Originally posted May 21, 2002:
The Most Commonly Overlooked Things About Harry:
I. Harry is a smartass.
Harry is a smartass. He's witty but he's a smartass. It's amazing how many people leave that out when they try to portray him.
II. Harry is Not Superman.
Harry, at this point in the books, isn't a hero because he wants to be. He's a hero because he has to be. The choice to be heroic isn't always instinctual for him. That's what makes a hero great. Like I said in my earlier post: without showing the struggle, what's the point of being a hero? This is, incidentally, one reason why Superman never really appealed to me. He never had to fight to be good. He just simply was good. Who cares? Give me the man who has to fight every step of the way not to give into his darker impulses, and who sometimes does give into them, but still manages to overcome his darker side and reach some transcendant good. Hell, Howard Roark commits rape and he's regarded as one of the greatest heros of literature. Why is it so hard, then, for us to imbue Harry Potter with any kind of heroic struggle? It pisses me off! Royally! Grrrrr!
III: Harry. Is. Black.
I will repeat: Harry is BLACK. Harry is not light and fluffy. Fics that tries to treat him as some kind of noble unblemished paragon of virtue will piss me off faster than anything. You think the guy who stood seconds away from killing Sirius is pure and fluffy?? You think the Boy Who Lived in a 6 x 10 crawl space for 10 years is all goodness and light? Hell no. HELL no. I remain convinced that Harry's favorite actor is John Cusack because he can identify with the black, cynical "life sucks" protagonists of movies like Say Anything and High Fidelity. And I *swear* Better Off Dead is his favorite movie. Harry's got a black sense of humor. He has to laugh. Laughter's the only thing he's got going for him, really-- that and the few friends he has, the safety of which he's a bit more preoccupied with than any teenager should be. Oh, yeah. Harry's black.
IV: Slytherin! Harry, aka, There was a second book, you know:
Harry was nearly sorted into Slytherin. Was this because he had Essence of Voldy within him? Hell no. "You could be great, you know--it's all here in your head." --the Sorting Hat said nothing about his blood. He has Slytherin tendencies all on his own: ambition, pride, sheer determination, and ruthlessness. I am constantly amazed at portrayals of Harry that leave all these things out. These things in themselves are not bad, they're strong, admirable qualities. Why are we always so eager to distance Harry from them? Is it because Slytherin is the "evil" house? That's what the whole point of Chamber of Secrets (a highly overlooked book, imo) was-- it was Harry, at a very early and important stage, realizing that the inherent qualities that lay within him were not at their core indicative of evil. (This is one thing he has to realize about Draco as well--or maybe, not so much realize, as put into practice; much like Elizabeth, in learning to love Darcy, has to realize that pride and reserve in and of themselves aren't always wrong.) Each of us is probably ambitious, proud, determined, cunning, or ruthless in some form or other, right? And (hopefully) we don't think we're Bastions of Pure Evil. Why do fanfic writers try so damn hard to keep Harry as far away from those traits as possible? I swear to Merlin Almighty, for every Fanon! Draco characterization that we do our best to flesh out and give redeemable, human traits to, we're putting three fanfic Harrys in a straightjacket and saying "Don't be bad, Harry. Don't be bad." </ South Park reference >
I think Harry dreams about murdering Voldemort. He dreams about what it'd be like to wrap his hands around his neck and squeeze. And those dreams terrify him. Far more than he'll ever admit. Harry's worst nightmare, his worst fear, isn't Voldemort. It's not losing Sirius or Ron or Hermione. It's himself. He dreams about letting that darkness take him over, about being able to give in, just once, and get back at all the people who've ever hurt him-- Voldemort, Pettigrew, Vernon, Snape. And he's petrified that if he ever slips under, even that once--he'll never come up again. He doesn't have to express that in so many words. But I see all that in him when I read canon, each time more clearly than the last.
V: If Fanon! Harry is boring, it's our own fault:
So why do we have such a thing against making Harry dark? Is it because he's the hero, and as such is supposed to represent our better natures? If that's what JKR meant I hardly believe she'd have made such a point to show what happens when he gets angry. Canon!Harry blows up his aunt because his negative feelings are so strong that it's all he can do to repress them. The key here is that he represses those comments. He tries not to give into them because they're dark, because they're sinister, and because he doesn't want to acknowledge that he's capable of the same kind of anger that caused Tom Riddle to lash out at Muggles and Mudbloods. Fanon!Harry, however, in that scene from PoA, would be imbued with righteous anger. Because Fanon!Harry can't possibly say anything wrong, can he? So he'd get mad, say a bunch of noble things right off the bat, and quell Aunt Marge into shutting up. No one would get blown up because nothing negative ever comes from anything Fanon!Harry does, and it's innately impossible for Fanon!Harry to have the ability to hurt others or pick up the short end of the moral stick in his interactions with others, even the people who've hurt him.
Harry gets a bum rap in fanfic. People complain about how fanfic Harry is boring and doesn't interest them. The more I read fanfic the more I understand why-- it's because we're afraid to give him the credit he deserves for being human, with flaws and shortcomings just like ours. Fanon is afraid of Harry because he's the larger-than-life hero figure. Fanon worships him, but has become blind to his faults, which is why the few fics that make him "evil" seem horribly OOC when they do so, because they have to exaggerate his faults and have him go through some kind of near-comical metamorphosis of Hyde-like proportions.
No wonder we've elevated Draco to a demigod. Draco has "bad" written all over him in the books. But Harry? Harry has sinister written all over him. Harry has the potential to be greater than Dumbledore or more terrible than Voldemort. It's all there inside of him. And I will happily argue any day that Harry is much much darker than Draco. Draco, if he is dark, is dark because he wants to be. Harry, if he is dark--is dark because he can't help himself. And that makes him ominous. It intensifies his power as a wizard--and, if we'd only let it--it intensifies his power as a literary character. I could go off on a tangent about why this makes him such a good counterpart to Draco but this rant is Harry-centric. I'll end with begging everyone who believes in dark!Harry to write him that way. That doesn't mean write a fic where Harry fucks everyone, kicks ass, and takes names. It just means that for god's sake, write a Harry that doesn't automatically leap to do the right fucking thing in each and every situation. Pleeeeeeeease? That's all I ask. If Cassie can singlehandedly re-invent Draco then maybe a bunch of you good writers and all that can give us your much-needed insights into Harry. Insights into Harry are so few and far between lately. Or maybe they always were, and I'm just now starting to rebel.