Image from The Verge.
I would like to preface this by saying that while I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan, I do not agree with J.K. Rowling’s problematic views on transgender people, nor do I find her afterthought additions to the series positive or helpful. Rather, they show an author’s feeble attempts at staying relevant in the changing times and in charge of the narrative she constructed.
If you know me, you’re familiar with my deep obsession with everything Harry Potter-related. From the books to the movies to the merch to the amusement parks, I am a fan. While many recognize the literary value of the series as a well-constructed, thematically rich, moving story, not everyone is a self-professed Harry Potter fanatic, so why am I?
If you’ve read my article “Let’s Normalize Expressing Positive Feelings,” you might know that I moved to the United States from my Mexican homeland in 2012. After living on the same island for most of my life, having the same friends since childhood, and knowing every inch of my hometown, I was suddenly thrust into a foreign environment where I felt like an outsider. At that time, I had no friends, and I felt more deeply alone than I ever had. It was then that I read the series for the first time.
Harry, a lonely boy with no social ties to the Wizarding World, is also thrust into the unknown. He, too, had to navigate a complete change in his surroundings, and he, too, made it out alive. Given that protagonists are seldom the most interesting characters in their stories, it’s easy to dismiss him as boring, but for me, his experience and growth mirrored my own with eerie similarities.
As Harry walked into Hogwarts for the first time, I walked into a new school. As he slowly made friends, I gradually began to meet people. In the later books, Harry battles a deep depression, constant anger, and volatile emotions, and I, too, began my battle with depression around that time. Harry was a mirror for myself, a character I not only identified with but deeply sympathized with. I felt seen, like I wasn’t alone, and as Harry grew up and matured into the hero the series deserved, my hopes for myself increased.
There are also a multitude of other complex, dynamic characters to identify with, grow infatuated with, and despise. Hermione Granger is an intelligent, at times brash, initially insecure girl with a desire to be accepted in the Wizarding World. She is introduced as a seemingly annoying know-it-all, but as her friendship with Harry grows, so does she. We see her mature and learn to accept herself and her strengths and flaws, and for me, she provided a role model and hope that I too would gain such self-acceptance.
Luna Lovegood, a proud Ravenclaw (also my Hogwarts house!) and individualistic girl navigates the relatable struggle of being different and judged for it. At times when I felt insecure about not fitting in, I remembered Luna’s resilience and strength, as well as her pride in being different. As a fellow Ravenclaw, I’ve come to see individuality as a treasure to keep and uphold, rather than a source of shame. Not only have I found characters to relate to but a “personality type” to take pride in.
While Harry’s story may seem cliche at first glance – a special kid, symbolically representing “good,” battles the physical embodiment of evil – the beauty of the story lies in the details and subtext. Harry Potter is more than a hero’s story, it’s a story about the strength and power of love. Whether it be familial love, friendship, romantic love, etc., it holds a special kind of weight. In the series, love is encouragement; it’s being present; it’s experiencing the best and the worst together and not letting it come between you and those who matter to you.
Love is putting in the effort to be better and do better; it’s showing up when it counts. Harry had all the potential to become Voldemort, a villain angry at the world for the pain it caused him, but he actively chose not to follow that path. He chose to work for love.
To me, Harry Potter is more than a story. It’s a friend. It’s been with me at my best and my worst; it helped me through the hardest time in my life and gave me a sense of safety and companionship. It’s okay if you don’t feel that connection with this particular story (even I’ll admit my obsession may be too strong for some), but I hope you have your own Harry Potter in your life. I hope you’ve found a story that stays with you, that nuzzles itself in your heart and warms you up from the inside. If you haven’t, get looking, get reading, get watching. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Do you like Harry Potter?