I watched the final Harry Potter again the other night, and it brought to mind something that has been bothering me about it. Let me state now that I very much enjoy the story, both the books and the movies, and I have nothing against it whatsoever. What interests me though is people's reactions to it. I don't mean the people who obsess about it to extremes, that's perhaps just harmless fun. To me it's the lack of analysis that people put into the world behind the story, which is only quasi-fantasy. Obviously if your story is set in a completely alien or fantastical world, you can pretty much do what you like with everything and just say that's the way it is.
But in Harry Potter, the interesting thing is it is set in a contemporary setting, in or around actual places and people in our world. We need to take a moment to think about this; these people are humans, like you and I, and they are therefore very similar to us apart from their innate ability to do magic. Therefore they can be reasonably compared to our society, culture and ethics, which is where it gets fun.
Take for example the way Wizards interact with humans. For the most part they ignore them and get on with their lives. But when you actually think about it, they do more than just passively ignore them. They go out of their way to hide from them, to keep their magic secret and not share any of its potential power and resourcefulness with them, using the all-too-helpful excuse that it's for their own good. And what happens when muggles see or discover something wizardy? They literally wipe their memories of it. That's more than just passive hiding isn't it?
To add to this, there is a definite feeling of muggles being second-class citizens. There's obviously the whole debate between pure-blood wizards and those born from muggle families going on through the book, and it's nicely resolved in favour of acceptance of everyone. Everyone who has wizarding powers, that is. You see, it's only because they somehow gain these powers that these muggles are accepted. The rest of them? They are basically treated as trash, or objects of amusement. There are the odd wizards who are very nice to them but their treatment in the series is as somewhat strange people who are poking their noses into things they shouldn't.
So basically, non-magic muggles are treated as second-class citizens. They are stopped from seeing or benefiting from anything magical- why? Just because the wizarding world doesn't want to share its power. Obviously muggles would be jealous if they found some people could do magic and they couldn't, and that would lead to problems. But how do wizards deal with this? They take the cowards way and hide, rather than deal with problems and avoid bigger ones in the future. It's a rather totalitarian approach to society.
Take the example of when the muggle Prime Minister is met by the Minister for Magic. The way his character is written is deriding, but his treatment by the wizard is equally bad. Here we see that the wizards only ever turn to the muggles when they actually need something from them, and treat them like dirt. It's pretty rough when you think of it.
What all this is getting to is the fact that inside this world, which is made out to be an extension of the real world we live in, there is evidently a complete lack of human ethics in this particular branch of society. And it astounds me that people don't pick up on this. Just because it's fantasy fiction and magical, doesn't excuse the fact that the author is suggesting our society could be inhabited by people who are above our ethical code and treat us like second-rate human beings. Ponder that.
But the biggest thing that really gets me is one of the final revelations in the book. When Snape dies and leaves Harry his memories, we find out the real reason behind why he killed Dumbledore. He was old, ill and going to die sometime, and so it was ok to kill him since it worked out well for everyone. Wait, WHAT? Are you serious? Is JK Rowling actually justifying assisted suicide? I can't bring myself to understand how no one can be bothered by this. This character is made out to be a villain until the very end, where his villainous acts are all made good by this revaluation. But that's the point- his acts looked villainous before, because they were. He killed someone. You can't justify that by any human moral code.
The problem of course is that it is set against the backdrop of this large scale war going on, where lots of people die anyway. And we all know that ethics and morals largely get put aside in war time. But this is different; it's not in any battle, not in self-defence or anything. It is a completely contrived situation whereby the can gain the most out of helping a dying man commit suicide. That just doesn't stand up to human ethics. And yet it's been sold in millions of copies, immortalised in blockbuster films and hardly a whimper has been raised. And that bugs me.
Like I say, I have nothing against the books and I quite like everything about them. I am more worried by society's (lack of a) reaction to these issues above. It goes to show how little we might need to change for people to abandon their morality and ethics in favour of something more enticing- which is pretty much what happened in Germany circa 1935-45. Yes, sorry I just compared JK
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012