Hello and welcome to In Too Deep Harry Potter vs Star Wars, where I finally decide which one of these franchise is better.
Now a year or so ago James Daniel Walsh wrote this infamous statement: â€œStar Wars is the cultural mythos of our generationâ€, to which I argued that while it was true for his generation, my generation’s cultural mythos was Harry Potter. Now, a year of putting it off, I’m finally going to sit down and analyse both of these franchise. So without further ado…
So then, that’s the end of the response portion of this series. Lets get down to some final thoughts, shall we? Lets answer the questions I posed right at the beginning of this debate.
The Narrative: Ultimately, arguing about whether one narrative is better than the other is mostly futile. They are the same narrative, right down to their very core. Both have the same hero’s journey arc, both feature the same stock of characters, both have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the writing and presentation. But does that mean one can prefer one story to another? Of course. You can like Harry Potter more than Star Wars for many reasons, even for story reasons, if you so choose. You could argue that the story in one is better written than the other, or is better executed. But the story itself, as it is presented in terms of narrative? Again, since both stories are essentially the same, saying you like one story (aka the concept of the hero’s journey and nothing more) more than the other isn’t quite fulfilling.
The Franchise: While the Star Wars franchise is bigger… I don’t think that makes it better. If anything, it works against the franchise’s benefit. Star Wars is bloated, where the bad of Star Wars far outweighs the good. There’s never a reassurance of quality control when digesting a new piece of Star Wars media for the first time. All seven Harry Potter books are good, but all seven Star Wars films are not. Harry Potter has been consistently good, Star Wars has veered wildly between simply fantastic and simply tragic. But that’s my take on it. Having a wider universe doesn’t automatically make something bad, after all. And a lot of good stuff can be created when people are given the freedom. The question ultimately lies thus: Is it better to have a small meal that’s great but leaves you wanting more: or a large buffet that varies in quality and leaves you unsure whether to risk trying another part of it.
The Cultural: It’s no secret that my generation loves Harry Potter. We all adore it and fell in love with it, leading it to be one of the biggest book series of current time. It had a big, personal impact on our lives. Star Wars, meanwhile, had a big impact on culture in a broad level. It changed the face of pop culture in a way one can’t immediately fathom, but best described as a large stone so big that, when dropped into a pond, the ripples still haven’t stopped. So then, which one is culturally more important? Well, it all depends on what level you view culture. On the macro level, yes, Star Wars had a bigger impact. On the micro level, no, Harry Potter won out. But where does one draw the line when it comes to cultural anyway? When we define culture are we doing it globally and temporally? The culture of today’s kids is different from the culture of my youth, and of my father’s youth. The culture of my country is vastly different to the cultures of other countries. So, ultimately, it comes down to selecting a time and place to draw the barrier. If we border culture as being what was within my generation, and that culture is something that is shaped by the people around it (rather than being something that shapes the people), then yes, Harry Potter will win out. In order for it to lose, one must move the cultural barriers to another point in space time. But since that doesn’t negate what was true in the space time I put it in, how does that prove my point wrong?
The Film-Making: Star Wars did a lot more than Harry Potter, yes. But, at the same time, that doesn’t mean Harry Potter didn’t do a lot. I’ve already gone into detail what Harry Potter did, and Les went into detail about what Star Wars did. Both made a huge impact… and that’s pretty much all can be said. But, is it wise to say conclusively that without Star Wars, Harry Potter or Marvel wouldn’t exist? In other words if not for X there would be no Y? I’d argue no. While one can demonstrate the impact Star Wars’ existence had, one can’t demonstrate the impact Star Wars’ non-existence would have had. It’s entirely possible that Harry Potter or Marvel could have done what they did without Star Wars being there to start it. It’s entirely possible that Marvel could have done what it did without either Star Wars or Harry Potter. But, to say that without Star Wars there wouldn’t be what we got today is like saying that, without the inspirations of Star Wars, we wouldn’t have a film make such a big impact. That if it was not for Silent Running, or Metropolis, or Seven Samurai, or even for a burger with two pickles out the front, if not for all of that we wouldn’t have Star Wars…
If you’re going to argue that Star Wars was the stone whose ripples created the later properties, one must also acknowledge without these earlier properties there’d have been no one to drop the stone in the first place.
