Kate Weighs In on Harry Potter

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows

As expected, Harry Potter blew out all the competition on its opening weekend. In anticipation of the big event, last week’s Post Dispatch devoted three full pages to Potter topics, including an opinion piece that began, “If I were interrogated by the Order of the Phoenix, I would be forced to confess: I’m just mild about Harry.”

It was not a terribly enlightening opinion piece, but one sentence caught my attention: “After seven ‘Harry Potter movies—and umpteen competing franchises—reconstituted Christ imagery has become a bore.’” All I could think was that if people are responding to J.K. Rowling’s themes of love, self-sacrifice, and a proper attitude toward death by reading Christological lessons into the movies, then good for them.

If these themes are becoming passé in the movies, it’s because people hunger for meaning, for a glimpse of the bigger picture. And if Harry Potter causes anyone, child or adult, to view the familiar story of Christ’s Passion, death and resurrection in a fresh way, then hurrah for that. We need heroes who remind us of Christ. We need heroes who demonstrate sacrificial love and Christian values in everyday life, without spouting religious verbiage that turns people off. We need heroes who draw the same themes Christ did in a setting far removed from Roman dictators in togas.

There’s so much ugliness in our entertainment. The violence has to get more graphic, the crimes more heinous, because we’re so cosmopolitan now that nothing shocks us. There are no cop shows anymore about theft, only murder—and maybe kidnapping, with the promise of a murder to come. On that awful day in 2001, I watched those images again and again, and I told Christian, “There’s nothing on that screen that we haven’t seen before. It looks exactly like a movie. It’s just hard to believe it’s real life.”

As far as I’m concerned, it’s wonderful to have an entertainment franchise that is trying to point out that the worst evil, the one that spawns all others, is fear of death.