There's Something About Harry Potter
- Friday, November 08, 2002
This is what’s great about America: If you can’t write an extraordinary work of fiction, one that captures the imaginations of millions of children and adults alike, then don’t despair; you can always write a book warning people about the dangers of that extraordinary work of fiction (the one you couldn’t write). Or you can write a book about how that work of fiction isn’t really as bad as others make it out to be--that it won’t necessarily, in every situation, turn your children into Satanists. But this is key: in either case, make sure you charge twice what the extraordinary work of fiction costs.
My concern is not that boy wizard Harry Potter is being overly exploited (although I nearly cried when I saw Harry Potter jeans on sale at J.C. Penney last year). He is, at this point, a commodity; that is something I have come to accept. And I’m not saying that the authors in question--those either extolling his virtues or exorcising his demons--are necessarily in it for the money. What is of greater concern is the insult inherent in the publication of these books, that parents need to be instructed in what they should or should not allow their children (or themselves) to read.
Some of you might be shaking your heads right now, wondering what parent would read a book to decide whether or not to read a book, but as a religious conservative, I understand the dilemma: we are used to being told what to do. Not only what to do, but what to watch, what to read, who to vote for.
Fortunately, when I first became interested in Harry, the presses hadn’t started rolling out the anti-Potter fodder, so I was on my own. I had no other choice but to read the books myself. And having read the books myself, I didn’t even blink when the campaign to expel the horror that is Harry Potter off the face of the earth began. I withstood the ebb and flow of the debate rather well until last year, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone made its box-office breaking debut. Then once again, there it was, proclaimed in newspaper articles, on talk shows, from the pulpit: bad Harry, evil Harry, seductive Harry; Harry Potter, the pied piper leading a country astray.
So in perfect cadence with the other ranks of bewitched parents, I marched my 10-year-old son to the movie theatre (the real deception being the three bucks I was conned into handing over for a small drink). What was reinforced for me in seeing the visual side of Harry Potter’s exploits was how peripheral all the things railed against are to the essence of the tale. It is clear that magic and wizardry are simply props, the backdrop for the real drama. And the real drama is the age-old battle between good and evil, loyalty and deceit, sacrifice and greed. J.K. Rowling has created an intricate universe, a wonderful escape where for a few hours we can explore the realities of life in a totally unreal environment. Something that is particularly comforting to me right now, and I suspect, to the nation as a whole.
When my son and I exited the theatre three hours later, back to the stark reality of a sunlit day, he didn’t once mention an oppressive desire to worship Satan or to turn people to stone or to fly on broomsticks. His first remark (one he returned to again and again) was concerning the scene, depicted rather benignly by a flash of light, where Harry’s mother is killed trying to save him, then a baby. My son didn’t take away a fascination for the occult, only the thing that touched him the most: a young boy losing his mother. He noted the loss; I noted the sacrifice. Powerful images, heartfelt lessons--not the kind likely to be spawned from the loins of Beelzebub.
So for those now touring the country hawking their wares, warming the seats on talk shows and signing their books at malls, I can only borrow the words of one wise wizard of a boy. When a fellow Hogwarts student takes it upon himself to advise Harry who his friends should be, Harry offers this simple response: “I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks.” Thanks, indeed.
Amy Hollingsworth received her B.A. degree in psychology and English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her M.A. degree in Education/Counseling and Human Services from Regent University.
Amy teaches psychology at Mary Washington College while continuing to home school her two children, Jonathan (11) and Emily (9). She and her husband Jeff, a pastor, live in Fredericksburg, Va. She has written extensively on home schooling and parenting issues for The American Partisan, Christianity.com, Home Education Magazine, Reconciliation Press Online and numerous educational Web sites. Her article, "Behind the Mask: What the Phantom of the Opera Taught Us," was recently featured in the book Christian Unschooling.
You can email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo © Warner Brothers
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