I hate Harry Potter because it’s a sham.
Like most children back in the late nineties, I was introduced to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It was immensely popular, and my grandmother was adamant about identifying a book that would get her grandchildren to read, pushing it on to us desperate and concerted. Truth be told, I was not an avid reader until I was out of college. Before all that, reading was a chore and something you did in school, not when you got home. I spent most of my time outside, turning rocks into spaceships and sticks into swords. Books never pulled me in like they do now. I was much more visual then. Converting and abstracting text into visual stimulus was only a recent development.
My vehement distaste for Harry Potter is inexplicable. Or was, until very recently.
I’ve never liked people pushing me into things, including hobbies. I’ve never liked musicals. (They want you to sing along, see?) I’ve never liked sports. (Competitive teamwork.) I’ve never liked fads. (Vapid, short-lived, things.) I’ve always been an insular, and supremely unlovable person. The idea that my cousin “Bucky,” the poster child of self-absorbed intellect, read it faster than my brother and I didn’t bother me either. What bothered me most was that I was expected to like it.
No. I don’t like Harry Potter because it’s too real to me. And I am not satisfied with the narrative that it pushes. (It’s about a young boy that discovers his parents were wizards, that he is a wizard, that they left him a fortune to allow him to board in an exclusive boarding school. His subsequent adventures are formulaic, and I wonder why his professors didn’t have a yearly meeting about the shit he was going to get into next.)
The origins of Harry Potter being raised by abusive relatives mirrors my experiences in subtle and substantive ways. While I have never been forced to live in a confined space underneath the stairs, I have a potently vivid memory of breaking my Dad’s VCR when I was maybe between 6-8 years old. I was so afraid that he would hit me that I told him from afar and hid in his orchard. And while he shouted vainly into the winds for me to come out, I stayed and waited. It eventually got dark but I was still hiding. I got into my Dad’s red Toyota pickup and slept in the cab overnight, and snuck into the house in the morning.
Another experience: We were at a local, independent grocer, one that I have scores of fond memories at their amazing deli and all the strange, foreign things they would buy and display at the front of their isles—food from Germany, Britain, Italy, etc. My brother had a quart of pasta salad that he was entrusted with, only to drop it on accident. My father flew into a rage and pushed him to the ground calling him “stupid” while he cried. There were people around us, aghast. Someone scolded my father, to which he replied, “mind your own business,” and we hurried out of there like cockroaches exposed to a bright, shining light.
And while, only by the Grace of God, I have forgiven my father of these things over the years of dealing with this—and there are many other incidents—I have no love for a series that depicts acts of abuse and mulls them over with discretionary wealth and elitism. I think my disproportionate response stems from my deep seated belief that the fairy-tale narrative archetype is a load of bullshit. Abuse never leaves you, it clings to you and stays with you. A moment of 1-5 minutes imprints upon your life a brand of shame and anger that never leaves, though over time the scar fades. I reject the Harry Potter narrative because in real life people that suffer that kind of emotional trauma, in many cases, never escape. And even if they do, they limp away and heal lame.
I recognize that now as much as I did back then. I stopped reading after the first book, not because I refused to continue reading the entirety of the series, but because I couldn’t accept its fantasy that seemed to ridicule my own suffering.