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Friday, July 29, 2005

Harry Potter, Terrorists and The London Underground

Harry Potter and Terrorism side by sideMany of you know that my view on Harry Potter - literally based on reading one book - ("
Goblet of Fire" if anyone's interested) is that I've not been able to see what the fuss is about. I've been amazed by the amount of adults that read the books and I've snapped pictures of commuters reading them on the Tube.

Perhaps now is the time for me to eat my words, as it seems that the latest tome is much darker than the previous books. Apparently, there's a lot of discussion about Rowling "playing the terrorism card" and whether that will make the book less timeless.

As I've not read it, I've taken most of my knowledge of it from an interesting article in US site Slate which shows how Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince "rings a few bells" in the current climate. My comments in brackets.

"Voldemort takes up terrorism. The Dark Lord and his Death Eaters - who had gained strength in the earlier installments and have finally arrived in force - use their newfound power to spread fear in familiar ways. They destroy bridges. They murder innocents. They compel children to kill their elders." (I think we've all been shocked by the age of some of the bombers - the youngest was 17)

"The Ministry of Magic issues pamphlets on "Protecting Your Home and Family Against Dark Forces." (Remember the Preparing for Emergencies leaflet that was much spoofed at the time)

"Fred and George Weasley's shop makes a mint selling Shield Cloaks, which protect their wearers from harm. (We've got the wonderful Commuter Emergency Kit)

"The new Minister of Magic jails an innocent man, hoping to stave off panic and create the impression that he's taking action. (Has parallels with the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes)

"And Harry, Hermione, and Ron greet the morning paper with a familiar sense of dread: "Anyone we know dead?" .......

"What is J.K. Rowling up to here? Is she criticizing the War on Terror or simply using it as a plot device? In some scenes, she does take jabs at the Bush and Blair administrations. The Ministry of Magic's security pamphlet, for example, recalls the much-scorned TIPS program: "Should you feel that a family member, colleague, friend or neighbor is acting in a strange manner, contact the Magical Law Enforcement Squad at once." (We've had recent posts and discussions about this).......

"But close reading of the book suggests that Rowling's motives are more authorial than political. She's not using Harry to make points about terrorism. She's using terrorism to make points about Harry. Rowling culls the scariest elements of modern life and uses them as a kind of shorthand, a quick way to instill fear.".......

"Today, however, as we substitute for our abstract fear of Voldemort the very real fear we've felt in our own immolated cities, the new book resonates in ways that the old ones have not."

As it's still pretty unlikely that I'll read Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, I'd be interested to hear any views on this, particularly from people who have read it. At least I'll be less sneering of adult readers now!


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