The goal of magic and witchcraft is to thwart the natural world, manipulating people and circumstances according to our own desires. For children who feel helpless to change their circumstances – and who are angry at adults – the anti-authoritarian, supernatural power in Harry Potter’s wand must be incredibly enticing. Can we blame them for being fascinated? Rowling allows children to escape, if only for a few hours, from abandonment and alienation into a magical place, a bewitching world of the 21st century mixed with the past (castles, candles and carriages) inhabited by interesting, powerful characters who control the world they live in.

A strong message in “Harry Potter” is that children are inherently superior, or at least equal in knowledge, to adults, which gives them the right to disrespect authority – something that Rowling’s characters do with great regularity. The occult world of Harry Potter also offers a dangerous message about overcoming the natural world with magic, which has the potential to ensnare children and adults. This is another sign of the times, and a hallmark of postmodernity.

The greatest danger with Harry Potter, however, lies in our own world: the world where children are abandoned to babysitters, daycare centers, mismanaged schools and television every day. There, as they face long hours without loving, human interaction and supervision, they may well conjure up a “magic” all their own, using drugs, sex, crime and old-fashioned rebellion to escape their pain. 

Parents are right to be concerned about Harry Potter. But of far greater concern is the way we influence our children, long before they ever get to a movie theatre or a bookstore.

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