Deconstructing Harry Potter

Harry Potter is probably one of the most well known fictional characters in history. I don’t say that lightly, and perhaps it’s just an accident of the times, or perhaps it’s because he really is awesome.

I struggle with saying this: I hate Harry Potter.

I think he is quite simply the stupidest person in all of fiction.

I love the Harry Potter books, I have read them many times. I love all of the characters. All of them except Harry. Harry is the perfect example of the non-hero. He never really does anything worthwhile of his own accord. He is constantly in situations where he wins by default, because he is the protagonist, and because he is destined to win, but never because of any innate talent. In fact, the only talent he has is the ability to ride a broom. That is: he’s a jock.

All of Harry Potter’s popularity, success, and his very life comes from those things done by others for which he benefits. He benefits from his mother’s sacrifice, his father’s and Dumbledore’s ingenuity, Hermiones fastidious studying and so on. Harry Potter is the most active passive hero ever.

Throughout the book series we learn about his father, who is a genius and a jock. I mean he figures out how to map Hogwarts, how to transfigure himself, and apparently makes enough money to keep Harry knee deep in chocolate frogs for at least 7 years of school.

We learn about Snape, and via his potions textbook, how clever he was. We learn about Dumbledore, who was a genius even at school.

Even Voldemort is portrayed as brilliant beyond compare. Has anyone stopped to wonder how much he would have had to study to come by the idea of a Horcruxe, and been able to pull it off, as a teenager?

Ollivander was right, Voldemort did terrible things, but they were still great. And here is Harry Potter, aside from some natural ability(one he doesn’t earn through any work of his own) at flying, has absolutely no comparable level of brilliance. He is not mentally clever, he is not particularly good at magic, except for the disarming spell and the patronus charm(arguably the only two spells he really knows, the second one being next to useless for anything other than scaring off Dementors).

So why is Harry Potter so popular? Perhaps it is exactly because he is so useless, so stupid, so clumsy and talentless. Writers have a tendency to want to write about awesome people and to make them the stars. It seems to me that J.K. Rowling either knew, or happened upon the idea that, readers don’t like reading about awesome people. What they want is to read about a stupid person who makes all the mistakes that they wouldn’t. The reader needs and wants a place in the story, and if Harry Potter were so awesome, they couldn’t get rid of him to insert themselves there.

Harry Potter is a giant vacuum into which we can fit ourselves into the story and dream up alternatives to his clumsy handling of the whole thing. That is why HP FanFic is so popular, and why as a general rule, older stories hardly inspire as much as HP did. Everyone who reads HP, or at least most people, finish the book an think: Wow, I could do better than that moron. If I were Harry, I would do …

Harry Potter is a choose your own adventure, it’s about the world building, and the characters you would want to meet. Harry is just the place holder, he makes it through the adventures so they can continue, but in reality Voldemort could have, and should have, made quick work of him at the end of book one. Actually, one of the traps probably would have, if it hadn’t been for Ron and Hermione.

And there’s the thing. Hermione is awesome(if a bit of a Canon Sue). Snape, McGonagall, Dumbledore, Flitwick, Malfoy, Fred and George. These are all people you’d like to meet, or people you can imagine being fascinating. But not Harry.

No one wants to be Aragorn, or Frodo. But everyone wants to be Harry Potter, because we feel he doesn’t deserve what he gets, he never makes use of it, he never achieves anything, it’s all achieved for him. Was J.K. Rowling a genius because of this? Perhaps. I wonder if the Harry Potter books would have been as awesome if Harry Potter had been less of a tool. I guess we’ll never know. But then, look at Superman, and even the T.V. show Smallville. Wasn’t that what made Smallville so great to watch? To see what a moronic tool Clark was. So that you could sit back and say: Well, if I had Clark’s powers, I would have done …

Is there anyone among Smallville fans who thinks that they wouldn’t have choked the shit out of Lex Luthor by the 3rd or 4th season? The same with Harry Potter. We can understand the path and ending of Book I, and even Book II, but by Book III  we have to start wondering what the fuck is Harry doing pissing about all the time. Dude, you’re a fuckin Wizard, at a Wizard School. Learn some shit. His mom dies to save him, Dumbledore dies to save him(kinda), fuck man, even Snape dies because he’s such a dumbass. And in the end, he sacrifices himself to destroy Voldemort them magically comes back to life, only to defeat the greatest dark wizard of all time with: Expelliarmus.

I don’t think in the end it matters whether J.K. Rowling did it on purpose or on accident. I think she created a lot of great characters, and good stories. So I love the Harry Potter books, even if I can’t stand Harry.

About Jason

I am a 31 year old programmer living in the south of France. I currently work actively in the fields of Ruby/PHP/Javascript and server/website administration.
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