Harry Potter, Anti-hero?

Note: Please, for the sake of my sanity and to facilitate a reasonable discussion, read all of the linked posts by Scott Peterson as well as the comments threads on those posts before posting a comment on this thread

I used to be the kind of person who when I found an author I liked I’d read everything they’d ever written. Then experience taught me that frequently the best known book is the best and the others are second rate. sometimes not worth your time. So I’ve become a bit more discerning and have dropped the practice with some authors.

But I’ve discovered that the tendency dies hard and has transferred to the world of blogs. Sometimes when I find a blog I like I go back and rummage through the archives to dig the gold out of the old posts. This really only works for those bloggers who don’t focus on topical, newsy stuff but rather are story tellers. People like waiterrant who blog about daily life and people like wayward catholic who’ve told or are in the process of telling conversion stories. Reading old Scott Peterson blog entries in the “fambly” category is my new late night story fix.

So last night I came across a series of entries on Harry Potter (2, 3) and I have to say that Scott comes closest of anyone I’ve read so far to expressing my sentiments about the novels. (I disagree with him a bit in that I find the magic a bit problematic, but like him my main beef with the books is in the morals.)
Harry is not a good role model.  In fact, Scott calls him an anti-hero. Harry lies and cheats and steals and seldom gets punished. And this might be ok except this is a kids book and it never questions Harry’s morals or even presents him struggling with the moral issues.

No, in the book whatever Harry and/or Dumbledore is, de facto, right. And whatever Voldemort does is, de facto, wrong. Even when they�re doing the exact same thing. Harry lying? Right. Voldemort lying. Wrong! Why? It�s an intriguing question. So let�s investigate it, twist it around, check it out from different angles, see what we can find.

But no. It�s never addressed. It�s just a given that the heroes are always correct, even when they�re not, and the villains are always wrong, even when they�re doing the exact same things.

Scott is also the only writer I’ve seen to address another major concern with the series:

The problem is that while Rowling�s initial readers are growing just as Harry and his pals are, Rowling is picking up new readers all the time. So the kids who were, say, eight when the first book was published are now sixteen. Fine. But there are eight year olds picking up that first book even as we speak (or, as I type and now you read�if there�s anyone still with me by now). And they�re not going to wait eight years to read Book Six. They�re going to go right from the first to the second and on to the sixth. And Rowling herself has hinted in interviews I�ve read that Book Six won�t be appropriate for an eight-year-old. Its protagonist will be sixteen years old and it�s not surprising that a book with a sixteen-year-old protagonist might be inappropriate for an eight-year-old. Yet it�s not surprising than an eight-year-old, after reading the first one (which parents mistakenly think is just fine for any eight-year-old), will want to go on to the next and the next and the next. So it�s a real quandary for the writer. But it�s not one she seems interested in addressing, and it�s not one that�s being brought up anywhere I�ve seen.

His entry is long and ramblin. And there are two more he links to at the bottom of that one. And a good discussion in the comments box with a reader who challenges him.

And in the second post are links to a couple other good discussions on HP.

The Llama Butchers ask a wonderfully insightful question that I think frames perfectly why HP, while a fun read, is second class and will never be considered good literature. (And Scott argues that like the wildly popular novels of Judy Blume is unlikely to be remembered in another generation.)

If he could obtain it, would Harry use The Ring to defeat Voldemort?

He would, they conclude. And you know there is nothing in the books to lead me to think otherwise. And in that vein, Scott pulls a quote from a Harry Potter article in the Asia Times (unfortunately the original link seems not to be good any more):

What accounts for the success of the Harry Potter series, as well as the “Star Wars” films whence they derive? The answer, I think, is their appeal to complacency and narcissism. “Use the Force,” Obi-Wan tells the young Luke Skywalker, while the master wizard Dumbledore instructs Harry to draw from his inner well of familial emotions. No one likes to imagine that he is Frodo Baggins, an ordinary fellow who has quite a rough time of it in Tolkien’s story. But everyone likes to imagine that he possesses inborn powers that make him a master of magic as well as a hero at games. Harry Potter merely needs to tap his inner feelings to conjure up the needful spell.

Exactly! Frodo is Everyman. The only thing that makes Frodo remarkable is that he carries the ring. He’s a perfectly ordinary fellow who gets caught up in the extrordinary and he completes his quest only with the help of his friends (and would have failed completely if it weren’t for the repulsive Gollum.) Frodo is not a “special” person and that is exactly what makes him the perfect role model.

more on Harry Potter the discussion continues…

Update:
I found the full Asia Times article here

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