24 Year Old Curmudgeon: Why I Hate Harry Potter

Zappy, zappy.

I hate Harry Potter.  Yes, hate is a strong word, particularly to level at a popular series of novels.  But I do.  I thank God that the last movie is FINALLY coming out.  This will be a diatribe.  I apologize in advance.

I do not know why I hate Harry Potter.  How can I? The books are very popular and well-written…to a point.  I will only concede ‘to a point’.  At the very least they have inspired people to read, which is always good, particularly children.  And fandom is something I can get behind.  I love Ghostbusters and I have friends who are obsessed with Lord of the Rings, comic books, video games, novels, etc, etc.  I have no problem with that.  I get obsessed too, usually over very esoteric things.  To object to that would be the pot calling the kettle, as it were.  So why do I hate Harry Potter? What has he ever done to me?

Well, he’s invaded my cinema, for one thing.  I believe that that was the start of my vitriol.  Before the movies began intruding on my life, I simply did not care about Harry Potter.  I don’t know if I was too young or too old or simply more interested in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test to care about wizards.  When the first book came out I was eleven years old and obsessed with Sherlock Holmes.  So I never read the books as a child.  But I have seen the movies.  And even my most Potter-y friends admit: those kids Can.  Not.  Act.  They still can’t act.  Daniel Radcliffe has all the personality of a wet towel; Emma Watson has almost as many expressions as Mr. Potato Head; Rupert Grint whines and whines and whines.  This might be a fault of the source material, of course, or of the scripts.  Regardless, it’s positively grating to watch them on screen.

And what of the Aging British Thespians Brigade? Alan Rickman! Maggie Smith! Richard Harris! Gary Oldman! Ralph Fiennes! Emma Thompson! If you weren’t in Lord of the Rings, you got your chance in Harry Potter.  I love all those actors.  Rickman particularly seems to be enjoying himself immensely, but then he always does.  Every time he talks with one of the kids, I only hear ‘I’m Alan Rickman.  And you’re not.’  Which is fun.  It cannot carry a movie, much less a franchise, but it is fun.

The fact is that the movies are really only supplements to the books.  It’s impossible to follow them without having a serious knowledge of each novel in turn.  As I came to the movies first, perhaps that was my problem.  I was hopelessly confused most of the time.  With the possible exception of whichever film was directed by Alfonso Cuaron*, the movies are fairly dreadful, confused and confusing.  I am of the opinion that cinema should be able to stand on its own, and the Harry Potter movies do not.  So perhaps that is the source of my antipathy.  Like everyone else, I cannot divorce the books from the films any longer and the Films.  Suck.  That is my highly thought out critical opinion born of two years at film school.  They suck.

But even this does not suffice.  Because, the truth is, I should like Harry Potter.  I should like the idea of wizards and good versus evil and betrayal and all that.  I might even be persuaded to endure teenage angst.  I was an angsty teenager once.  I once felt like the world did not understand my intrinsic greatness, like I must be a wizard in disguise.  I love outsiders and rebels and grand adventures.  I should really have no problem with Harry Potter.  And yet…

I can analyze some of the sources of my intense dislike.  The books seem derivative, combining elements of Lord of the Rings, Greek and Roman mythology, folktales and old British traditions, not to mention the ever-present Christ story.  But then so do most books; everyone takes their inspiration from somewhere.  Perhaps it’s that the inspiration comes close to simply lifting whole subplots and characters from other places.

The Christ angle bothers me too.  Maybe I’m just sick of the ‘One who will save humanity (or wizardry) by sacrificing himself for…whatever’.  The Christ story has been done, over and over and over, so that whenever I hear those dreaded words (often phrased differently, but with the same purpose) ‘You are the one…’ I actually cringe.  The world is always coming to an end.  A hero must rise.  Again.  For the hundredth time.

Maybe I’m tired of good vs. evil narratives when we’re living in a world where that simply does not cut it anymore.  To separate characters into good and bad nowadays seems dull, simplistic, and potentially damaging.  Rather than understanding differences, we seek to vilify them.  Rather than examining the darkness and the light within every human being, we draw a dividing line.  We still do it, despite all evidence to the contrary in this world.  Despite the shades of grey.

I know that we need those kinds of narratives, if only to keep our faith in the inherent goodness of humanity.  That was one of the sources of my adoration of Sherlock Holmes: he was the voice of reason and goodness in a terrifying world.  But he was also complex, not always nice, and sometimes not even right.  He believed in the rule of justice, not necessarily law.  I would never argue for always turning the world on its head, for always giving the villains the upper hand, for the defeat of the good guys.  I am not really all that cynical when it comes to humanity.  I believe that all human beings are intrinsically good.  I believe that the human capacity for good is greater than the human capacity for evil.  But I find it dull when it is all made so simplistic, so derivative, so easy to define.

