Harry Potter and the Idiot E-mails of Doom

Since this is sort of an end of an era for me with the release of the last Harry Potter movie, I feel the need to be nostalgic. I want to reminisce about the good old days and remember my last thirteen years with Harry Potter.

I had the fortunate pleasure of being introduced to Harry Potter before mass hysteria about the effects of fantasy and magic on the impressionable youth. (We all know that wand waving is equivalent to blood sacrifice.) Sarcasm aside, Harry and I have had a rocky relationship. I loved the books but I was torn because of all the negative stigmas that the Christians placed on Harry Potter.

I was 13 when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out.  I had recently discovered the joys of reading and found myself overwhelmed with so many books and so little time.  My mom is an avid reader and was always looking through the YA books to suggest good ones to my sister and me.  I had just finished Temora Pierce’s The Winding Circle series and was looking for something new.  Mom handed my HP and said “You’ll like it.”  It took me about three weeks to read, which back then was actually pretty quick.  I finished the book just in time to start getting those emails about the evils of HP.  If you don’t remember those emails count yourself lucky. If you do then you’ll know exactly what I mean.   Though the emails were sent with the good intention of expressing concern for children, they did not contain an ounce of truth about the books.  My mom used it as an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of literature and the importance of having an informed understanding of the text and arguments.

Here is the crux of the problem: words convey ideas.  Children are the most impressionable to these ideas.  The argument is a good valid one but how it was presented…well, let us just say offering false testimony only disproves your point.  The emails and articles about the evils in HP did not give the book any credit.  They flung accussations about “dark magic” and how the books taught children how to summon demons.  Considering that the books never once talked about summoning anyone or described anything remotely like real “dark magic,” it was a little disconcerting that people were making decisions about the validity of HP based on those emails.    But the stigma stuck, for some people: Harry Potter was evil.

As a young adult, I struggled to articulate my reasons for reading HP when I was confronted by adults or peers whose parents had forbidden them to read the book. They would give me looks and say things like, “Those books teach black magic.  How can you read them?” Because I read the book or associated with those who did I must be evil, I must practice magic and go around cursing people, which I can only assume is what these people thought everyone who read HP were doing.  Such accusations were clearly false!  But this is the type of response I as a teenager had to deal with because some adults took it upon themselves to enlighten the world on the evils of HP without actually reading the book.  The frustrating thing was these same people who blasted HP exonerated C. S. Lewis not realizing that their beef against magic also applied to Lewis as well.

What was really the purpose of those emails?  The tone, which at first was out of the concern for the spiritual and emotional well-being of children, became a tirade against fantasy novels in general.  The problem is not with being concerned about the well-being of children or of the idea that a reader is going to take something away from a text.  The problem is how they conveyed this concern.  The anti-HP movement went for shock and fear to persuade readers to avoid the book.  As a result, they made themselves and their argument look ridiculous when it was found to be false. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and an email claiming that Harry Potter gives explicit directions on how to summon a demon while offering no proof of this is not going to make an argument valid.

What my mother was trying to teach me, which I now understand much better than my 13 year-old self, is the value of an informed opinion.  To be a good reader I have to be an intelligent reader. Harry Potter was not evil then and it is not evil now.  However, it does ask the reader (knowingly or unknowingly) to consider bigger questions, such as good and evil.  Harry and his friends break the rules (a lot) and they are often commended for the end result of their rule breaking.  Is this evil or more of a commentary on authority?  Oddly enough the first lesson I learned from Harry Potter was not that magic is evil (which is what those emails loudly suggested) but that good intentions do not give a person the right to lie to make a point.

It saddens me that a generation of young adults’ minds were poisoned with the fears and irrational phobias of their parents or “friends” who were not diligent in their own research about HP and other books like it that they could not see beyond the veil of fantasy to see the story and its morals.

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About LizzyBeth

There is a Story inside of me that I must give a voice. I write so that imagination can take me to Faerie and I can catch a glimpse of the Otherworld and hopefully so will you.

Posted on July 22, 2011, in Authors, Books, Characters, Christianity, Harry Potter, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Rachel Burkholder and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I admit I was late to the Harry Potter party, (I was in college when the first book came out and then later I was trying to survive my first year of teaching), but I never understood all the backlash and negativity that came from some people. If anything Harry’s story is all about how important it is to be a good and compassionate person. Your mother did an amazing thing for you by teaching you how to think for yourself. 🙂

  2. I love the Harry Potter series and think that it’s ridiculous for people to think that readers of HP are in any way linked with ‘witchcraft’ themselves. Reading cookery books do not make me masterchef, if only….

  1. Pingback: Harry Potter and…”oh, what part do you like best” « While We're Paused

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