I’m sure at some point in our latest episodes I’ve gone over this, but I really want to talk about my experience with Harry Potter.
Now, I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who grew up reading the series, much like Anya and Victoria, but I was not a reader. Reading involved a lot of focus and, to be honest, all I wanted to do when I was a child was be outside. I never really understood reading. I would never focus on it enough to really engage my imagination, and I feel like I lost out on a lot because of that.
It’s funny when I think about it now because younger me loved everything magic related, and older me believes reading is magic. Younger me really loved things that seemed impossible, older me still loves those things, but I feel like younger me would have loved a story about kids saving a bunch of nitwit adults and dealing with the extraordinarily harsh reality that is growing up, making friends, making enemies, and trying to find out where you belong (current me still faces those realities, but that’s an entirely different story). But even though I loved those ideas, I never read the Harry Potter series.
And while I feel like I missed out on the story as told by the incomparable J.K. Rowling, I don’t feel like I missed out on Harry Potter.
As a person who studies books for a living, I think it was really difficult for me to read Harry Potter for the first time with the critical background I have developed over my years of studying books. Now, I’m sure I’ll offend a few people by saying this, but the first two books were genuinely a struggle for me. They were so simple and, as someone who saw the movies first, I found it hard to imagine the amount of detail I had seen on screen in something that is so blatantly a children’s book. Maybe that says more about my not-as-active adult imagination than it does about the books, but I don’t think the books were terrible. I just found them hard to get through. I wanted more. I wanted to see these characters and places as vividly in my mind as I had seen them on screen. Which is why I cannot say I feel like I missed out on Harry Potter.
Yes, I missed out on a few things like Peeves and the Death Day scene (just thinking of the first two books in general), but I did not miss out on being brought on the journey with our three friends, Harry, Hermione, and Ron.
For someone like younger me, who would have rather been outside collecting all kinds of cuts and bruises from dawn till dusk, I think the movies did a fantastic job at making their audience feel like they were figuring everything out with the characters. And I know this has everything to do with the way J.K. wrote the story, but I did not feel like I was missing enough to warrant me fighting myself to read the books as a child. I feel like I would have hated every second of it and ultimately that would have made me hate reading more than I already did. I’m a firm believer that to really get into reading you have to find the right thing for you, something that you see yourself in, and I know for a lot of you that might have been Harry Potter. You are lucky that you found yourself in a series as special as this one. But for me, reading came much later. The Harry Potter movies were more my speed and, while they glossed over a few things, I was lucky enough to have a very patient sister who had read the books and would answer any and all questions I had about what I could potentially be missing, which was almost always answered in the movies, I’m just one of those people who wants to know how it all plays out and still loves watching it happen even though I already know what’s coming.
In hindsight, Harry Potter was the perfect bildungsroman for our generation, and I believe it holds a lot of power in how people of my generation look at the world. When faced with the end of life as we know it, the idea of coming together and raising our voices and taking action to defeat darkness and evil is a pretty powerful message. I firmly believe it is one my generation is trying to spread in our current time of crisis, but maybe I just like to hope we will stand together when the shit comes down…
Like me, I don’t think you HAVE to read the books to get the driving ideas behind the story. Whichever platform you prefer will still give you those warm, heartbreaking, triumphant, devastating, fearful, and hopeful feelings that make this series one of the most beloved series of all time.
And for that, I would like to say Thank you. Thank you, J.K. and Warner Brother’s Studios for making our world more magical than ever before.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
(reading light or the light of a screen, your choice.)