I am a hypocrite.  I have not made an exhaustive study of Harry Potter and I am probably glossing over all sorts of complexities that make those books so popular.  So, I will tone down my language: I do not hate Harry Potter.  I  intensely dislike Harry Potter.  I don’t really know why.  Maybe I’m just contrary.  Maybe I’m a curmudgeon at the age of 24.  Maybe I should give the books another chance.  Perhaps it would change my mind.  I doubt it.  Good for Rowling for creating a character that so many people seem to love and identify with.  But I just can’t.

That said, I kind of want to see the last film.  I want to see Rickman sneer one more time.  I’m just not certain if it’s worth an 8 pound ticket.

*I thought it was Guillermo del Toro.  Thanks, Jon Morris, for pointing out the error.  Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part.*

Author: Lauren

Lauren Humphries-Brooks is a writer, editor, and media journalist. She holds a Master’s degree in Cinema Studies from New York University, and in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh. She regularly contributes to film and pop culture websites, and has written extensively on Classical Hollywood, British horror films, and the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres. She currently works as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader.

10 thoughts on “24 Year Old Curmudgeon: Why I Hate Harry Potter”

  1. Psst…Guillermo del Toro didn’t direct any of the Harry Potter movies…I think you’ve confused him with Alfonso Cuarón.

    Good stuff, as always, btw, and I couldn’t agree more with your frustration over the simplicity of good vs. evil.

  2. Your both idiots. Harry potter has depth and complexity. After the first two books things really pick up. Give it another chance, your missing out on amazing things. The books are much better than the movies (more plot, subplot and detail). And the leed actors can act, maybe youve never seen a good actor, i think thats your problem.

    1. Yeah, see, this is my opinion. ‘Tis what I do — write about my opinions on various things, like how I hate Harry Potter. Which I do. I’m sorry you disagree, but you’re more than entitled to do so. That’s your opinion and I would never take that from you. I have seen many, many films and I assure you that I have a fairly good idea about what constitutes a good performance, which I do not see on display in this particular instance.

      I do enjoy how you successively insult and then try to convince me to give the books another chance.

      Also, just ’cause I’m a stickler: “you’re”, “you’re”, “lead”, “you’ve”, “I”, “that’s.”

    2. I wish I could agree with you, Hatesstupidpeople, but your name is far too ironic for that. It is stupid to call someone stupid and not accept that you might just be the stupid one. I know I am. Stupid, I mean. But, hey, I’m a human. As much as it pains me I can’t find your enthusiasm in myself. Trying to advertise something doesn’t exactly make me want to read it anymore than anything else. I would like to believe the books truly are complex, but after reading just one chapter, I’m not so sure of that. And I gave all the movies a chance, believe me; it wasn’t even the acting that let it down. A, for a film it is too long. I like long books. Love them even, so long as they are interesting. Yet, the movie and books like personality and don’t throw you into the book until half an hour in. A bit like the Avengers, but at least that movie had a small fight in the beginning and an intriguing monologue which kept me enticed. Harry Potter did not. Sherlock did better than Harry Potter too.

  3. I dislike it, for so many reasons. But I hate the fan’s arguments more. HOW is HP complex? Wat depth? They never explain, were just supposed to believe in JK’s good writing even when it sucks.

  4. I have to argue that the line between good and evil is so strong that there is no room for debate. Snape was a terrible person, but still did good things..the catch being that it was for his own agenda. Voldemort was dull and mundane, and I prefer Grindelwald any day, but not all the Death Eaters are one dimensional baddies Narcisse Malfoy DID flat out lie to Voldemort, disproving the theory that all Slytherins are evil and wicked; they are self preserving, and serve only that which is theirs. Harry’s dad was just an asshole in general, and Sirius was just dreadful and retched to Kreacher, leading to his downfall.

    It was Sirius, however, who could sum it all up by saying there is good and bad in everyone, and that the choice to act on either is what truly counts, not our opportunity.

    1. Wreteched to Kreacher? Kreacher was a racist pig, and it’s disgusting that Hermione has any sympathy for that freak. As for James Potter, he did that to Snape because he hated Muggle-borns – I have no sympathy for either of them.

  5. I just want to say that it’s rather creepy how similar we are. I was also eleven years old, and obsessing over Sherlock Holmes, hated Harry Potter for all the same reasons, and am 24-years-old reading this article.

    I am on the 6th book, I thought I’d give them amother chance. I’m actually enjoying them, I think they’re actually very complex for “children’s books”. Not reading them before is becoming a regret of mine.

    But just wanted you to know that someone out there relates and understands.

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