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How Hollywood De-fanged Potter's Radical Politics

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XemaSab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-17-11 12:47 AM
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How Hollywood De-fanged Potter's Radical Politics
The Harry Potter novels include a significant political subtext, which is at least as important as the teen romance or coming-of-age aspects. In Deathly Hallows the novel, the political subtext becomes the main storyline as a holocaust-style persecution of wizards without 'pure blood' begins. But perhaps inevitably the movie adaptations do not do justice to the political themes. The recent movie adaptation of part of the last book, Deathly Hallows 1, heavily sidelines the radical politics of the novels in favor of focusing on a love triangle between the main characters. This makes for a weak storyline that de-fangs the important political message in the book - that sometimes illegal, principled opposition is not only desirable but necessary in the fight against evil.

Author J.K. Rowling is often represented as having been, pre-potter, a desperate single mother on welfare writing in coffee shops. While the novels were written under these conditions, Rowling was also a well-educated and experienced activist. She worked full-time in Spain for Amnesty International, a very competitive position that requires a serious commitment to human rights. Probably because of this background, Rowling has an excellent understanding of political persecution, and especially details the way state bureaucracies can be the impersonal agents of evil policies under a cloak of legality. In the novels, Harry fights not only against the evil Voldemort and his minions, but also against an entrenched bureaucracy and a culture that hides inequalities under a seemingly stable society.

The basic plot, which cannot be ignored even in the films, is that Harry, Hermione and Ron give up everything for their political struggle. They drop out of high school, they go illegal, defy the government, belong to an underground organization , operate out of safe houses and forests and even raid offices of the government and banking offices. This is all done in principled opposition to the Dark Wizard Voldemort and a corrupt bureaucratized government that has been heavily infiltrated with his evil minions. This is revolutionary activity. But the movie version does not present it as such or emphasize these radical aspects of the plot, thereby entirely missing the dramatic sweep and action present in the first half of the last novel.

The persecution of muggle-born wizards is barely shown in the movie . In the book, the magical legal system - always unfair - is completely perverted and used to legally strip muggle-born wizards of their wands and their freedom based on blood purity. Minor inequalities and prejudice (such as that against werewolves) always present at a low level throughout the series, turns to serious persecution in Deathly Hallows. There are deliberate analogies with the first phases of the Holocaust. Rowling skillfully presents a picture of magical bureaucrats as similar to Hitler's desk-murderers-bureaucrats who commit horrible atrocities with the stroke of a pen.
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lazarus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-17-11 08:00 AM
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1. good article
thanks for posting this. I gave up on the films early on, they just were such pale reflections of the books.
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Matilda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-24-11 11:22 PM
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2. Yes - Hollywood appears to have lost the plot entirely.
I'm not sure I'd even have known what was going on half the time if I didn't know the books so well.

Films can seldom, if ever, be as complex as books, but even understanding that, I thought the characters, especially the adults, were two-dimensional. The books had clear references to the Nazi era and to Bush-style propaganda, but this didn't come through in the films, as we were rushed from one bit of special effects to another. (And the effects weren't too great either they should appear to be a natural occurrence, but many of them were too obviously contrived.)
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