I finally saw the first Harry Potter movie the other night. I haven’t read the books either so this was my first exposure to it. First let me start by saying that I’m not anti-fantasy fundamentalist: I’ve read many “sword & sorcery” style books, including the Terry Brook’s Shannara series, Michael Moorcock’s Elric series, David Edding’s Belgaraiad and so on. So, I’m not automatically averse to the genre. But I do also acknowledge that some books, while okay for discerning adults, are not suitable for impressionable children.
I can see how Harry Potter would be very attractive to children. He’s misunderstood and mistreated by his family (what child doesn’t feel that way sometimes?), until he’s revealed as a wizard and perhaps the greatest ever. What child doesn’t dream of being special, especially pre-teens who are starting to realize that they are not the center of the universe? And Hogwarts! To be able to do magic, to bend a frightenly uncontrollable world to your will! It’s quite seductive.
Some things gave me pause, again as the story relates to children. For one thing, all of the categories and terminology and such is taken directly from the practice of Wicca, modern witchcraft, and the occult. Without proper guidance children can be misled to dabble in such things. There are even reports that witch’s covens in England have had a marked increase in interest from children who want to attend a real-life Hogwarts. The other issue is that much of the behavior evinced by the “good” guys in the story is morally ambiguous. There seemed to be no clear line between the good use of power and the bad use. The children lie, disobey their elders, and cast spells on each other. In the quidditch game, one side uses brutal and violent, unsportsmanlike tactics but no repercussions follow. In fact, there are hardly any repercussions for bad behavior. In other words, there’s not a clear moral code. That also troubled me.
I’m not an anti-Potter fanatic. I thought the movie was above-average fun. But I can understand why parents would and should be cautious with the books and movies for children younger than teenage. I would suggest the same for other books I liked, such as the Horatio Hornblower series or any of the fantasy series I mentioned above. Most importantly, it’s about parents paying attention to what their kids are doing and reading and basing it all on good moral upbringing.