I know I promised more California pictures. I may keep that promise, but not in this post.
I'm writing from my uncle's house, on a beautiful mac desktop. The screen entices me to type something, it's that pretty.
I just came back from seeing the last filmed installment of Harry Potter, again. And I surprised myself by welling up at precisely the same point both times I saw it: when Professor McGonagall raises her wand to protect the castle, and when the other members of the Order of the Phoenix do the same. Nothing in the film touched me as much as those moments. I was struck by that visualization of acts of courage and protection.
The entire Harry Potter series, and especially J.K Rowling's original narrative (ie. the books), is decidedly moral. Rowling does not hide her belief that love and camaraderie should prevail, and that we must constantly develop that power of love. She's not "post-modern": she doesn't say that our beliefs are constructs that can, that ought to be, deconstructed until they become virtually neutral. I wanted to write "meaningless" instead of "neutral". Maybe that means I'm not post-modern either.
But what's so impressive about the Harry Potter books is that they are not dogmatic, although they are moral. The author isn't pushing a specific agenda apart from implying that strength of character should ultimately win over crafty selfishness. The characters are flawed and pragmatic. Almost all of them are nuanced, apart, maybe from Bellatrix. She's uni-dimensional most of the time.Voldermort is a lot more nuanced. Although he's inherently evil, he's also human and the absence of love in his life led him to seek power through dark magic. But maybe I'm forgetting some of Bellatrix's back story...?
I'm starting to ramble like a fan, but what I really meant to say was that I admire Rowling's persistence in telling a tale the old-fashioned way: respecting her characters enough to be led by them, surprised by some of their actions and yet keeping an authorative voice when it comes to the meaning of her work.
When Harry asks (in the last film) to Dumbledore if what he is experiencing is happening in his head, or if it's real, Dumbledore replies: "Of course it's happening in your head. But that doesn't mean that it's not real!" (I'm paraphrasing - haven't memorized the film yet). The way I perceived Dumbledore's exclamation was that, we mustn't always think that what we experience internally is inferior in value to what we experience physically. In fact, what happens in our heads guides the way we act in life. Therefore, what's in our head is as real, if not more potent, than what we experience externally. I think that, as a passively entertained society, we tend to forget that. We want external action and drama but what happens in our heads is often lazy thinking, which leads to lazy living. So many of these characters are "awake" in Thoreau's sense: completely active beings who think and question and drive their lives in the direction that they have chosen. Although the books (and the movies - kind of) are addictive, they often lead me to go beyond the Harry Potter tale and to act: to write, to take stock of my actions and to be aware of what I choose to notice and what I choose to ignore. In that way, Harry Potter, to me, is an active literary object. Because it moves me to action, I wouldn't only qualify it as entertainment. Or if it is, it's the best kind!
This has been mentioned in some dissertation (or a hundred of them) and online but I'll mention it too. I've noticed so many parallels between Harry Potter and World War II narratives. Of course, Voldermort is very similar to Hitler. The article that I linked above explains that very well as well as the links between Nazi and Wizard "Pure Bloods". And the Order of the Phoenix ressembles the British opposition with Churchill (Dumbledore) at its head : a lone but determined group of people who believe in freedom and equality and who are ready to fight for it.
It's interesting that Rowling spends so much time describing the struggles of the Order of the Phoenix ( in the earlier books - the struggles of Harry, Hermione and Ron under the auspices of Dumbledore and the other knowing wizards) but doesn't linger in telling what happens after the final fight. We get a couple pages of epilogue, and that's it. Because, really, what matters is that the Order wins - that fascism be, if not destructed completely, diminished to its most helpless form. In the last World War, what mattered was that the Allies won and that the Nazis retreated. But the reality of fighting, and war, is, by definition, a struggle. It involves sacrifice and pain. Rowling keeps on drilling that fact throughout the books. She reminds us constantly that inaction results in being an accomplice in the deeds of ill-intended people/wizards. She constantly tells us that we need to fight for what we believe in.
I find that lesson to be useful in our times.