Dear Family, Friends, Fans and Followers,
Over the past few months, my equine friend, partner, teacher and guide ‘Blanco’ – known around the world for his staring role as Shadowfax in the Lord of The Rings movies – suddenly and without warning fell critically ill. During this…
Anonymous asked: I always get annoyed when people say Harry was whiny in OotP. He wasn't whining and whinging, he was angry. And rightfully so. I think the point JKR was trying to make was that heroes aren't infallible and sometimes you just can't handle everything. It's infuriating that such an important development in Harry's character is reduced to a "whiny, bratty, adolescent crisis"
My frustration doesn’t stem from people’s general statements about Harry’s behavior. Because, really, he did have emotional outbursts in OotP. He did get emotional. He did lash out at his friends. He did cry out at the general unfairness of his life and have a kind of existential crisis. Those are all fair statements to make.
I get annoyed, however, when people leave it at that. My frustration, instead, stems from this: When someone criticizes Harry’s behavior without exploring the reasons behind those emotions, to understand them and empathize with what was actually going on in his head, without, you know, trying to learn something from him.
That’s lazy reading for one, and completely negates the point of the book, for another.
Because Harry in OotP is really–if you look at it closely–a case study for PSTD, depression, anxiety. (Sirius, too, but that’s another post.) JK did her homework and portrayed him so well, it’s heartbreaking, if you pause for a minute to see what it is that you’re reading. For me, it’s her best work in terms of writing Harry, second only, for me, to Deathly Hallows.
Here’s what Harry had on his plate at the beginning of the book: the resurgence of the man who wanted him dead, post-traumatic stress from that encounter, he’d watched his classmate get murdered, he himself had been cut open by the man who’d basically handed over his parents to the man who murdered his parents, he’d seen his dead parents, his teacher, who he trusted, turned out to be another man working to kill him, he was back in this terribly abusive and neglectful household with people who absolutely hated him, he was cut off from his friends, he was dealing with chronic nightmares, he was extremely worried that the world was falling apart, that this madman was killing people left and right, or would begin to at any moment, and he is dealing with all of this alone.
That’s the first chapter.
Throughout the course of the book, he: faced expulsion for trying to do the decent thing in trying to save his childhood tormentor, his mentor wouldn’t so much as look at him–a loss he felt very keenly, the very public crucifixion of his character by the damn newspaper and the government, the ostracism of his classmates and their families and, really, the wizarding world in general, Umbridge–the oppressive, mad teacher who delighted in, specifically, his misery, a godfather who clearly loved him but had so many of his own issues to deal with that Harry felt he must protect and care him as well, being banned from the one pastime that really brought him solace, believing he was responsible for attacking his mate’s father, chronic headaches, private sessions with a teacher loathed him and who he loathed in turn, his father’s fall from grace, losing Sirius, being possessed, truly, by Voldemort, and finally learning about that damned prophecy.
Oh, not to mention, Voldemort was messing with his mind.
And he was…emotional? You don’t say.
This book is a long exercise in different forms of mental torture. Talk about that.
Talk about the complexities of any one of these issues. Talk about the long-term effects of being in an abusive household or the emotional ramifications of trauma, if left untreated and undiagnosed, of adults who abuse their authority to torment children, about the symptoms of PSTD. Talk about the failings of nearly every adult in his life. Tell me about how hard it was for him to deal with these issues, the pressure he was under, the anxiety and anger that was to be expected, given the circumstances.
Talk about the things he still accomplished while under this pressure–you know, like starting Dumbledore’s Army. Going to save his Godfather. Waking up each day and carrying on, no matter how much it hurt.
But don’t tell me that he was a whiny git and leave it at that.
Not to mention residual trauma from his previous 4 years - no make that 14 years of his existence. Do you know how pissed off I would be if Harry didn’t get furious? That would completely betray everything about the books, because despite being placed in these fantastical, magical circumstances (that still uncannily parallel the real world and real history),there has always been realism in every character. Every character could be a real person.
