Saturday, July 16, 2011

Top 10 Things I Don't Like About The Harry Potter Series

J.K. Rowling just announced the release of Pottermore, and it’s going into Beta.  Not yet clear on what’s the extent of the site/game would be, but the advertisement gave us some idea.  And the last Harry Potter movie is out.  Harry Potter is at its peak.

I read the books and watched the movies.  I have read all the books, starting from my late elementary days and finished, as the series ended, when I was in college.  No, I never have had any HP book.  Never bought one.  Nor ask for one or was given one as a gift.  But I borrowed from friends – from Meg when I was in elementary and then from DY when I was in high school and college (fortunately, she was also my classmate in college).  Both were die-hard fans of HP, but I was never one.  Yes, I borrowed the books and been a fan to the extent that I wanted to read and know the whole story.  But that’s it.  No, I didn’t hate it.  I have enjoyed it.  I found HP entertaining.  But it never really won my “love” as a literature.  Nothing really exceptionally awesome about it.        

There are several things about the Harry Potter series that I don’t like at all.  Here are the top ten of those things that bugged me about the series:      


In Book 3, Hermione took an overload of subjects.  To help her, Prof. McGonagall gave Hermione a “Time-Turner” that allowed her to time travel. Thus, she was able to study all her lessons and also have time rest.  In the climax of the story, Hermione revealed this fact to Harry, and they both travelled back in time to save Sirius Black from being sent to Azkaban.  (They were also able to save Buckbeak the Hippogriff from being executed and save Harry’s past self from the Dementors along the way.)

After that, it seemed that time travel was forgotten as it was never ever mentioned or used in the next books.  I mean, come on, why not?  Time travel magic is one very INVALUABLE magic, why didn’t Harry and friends used it again in their subsequent adventures, especially when they were searching for the Horcruxes?  Time travel could have helped them plenty in their adventures and fights.  And why no other wizard used time travel?  Why didn’t Voldemort?  Come to think of it, why did McGonagall gave such powerful thing as a "Time-Turner" to a mere student like Hermione?

Sure, fictional stories will always have some plot holes, and we should give writers some slack sometimes when they create plot holes.  But there are forgivable plot holes and there are annoyingly unforgivable plot holes.  And J.K. Rowling’s usage of time travel annoyed me greatly.  There are plot conveniences in fiction that can be “put in a drawer” after it solves a plot problem/conflict, but something like time travel is not simple.  Time travel is controversial and big.  Time travel is a powerful plot convenience, and it can never be dismissed easily after it had its use in the story.  If the author chooses to “put it in a drawer” to never touch it again in the entire storyline, it would always leave an annoying feeling of “if such powerful convenience exists in the story’s universe, why isn’t it used again?”

I think Rowling never thought how big time travelling really is when she tackled it.  


Dumbledore is one of the best characters in the series.  A powerfully badass wizard that is probably the only one with no fear of Voldemort.  A master tactician, as he employed espionage in the war, planned his death, and even able to manipulate events after his death.  He is also a great fatherly mentor to Harry.  

J.K. Rowling ruined his image with an admission in an interview that Dumbledore is gay.  

I couldn’t find a more perfect reaction than this famous lolcat:

Come on, Rowling?!  Really?!  Why not just leave the debate of Dumbledore’s sexuality to the fans?  I mean, this is uncomfortable.  This erases the “fatherly mentor to Harry” image of Dumbledore.  What is now the implication of their regular private talks throughout the series?  Yup, there’s no explicit sexual pressure content between them, but we can’t get it out of our minds what the real “affection” between them means after learning that Dumbledore is gay. AWKWARD!!!   


Book 5 introduced us to the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore’s Army.  And, for me, they lacked exposure throughout the series.  

Book 5’s title was “…and the Order of the Phoenix”, and yet, they failed to really shine until they went “cavalry”, arriving to rescue Harry and friends in the last minute from Voldemort and his Death Eaters in the Ministry of Magic.  There was no real detailed “Order of the Phoenix” vs. “Death Eaters” skirmish.  

Then there’s Harry’s “Dumbledore’s Army”.  It was really awesome considering they are made up of Hogwarts students from different houses.  They were inexperienced and juvenile, but they were self-trained and roughly combat-ready.  And yet, they never really had some action together as a group.  Aside from the usual Hermione and Ron, only Neville and Luna of the DA came with Harry to face-off with the Death Eaters at the Ministry of Magic.   The only time the full roster of DA really saw action was in the “Final Battle” at Hogwarts, but, hey, everybody was fighting by then.  

Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t got enough of some DA and Order of the Phoenix action.         


It is said that what makes a story great is a great villain.  The Harry Potter story’s villain was promising at the start.  He’s so evil and frightening that even the mere mention of his name makes the wizard community tremble.  When people mentioned of him, they address him as “You-Know-Who” or “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”.  That is badass.  It made us expect that the Harry Potter series will have the greatest villain ever conceptualized in fiction.

