Saturday, August 04, 2007

Harry Potter musings

I'm about halfway through Order of the Phoenix right now, and I have some thoughts.

  • If I remember correctly, this was the book people were criticizing for being burdensome, over-full, and disorganized... and though I do agree, I'm finding it pretty enjoyable anyway. When I saw the movie-version of Prisoner of Azkaban, I thought that the film improved the story by its omissions. I read a film review of Order of the Phoenix that said the same thing about it. So I'm looking forward to seeing the movie in hopes of getting a tightened, just-what-you-need-to-know version of the tale. I don't care about Fred and George's joke shop.

  • Rowling uses a tactic a little too often. In many, if not most scenes, there is something that is happening repeatedly in the background. This repetitive background "noise" is described in detail once (just one example, the screaming portrait of Sirius's mother), and again in less detail, and again in less, until the scene continues with periodic interruptions of "Oh, and the thing happened again". It's an amusing trope, but like the repetition-for-signifiance that was abused in Batman Begins, when a technique ceases to be transparent, it's time to stop using it.

  • When I was studying in Louvain, Fr. Denis (Yes, the same mentioned below) once said without blinking that Harry Potter was a Christian allegory. At the time I didn't really take him seriously, either because Father can say a lot of things without blinking and it's impossible to tell whether he's kidding; or because there is no good story which is not impervious to Christian allegorizing. Leastwise, literature has a lot more transparent "Christ figures" than Harry Potter, who lies, breaks rules, and has a temper.

    Reading Order of the Phoenix, though, there are a couple of themes that might be uniquely significant to Christians. One in particular is how difficult it is to make people believe something which is, to us, so plainly true. I revel especially in the contrast between the two "sides". The Order not only believes the true thing, but is thus compelled into absolute seriousness, seeing the world as it is--as a cold war of the forces of good and evil over the spirits of the indifferent. The Ministry/Daily Prophet is vicious in its opposition to this view, seemingly more out of concern for politeness than anything else. I don't know about Harry Potter and Jesus Christ, but I've never seen a stronger figure of the last two Popes than Dumbledore. Happily, the forces of ideological politeness (or "illiberal liberalism" as it is called by Fr. John Neuhaus) cannot demote the Pope in the same way they demoted Dumbledore.

    I'm sure the Christian meaning is deeper than all of this, but that's enough for one bullet point.

1 comment:

Matt of CG said...

"...pop culture's got your number." Ha! You're funny.