Thursday, July 12, 2007

Expecto Patronum

I am not going to lie. I've only read the first chapter of the first book of the ENTIRE series. But that doesn't make me any less of a fan...maybe a less obnoxious one, however. (Kidding Becky.) I will say this much with absolute seriousness: I wish I'd known harry Potter when I was fourteen.

Before you go twisting that into some pedophilial-sexual accusation, understand that I mean the story and the character - not Daniel Radcliffe. Although, I amend that statement immediately to say that I did not, in fact, know many boys like him when I was fourteen and probably would have been shy of the cute lad if I had. What I DO mean by that statement is that I feel I suffered a sever lack of heroes as a child. Realistic heroes, with whom I could readily identify. The idea of feeling different only takes one so far with the X-men as they were grown ups with blue skin that could fly. And the only other fictional character I can recall having looked up to at some point in my teenage years was Ellen Ripley, from Aliens...and that's a whole psychiatric session right there.

Harry Potter and his friends and enemies at Hogwarts School of Wizardry offers up a hero that a fourteen year old can understand. He's geeky, he's awkward, he's cooler than he thinks he is, and he doesn't always get it right. There is an element of realism in that simple fact alone that is so strong, it is in itself, one of his greatest appeals.

There is no denying that the magic and wizardry is exciting and even I've perused the online catalogs of the now abundant selections of magic wands to find my own. But the greatest battles that Harry fights are not with magic, and that is what makes him a hero. Although the 10 o'clock news has desensitized many of us with stories of children being beaten to death, smothered, buried alive and dumped in trash bins, one must take a moment and truly think about the environment that the character Harry is returned to when he is not in school. He lives with an aunt and uncle who systematically tell the boy how worthless he is, treat him as a house servant, and at the beginning of the series, even make him sleep beneath the stairs in a closet. These acts are not as terrible as ritualistic beatings, but they are cruel and without cause. So to see Harry learning that he is a worthwhile person, to see him empathize with Dobbie the house-elf, and to finally stand up for himself...these are much greater and more important acts than learning a stun spell with his wand. The fantastic thing about this series is that the films, with all their flash and spectacle, still manage to make this point.

I have not read the book series, but I DO intend to buy them for my niece. Every damn one of them. The movies too. Because I think that if I'd had a hero like Harry Potter that some things would have been different for me. It isn't silly to think that a fictional character can make a large impact on someone's life, or on their self-image. It can be immensely influencing for children who were like me, ones that were truly afraid of others...that hid themselves in the closet under the stairs; having someone in that fantasy world that they retreat to be courageous enough to show that the evils of neglect, ridicule, and hatred can be overcome no matter what level they surface at be it schoolyard enemies, unfit parents or vicious serial killers. Harry has faced them all, and he's learned from it- but he doesn't know everything. Like us, he is hurt, angry and afraid. He shows us that looking to friends for help is important. Having faith in yourself is important. Learning and understanding the power of love and friendship is invaluable.

Harry Potter: ....I just feel so angry, all the time. And what if after everything I’ve been through, something’s gone wrong inside me. What if I’m becoming bad.
Sirius Black: I want you to listen to me very carefully Harry. You’re not a bad person. You’re a very good person, who bad things have happened to. You understand?
[Harry nods his head]
Sirius Black: Besides, the world isn't split into good people and death eaters. We have all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the power we chose to act on. That’s who we really are.

I remember laying in bed at night and fantasizing that I was a Jedi Warrioress- better than Luke (because a girl Jedi would be)...or putting myself into the Wolfrider pack as their elven leader....or slaying the dragon in the dungeons of Golrath....but in the end, these fantasies faded because there was nothing- no tentative thread- connecting them to reality. Those heroes could only exist in their world. There is no room for them here.

Harry Potter, however, he is the boy that sits next to you in history class. He's the boy that is sitting alone on the bench when everyone else goes on the field trip. He's the boy that seems like he can't get anything right...yet emanates an aura of magic and power that we are drawn to but don't understand. And I was Harry Potter. I am Harry Potter. And so are you.


ElphieWitch said...

Amen baby. A-frickin'-men.

Kahl said...

Since I've been told (by people who apparently are too special to post comments) that my review falls short...I want to point out that this is not a film review. This is, in actuality a personal commentary on my impressions of the character of Harry Potter.

Because a few people I know have not yet seen this film, and get fussy if anything is fore mentioned....I won't BE reviewing this film until, perhaps, it is on DVD. Perhaps, if people really want me to, I will review each film that is on DVD so that when this one comes out...I'll have an ongoing series and two more movies to boot.

If you want a review NOW, try here at the BBC: Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix

Wig said...

That was beautiful...I am in total agreement here. Sure, a fictional character isn't the be all of our lives, our universe...but they really do change us, affect our minds in small ways. And maybe even in big ways! Our connection to fictional characters starts so early, I'd have to say those bananas in pajamas could have affected my likes and dislike in fruit!!!
silly example, though maybe...

yes, I am absurd. But at fourteen, my admiration of a certain black stallion and a magical boy led me to reading and enjoying it! It lead to learning, and dreaming about the impossible and hoping to try it one day... Harry Potter is a hero, indeed!

augh, here's me, all blahdebalhh!!
thisallmeansGO YOU!!!