Wednesday, July 13, 2005

More on HP

I was thinking about LifeSiteNews' handling of then-Cardinal Ratzinger's private thoughts on Harry Potter on my drive home today and how they exploited it, doing the exact same thing to his quotes that the MSM did to HP-positive quotes by another Vatican official a few years ago. Jimmy Akin, while pointing out that he's not a fan of HP, goes even further in his frustration with LifeSiteNews, saying that they purposefully said the pope does not approve of HP so that the MSM would play the story that way. I'm not so willing to go that far, but it is interesting nonetheless.

As for Peter's comment in a previous post, I'm thought the last few days about the influence HP has. I love the HP books. No, they're not great literature, but they are great stories. I have not, however, since I first read the series 4 years ago, believed that children younger than 12 or so should read them. Even JK Rowling has mentioned that these are not stories for young children: They're dark, they're scary, they deal with dark and complex themes. I find it difficult to believe that the 4th HP film could be anything less than PG-13 considering that the evil Lord Voldemort, ya know, murders a 13-year-old in cold blood at the end of the book. Another person dies in book 5. And people are fairly certain that another character will die in book 6 (though I actually think 2 characters will die - Dumbledore and Hermione).

But once kids or 12 or 13, I don't honestly believe they should be kept from reading them. I've heard no anecdotal evidence that kids who've read HP have ever tried to practice wicca or black magic. All the kids I've known who've read the books realize that the magic in them is fictional. Sure, they might dress up like Harry for Halloween with a wand and all, but kids have been dressing up as witches for Halloween forever. Peter mentioned that Barrie had requests from parents that he provide a plot device in Peter Pan to let kids know that they could not, in fact, fly and that's how he came up with fairy dust. Rowling has a plot device to stop kids from thinking they can/should perform magic: Muggles (people with no magical powers). Not everyone in Harry's world is a wizard or witch.

Finally, as I think the direction taken in the film adaptation of the 3rd HP novel suggests, HP is not essentially about magic. It's about a young boy who's survived death the night his parents were murdered trying to come to grips with his past and what that means for his future. The plots deal with evil, temptation, anger, friendship, racism, the power of sacrifice and, yes, even memory and identity.