Today is Harry Potter’s (and his author’s) birthday, and I want to start this post with a quote from a scrapped draft I had written for the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone a few years ago:
19 years ago, Christmas Day, I opened a present from my aunt. It was a hard cover children’s book with a boy and a train on the cover. I didn’t know what it was, and when I spoke to her on the phone later that morning she said “Everyone’s talking about it, I think you’ll like it.” I was 9 years old at the time, a heavy reader and not very discriminating in taste, so I shrugged and started reading. It’s now been 20 years since the UK publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I’m approaching my 28th birthday, and I’ve got plans to tattoo a Harry Potter quote somewhere on my body. As you can probably infer, J.K. Rowling’s generation-defining series has never lost a place in my life. So as the world celebrates #HarryPotter20, I sat down and thought about these books, what they mean to me (and to all of us), and what stands out about them 20 years later.
For me, the defining lessons in Harry Potter are of loyalty, friendship, tolerance, and standing up to oppression. The last book may have published 10 years ago, but don’t those sound like lessons we can still use today?
Like just about everything in 2020, looking back on this in our current situation just seems so quaint. So innocent. Better days. What we have now is that proverbial loss of innocence—in truth as in fiction, nothing gold can stay. Especially not when a beloved childhood figure has 24-hour access to Twitter and a desire to burn her empire to the ground. I’m referring, of course, to the media firestorm one JK Rowling has created by not only tweeting openly transphobic views, but digging her heels in when criticized. She brazenly picked up a shovel, and now all we can do is watch aghast as she digs her own (professional) grave.