Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter: The Half-Baked Prince of Darkness?

OK. I'll admit it. I was never a big Harry Potter fan. I was in my early 20's when the series started, so I was too old to really get in on the phenomenon, and my son, born in '99, was really too young. Add to that the fact that I have always had an instinctive disdain for things deemed "popular", and it is no wonder that I had only the barest knowledge of what was going on in the Potter universe.

Until now, that is. My son will be entering third grade next year, and he struggles with reading. I have been looking for a series of books to read with him, and Potter seemed like the perfect fit. So, I started to read the books this summer, and I have now finished the third installment. That is why a particularly odd screed on the internet caught my attention- a little treatise on the Evil of Harry Potter.

Now, I was vaguely familiar with the fact that some people were against the Potter series, but as I had no basis to form an opinion one way or the other, I never paid much attention. Now that Potter is on my radar screen, I have started to pay more attention to such opinions. And to those who would call Potter a gateway to the practice of evil, I have only one thing to say: "Thppppth"!

Really, it's all quite absurd. Perhaps in the latter installments of the series, I'll see the gates to Hell flung wide, but the books I have read contain no such objectionable material. They are children's books, and that means they follow a pretty predictable formula. We meet the Hero, who is a misunderstood child (as most of the readers will fancy themselves to be) living in woeful circumstances. It is revealed to the Hero that he is, in fact, Special, and not of the sad and pedantic folk he has been surrounded by. He is whisked off to a Magical Place where he is able to develop and refine his Special Powers, in the company of sympathetic and like-minded individuals. However, Specialness comes with a price, and our Hero must face a variety of Villains intent upon his destruction. Through the uses of his Special Powers, and because of his Good and Brave nature, our Hero overcomes the villains in a spectacular show of wits and perseverance, and saves the day. There are sub themes of friendship, and coming to terms with the past, and the superiority of childish daring and initiative v. following adult rules (this is meant to appeal to kids, after all). However, at NO point is there any lifting up of "evil", and the "magic" used in the book is pure fantasy, and not in any way related to "real" witchcraft theory or practice. This is Star Wars without the spaceships, the Wizard of Oz without Oz.
So, when people say things like this, I've got to laugh:

"The premiere of Harry Potter the movie will lead to a whole new generation of youngsters discovering witchcraft and wizardry....Increasing numbers of children are spending hours alone browsing the internet in search of Satanic websites and we are concerned that nobody is monitoring this growing fascination." Peter Smith, general secretary of the British Association of Teachers and Lecturers [1

Oh, come on. "Satanic" sites? True "witchcraft", the religion Wicca, is no more Satanic than tying your shoes is "Satanic". "Satan" is from Abrahimic faiths, so THEY and THEY alone could be claimed to have "Satanic" content (It isn't a coincidence that the true "Satanist" movement has a "black Mass" and borrows liberally from Christian iconography.). Besides, if parents are concerned kids may be stumbling across evil websites, I'd think the answer to that would be better parental supervision on the internet, not a banning of Potter books or movies. The anti- Potter brigades talk a lot about what God "hates", and indoctrination in "Godly" ways, but oddly enough, hate and indoctrination seem to be largely absent from the Potter books themselves. At no point in MY reading have I seen anything that suggests anyone should "hate" God, or anything else (Hate is the root of the Villain's evil, and his downfall. The love of Harry's mother saved him as a baby from the wrath of hate). The books never try to indoctrinate anyone into a belief system, because there is NO belief system articulated in these stories, other than Good should triumph over Evil, which is pretty standard stuff.

So, other than the massive commercialization and cross-branding that always takes a good thing and reduces it to its tacky, commercial worst, I see no evil in Harry Potter. I do think the folks railing against it are a pretty scary lot, though. A day in a "godly" house that emphasized the proper "fear and reverence for God" would probably make Harry's summers with the Dursleys look like a day at the park.


The Witty Mulatto said...

Yeah, I love how people automatically put Satanism and witchcraft together. And their idea that Harry Pooter is similar to "real witchraft" is a riot. I mean, if that was true I'd've blasted about government officials already, and I'd be a lot richer.