The subversive nature of Harry Potter
Guest Review by Mike Flores
It’s hard to believe that the most controversial films being made today are the Harry Potter films. Christians call them recruitment stories for Satanists, intellectuals call them mindless fantasies, educators wish kids would read something else.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the fifth film in the series and is dark. Not just dark in its subject, but dark in its look and feel. Slashes of color startle, and Harry is shot standing away from his fellow students until he begins to realize he needs them. It portrays Harry looking inward, kissing his first girl (a hot Asian) and learning to recognize tyranny. It is the most cinematic of all the Potter films, yet also the most laden with ideas.
Harry discovers his adventures have been ridiculed in the tabloid press and no one believes his stories are true. The mainstream press joins in as well reflecting a corrupt government line (hmmmm). This may be the first clue that Harry Potter’s universe is not la la land. It is a reflection of our own. Imelda Staunton’s relentlessly prim and proper Dolores Umbridge takes over the school and begins imposing arbitrary and confining rules on the students- strangling the students with regulations. Clearly this fantasy land is not so fantasy after all. She is the bureaucrat sent to take away the students freedom with smiles and guile.
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) finds himself on trial for using magic out of school and dangerously close to being kicked out. Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), the headmaster pleas his case and allows him to stay – but the students want nothing to do with him. Many in the community refuse to believe he is telling the truth about the return of the evil Lord Voldemort. There are still many in the community who refuse to believe that Voldemort has returned and is gathering new followers. Harry is troubled by nightmares and feels isolated even from his best friends, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint).
As the repressions brought about by Umbridge continue Hermione and Ron realize they need Potter to teach the students real, not theoretical magic.
Sirius (Gary Oldman), his godfather and his father’s best friend, tells Harry that the world isn’t split into good and bad people; we all have both the light and dark in us. Harry begins to look inward. As Harry prepares to do battle with Voldemort along with the five other wizards he has trained, a 16-foot-tall giant and some Centaurs give Umbridge a taste of what it is like to be harassed.
Interesting to note that the reviews of this film have been mixed – and how they are mixed. Liberals seem to get that the films message targets their propensity for arbitrary rules and stifling of childhood play. Conservative critics seem to get that this series has at its heart, a libertarian message about the power of the individual, and the need to fight oppression from the evil killer Lord Voldemort to the simple bureaucrat one runs into in life.
And that isn’t fantasy land at all.