On our Facebook page we’ve been talking about Harry Potter and religion as the latest movie debuts this Friday. The discussion has been interesting because the Evangelical writers have a totally different perspective on Harry than I do. I don’t see it as a story of compassion, sacrifice and love, although those are certainly elements. I see it as a Greek saga full of honor, integrity, courage, independence and the warrior virtues. I see more of the Nine Noble Virtues in Harry than I see the compassion and love of Christ.
I find it fascinating that we have such different views of the series. To me Harry is very much a product of the modern age. The children can’t depend on adults to protect them or solve their problems, from malevolent entities hunting them to the ordinary horrific bullying of schoolmates. The teachers participate in the bullying, encourage students to break the rules, hold them to a double standard, send students into danger’s way and push them to accomplish almost impossible tasks. Family, teachers, and government officials are all bound to disappoint, aren’t worth consulting, will only make things worse and will likely dismiss their fears. Children reading Harry Potter are being given the same message their grandparents heard as teenagers: you can’t trust anyone over 35.
It’s true that Harry is realistic in these child/adult relationships to some degree but it seems such a grim lesson for a child. I want to say childrens stories should be more innocent, more light-hearted and demonstrate a model of supportive adults and obedient children. I think that’s a naive desire. Children’s stories have always been “Grimm.”
Hansel and Gretel, Vassilissa the Wise, Snow White, Cinderella, and The Little Match Girl all paint pictures of a heartless world where children only survive by being more clever, more virtuous and more independent than the adults around them. A child unable to cope with and overcome the harsh realities of life will die, live in servitude or endure the torment and bullying of a horrible guardian adult. In many old tales children only become adversity by gaining independence of the careless, cruel, indifferent or selfish adults in their lives. Harry is no exception. His freedom lies in becoming independent of the Dursleys, Snape, Voldemort and the machinations of the adults around him. The only support he count on totally is from other children who are as disenfranchised as he is. If they work together, they can overcome. They can transform the world. And they do. They succeed. Good triumphs over evil. They gain the freedom to build their lives free from fear.
In a way, Harry Potter could be the mascot of the “It Gets Better” campaign. Once free of the adults making plans for him and involving him in their machinations, whether with good or bad intent, Harry finally finds happiness, love and a bright future. Isn’t that how it should be?
Check back for lots more Harry Potter posts, articles and discussions over the next few days! Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook to keep track of the conversations happening there!