What we got was this noseless clown:

Ok, to be fair, Ralph Fiennes played the Voldemort character well.  And Voldemort is a bad, mad, and actually pretty decent villain.  The only problem was he was not as villainous as advertized.  I was expecting Voldemort to be a combination of an explosive, insane, mass-murdering and genocidal Adolf Hitler, and an intelligent and calculating, Hannibal Lecter-like, cannibalistic, psychotic/sociapathic, terrifyingly vile and disturbed, serial killing, sexual predator.  

As I’ve said, Voldemort was a decent villain.  But compared to what he was being hyped, he came out as a “meh” villain.  

For me, two other antagonists in “Harry Potter” were better than Voldemort:  Bellatrix Lestrange (which was played brilliantly by Helena Bonham Carter in the movie) and the soul-sucking Dementors. 


I didn’t like the epilogue of the series.  

In the epilogue, Harry and friends are adults already. Harry is married to Ginny, and they have kids of their own to send to Hogwarts.  The epilogue of Harry Potter didn’t give the “wrap-up” feel that I wanted, which could have been done if it just told the immediate aftermath.  The epilogue immediately fast-forwarded to several years later.  A few days or even a few years would have been enough.  

Most importantly, by doing an epilogue that only wraps the chapter regarding Voldemort instead of fast-forwarding to an adult Harry, the option of writing another Harry Potter saga afterwards is comfortably open for Rowling.  Sure, it could still be written, but knowing what would happen in its future (because of the adult Harry epilogue), it will lack flavor or suspense.  There will be “Ah, Harry will survive this” when he’s placed in a life-threatening situation or “Harry would marry Ginny anyway” when a new love interest arrives for Harry.  So Rowling is on a disadvantage on creating the necessary elements of another captivatingly and unpredictable Harry tale when its ultimate end is already known.        


Wands in the HP world?  Stereotypical but still cool.  Especially with the unique “recipe” of wand for each individual.     

Owls as pets and mail couriers?  Ok, e-mail is still more practical, but, hey, that is still interesting and creative.

Sorting Hat?  That’s refreshingly unique!

Broomsticks for transportation?  Er… It’s stereotypical and stupid.  Just think of it for a minute.  Broomsticks.  Regardless of the fact that you can fly by the use of such things, I still can’t find myself being excited with a broomstick.  “Oooh!  It’s a Nimbus 2000!!!” Really retarded getting thrilled about receiving a broomstick for Christmas.

I mean… come on!!!  Broomsticks???!!!   


Quidditch is a stupid sport.  It is probably the most ridiculous game invented for fiction.  Ever.  

For starters, we have players riding on broomsticks flying around.  I already pointed out in the previous item that I found broomsticks silly.

A Quidditch team is made up of Chasers, Beaters, Keeper, and Seeker.  Each team has three Chasers whose function in offense is to move the “Quaffle” ball, by passing among themselves, across the field and then shoot it through any of the three goal hoops.  Each goal is worth 10 points.  The opposing Chasers, playing defense, tries to steal the “Quaffle” when it is being advanced by the opposing team.  Each team has two Beaters, armed with two bats, whose function is to protect their teammates from two “Bludger” balls.  Bludgers are iron balls bewitched to fly around randomly hitting players.  And the Keeper, if it’s not yet obvious, guards the three goal hoops by blocking the shot attempts of the opposing Chasers.   

So, disregarding the broomsticks and just considering the flying around, scoring balls through goal rings, and players getting knocked off by charmed bowling balls, Quidditch seem to be a pretty decent and logical game.  

My beef is with the Seeker.  The aim of the Seeker is to capture the Golden Snitch before the opposing Seeker does.  The Golden Snitch is a small golden ball with wings that randomly flies around the field.  The game ends whenever the Snitch is caught by a Seeker, and the team in which the Seeker belongs in gets 150 points, which is equivalent to 15 goals.   And that ladies and gentlemen is batshit insane!  So unless a team scores 16 goals more than the opposing team, whoever gets the snitch wins.  

It’s like two teams are playing soccer, and at the same time, two guys are playing checkers.  Whoever wins the checker game gives his team 15 goals.  So even if your soccer team is made up of rookies and injured players and your opponent has a team of athletic and talented Beckhams and Rolandos, as long as you have a mean checker-playin’ geezer, you will win the game.  To see how ridiculously unfair that is, try scoring 15 goals in soccer.

And this is the biggest sport in the wizard world?!  Even if they’re flying around and being knocked off by flying bowling balls, I still find basketball, hockey, or American football more exciting.  Muggles are not missing out at all.  


There is only one character that is acceptable to be more interesting than the hero of the story, and that is the villain of the story.  Sometimes, two or three more supporting characters can be more interesting than the main character, and that could still be okay.

