“Potterversity” Episode 42: “Thoughts on Book Banning for Wizards and Muggles Alike”
In honor of Banned Books Week, this episode explores the causes and effects of book banning in the Muggle and wizarding worlds.
Harry Potter is one of the most challenged works of the 21st century, frequently appearing on the American Library Association’s list documenting book bans across the country. It has long been accused of inspiring interest in the occult and encouraging children to literally perform magic but has also been criticized for featuring characters who break rules, as discussed on our episode about resistance.
In a time of social change and upheaval, there has been an increased movement to present a sanitized version of history and combat more progressive ideas in literature. Behind many book bans is the desire to control what children read and thus how they think and behave. But even books that present dangerous ideas are worth discussing rather than silencing, and readers can examine them critically.
How does the wizarding world approach access to knowledge? The Restricted Section keeps books available in the Hogwarts library but accessible only to those undertaking advanced study with permission from a professor. Dumbledore eventually removes the books with information on Horcruxes, but would it have been better if they weren’t there for Tom Riddle to read in the first place?
In recent years, Harry Potter, previously challenged mostly by the right wing, has been challenged by the left wing due to the author’s attitudes toward transgender people as well as the inequality and injustice in the universe she created. But the complex and imperfect nature of fictional worlds provides opportunities for critical thinking.
Whatever the motivation, attempts to ban books show an acute awareness of the power of words and ideas to influence readers.