Happy Birthday, Harry Potter… Sort Of
Happy birthday, Harry Potter. I didn’t get you anything. I mean, except my undying love. But since love — you know — is the whole reason you’re here instead of Avada Kedavra’ed, hopefully you’ll see it as enough.
Yesterday though was Neville Longbottom’s birthday, and I’m guilty of not writing anything. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever sent him birthday wishes. Isn’t that terrible? He’s the more interesting character, and yet he completely gets side stepped when people talk about the series, mirroring the same sort of thing that happens in our day-to-day world.
Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom: equally untalented (come on, they were under a year of age), equally unremarkable. Both had sets of parents who had been popular while in school and now had a strong circle of friends in adulthood, but again, equally unremarkable in the grand scheme of things. We’re not comparing Prince George (is that what we’re calling Will and Kate’s baby?) to a random child born in London this month. We’re talking about a level playing field.
And then Harry Potter is randomly chosen, and the rest is history. Neville Longbottom, great in his own right, is overlooked in his literary life just as much as he is overlooked by the millions (billions?) of screaming fans of the Harry Potter books and movies. And Harry Potter becomes not only the main character of the series but the Chosen One amid the average tween.
If they were bloggers, Harry Potter would be the one with the enormous traffic and Neville Longbottom would be the equally talented writer who pulls in a modest readership. Harry would be the one courted by brands while Neville is fairly anonymous. And it cuts both ways: Harry would have to deal with Gawker writing snarking articles about him while Neville can write pretty much whatever he wishes to write without worrying that he’s going to have posts written that mock him. Still, it wouldn’t be clear why Harry gets all the readers and opportunities while Neville writes well and yet doesn’t walk the same path.
We see those imbalances in the offline world. In the mostly equal co-workers where one rises to the next level while the other is ignored for promotions despite their work being similar. Or the actress who makes the school play while the equally talented actress doesn’t. The kid who gets invited to all the birthday parties while the equally nice kid doesn’t. It’s JK Rowling’s book going viral when fantastically-written tales languish for no apparent reason on the bookshelf… or even worse… in someone’s drawer. It’s not that JK Rowling’s book isn’t amazing — it is. I love it. But there are other books I equally love, that I think are equally well-written, and yet few other people will ever give them the time of day.
It’s Harry Potter’s birthday, and I’m sure he’s going to get one billion birthday messages today. And he deserves them: it’s his birthday. Even boys who have it all should get birthday wishes and accolades; it’s not as if any human hits a level of success or love where they are completely full of kind words and couldn’t use any more. Humans need a steady stream of love; yes, even JK Rowling needs to still hear that her work is amazing. And it is.
But I also need to right a wrong in missing Neville Longbottom’s birthday, year after year. So happy birthday, Neville Longbottom. Thank you for the enormous — often overlooked — role you played in the final battle, ridding Voldemort from this world. Thank you for continuing to quietly live your life as the Herbology professor while Harry goes on to the glitzier world of Auror-dom. People may miss seeing you or paying attention to you, and that would be a mistake. Because you have so much to offer the world; you’re a great person in your own right, one who does the right thing, plays by the rules, and is always a strong supporter of others. And it’s never clear why we should all focus on Harry and not on you. This was a terrible oversight on my part, and I’m sorry that I’ve missed out on talking about your greatness all these years. I am going to do a better job of appreciating you.
So happy birthday, Neville, too.