Harry Potter is Overrated

Since its release in 1997, J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series have received countless awards and accolades. On top of that, the franchise has made billions of dollars along with the creation of a seven film series that is regarded as one of the most successful film series of all time. All this has brought Rowling and the series an incredible amount of praise from around the world. Loving fans of the Harry Potter franchise can be found anywhere. This would be great, if Harry Potter was not grossly overrated.

“I thought it was an okay series to get into reading and learn more about fiction and series. Overall I think there are better series’ to introduce young kids into the fiction world and into reading,” said freshman Emily Barnhart.

My criticism of the series does not come from a place of hatred. From fourth to fifth grade, I read every single Harry Potter book, watched every single Harry Potter movie and spent an embarrassing amount on memorabilia. With the amount of love the franchise receives, you would think it would be some kind of masterpiece in literature. 

But after revisiting the series, more issues became very clear. Flawed logic and overused tropes are just some of the flaws that show that Harry Potter does not deserve the reverence it gets.

“Well I tried to read it but it was boring so I stopped. I thought it would be interesting because people like it, but it just wasn’t. And I didn’t want to read the whole thing,” said sophomore Aubrey Zvoushe-Ramos.

Quantity over quality is an issue that is present in Rowling’s style of writing. At the micro level, these reveal themselves in small nitpicky issues. Problems like redundant use of adjectives and cumbersome descriptions of setting overextend the already bloated books. But I have more interest in exploring the issues regarding the world building of Rowling’s “Wizarding World.”

Rowling has made great attempts to expand the universe that the original series resides in. In the book, that meant trying her best to make the world of Harry Potter feel alive. Beyond the original series, Rowling created a website to post informational articles regarding aspects of the Wizarding World along with releasing spin-off books and movies. 

The issue with this is that most of the storytelling feels like a half-baked afterthought, as in reality they are the afterthoughts of an author trying to expand her fictional world. Many of these additional pieces of media post-Harry Potter feel like low effort cash-grabs riding the coattails of Harry Potter’s initial success.

To navigate back to the books themselves, much of the world building elements within the world seem carelessly created without much thought to the logic of their existence. Ideas like time traveling, magical slavery and the fictional racism regarding magical blood are showcased without the ramifications properly being explored. This creates a world that falls apart when looked at through the lens of realism. It creates an air of mediocrity that surrounds the writing of this universe.

The fictional racism in Harry Potter has been heavily criticized in recent years. With concepts like “House Elves,” a race of enslaved elves who are happy to be servants, being seen as distasteful. Her exploration of “pure blooded” wizards being a direct allegory to racism also feels phoned in as it is explored in a very surface level light. Certain characters are still written in a sympathetic light while being fictional representations of racists. 

Examples like the character of Severus Snape being shown as a hero in the final book, sacrificing himself for the protagonists, also being an ex-member of a supremacy group rubs me the wrong way, and works towards obfuscating issues like prejudice which should be black and white.

It may sound oxymoronic, but good fantastical writing needs to have a grounded base to create a quality world. I would consider works like the Lord of the Rings franchise to be much better when it comes to crafting a logically sound world while still incorporating fantastical elements like magic.

Rowling often wrote herself into “logical corners” as she created her series. In the third book, Rowling introduced the concept of “time turners,” magical options that can reverse time. This creates an everlasting issue in the series as how can there be any conflict if any action is reversible? Leading to Rowling, in the fifth book, making it so all of the time turners in the world were coincidentally destroyed.

The overall plot of Harry Potter is also guilty of using many common tropes and clichés. Clichés include Harry being the “Chosen One” and an orphan, the villains being allegories to the Nazi’s in WW2 and even the Hogwarts house structure with Gryffindor being the house for good guys and Slytherin being the house for all of the villains. Tropes and clichés are not bad in and of itself, but goes to show the unoriginality of many parts of the Harry Potter universe.

At the end of the day though, Harry Potter is a children’s book series, is it really deserving of deep analysis when it is not meant to be high level literature? 

Australian critic John Eberhart says in his critical review of the fifth Harry Potter book: “There are some who’d argue that these are books for kids, so why sweat the throat-clearings and cliches? Here’s why: Regardless of whether you’re writing for adults or children – and Rowling writes for both – you owe your readers craft and concision.”

Being a piece of children’s media does not immediately absolve criticism. With that chain of logic, there would be millions of books, movies, TV shows and more that would be impervious to greater scrutiny. There are much better children’s book series that are able to be both children’s literature while still being well enough written to stand up to analysis.

 A great example of this is the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, which I also read when I was younger. The books, although not perfect, do not fall into the same pitfalls that the Harry Potter books did. All events in the plot are meaningful to the overall storyline that Riordan wanted to craft. Percy Jackson utilizes the “Chosen One” concept similarly to Harry Potter, but subverts readers by revealing in the final book that the chosen one was never the titular Percy Jackson, but in fact the main villain of the series. Finally, the fantastical elements of the story stay consistent throughout the numerous books in the franchise, which helps build a believable world. 

“The Percy Jackson series kept me entertained for a long time,” said sophomore Mickyle Quinones. “I found the seven chapters of Harry Potter to be very boring while Percy Jackson got into the action and got me engaged much quicker.”

The Harry Potter franchise has had an immense impact on books, movies and culture in general since its debut in 1997. But the buzz around the series seems undeserved, when the series is victim to common clichés and poor writing. No piece of media and writing should feel haphazardly made when it receives such global fame and praise. And yes, I am a Slytherin.

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