Nearly everyone these days has heard of Harry Potter, and most of them have read it. I, myself, am a huge Potterhead. I’ve read the series several times through. I have at least thirty Harry websites on my Favorites list. I’ve seen the first movie four times.
So, you can imagine my reaction when I heard someone was trying to ban my beloved Harry! I was positively outraged. Why would anyone want to take away the thing that got millions of kids reading? I did some research, and what I saw made me even more irate. Some adults think the books are bad for kids’ brains. There are two major views:
- Harry Potter goes against Christianity and teaches kids to join the Occult. (The former isn’t nearly as extreme as the latter.)
- The books are way too violent and the characters don’t follow rules.
Most of the negativity towards the Potter series has to do with its magic content. Some parents must really believe their children are the dumbest creatures in existence. These parents even tell the media that kids, after reading the books, will get it into their heads that they can turn teacups into three-headed dogs, jump off the roof and fly, or attempt to curse their little brothers by calling upon the evil forces of the Underworld. One word may help some of these parents: think. Kids are not stupid. They know that Harry Potter is fantasy. That’s what’s so incredible about the books. J.K. Rowling makes you feel as if you’re there in the Hogwarts castle, even though her magic world doesn’t exist. But, again, someone has a complaint. A fellow Potterhead read an article where a woman said the story was too detailed. As my friend exclaimed, “You just insulted J. K. for being a great writer! What is wrong with you?”
And then there’s the adults who say the books make kids want to quit church, join the Occult, and praise the devil. These people obviously haven’t read the series, or they would see that there is no mention at all of the students becoming Satanists. For heaven’s sake, the Hufflepuff ghost is the Fat Friar, and Harry must have a religion, because Sirius Black is his godfather. How can a story that has so much to do with life, death, and morality not have root in religion?
I’ve read the books enough to quote entire paragraphs, but it never occurred in the farthest dust-filled corners of my brain to worship Satan. Just because something couldn’t happen in real life does not mean it’s evil. (It’s called fiction, people.) Did anyone ever ban The Wizard of Oz? How about The Hobbit or Alice in Wonderland? All of these books are classics, and (gasp) are almost completely about magic.
Then there’s the other common objection. Many parents say the plot revolves around death and violence. Yes, the author makes a point about death many times. But isn’t death a part of life? Isn’t violence a part of our daily existence? In the world of J.K. Rowling’s writing, the hero, Harry Potter, fights against evil and those who wish to cause death. How can a story have meaning if it is stripped of all things that make it an actual story? Where’s the conflict, the problem, the plot? Harry’s trials and triumphs may be violent, but they make him stronger. The violence is not frivolous. It’s there for a reason. It’s not like J.K. Rowing is writing the fight scenes with these thoughts in mind: “Oooh, blooooood. Make the children come to me! Those gory video games sell millions, and so will I! Ah, not enough disembowelment here. A little bit more violent dueling here. Ooo! More blood! YES! BUWAHAHA! Aaaaah. Yes, all those who read Harry Potter will want to run around their school yelling ‘Avada Kedavra!'” Uh-huh, yeah, suuuuuure.
Another complaint is that the characters are often breaking rules. But, if you look at the outcomes of their disobedient actions, you realize the majority of it is for a good cause. Were Ron, Harry, and Hermione allowed to go to the third floor corridor to stop Voldemort from stealing the Sorcerer’s Stone? Was Cedric Diggory allowed to tell Harry how to get into the Prefects’ bathroom? Were Ron and Harry allowed to go into the Forbidden Forest to find out what “Follow the spiders” meant? If the characters actually followed the rules in each of these instances, terrible things would have happened. Besides, no one wants to read about perfect, boring kids who always follow the rules and never get in trouble and manage to act like angels every waking minute. It’s the stuff that sells those little 10-page paperbacks that first graders learn to read with. Real characters with real actions and emotions is the stuff that sells literary blockbusters.
The thing about all this hoopla that really annoys me is that most of the people who are against the books haven’t even read them. Their objections seem to come mainly from the cover illustration. If you asked them what the book was actually about, they would most likely have no idea.
Most of these people will tell you that they “just know” that the series is evil. Oh yes, any author with hundreds of rave reviews and awards, not to mention the fastest-selling novel in history, must be out to brainwash the world’s children. How else would kids want anything without hours of television commercials? She obviously used her black magick to cast a spell on the youth population (and a very big bunch of adults) to make her rich! Of course…
But, really, these people need to read the story before deciding anything. If they still believe their kids can’t distinguish between reality and fantasy, they can make sure their children won’t read the books. After all, they are the parents and are responsible for their children’s well-being.
But when these parents try to ban Harry from public libraries, they might as well slap on a swastika. Doesn’t the First Amendment state that every person has freedom read whatever they want? How can these adults decide what the rest of the community can or cannot read? Sheesh, all they have to do is not buy the books. It’s not as if kids are going to sneak out of their bedroom windows at night to go to the library. Harry’s impact hasn’t gotten that deep yet.
“Erised stra ehru oyt on ube cafru oyt on wohsi” goes the inscription on the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Backwards, it reads “I show not your face, but your heart’s desire.” My heart’s desire is that people will not judge Harry Potter by his cover, but for the wonder that he is – Harry got kids reading real literature (aka not Goosebumps and The Babysitter’s Club). If they can see that, then I can finally get some peace and quiet and not have to write opinionated rants on this topic anymore.