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05 January 2011


Marcy Davis

Totally agree with you about the Disney princesses, but I have to take exception when it comes to Harry Potter, because in the Potter books and movies there are so many strong messages saying the exact opposite. That there are things far more important than natural ability - things like courage, loyalty, friendship and love.

Hermione is the best example of this - many times it's emphasized that she does not have the same abilities as Harry, but she makes up for the fact by studying her brains out and knowing as much as she can about magic and how it works.

Neville also has lots of trouble performing up to standard, but in the end it's his Gryffindor qualities of courage and loyalty that save the day.

Hagrid - not so good with magic or teaching, but Dumbledore keeps him on at Hogwarts anyway, just as he does professor Trelawney, because there are some things more valuable than ability or even competence.

Our anti-hero Slughorn is a great negative example of someone who values people based on their abilities or accomplishments - and this behavior is treated in quite a negative light in the books.

Voldemort of course is the ultimate example of this - he worships only ability and power. And it's really not through their magical abilities that our heroes manage to defeat Voldemort (because they're no match for him), but by relying on each other - friendship, trust, hope - all the stuff Voldemort doesn't have.

One Rare Bird

Thanks for sharing your comments Marcy. I love the Harry Potter books and I totally agree with the points you're making. I think Geek Dad highlighted the bad messages well though, with the princess movies definitely taking the cake.

Marcy Davis

For some reason Geek Dad's comment really pushed my buttons. (I see from the comments on his blog page that others are getting theirs pushed too, lol.) I had to think about it a while before I figured out why it bothered me so much. I guess because the criticism seems unfair. He uses the example of squibs, but he fails to differentiate between an author including an element in a story and an author actually _condoning_ the element. And I don't think the story supports that second conclusion.

One of the things I appreciate most about Rowling is the care she's taken to create a complex world where good and evil aren't always as easy to identify as we'd like; on some deep level, Harry Potter presents a closer picture of reality than a lot of kids books I've read, or adult books for that matter. (Did I just use reality and Harry Potter in the same sentence?)

I see Rowling trying to paint a true picture of human nature: one showing that even the best, kindest, most well-intentioned people can act in unkind ways, individually or corporately.

Hermione and Harry offer an outsider's view into the magical world - they're the ones who see the treatment of squibs, or house elves, or goblins, for the injustice it is, while their magical friends mostly take the status quo for granted. Dumbledore is a great example of someone who changed and grew, from helping the family hide his squib sister to later standing up for muggles and enlisting the aid of a squib like Mrs. Figg to watch over Harry. And let's not forget the fact that Hermione spent most of book 4 trying to win freedom for house elves. It didn't work, of course, which I think injected another dose of realism into the story - some kinds of evil are a lot harder to fight, and take a lot longer to defeat than others.

To me it seems the lesson isn't 'if you don't have special powers you shouldn't even try.' Rather, I think the point is that we already live in a world where people have a tendency to treat each other that way. None of us are immune from the impulse. Pointing the fact out at least raises awareness and offers us hope for change.

One Rare Bird

I'm glad I hit on a topic that struck a cord with you :) Thanks again for you input!

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