It’s tough when you don’t ‘get’ Harry Potter
But you won’t convince me otherwise
“Haven’t you even read the books? Where is your imagination? Oh my god you’re so lame. You’d definitely be a Hufflepuff.”
That is the stock response I get when I tell people I don’t get Harry Potter. (Have you listened to yourselves?)
I grew up at the prime age for the books’ releases. Indeed, even now they’re finished, the Harry Potter juggernaut continues: on Monday, a trailer for the latest film (Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them) was released. There’s no escape.
Almost 20 years ago, I read the Philosopher’s Stone, wasn’t too fussed, got to the second book and the bit with the flying old banger of a car and thought “fuck this, I’m going to go outside and enjoy the real world”. I gave it a go – after everyone’s nagging – and decided I simply didn’t like it. Not because everyone else liked it and I wanted to be different. I just couldn’t take the plummy kids in their cul-de-sacs, with their annoying haircuts and awful comebacks, any longer.
I trialled the first few films, and will admit they’re entertaining. But strangely, I found the lack of detachment from reality disturbing. Platform 9 and 3/4s, or flying a broomstick round the Docklands, felt a little too close to reality for my liking. If I wanted escapism I’d go further, and read about hobbits in Lord of the Rings, or today’s Game of Thrones – an excellent piece of literature and TV, which is nothing like my world. And that’s why I like it.
If the books are supposed to teach children confidence, it in fact delivered false hope. The ones who subscribed to it only became weirder when they thought that reading about Harry conquering the world with a few Expelliarmuses made them less irritating.
I was mystified by the number of kids at my school who aligned themselves with Harry and his annoying friends, went stir crazy, and queued up for Goblet of Fire, reading all 500+ pages on a school night, and then falling asleep in Miss Gossawk’s Maths class first thing. They were possessed by something I found weird and unnerving.
It’s hard when you’re the one who doesn’t get it. I couldn’t see anything at the cinema with my mates because they all bought into it. My aunt would buy me HP merchandise for Christmas. People would crack jokes in class and I would be clueless. When the majority buys into something – indeed, to a level of obsession – it pushes everyone else away. That’s kind of alienating.
I’m not asking you to understand my reasoning, I’m simply making you aware that not everyone loves Harry the way you do. I’m a silent minority, but whenever anyone like me opens their mouth and says “I don’t get Harry Potter”, your reaction only reinforces my thinking – you become irritating and brash.
I simply don’t like it. It’s not awful – of course not – it’s well-made and entertaining like any blockbuster. But I just don’t get it.