As I was born in 1996, I was only on this earth a year before Harry Potter was (in book form, rather than birthdate, but that’s just complicating things). I grew up with every book and film, aged with the actors, and shared this series with nearly everyone I knew throughout my childhood. In light of the 20 year anniversary this week I thought I’d talk a bit about the ways these books have impacted me – and are still impacting me – long after they were first published.
1. Everyone deserves kindness, because you don’t know what they’re going through behind closed doors.
More than anything, the series taught me to be understanding and empathetic. When Harry and Ron meet each other on the Hogwarts Express, Harry doesn’t know that Ron is the youngest brother in a huge family that struggles financially and so hardly gets space for himself, and Ron doesn’t know Harry comes from an abusive home and hasn’t had a real friend before. Everyone has their own baggage, and you never know how much a simple kindness can impact someone.
2. Activism will not be easy, nor will it make you popular.
Hermione starting SPEW (Society for the Protection of Elvish Welfare) is probably responsible for 90% of my belligerent stand-up-for-everything-even-if-you-piss-people-off personality. Her radical ideas about Elves and other magical creatures which are initially mocked are adopted by her closest friends by the end of the series, and serves as a reminder that equality is always the end goal.
3. Morality is not black and white
The series gave us characters like Dumbledore and Snape, who both committed extreme acts of good and extreme acts of bad throughout their lives. Although one, arguably, did much more good than the other (who steps over a CRYING BABY to hug a DEAD BODY then emotionally tortures children because you didn’t get laid as a teenager I mean really) JK Rowling showed us that people are not split into good guys and bad guys, but everyone lies somewhere on a spectrum.
4. Life is defined by the choices we make
Everything from Harry choosing Gryffindor over Slytherin to Voldemort choosing Harry over Neville, this series demonstrates that nothing is innate or fated in life, but that people have the power to define themselves through their actions. Knowing that you can become the person you want and define your own goals was an important lesson to learn and relearn throughout my childhood.
5. And finally…