Harry Potter isn’t that great
Now don’t get me wrong: I love Harry Potter. I’ve read all the books multiple times and waited in hours-long lines for midnight releases of the books and movies. I may not be the world’s biggest fan, but I still deeply appreciate the franchise. It not only influenced my own childhood in a way that few other books have, but it also revolutionized the landscape of YA and children’s literature the world over. JK Rowling has done what few authors have ever been able to do: sell millions of books and inspire generations of readers, and as a result, she (and Harry) will likely go down in history.
That being said, Harry Potter isn’t that great — and I’m not just saying that to be contrarian. From a general lack of continuity in the books to the manufactured diversity outside of them, there are many reasons why the Harry Potter series is far from perfect, and it’s time people stopped pretending like it was.
Just recently, there was the news that the latest installment of the Fantastic Beasts movie franchise would not explicitly address Dumbledore’s sexuality, despite the fact that Rowling has confirmed the Hogwarts headmaster is gay. This announcement as a lot of long-term Harry Potter fans up in arms, not because Dumbledore is gay, but because Rowling no longer seems serious about that fact.
The upcoming Fantastic Beasts film is supposed to explore Dumbledore’s relationship with Gellert Grindelwald, the man he was supposed to have been in love with. How can they not address his sexuality when it seems to be such an important part of the film? While Rowling has suggested there is still a lot to cover in the planned five film series, many fans are assuming the worst. She never explicitly addressed people’s concerns either and that’s coming off as a bit inauthentic.
And it’s not just the possible erasure of the series’ only gay men that is problematic, Harry Potter has struggled with diversity for years. From the problematic casting change of Lavender Brown in the films (from two black actors in the first films to a white actor in the third film once she had a larger speaking role), a lack of religious diversity, to the fact that there are no major roles for people of color, Hogwarts might not be as accepting as everyone seems to think.
And while some people have pointed out that Britain is overwhelming white (by some estimates upwards of 90% Caucasian), that doesn’t seem like a good enough excuse in a world where magic literally exists. Rowling has tried to go back and retroactively add elements of diversity to the series, but that adds a whole host of new problems, like the exoticism of Native American folklore in the new content she has created about Ilvermorny, the American school of magic.
Since the original series has wrapped up, Rowling has claimed lots of new things that were never addressed when the books were being released, like we’re all pronouncing Voldemort’s name wrong, or that Hermione could have been black because Rowling never stated what race she was in the books. Even Dumbledore’s sexuality seemed to come as an afterthought for the author, who didn’t mention the man’s sexuality until 2007 (the year The Deathly Hallows was released). From the very beginning it seemed like the fact that Dumbledore was gay was simply brought up as a way to market the final book in the series. And whether that’s true or not remains to be seen.
Rowling is also not a very good writer. However, these were also her very first books, which unexpectedly launched her into international stardom. Her writing has improved drastically over the years, but there are plenty of glaring plot holes throughout the seven book series. For one thing, the Time Turners, originally introduced in the Prisoner of Azkaban, are ridiculously overpowered. Why in the world would a teacher give a student a Time Turner and not use them to, I don’t know, go back in time and stop Voldemort? There’s also the fact that Fred and George Weasley had the Marauders’ Map for years, but somehow never noticed Peter Pettigrew on it?
Harry’s rise to fame also created a whole line of shoddy merchandise and unnecessary stories for the sake of continuing the franchise. The Curse Child, which was marketed as a sequel written by Rowling (it was not), put a huge damper on the series that had quite successfully concluded (as long was forget about that epilogue). The Fantastic Beasts films, while satisfying in their own right, do little to continue the legacy of everyone’s favorite boy wizard.
That’s not to say that Harry Potter hasn’t done a lot of good, though. The series touches on important themes such as friendship and problems of discrimination (in regards to a wizard’s blood status). It also inspired generations of young readers to get excited about books and reading again, which isn’t an easy thing to do. However, it could have done better. JK Rowling has her own flaws and biases that often come through in her writing, and that’s normal.
But we shouldn’t pretend like Rowling can do no wrong because she wrote Harry Potter. We should be critical of her adding seemingly artificial diversity to her novels after the fact (which rarely add anything of substance to the novels) or not standing by the things she’s written in her books (like the fact that Harry and Hermione didn’t end up together). We should be skeptical of spin-off novels and movies that often just seem like a chance to make more money off a beloved series.
Harry Potter is still wonderful, but it’s far from perfect, and we should be able to address that without people getting ready to grab their pitchforks.