But in Harry Potter, it’s as if half of the roster of characters is more interesting than Harry.  Let me enumerate who I think are more interesting characters than Harry Potter: Hermione Granger, the Weasley twins, Albus Dumbledore, Sirius Black, Severus Snape, Voldemort, Bellatrix Lestrange, Nymphadora Tonks, Remus Lupin, Luna Lovegood, and Neville Longbottom.   

Congrats, Harry, you are, however, still more interesting than Ron Weasley.

To be fair, I found that there are times that Harry could shine above the others (especially when he willingly went to Voldemort to be “killed”.  That took guts).  But the entirety of the series, I found his supporting characters more likable.

My favorite HP character is Luna Lovegood.  She’s a charming girl.  Naive-like but insightful and smart (a Ravenclaw after all).  Almost impervious to emotion.  She has the air of a conspiracy theorist, but without the annoying paranoia.  And I love that dreamy voice and unblinking eyes. I mean you can probably make an attempt on startling her with a "Boo!" and she would give you a bored look in return.

Because of Helena Bonham Carter’s excellent portrayal of Bellatrix Lestrange, she became my favorite villain in the HP universe.  As I’ve said earlier, I find her a more interesting villain than Voldemort.

Severus Snapes was awesome playing as Dumbledore’s double-agent.  I didn’t mind that he died in the story, but it would have been better if he died fighting – explicitly revealing to Voldemort that he was loyal to Dumbledore all along – rather than being killed by Nagini.

Neville Longbottom’s character development was the best in the 7-book (8-movie) series.  From spineless weakling to the brave leader of Dumbledore’s Army (in the last book) and killer of Nagini – last Horcrux of Voldemort.  In fact, it would have been more interesting if Neville was the real “chosen one” after all and not Harry (since the prophecies for Harry as a “chosen one” applies to Neville as well), and that Dumbledore – smart strategist as he is – is just using Harry as a “red herring” to protect Neville.  Thus, when Harry (after realizing he’s a Horcrux of Voldemort) voluntarily gets himself killed (really killed) by Voldemort, it was Neville who would have finally defeated Voldemort.  That would have been an awesome plot twist!  It could have been a better development than what was the actual.        


I am not saying that the Harry Potter series was bad.  No, as I’ve said right from the start, I have enjoyed it.  But it’s definitely overrated.

The Harry Potter series was okay, but it’s not as good as everybody believes it to be.  The success and praise it received is not proportional to the success and praise it deserved.  There are plenty of better fantasy books than Harry Potter.  More insightful, more intelligent, and more well-told than Harry Potter. 

Not all Harry Potter fans are literature fans.  In fact, most of Harry Potter’s readers and fans, probably, are not well-read or lacked the exposure on other books other than HP.  They just concluded that Harry Potter is “the best” since it’s the only book they have read.  It’s like concluding – as a critic wrote somewhere – that “a Big Mac is the best before even tasting lobster.” 

Aside from lack of exposure to better fantasy books, another reason for HP being overrated is the “bandwagon” effect.  People like to join the “in” crowd, and since Harry Potter is “in”, they jumped into it.  But HP is not your ordinary fad.  Fad disappears or goes extinct.  But the momentum built by the HP bandwagon is, already, impressively too large to stop.  And because of this, the idea that “Harry Potter is the best”, that was first “believed” for the sole purpose of joining the “in” crowd, becomes a real belief by the fans as a collective unit; there’s no boundary between bandwagon and real fans anymore.            

The worst thing about “Harry Potter” is it paved the way for “Twilight”.  When the “Harry Potter” book series finished, it created a void in the “overrated” genre-environment created by HP.  And, unfortunately, the one that catered to fill that void was this trash “Twilight”.  “Harry Potter” is greatly overrated, but at least it’s an enjoyable good read.  “Twilight”, however, is bad and outrageously overrated.  


Ashara said...

Great article! I agree about a lot of your points. Back when I was a more naive teen I loved HP, but although a fun read, there were some major inconsistencies (the time travel thing), things I found stupid (the way Sirius Black died, and in fact the unnecessary character deaths - Hedwig? What? Why? - the prolonged camping trip, and the fact that Harry came back to Godrick's hollow for no good reason, Dumbledore being gay, etc.). You mentioned there were books you liked more, so I'd love to hear your recommendations, either for better fantasy books or good books in general. Which ones would you suggest?

bernel said...

thanks for commenting...

there's the basics: narnia, lotr, artemis fowl, stardust, and even alice's adventures in wonderland...

for more mature fantasy... there's, "his dark materials trilogy", "a song of ice and fire", "chronicles of thomas covenant", "the dark tower series"...

well, those are good books to start with ^_^

Stu said...

Just a note on the Time Turners (have to do this because of my inner potter nerd). They were all destroyed in order of the phoenix. When the DA is battling the Death Eaters all of them get blown up. On the other hand, I think I've seen interviews where Rowling said if she could change one thing about the series it would be using the Time Turner. Just too many questions raised by time travel.

As far as the other stuff. I agree with the Dumbledore gripe. And I hate twilight, but I don't think we can play Rowling for that...