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Sunday, January 2, 2005

A Different Point of View On the Harry Potter Movies

As I recently watched the third Harry Potter movie, something struck me as a somewhat mixed signal sent to children.

First of all, I don’t subscribe to the hubbub that kids should not be allowed to watch movies like Harry Potter because it supposedly promotes the erroneous belief that there are magical forces at work all around them. The truth is, it’s a story. Sure, if a movie is well-made, during the time you are watching it, you may believe everything you see. But when you walk out of the theater, those beliefs appropriately remain in the theater. Besides, every child, at one point or another, has wished they could fly, become invisible, or turn the school bully into a toad. That’s healthy imagination, and I don’t see a problem with briefly (yes, two hours is brief) visualizing everyone’s imagination on a screen.

Indeed, if you feel like a good read, check out this piece on Pixar where Craig Good suggests that, “Kids are born intelligent, and there’s no good reason to make dumbed-down entertainment for them.” That’s exactly right. Any well-balanced child knows that it’s just a movie. If the kid isn’t well-balanced, then I’d say you’d better start examining the parents before knocking a movie.

Having said that—and I fully realize I’m not an authority on the subject, this just being my opinion—there actually is a small point of contention I have with a value the Harry Potter stories are portraying.

In all three movies (if memory serves), the adorable Emma Watson’s character, Hermione Granger, is made fun of because she is a mudblood—a witch or wizard who only has one magical parent and the other is nonmagical, or a muggle. The Draco Malfoy character is especially fond of reminding her of this and, in the third movie, deservedly gets a big punch in the nose from Hermione over doing so.

The mixed signal is, Hermione obviously despises being called a mudblood, yet she seems to have little problem with nonmagical people being referred to as muggles.

As one who doesn’t avidly follow the stories (I’ve only seen the movies—not read the books), I fully realize that my observation may be rather diluted by the fact that Hermione is more troubled over actually being a mudblood than just having the word said to her face. Some scenes, however, seem to give the impression that it’s just having the word thrown at her that she doesn’t like. If that’s the case, why isn’t she also punching her friends out for calling a nonmagical person a muggle?

» Posted by ALBj at 12:45 PM (ET)
Category: Musings


I let my three-year-old son watch Harry Potter. We just have to skip over a few of the more scary scenes, mostly at his request.

As for the name-calling, I’d have to agree that this can have rather negative implications when young viewers encounter people not like themselves in the real world. The upside to all of this is that even though regular people are called muggles, the good characters do not seem to harbor any ill will towards them and even pass various laws to protect them from magic.

» Posted by Queue
January 2, 2005 01:58 PM

My understanding of the usage there is that ‘mudblood’ has all these connotations that are at best classist and at worst a racial-purity thing. ‘Muggle,’ on the other hand, is just a regular term that just happens to be a silly-sounding word.

I really don’t put much thought into it myself, though.

» Posted by Raena Armitage
January 5, 2005 01:17 AM

Yeah, what Raena said.

At least, that’s how I always interpreted it. I haven’t read any of the books, nor have I seen the third film, but that’s the impression I got from the first two.


» Posted by Chris Lawson
January 5, 2005 03:39 AM

I agree with both Raena and Chris. Yet it’s an extremely blurry line that separates the two.

» Posted by Lee Bennett
January 5, 2005 09:10 AM

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