The 'Harry Potter' Complaint Box: Nitpicking J.K. Rowling's almost perfect saga. Your quibbling is desired.
This is a post for those who love Harry Potter — for those who’ve read every book and who’ve seen every movie, for those who’ve spent years geeking out about all things regarding “The Boy Who Lived,” for those who’ve come to the (epically protracted) end of the Potter Pop Phenomenon (now that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 has reached theaters and is destroying box office records) with confident, unshakable affection for J.K. Rowling’s creation. Cynics and ignoramuses, keep out! We want only the super-fans, for their opinions are the most credible and interesting, and because they, more than anyone, have earned the right to quibble.
Now, this may strike some of you as strange, even heretical. ‘Quibble?’ How could anyone ‘quibble’ about Harry Potter? The Goddess Rowling spun a flawless golden yarn! Except for Hagrid. I always wanted to Avada Kedavra that bumbling bearded buffoon and DID I SAY THAT OUT LOUD!?
You sure did! And it felt good, didn’t it? Let’s face it: Rowling’s seven-volume saga was an extraordinary feat of storytelling, but it wasn’t perfect. Not everything was magical. Not every choice was genius. And having come to grips with that truth myself, I’m curious to hear your own nitpicks. And so we create this safe zone of sharing, for the unburdening of prickly perspectives that perhaps you’ve been too afraid to express for fear of being judged harshly by
what film director Alfonso Cuaron once called “the Harry Potter Taliban” other Potter fans. I’ll go first. Here’s my list of beefs (partial; in no particular order) – things this unwavering Potterphile wishes had been done differently, or not done at all. Some of my complaints are rational. Others, not so much, yet I feel them nonetheless. I don’t claim to be “right,” and I’m not trying to convince you of anything. I’m just being a fan. A fan with quibbles! And they must be expressed publicly! (Right after the irritating house ad/link.)
I WISH DOBBY HAD NEVER BEEN BORN.
I have friends who wept when Dobby got gutted in Rowling’s last Potter book. Not me. I felt nothing for that … that… thing. To be clear, I hate gratingly obsequious, esteemed challenged, psychologically damaged, physically emaciated, workaholic house elves who speak in the third person and whose cinematic form resembles Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Just as a general rule. What?! Was I supposed to laugh at this unctuous urchin’s antics? Was I supposed to feel sorry for him? Was I supposed to have both reactions at once and then be impressed by his paradoxical complexity? Well, that didn’t happen. For me, the second book was stained by his significance to the plot, and the seventh movie (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1) was emotionally stunted for trying to amplify his small death into grand tragedy. You know who I feel bad for? Hedwig. Harry’s valiant owl served him longer and more faithfully and with greater distinction than Dobby ever did, and was he given a sobby-soggy cinematic funeral after he was violently zapped from the sky while defending his master from Death Eaters? NO. That was just WRONG. Anyway: Dobby blows. I don’t care if his character arc — some blah blah blah about “liberation” and “inner strength” and “sacrifice” or something — is poignantly moving to kids and the profoundly insecure. The wobble-headed floppy-eared mole-boy is irksomeness incarnate! I want to sew his leathery hide into a football and punt him! DOBBY IS THE JAR JAR BINKS OF HARRY POTTER…
Okay, maybe that’s taking it too far. Let me put it soberly: I just wish a cooler character had fulfilled his function in the narrative.
I WISH LUPIN HAD BEEN GIVEN MORE TO DO.
The thoughtful, inspiring professor with the tragic full moon disability ranks among my favorite characters in the Potter saga. Best. Teacher. Ever! The one who taught Harry and friends about conquering fear and managing the monster that lies within all of us. I thought he had earned a place of great significance in Harry’s life – even more so than, say, his godfather, Sirius Black. I looked forward to seeing their rapport grow after “Moony’s” memorable debut in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. And yet, Lupin never again had the presence and significance he once possessed and should have maintained in Harry’s journey. The emotional punch of his ultimate fate suffered as a consequence of the neglect — especially in the movie version of the serial. A pity.
I WISH HARRY HADN’T FALLEN IN LOVE WITH GINNY.
Never bought it. Cho Chang Forever!
I WISH HARRY’S FINAL VICTORY OVER VOLDEMORT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TECHNICALITIES OF ELDER WAND ALLEGIANCE.
Not that it doesn’t make sense. It does. And to be clear, I think it works. But it bugs me to this day that the most dramatic, cathartic moment in Rowling’s story pivots on a twist that required a bunch of exposition to explain. Maybe she felt it was necessary. Voldemort was a magnificent mage, more powerful than Harry. There’s no reason that the snout-nosed fiend should have lost their duel unless he made a mistake. Fair enough. But this mistake? Don’t you think Voldemort — so savvy about elaborate resurrection schemes — should have had the mental moxy to puzzle out his wand malfunction and tried to rectify the problem before barging into the final battle? (Isn’t there a spell for that? Revealicus Rightfulownershipicus!) Moreover, if Harry had earned The Elder Wand’s loyalty by disarming its previous owner (Draco), why didn’t Voldemort win The Elder Wand’s allegiance after zapping Harry into limbo during their skirmish in The Forbidden Forest? Even if there’s a reasonable answer — and I can see one coalescing in my head as I type these words — again, it bothers me that understanding the how and why of Voldemort’s defeat demands so much thought. Harry deserved a clean-kill victory. Maybe Rowling wasn’t comfortable with giving him that. Maybe she didn’t want Harry to “win” by killing anyone, even someone as loathsome as Voldemort. Messianic Chosen Ones don’t murder their way to righteous, world-saving victory. See: Luke Skywalker. So Voldemort had to be responsible for his own demise – and by insisting on working a wand that by the rules of fine print couldn’t slay its rightful owner, the (suddenly dumb) dark lord’s killing curse rebounded on him, robbing him of triumph. Again: It all works, even if it’s not as satisfying as I want it to be. And it’s not like I can come up with anything better. After all: I’m no J.K. Rowling.
I could continue quibbling – about how Rowling wrapped up the Dursleys; about the fuzzy relationship between the wizarding and non-magical worlds; and about the small fortune Harry’s parents left him – but I’m more interested in hearing your complaints than droning on. What about Harry Potter did you find buggy? Feel free to vent without shame in the message boards below. No one will judge you or make fun of you. Promise! (Oh, and for the record: HAGRID ROCKS.)