Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The End Is Here: HP 7.2

Amy and I caught the last Harry Potter movie on Friday. It was really good. It's hard when expectations are skyscraper high, but I think mine were just about evenly met. What's really nice about the movies is that they are able to stand alone. Having read the books, you can watch the movies and still really enjoy them without feeling like they didn't get it right. And you can probably watch the movies without having read the books and still be quite entertained. They do a really great job with all of it.

I can understand that the nature of the story is not one that grips every reader/watcher. Fantasy and magic and wizards and witches just may not be your cup of tea. At the same time I still have a hard time understanding when people feel like the series is overrated. Set aside the thing about how Rowling creates this whole alternate world and weaves a wonderfully fantastic tale through 4200 pages of literature. Every time I revisit the story I remember how perfectly she illustrates core principles and values that everybody should cherish and yearn for more of always - loyalty, devotion, determination, courage, among others. Are those not things that we yearn for?

I wrote this post a couple years ago when I got through reading the series, and I still feel this way now:
Several years ago Orson Scott Card spoke at a symposium at BYU. From what I can remember, his topic focused mainly on the importance of fiction and how it shapes societal trends and values. He brought up an example from the TV show Friends when Ross's ex-wife gets married to her lesbian partner. The ceremony is performed, and sanctioned by a religious minister, and one of the father's of one of the bride's attends in his military uniform. Symbolically then, the show portrays the acceptance of same-sex marriage by both religious and government leaders. This was not by accident.
Card's point in this example is that fiction often presents the breeding ground where ideas and principles are placed. How we embrace the stories put forth often leads to the adoption of the associated ethics and morals that are on display in the piece of fiction, and conversely, our rejection of the story necessarily leads to the denial of those same values. I've made this point on here before, so I'll spare you the same argument again other than to simply say, it's not ever just a story/book/movie/tv show. Our patronage of these products facilitates their growth and acceptance, not of just the final product but what values they promote.
My point (as well as Card's) in bringing all of this up is that Harry Potter is the kind of story that we should want to embrace. It is the kind of book that parents should be reading to children. Not only is the story itself very compelling and entertaining, but Harry is truly a heroic character in spite of the flaws that Rowling clearly portrays him having. He constantly sacrifices, conquers in the face of heartbreaking tragedy, and triumphs over evil. His friends perfectly characterize loyalty and devotion. The story deftly illustrates good and evil and the type of dedication that is required to overcome. Rowling draws from her own loss of her mother to describe Harry's struggles with loss. In the form of the dementors she personifies the suffocating effects of clinical depression. It really is amazing how much real life is captured in her fictional books. I love love love these stories.

And the story really is so much about relationships. You see it when Professor McGonagall stands up to Snape. You see it in (spoiler!) Snape's relationship with Harry's mother and how much he cares for the boy, but Rowling does so well to keep that point hidden until the very end, when it becomes most crucial to the plotline. You see it with Harry and his friends, Harry and Dumbledore, Harry and everyone else in the story. And then of course there is the contrarsting example of healthy relationships that is portrayed through Voldemort and all of his followers. His hold was always tenuous at best over his minions simply because he governed through fear when love is obviously such a greater tactic. The flaws of his leadership is characterized best by the Malfoys who desert him in the end because of the love that they share with one another, even though they may hate Harry.

This series reminds me of growing up reading the Chronicles of Narnia as a kid. I just loved Peter's courage and I wanted to be him. Obviously Aslan was an inspiring symbol as he was used to represent the Savior. But this is my point. So much teaching comes through these stories, and we could do worse than to have kids wanting to be like Harry, to be the kind friends that Ron and Hermione were, and to entertain ourselves through literature that supports the kind of values that we hope to perpetuate.


MikeReid said...

well said silva. i read it aloud to Lauren. well said.

Lisa said...

We just watched it as well and loved it. I got all choked up when everyone was doing spells to protect Hogwarts and getting ready for the battle. Seriously, the story of good versus evil and really standing up for what you believe in. It was powerful. So sad it's all over.