I feel like a jerk for not caring whether Harry Potter lives or dies. He’s such a nice fellow, friendly, self-sacrificing, destined to vanquish the forces of evil, and humble. You couldn’t want a finer friend than Potter. Yet I find myself far more moved by the fate of Groo, that evil, galloping skag from the movie Despicable Me.
I understand why people love Harry, and I’m in no way criticizing them for adoring the world-famous wizard. He has a crew of fascinating and devoted friends who assist him in fighting the evil Voldemort. Groo just has tiny yellow minions who squabble like the Three Stooges and create disasters that make their master look like a dork. True, the tiny minions number in the hundreds. Then again, Harry’s friends seem to number in the hundreds too, especially when you try to keep track of them through all seventeen movies. (I’ll double-check that number later. There might have been eighteen movies.)
Harry Potter’s story spans an impressive scope. We follow him across his teenage years, through the magical and mundane worlds, from hero to criminal and back. He’s as noble as Sir Lancelot, and he bounces back from defeat like Godzilla. Yet my buddy Groo walked on the outer skin of a rocket ship headed roughly towards the moon; that’s impressive, right? Maybe Harry has neat toys like invisibility cloaks and wands and such, but Groo has a couch shaped like an alligator.
Perhaps the virtue, nobility, generosity and cleanliness Harry displays across his entire adolescence have put me off. If he’d gotten drunk one night and slipped a horse into Dumbledore’s study then I could better relate to him. But instead he starts off good and remains good throughout the tale. Groo starts off planning to destroy the world, and he ends up tucking little orphan girls into gutted bombs. That’s character development.
My friends anticipated the release of the final Potter film like boa constrictors dangling above an unwary tourist in the rain forest. Song parodies about Harry Potter are flourishing on the internet. Fans will hold Harry Potter movie marathons to enjoy good fellowship, Dorito-overdoses, and brutal gang fights between would-be Gryffindors and Slytherins. Wholesome fun for everybody. But I just can’t find the Joy of Harry within my soul.
I admire Harry. He’s a great role model. I applaud the people who love him. But to help you understand my ambivalence over Harry’s goodness, I recently wrote a story in which a man chases a wounded, fleeing ruffian, knocks him down, and casually kills him. I asked my wife, “Is this character too cruel to relate to?”
She said, “I’m probably not the best person to ask.” When I persisted, she said, “I’ve been with you for 20 years, so my viewpoint has been affected.”
I pointed out that I’ve never chased down and murdered a helpless person, to which she replied, “But if it were allowed, you know that you’d do it.”
I sincerely hope everyone has a good time at the theater and enjoys all things Harry. You are all fine people. If you want to reach me in the meantime, my friend Groo and I will be hanging out on his alligator-shaped couch.