Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 19, 2006
POP CULTURE: Harry Potter and the Ministry of Neocon Warmongers

Like any good fable, the Harry Potter books can be read to support a variety of worldviews and political viewpoints, although if there's a common theme in the politics of JK Rowling's writings it's more libertarian than anything, as she plays up the value of individual self-reliance and self-defense and trashes goverment in all its forms - dovish government, hawkish government, law enforcement, government interference in schools, government interference in the media, etc.

That said, only a lunatic would look at the fifth Potter book, in particular, as supportive of left-leaning politics as applied to the post-9/11 world (perhaps the sixth, to some extent, with its running storyline about an innocent detainee, but not the fifth). Jonathan Last has more, on an article I had meant to blog about myself but he's got it covered.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:20 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Before we start on trying to analyze Harry Potter, let's look at two other writers who were "told" what their writing was about: JRR Tolkien and Isaac Asimov. Ike sat in on some classes that taught his stuff (his ego was legendary) and then went up to the professors, to tell them that what they sadi was NOT on his mind. Aside from a college professor teaching Asimov not recognizing one of the most singular looking people around (although that says something too), they actually told him it didn't matter what HE thought. He was dumbfounded.

And Tolkien did write that, critics to the contrary, his ending chapters about the Scouring of the Shire was NOT meant to mirror England post WWI.

Perhaps it never occurred to anyone that perhaps Rowling simply has a knack for writing about characters we want to spend time with. Which is really hard to do. To me, she is like Rod Serling--creating worlds where you want to know more, where you want them in your living room. She'll never win a Nobel Prize, but, like Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle, she couldn't write a dull sentence if she tried. And maybe there is no point to Harry Potter but to have fun.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at December 19, 2006 8:27 PM

Daryl - I'm not disagreeing with that. The moviemakers should let the story tell itself. What I find objectionable is the idea of the director not only trying to read left-wing politics into the story but doing so in a way that demonstrates that he didn't understand what the book was about. (I have read that Rowling specifically modeled the end of Book 4 on Churchill pre-WW2, recalling that that end - which pretty much set the central conflict of Book 5 - was written before 9/11).

Hopefully, this will all be moot when we see the film.

Posted by: The Crank at December 19, 2006 8:36 PM

One hallmark of a great writer is that difference people can draw different lessons from the same work. Indeed, this is what we see here.

The way a writer does this is to write about universal themes--good vs. evil, freedom vs. oppression, and so on. Such themes pervade both literature and human events through the whole of history. Certainly, we could find dozens of historical analogies to Rowling's work, as we could with Tolkien or Asimov.

In the end, the best way to read such great works is to learn those universal lessons, and apply them to one's life. It does not do justice to these books to say, "Lord of the Rings is like WWI," or "Order of the Phoenix is like post-9/11 USA." All the worse when a director or screenwriter does this, and memorializes such misinterpretations.

Posted by: Cannon at December 21, 2006 1:42 PM
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