Why “Order of the Phoenix” Is the Most Relevant “Harry Potter” Book Right Now – Part 1
Given the partisan hostility and entrenched political divisiveness that we face in a post-truth world, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the most relevant book in the Harry Potter series insofar as its depiction of frustration among youth.
Although the series had progressively matured from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – the latter depicting an on-page death – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix represented a demarcation in the Harry Potter series. Voldemort’s return marked the transition of the series from children’s books to young adult books.
In this first article in a two-part series, I examine how Order of the Phoenix brings awareness to mental health issues and educates young readers on the importance of engaging critically with the news media that they consume
Its Portrayal of Mental Health
Those who place Order of the Phoenix way down on their list of favorite Harry Potter books often accuse it of being expository and dull. Moreover, there’s a segment of the fanbase that finds angsty or CAPS LOCK HARRY grating. However, Harry’s behavior in Order of the Phoenix is justified. In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Lupin tells Harry that“there are true horrors in [his] past. Horrors [his] classmates can scarcely imagine.”
From Harry’s PTSD during the summer break following Cedric’s death to his survivor’s guilt following Sirius’s death, Order of the Phoenix highlights several mental health issues. Neville’s interaction with his parents at St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries shows the devastating effects of mental health problems on family and loved ones. Order of the Phoenix also addresses the pain of depression. Madam Pomfrey, while healing Ron, states that “thoughts could leave deeper scarring than almost anything else” (OotP 38).
As we know, Jo herself – like many Harry Potter fans – has had her own struggle with depression. Her well-known statement that “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home” (among other things) is a reminder to any Potter fans dealing with mental health issues that they aren’t alone.
Its Portrayal of News Media
Although tabloid journalism features prominently throughout Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix furthers the series’ exploration of the wizarding world’s news media. Freedom of the press is the cornerstone of a democratic society, and Order of the Phoenix addresses the dangers of political misinformation and censorship.
In Order of the Phoenix, Fudge abuses his power as Minister of Magic by interfering with the Daily Prophet to disseminate false information in order to discredit Harry and Dumbledore’s claims that Voldemort had returned.
Rita Skeeter states the following in Chapter 25 of Order of the Phoenix:
All right, Fudge is leaning on the Prophet, but it comes down to the same thing. They won’t print a story that shows Harry in a good light. Nobody wants to read it… People just don’t want to believe You-Know-Who’s back.
Order of the Phoenix implores readers to critically evaluate the news that they consume, as well as not to live in filter bubbles that reinforce their own biases.