Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Social Justice + Harry Potter

First of all, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I'm really lazy, is the reason why. (Plus I spent a good while "preparing" to write this post by singing along to AVPS songs.)

Second: Social Justice + Harry Potter? What do those two have to do with each other? (What a ridiculous question; Harry Potter has to do with everything.) As a matter of fact, major pop culture sensations like Harry Potter are a great place to start discussions about important subjects. Especially Harry Potter, since it's already full of metaphors and undertones about resistance against oppression.

Let's start with the obvious: the whole blood-status metaphor. The Malfoys, the Blacks, and other pureblood supremacist families, under Voldemort, comprise the main villains of the series. The fact that they're such big villains and that they gain control so easily makes it seem like the pureblood supremacist attitude is a common one in wizarding culture. But in fact, there are many signs throughout the books that the totally rigid pureblood families are dying out- Sirius talks about this in the fifth book. The "Purebloods Are the Only True Wizards" attitude belongs mainly to fringe groups. The average wizard, if asked, would probably be like, "Oh no! I'm not a pureblood supremacist. In fact, I have plenty of Muggle-born friends." Sound familiar? It's the same sort of response you'll get if you ask the average person if they're a racist, because the truth is, white supremacy and blatant racism are attitudes that (thankfully) only belong to fringe groups today.

Yet despite this fact, Voldemort and the Death Eaters don't have too difficult of a time taking over the Ministry. In fact, Lucius Malfoy- a known Death Eater, who claimed to have been Imperiused, but it was pretty obvious he was lying- is best buds with the Minister of Magic until book six. If they're such a fringe group, how is this possible?

The same reasons racism and other forms of discrimination are still so rampant in modern Muggle culture, despite the fact that their extreme forms are not so common anymore. First of all, the use of violence and terror by the Death Eaters (or KKK, or racist police officers, or perpetrators of hate crimes). Second of all, the influence of money- the Malfoys were a rich family, and that was a big reason of why the Ministry tolerated their hate crimes. Same in the Muggle world, obviously. And third of all (and I'd say this is the most important): extreme pureblood supremacy may have been uncommon, but little hints of anti-Muggle sentiment infiltrated every bit of wizarding culture. Even people like Hagrid were likely to make remarks like "and there's nothing a great Muggle like you can do about it." (I know it was aimed at Vernon, who deserved an insult, but he was attacking Vernon's Muggle status, not the fact that he was a horrible human being- showing that Hagrid thought being a Muggle made you inferior.) There are tons of people who say stuff like this and promote ideas like this throughout the series (Stan Shunpike's "Muggles, they don't see nothing," or Slughorn's "she was good for a Muggle-born!" and Dumbledore mentioning that he was probably the only one to actually read the Muggle news). No wonder Hermione was such a badass protester. She had to hear snide remarks about her upbringing from everyone, even so-called allies. Yeah, all those wizards denied being pureblood supremacists, but when push came to shove, a lot of them probably "could see where the Muggle-born Registration thing was coming from. I mean, can we really trust Muggle-borns?"

Voldemort was a pretty obvious metaphor for Hitler, what with his own half-blood status, in comparison to Hitler's partially-Jewish heritage. So the whole wizarding war can be seen as a comparison to World War II- the corrupt government easily being taken over, the restructuring of the educational curriculum, the genocide. But we don't just have to take these glorious books as a lesson about atrocities of the past. Take a look at our present, here in America, and you'll see a lot of similarities between the two worlds. And the lessons Harry Potter taught us- accept people, just because someone is different doesn't mean they are bad, love can conquer everything, resist corruption in schools and in the government- should be applied in the Muggle world as well.

Anyway. I made a list of like a hundred different social justice analyses I could make about Harry Potter, so expect to see more of these posts in the future. I hope you enjoyed this post. Please tell me if I got a little too, um, Harry-Potter-obsessive-y, and it got confusing.

Also: if you thought this sort of analysis was cool and you want to see more of it without having to wait around for me to post it, check out this blogger and this guy. They're really cool and they inspired some of the ideas in this post.

Thanks for reading! See you on Saturday, when I tell you about my new experience of the week!


1 comment:

  1. I will never tire of examinations of Harry Potter.