Monday, January 3, 2022

There Is Still Magic

The past few years have been very frustrating, angering, saddening times for many Harry Potter fans as JK Rowling has allied herself with the dark forces in the world (including Johnny Depp).  Her anti-trans attitudes seems to me to be a betrayal of what her books tried to convey.  I have been stewing about this for quite some time, and I haven't re-read or re-watched the HP stuff in a few years, breaking my usual winterfest habits.  I finally sought to express my feelings on this as I watched the 20th anniversary special.  Seeing all the folks who made the movies (well, almost as we have lost several along the way) and seeing the scenes of the making of the movies made very sad but also reminded me of the magic in the books and the movies.*

(* Ok, the first 8.5 movies as the first Fantastic Beasts movie had some magic, the second had much less, especially with Depp playing such a big role).  

To be clear, the books and movies are imperfect.  They do not represent well, they tend to rely on stereotypes (JK's borrowing of Tolkein's take on goblins is still anti-semitic, for instance), that Dumbledore is not explicitly gay in the text, but she retconned that later, and so on.  But the larger themes are of love and tolerance and choice are so central. That the bad guys don't get it--they can't exhibit remorse, they don't have friends, they have contempt for those who love, that they don't really have something to fight for, and the good folks win precisely because they are willing to love, to forgive, to trust.  

Early in the special, the words come across the screen that it is not what family you are born into (although, of course, there are contradictions--the discussion of Draco as a product of Lucius) but what you choose to do that matters.  In the books, this is one of the strongest and consistent themes--that is the choices you make that matter.  And this plays in two ways now--that JK is making the worst choices and she is, of course, judging how others live their lives, that she is judging people who identify as their true selves.   

So, how do I see it now?  Watching the actors and directors talk about the stuff, how much it meant to them (and to the fans), the bonds they have with each other, the themes that they tried to convey helped feed my confirmation bias and my compartmentalization.  That there is such good stuff in the books and the movies that I will focus on that--the magic of friendship, of love, and, yes, of tolerance--and only occasionally grapple with the darkness in the books and in JK.  She has chosen to be awful.  The actors (statements by Radcliffe and Watson) do a nice job of distinguishing her stances from what the books and movies were trying to say.  And I will side with them.  

It is, after all, the choices we make that matter. 

No comments: