Stranger in a Strange Land: Harry Potter and Me

I just realized something. Harry Potter and I have something in common. Harry was raised a muggle, and when he learns he is a wizard and begins attending Hogwarts he is forever not knowing things everyone assumes he should know. The bedtime stories every wizard kid grows up with? He’s clueless. And on and on. Sometimes – no, frequently – someone assumes he knows something only to be shocked that he doesn’t know it, and then to remember “oh, right, you were raised a muggle.”

As I have written before, I feel the same way. It happened just the other day, when a fellow blogger assumed I should know what “the muppets” were and I was completely clueless. After being completely shocked at my ignorance, I reminded him of my background and he was like “oh, that’s right, I forgot – now it makes sense.” This wasn’t the first time someone has assumed that I, like Harry Potter, know some reference I have no idea about, and it likely won’t be the last either.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Kaoru Negisa

    You know what? That’s wonderful!

    I can only imagine how amazing it would be to experience the Muppets for the first time as an adult. I wasn’t just raised on them, I still associate with a number of Muppet-obsessed friends. I wouldn’t start with the new movie, which is accessible but a lot of the references are aimed at fans, but the very classic The Muppet Movie is a great place to start. As are reruns of the Muppet Show, which is available on DVD for reasonably cheap.

    Also, like the best “children’s” programming, most of the jokes have multiple levels, making watching with kids as enjoyable for parents as it is with their children. I suspect my parents would put on Muppet movies so they didn’t have to suffer through episodes of Voltron that I thought were amazing, but were not objectively very good.

    I know, I probably missed the point, but while I’m sure it’s disorienting (great analogy, BTW, with Harry Potter), it also gives you a chance to discover new things that many of us take for granted, such as the peculiar quality of Muppet humor.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Ditto on muppet show re-runs and the first movie. (Some of the subsequent movies are really good too–I even LOVE A Muppet Christmas Carol, even though it was made by Jim Henson’s son after he died, not him.) You really can’t go wrong with Jim Henson stuff in general. “Fraggle Rock” is another great show that he did in the 80s and that one also has the one thing that the Muppet Show doesn’t, which is strong female characters. (Miss Piggy is a great character, but she’s definitely token.)

    • Froborr

      The combination of your name and the mention of the Muppets made me think–is there a Muppet sketch with Ode to Joy and explosions? Or am I thinking of Monty Python?

  • math_geek

    Sent with love and affection from a Christian raised in a more conventional home.

    And most importantly …

    (Because cultural education has to start somewhere!)

    • Froborr

      The clip reminds me why I prefer the movies to the show. For all the comedic genius of Mahnamahna, there is no joke so funny it can’t be ruined by a laugh track.

  • Latebloomer

    Sometimes though you HAVE to see things when you’re young or you just can’t appreciate them as much. I think the Muppets might be one of those things.

    I love the Harry Potter analogy!

  • Sierra

    I was actually allowed to watch the Muppets, and have never liked them. :P I actually had a violent hatred for Big Bird as a kid.

  • Meyli

    So you’ll grow up and learn everything about your world and then save the world? AWESOME!
    High fives for HP :D

  • Besomyka

    Your story reminds me of this:

    You not knowing something isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity. You end up being one of the lucky 10000!

  • veganatheist01

    I know exactly what you mean – I grew up without TV…

  • atheistsis

    You know, I’ve been running into a lot of other grown ex-fundies like me who have become huge HP fans as adults. I thought perhaps it was partly because of the finally being able to read it and mostly because of the awesomeness that is those books, but maybe it’s also partly because of how we identify with him. I mean, the books are so well written with so many levels that everyone feels a part of that world, but like Tangled there are some things about the Dursleys versus Hogwarts that really speak to those who grew up feeling stifled. I totally like your analogy to growing up as a muggle and now trying to catch up. (Why doesn’t spell check recognize that word?!) It’s interesting how I was taught to fear “the world” so much, but it really does feel magical a lot of the time still. There are so many cool things I never knew about.

    • Froborr

      I think it may also help that the books are actually VERY Christian, thematically. Love is a cosmic force, self-sacrifice to protect another from the Dark Lord, that sort of thing.

  • KarenH

    Actually, even better than the original The Muppet Movie, would be an earlier made-for-TV movie called The Frog Prince. It’s available on DVD (and on youtube, if I’m not mistaken). This was made in 1971 and is seriously one of the best of the Muppet movies. It includes the debut of Sweetums as well as Kermit’s nephew, Robin.

  • Libby’s hubby

    So when Harry Potter discovers your story and blog, will he devour everything written about you in the course of a week and a half, the way you did when you discovered Harry Potter?

    • KarenH

      Probably not Harry, but I bet Hermione will. And Hermione’s way cooler than Harry, anyway :)

      • Noelle

        An interesting comparison, considering that Hermione was also an outsider prior to the surprise admission to Hogwarts. Really, aren’t most of the muggle-born children clueless to the wizarding world prior to their sixth-grade initiation? Hermione owns that opportunity, and does a wonderful job excelling at this new world. Then she gets hit with its deadly bigotry.

        Am I the only one who’s bothered that these kids never receive any academic instruction beyond the 5th grade?

  • Elin

    This post reminds me of a Swedish man I met who was raised in Tanzania. He hates that he is clueless about TV-shows and books that ‘everyone’ has read and also experiences that others have had and no one meeting him expects him to. He looks Swedish, he speaks Swedish and he understands the general culture although he says he sometimes feels more Tanzanian than Swedish but he frequently has to say that he does not know what TV-show someone is referring to and say ‘no, I never when skiing in school, my first time skiing was in my late twenties’

  • shuying

    Libby Anne,

    Thank you so, so much for your wonderful blog.

    I can relate absolutely 100% to this post, and I love your metaphor. Have you seen the recent movie the Avengers? (I am thrilled to say that I have! And when people mention it, I know what it is! You’ll understand the sense of accomplishment I get when I say that). In it, the character Captain America was frozen in ice for like 50 years then thawed, so he missed out on 50 years of cultural developments. So in the movie, people are always making references to stuff and he never knows what it is. When I saw the movie, I thought– that’s me!!

    Other people have always seemed to have access to all this mysterious knowledge, and I never knew how it was that everybody except me seemed to know so many things. It wasn’t until a few years ago (i’m 27 now) that I realized it was somehow related to my religious upbringing. Only in the last year have I realized how extremely isolated I was from the culture around me, until I finally decided to break out of the world I grew up in, the only world I knew. Sometimes I wonder if I will always “speak American culture with an accent.”

    I discovered your blog 3 days ago (this is the first blog I’ve ever followed! Because I made the conscious decision this summer to start really reading things and getting engaged with the world and figuring out this whole internet community thing), and I have basically been unable to do anything else for the past 3 days except read it. Libby Anne– it’s uncanny. Half of the things you write, I could have written myself, word for word. And yet this is the first time, ever, I’ve heard these thoughts outside of my own head, coming from somebody besides me. I’ve been trying to do this thing on my own, and it is so good–I cannot tell you how good it is– to know that I’m not alone, that I’m not crazy, and that my thoughts and feelings are not only ok, but normal and legitimate.

    This is my first time to comment, but I’m sure it will not be my last. I hope you see this post!! I hope so much to be able to dialogue with you– the first person I’ve ever “met” who understands! Thank you so much for your blog.

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