The politics of Potter

  August 23, 2003 at 12:54 AM ET
  grae     Godric's Hollow (via The American Prospect)

You may recall Prisoner of Azkaban director Alfonso CuarĂ³n's remarksopens in new window in the August 4 issue of Newsweek comparing Voldemort to President Bush and Cornelius Fudge to Prime Minister Blair. Echoing these sentiments is Ashley Glacel's analysisopens in new window of the similarities between politics in the Harry Potter universe and ours.

Although some reviewers have inexplicably branded the books "monoculturalistic" and even "sexist," Rowling has admitted to being "left wing" personally and hoped that "every reader will bring his own agenda to the book." Rowling has an enormous audience -- and probably more U.S. supporters than any one of the current Democratic presidential hopefuls. With 9.3 million copies of the book making their way into Americans' hands, it's worth asking: Does Harry Potter have liberal leanings?

Hogwarts is not only a haven for the curious but a bastion of diversity, too. Unlike the novel's more narrow-minded wizards, Dumbledore believes "it matters not what someone is born but what they grow to be." He teaches that one should not be judged based on his or her family, breeding or race. Whether born of Muggles (humans with no magical powers), related to Giants (a large breed feared to be violent) or bitten by Werewolves (rendering a wizard vicious and dangerous under the full moon), each is allowed to enroll and prove him or herself at Hogwarts, free from prejudice.

While the good guys lead by example, one may also see a connection between the actions of the other team and those of our current administration. Could the president and his colleagues have been an inspiration to Rowling as she wrote her fifth book? Descriptions of the corrupted politicians at the Ministry of Magic and the Death Eaters (who are loyal to the Dark Lord Voldemort) clearly resemble some of our current American leaders.

Fudge resembles right-wing politicians again as he legislates to benefit those who hold the purse strings. Lucius Malfoy is a dangerous member of the magic community with bad principles and a lot of money. When he moves, the gold coins clink in his robes, reminding those around him of his power to buy and sell at will. Those who make the rules often compensate Malfoy for his generosity to the Ministry of Magic -- much like Bush's move to cut taxes and roll back environmental protections.

Yet another similarity between the Harry Potter series and the current administration is the encouragement of citizens to spy on their neighbors. As the Ministry of Magic controls more and more of the goings-on at Hogwarts, students' actions are increasingly scrutinized. The curriculum is controlled, as is any sort of gathering or meeting involving more than three students. Professor Umbridge, the evil enforcer of these restrictions, sounds eerily like John Ashcroft as she encourages the students to turn one another in for spreading non-Ministry-sanctioned information.


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