of course. The day to day of Hogwarts becomes secondary. This is especially true as Harry gets older and the story becomes darker in nature. But that’s exactly the part of Harry Potter that many of us love so much. I would’ve read an entire 7-book series of Harry just going to class, spending time with his friends, and trying not to embarrass himself in front of girls. Those are the most immersive parts of the story, making us eager to dive straight into Harry’s world.
It’s that exact reason that while Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the movie I enjoy the most. Granted, it’s an objectively bad Harry Potter adaptation. It misses important plot points and themes and doesn’t really hold up from a story perspective. But will I watch it every time it comes on TV? Absolutely.
As a rom-com about wizards, it’s brilliant. It’s witty and delightfully awkward, perfectly capturing teenage life and Rowling’s humour. Everyone’s kissing, and crying, and breaking up, and making out again. It’s our world and its silly problems but on steroids. Horcruxes be damned, can we check in with Ron and Hermione’s love story now?
Maybe it’s because I’m a Hufflepuff, but I never dreamed of defeating an unconquerable evil or saving the world multiple times over. It’s not the glory of Harry Potter that entrances me. I dreamed, instead of just going to Hogwarts. Just of doing cool things like transfiguration and astronomy, or flying around the grounds. Spending time along the lake feeding scraps to the giant squid? Sign me up. My fantasy was Harry’s ordinary.
Harry Potter is too busy weaving this extraordinary story to stop and smell the Whomping Willow. It’s not that I want less Voldemort, valiant missions, and Occlumency. I want more time in Hogwarts with the trio just being kids and making their way in life. That’s the true magic of the story to me. We don’t get nearly enough time with it, and that’s the problem with Harry Potter.