Benjamin-Rollins-column

The dark truth: Harry Potter is overrated


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There are many reasons to criticize Harry Potter. The central tension of the series feels forced, the characterization comes across as cliché, and the magic exists merely as a contrivance for narrative convenience.

To go into it all would take much more than the 600-ish words Scroll gives me for a column, so I’ll limit myself to discuss the series’ biggest flaw: Voldemort.

For the happy few who have not read the books or seen the movies, be warned: The rest of this column will contain spoilers.

I feel no guilt about that. It has been eight years since the last book was published and four since the final movie was released. The statute of spoiler limitations is up.

What is so special about He Who Must Not Be Named? Is he the Dark Lord just because he divided his soul seven times into seven horcruxes? Apparently not, since he was the Dark Lord before he completed his rituals.

Besides, it feels like the only spell he ever uses is avada kedavra, which he also has to cast when he makes a horcrux. Does he know any other spells? Plenty of other dark witches and wizards seem perfectly capable of casting it. Why is he so special?

The books never take the time to explain it. J.K. Rowling just keeps winking at the reader, saying, “Trust me, he’s really powerful and really bad.”

That only works for the first few books. The series demands more from the arch-villain than a few paltry speeches and killing curses after he finally reappears in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The majority of his characterization boils down to a flawed personality test administered by a pontificating headdress.

His “remarkable sway” over others’ minds also seems limited to an unremarkable ability to understand the two-dimensional stereotypes reinforced by a Sorting Hat. Voldemort is not alone among the characters in recognizing that Slytherin means evil and Gryffindor means good, and the series’ only two exceptions to that rule are not statistically significant. Evil’s recruitment tactic is pretty straightforward.

All of this aside, it is difficult to take him seriously when magic is reduced to an extremely limited and formulaic system that the author overrides in a deus ex machina whenever the story requires it.

If the Ministry can employ time-travel magic to help Hermione Granger take extra classes, why not use it for something more important, like preventing You Know Who’s ascension?

Even worse, Voldemort’s great weakness from the first book is “the power of love.”

I would like to go on the record as being all in favor of love, but that is the second most cliché storybook solution there is.

Harry Potter is hardly sacrosanct. The series deserves its fans, not its zealots, and those who dislike it do not deserve their ridicule.



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