Viewpoint: Harry Potter: the wizard that never delivered

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Harry Potter had me right where he wanted me. But he always blew it.

Allow me to explain.

The following are my main experiences with the world of Potter. In these instances, I was in a position of vulnerability — where my circumstances left me fully willing to let the power of Potter capture my heart. For whatever reason, it never did.

[media-credit name=”Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter.
Maybe I just don’t “get it.”

But, like I said, allow me to explain.

I was 12 years old, beginning the 6th grade. The first three Harry Potter books had already been published and were all the rage among kids my age. Potter was a big deal then, too, but nowhere near the hysteria-inducing¬†phenomenon he has since become. My mom, seeing my impending teenage angst, thought it might be fun to read the books together before I went to bed each night — a final bedtime story before adolescence reared its ugly head.

And she was right. It was fun. I still have fond memories of the two of us reading that first book, “The Sorcerer’s Stone.”

The book didn’t blow us away, but was entertaining enough to continue on with “The Chamber of Secrets.” We didn’t finish it, though. It felt similar to the first book. A little too similar. Dare I say it was boring. So we quit.

Potter and I kept our distance during the next few years. I did catch the end of the first movie at a friend’s house, the night of my first kiss. But, needless to say, my thoughts were elsewhere that night.

I crossed paths with Potter again my senior year. Some friends and I went to see “The Goblet of Fire” at an IMAX theater in Portland. Once again, Potter had me right where he wanted me. Good friends, an IMAX theater, teenage pseudo-independence in a big city. In such circumstances, how could I not be captivated by his tales of wizardry?

As it turns out, movies not made for IMAX theaters aren’t that great in IMAX theaters. By design, the seats were close to the curved IMAX screen — much too close. Closeups of Potter and the gang were jarring. And, at this point in the series, Potter’s crew was in full teenage swing, with oodles of angsty emoting that seemed to call for many, many closeups.

So I remained unconverted. Not a non-believer, but more of a Potter-agnostic.

Fast forward to last winter. My girlfriend at the time, a full-fledged Potter fan, wasn’t too keen on my indifference. She insisted the movies got better as the series went on, and that I should give them another chance. We spent the day together, eventually picking up where I had left off, with ¬†“The Order of the Phoenix.”

Potter once again had me where he wanted me, that sly dog. Too cold to do anything outside, the day was perfect for watching the wizard-in-training with a girl I really liked. Surely my feelings for her, and her feelings for Potter, would tip the scales.

Wouldn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong; the moment was good. Plenty pleasant. But the movie left me wanting more, and not in a need-to-watch-the-next-film kind of way. It was, in a word,¬†unfulfilling. I still didn’t understand what the big deal was with this Harry Potter fellow.

There are some things about the stories that, to me, don’t make much sense intellectually. How come Potter and his young friends are always left to save the world, while the adults with the biggest wizard-muscles are somehow perpetually preoccupied? And if Voldemort is so powerful, why doesn’t he just “magic” himself a nose, for crying out loud?

But despite such logical objections, my Harry Potter troubles always seemed a matter of the heart. I just never felt that connection to the story or its characters. But it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying on my part. Time and time again, Potter had me with open arms. His spells just never really worked on my muggle self.

May Potter have mercy on my soul.

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