Aug 14 2011

Harry Potter, Chosen Ones, and Heroic Sacrifice in Movies

In my last post I wrote about Harry Potter as a messianic figure. He responded to his unique role as Voldemort’s nemesis by willingly sacrificing himself to defeat evil. He joins a distinguished list of sacrificial movie heroes. Some are chosen ones, some just choose. Continue reading

Jul 15 2011

The theme of death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


CONTAINS SPOILERS. Since he was marked by Voldemort as a baby it’s been clear that Voldemort’s defeat rests on Harry Potter’s shoulders. The prophecy states that “neither can live while the other survives.” Harry’s  already made the choice between what is right and what is easy. His decision to face Voldemort is not “if” but “when” and “how.”

Along with good vs. evil, and the burden of being “the one,”  death is a looming theme. Dumbledore paints death as a great adventure. Voldemort fears it and seeks to power over it. Throughout the series and especially in this last installment beloved characters die heroic deaths in the battle against Voldemort. Loved ones grieve their loss. This is the nature of death.

In the first movie Harry gazes into The Mirror of Erised (desire backwards) and he sees his dead parents. Quirrell/Voldemort is mistaken or lying when he tells Harry he can bring them back in exchange for the Sorcerer’s Stone. The Sorcerer’s Stone offers fortune and immortality but it’s the Resurrection Stone that brings back the dead. Since he loves no one, the only person Voldemort would care to resurrect is himself; it is immortality of the Sorcerer’s Stone that Voldemort is after but it is destroyed in the first movie.

In an attempt to gain immortality to go with his quest for absolute power Voldemort tears apart his own soul and commits murders to create horcruxes to house the pieces of his shattered soul. Fear of death motivates a few wizards to choose life as ghosts. Nearly Headless Nick tells Harry “I know nothing of the secrets of death, for I chose my feeble imitation of life.” A ghost is merely an imprint of a departed soul, but having splintered his own this is no longer a possibility for Voldemort. Continue reading

Nov 25 2010

Ron’s Envy and Insecurity in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1


We get small glimpses of some of the old crew from Hogwarts but for the most part the players in Deadly Hallows Pt. 1 are Harry, Ron and Hermione. While Harry and Hermione seem to be focused on battling Voldemort’s minions and destroying horcruxes, Ron’s battle is with his own envy and insecurity.

Ron operates under misplaced perception that status is a criterion for worth. Though Harry makes a concentrated effort to downplay his importance, he is “the boy who lived.” Hermione’s the smartest. He’s not the most talented quiddich player on the team. He’s never the smartest or most talented person in the room. In Ron’s family Fred and George are the funniest, Ginny is the most magically talented, and Bill is the bravest. On top of that Bill is about to marry the beautiful Fleur, Ron’s idea of the perfect woman. Ron has no superlatives associated with himself. He sees himself as an unnecessary add-on in the groups to which he belongs. Continue reading

Nov 19 2010

Pride in Harry Potter


From the first movie pride has been an underlying theme in the Harry Potter story. It’s an undercurrent in the personalities of many of the characters. The stories have bit by bit eliminated fate, accomplishments, talent, position, heritage, or associations as means for judging personal worth.

Throughout the series Harry’s mentors have been taken away and now he’s reached a point of self-reliance. The prophecy that names Harry as Voldemort’s nemesis puts him in a unique position in the wizarding world. Harry fears for the safety of those who associate with him so he distances himself from others. Harry’s sense of being uniquely fated for his task makes him feel separate. Because of his connection with Voldemort, Harry is vulnerable to the self-absorbed egocentrism that defines Voldemort himself. Harry fights hard to pull out of himself and engage with other people, to appreciate other’s contributions and talents so that he’s not so into himself.

Hermione Granger seldom admits when she is wrong. While her advice and conclusions are often right on the money, her intellectual arrogance tends to annoy even her friends. Because her parents are Muggles Hermione may feel she has more to prove. She manifests an attitude we see in many bright and talented people: an assumption that her giftedness makes her contributions more important than those of others. Continue reading

Aug 21 2010

Top 10 Movie Teachers and the Theme of Sloth


John Keating in Dead Poets Society – Sloth demands nothing. It encourages conformity and accepts mediocrity. Keating doesn’t just encourage his students to read and write poetry, but to commit to its passion. While fiction may tell a story, poetry is a snapshot of the emotion and passion that drives the story. Keating encourages his students to stop going through the motions and seize the day.

Jamie Escalante in Stand and Deliver – Sloth make excuses. We may compare ourselves with others. We may conclude that our ethnic, economic or academic challenges are the factors that stand in the way of success. Escalante will have none of this. He challenges his students to do the work and equips his students with the skills necessary to compete. Escalante shows his students that they have the power to change their circumstances rather than resenting those who seem to have it easier.

Jul 24 2009

Tom Riddle: Boy Megalomaniac


In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Lord Voldemort, speaking through Quirrill, declares that “there is no good and evil, there is only power and those too weak to seek it.” As we meet the young Tom Riddle in the latest installment Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince we see a child so caught up in his special power that he denies a moral order larger than himself. In an interview J.K. Rowling, writer of the Harry Potter books, compares Voldemort to paranoid megalomaniacs like Hitler and Stalin. Megalomaniacs exhibit an obsession with his or her importance and power that psychologists also call “delusions of grandeur”.

Tom Riddle reinvents himself as Lord Voldemort, relying on his hatred and pride to gather power. Whether the magic he employs is good or evil is immaterial to him. In fact he becomes convinced that he will amass greater power employing the Dark Arts. Pride motivates and enables evil. Voldemort, fueled by his evil pride, has complete disregard for the pain of others and may actually find his sense of power enhanced by inflicting pain. This is Voldemort’s M.O. As the young Tom Riddle pride shields him from revealing any vulnerability he may feel. Continue reading