The Generational: I didn’t weigh into this one that much, instead letting it be a battle between two other men. As said before I agreed a lot with some of what they said, while disagreeing with some others. But, ultimately, I can’t make a judgement call on how much Star Wars or Harry Potter impacted a person personally. I can make statements about the culture, with the shift in views about what was popular and how things changed because of them. I can collect statements showing how people professed their love for one or the other. But I can’t say, definitively, that one person loved one franchise over the other. They can say it, but I can’t. So while my generation can be seen loving Harry Potter, and the generation before that can be seen loving Star Wars, it would be impossible to say conclusively that everyone in both generations fitted into that trend. At the end of the day, people are free to like or dislike what they want. The amount of people that do so can be reflected in the culture, but on an individual level, nothing I can say or do can outweigh what they themselves say.
The Future: What more can be said about this I haven’t said before? Both franchises have a somewhat bright future ahead, what with their being new movies being the biggest attraction. But even then, new things are being down with Harry Potter and Star Wars every day. A role-playing Hogwarts course has been set up, while a new Star Wars land is being continuously rumoured. Both franchises haven’t stopped, and both franchises will keep bringing new things to the table. I honestly can’t wait to see what happens next.
And, finally, The Personal: This is where I go all in, put the cards on the table, and reveal how I truly feel about both of these franchises. So, at the end of the day:
I think Harry Potter is more important than Star Wars.
That’s not to say I dislike Star Wars. Far from it, I actually like the Prequel Trilogy for the most part, along with the Original Trilogy. I like a lot of the stuff the Star Wars franchise has produced. Star Wars is the B-movie to end all B-movies and is the film that changed the entertainment industry.
But, and this is a big but, Harry Potter has done more than changed the entertainment industry. It’s changed society. The reason why I left this blog so late, right to the very end, while I ummed and erred about that question of importance. I knew I liked Harry Potter more, but I couldn’t think why. But, as I was re-reading the books, it finally struck me: Harry Potter had something to say. And what it had to say was that racism is bad.
Now you might look at it and go â€œSo? ‘Racism is bad’ is kinda a given thingâ€, but think about it. We’re moving towards a more free and just society. The prejudices of the old are slowly being swept away. More and more people are being socially aware of one another and trying to fight injustice. So what makes Harry Potter so special?
Lets look at what Star Wars says: Empires are bad, following your dreams is good, lightsabers are the coolest things ever. Now while some of that is debatable (except that last part, lightsabers being the coolest thing ever is something that can never be refuted ever), it doesn’t have some sort of deeper message. And fair enough, it’s not trying to. It’s not trying to say anything beyond â€œHey, isn’t this cool?â€
Harry Potter is. Harry Potter is trying to say ‘racism is bad’ and, for the most part, succeeds. It’s teaching kids how damaging racism can be in a way that’s effective, but not preachy. It shows the complexity of humanity and how people can change (unless they’re born evil, perhaps the only real flaw in the story). As the story grew and matured with its audience we stopped seeing the world in such black and white terms, but rather seeing how complex morality is. It showed us that being racist towards someone did hurt them, that blindly following the most powerful person was dangerous, and that even the worst bullies can reform. All of these important things that, while addressed in Star Wars, wasn’t the main concern of Star Wars. Star Wars is a B-movie that can be seen as having a message. Harry Potter is a message that can be read as a fantasy novel.
So is that what it boils down to, then? I think Harry Potter is more culturally important because it teaches children a fundamental lesson, one that can hopefully help work towards a better and more equal society? Ultimately, yes. At the end of the day, at its very core, Harry Potter is more important than Star Wars to me. While the Star Wars franchise is great and the Harry Potter franchise is great, the message of Harry Potter is what gives me hope for the future.
So there you have it. At the end of this very, very, very long blog series, we have my final conclusion on why I think Harry Potter is culturally more important than Star Wars. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.