All of Jo’s characters are 3-dimensional, flawed, and genuine. Jo Rowling, although she constructed a truly ingenious, intricate plot, is not plot-motivated, and the books are not plot-centric. Meaning, she would never make a character act a certain way or engage in a certain dialogue just as a means of advancing the plot if that’s something the character would not do. She knows these characters backward and forward and their motivations, and what they would and wouldn’t do, and she would never betray that characterization for anything. The books are very much character-based even more so than plot-based, I would say (although the plot is fucking brilliant and amazing and ugh just yes harry potter).
So if she showed Harry doing anything other than getting outright furious over the current circumstances of his shitty life (TRULY shitty, not like us, oh god college and no boyfriend and no money shitty, actually truly emotionally scarring), I would be angry. Because she has betrayed the character of Harry; thankfully, she did not.
When I was reading OotP, I was like “Good, get angry! Get furious! I want to see you be outraged at these unimaginable, traumatic situations that warrant outrage! I want to see you be human!” Yes, he lashed out at his friends, and yes he said hurtful things. I’m glad. I’m glad to see he’s flawed. And vulnerable. If he was perfect, that would be stupid and obviously unrealistic.
That’s what’s so great about Harry Potter in general. He’s skinny, wears glasses, is pretty socially awkward. He’s not some muscular superhero that transcends normal human capability like Thor wielding a massive hammer, or Superman, Batman, etc. He’s a real person. He’s relatable. He’s not larger than life. He’s Harry! Just Harry. AND he can be a hero.
In addition, I always personally saw Harry in OotP as feeling as though by being an asshole was kind of the only way he wasn’t an asshole. What I mean by this is, he saw Cedric murdered in front of his eyes just a few months prior. Although it’s not Harry’s fault, Harry typically blames himself for everything. In his eyes, this is because of him. This is because Voldemort was trying to get to him, and Cedric just got in between the line of fire. This was not Cedric’s war, and he was a casualty that did not have to happen, but because of Harry Potter, he’s now dead. Cedric had nothing to do with this, whatsoever. This is between Voldemort and Harry. And yet, Harry is the one who gets to move on from this traumatic event with his life, while his classmate is now dead. I’m sure this bothers Harry a great deal, and he feels angry, and confused, and guilty. I think in one way or another, even if Harry doesn’t explicitly acknowledge it in his head, he feels that it is unfair for him to go on and try and live life and enjoy things because, because of him (in his mind) Cedric Diggory does not have this luxury. Who is he to be happy? He doesn’t deserve to be happy, to enjoy anything when a teenage boy lies buried in the ground, his parents and friends mourning, because of him. In that way, if he’s at all happy or appearing like he’s enjoying living, he’s a dick. So I think that his anger and his lashing out and everything is partly a bad case of survivor’s guilt. That’s what I mean by he felt the only way he wouldn’t be an asshole was to be an asshole. Not that I think Harry was an asshole, or that the whole of OotP was Harry being pissed off, nor do I think that Cedric’s death is the only reason he’s angry (obviously not - there’s so much more), but you see my point.
He can have a temper. He can be impulsive. He can be sarcastic. And cynical. He can sometimes have a hero-complex. He can sometimes cross the line with his dry, sardonic humor and be rude. He’s also incredibly brave, and his threshold for how much he can love is so admirable considering what he’s been through. He’s got such a warm, kind heart. He’s tolerant (50 points to Gryffindor for not being a bigot)! He’s selfless. He’s amazingly not allured or seduced by the idea of power. He’s funny, clever, and appreciates a good time with good humor and good friends. He’s incredibly loyal. He laughs. He cries. He shouts. He’s undeniably human. He’s Harry. And we all love him for everything he is.
He may be a fictional character from a fictional story, but the impact of Harry Potter is real. The change brought on by this story and this boy is real. And measurable. And that is significant. That is significant.
Just like Daniel Radcliffe said when questioned about the subject of Harry’s anger in OoTP: “It’s not petulance.” Yes, exactly. Thank you, Dan Rad.
i really feel the need to ask you to marry me