A Word Against the Glorification of Villains in “Harry Potter”
As a society, it seems we have evolved in recent years regarding our attitude toward villains. Movies like Maleficent give hungry fans stories from the antagonist’s perspective, antiheroes like the Punisher and Deadpool are rising in popularity, and I have encountered several children whose favorite character is either Voldemort or Bellatrix Lestrange. As a teacher, I think it’s important to admire and identify with positive characters while discussing the complexities of human nature. A book series like Harry Potter may help kids build their moral perception of the world, as it did for me. J.K. Rowling created beautifully well-rounded characters; it’s understandable that people would cling to a darker aesthetic they may be drawn to.
However, it’s important to recognize the aspects of their character that shouldn’t be idolized. Taking pleasure in the murder of countless innocents is not something that should be taken lightly. After all, Voldemort’s regime parallels Adolf Hitler’s in many ways. Isn’t it important for kids to derive lessons from fictional situations that can be applied to reality? It’s hard to identify the message of a cautionary tale if the wrongdoer is condensed into a cute Voldemort meme, or if an antagonist like Draco Malfoy is romanticized as the perfect boyfriend despite his many disconcerting flaws. It’s human nature to make light of the dark to better carry an unbearable weight. But in the case of Harry Potter, there are too many positive role models such as Hermione Granger, Harry Potter, and Ron Weasley to take advantage of. Glorifying negative characters may encourage children (and adults) to indulge their inner villain or regard unhealthy behaviors as the norm.
This being said, I do think villains are important. A good story doesn’t work without a believable enemy to oppose. I am a fan of complex characters, but not the evil aspect of their being. Magneto from the X-Men franchise is possibly my favorite villain – I believe his motives and find myself sympathizing with his cause occasionally – but I don’t like him simply because he performs dark, evil acts. There’s a balance to be obtained when discussing an antagonist. One has to be aware of the ramifications of normalizing behaviors like murder, torture, greed, and malice.
Literature can nurture critical thinking and make quintessential connections between fantasy and reality. It’s not just an escape; it’s also a tool used to grow as a person. Humans are not divided into heroes and villains. We need to learn how to navigate the complexity of our nature by watering the right seeds. The effects of Voldemort’s actions are horrifying. Perhaps we should be careful when trivializing the consequences of his actions.