Thursday, August 4, 2011

Harry Potter: Conservative Hero?

Originally posted at Big Hollywood: LINK

Is Harry Potter now or has he ever been a communist? Just kidding. . . he’s no Smurf. When I first read the books, I recall some conservatives screaming that Potter sends the wrong messages. Imagine my surprise to discover the exact opposite. Indeed, at its core, the Harry Potter series is a truly conservative work, and it seems to me Harry should be considered a conservative hero.


Let’s consider the various themes that run throughout the books and movies. Do you remember the individual v. collective thing from my prior post about what makes a film conservative (Portus)? Potter has it in spades:

• Anti-Government Themes. A common theme throughout the books is that the government not only cannot help you, but will abuse its power to harm you. The Ministry of Magic is hopelessly bureaucratic and ultra-intrusive. It regulates every trivial aspect of wizards’ lives, e.g. caldron sizes, but it cannot protect the people. Instead, it gets brutal trying to cover up its ineptitude. When Dumbledore warns the world that Voldemort has returned, the MOM tries to discredit Dumbledore and then Harry. When this proves ineffective, it tries to drive Harry from the magic world through a Soviet-style show trial. It then drums up fake charges against Dumbledore and chases him from Hogwarts, where he is replaced with a bureaucrat (Delores Umbridge) who imposes an educational agenda designed to lower all children to the lowest common denominator. The government also seizes key industries, hides behind a veil of secrecy, denies the truth, and locks up its opponents. Frankly, this sounds like something Ayn Rand or George Orwell could have written.

"You are charged with being an inconvenient truth."

• Pro-Capitalism Themes. Harry Potter is also unabashedly pro-capitalism. Time and again, the private sector, not the government, is shown to be superior. Whereas the government world is drab and oppressive, the private sector is vibrant and alive. This is true from the pro-commerce Diagon Alley, to the way The Quibbler (a tabloid) rises to meet consumer demand for the truth when the main paper falls under the influence of the government, to the Weasley brothers being a walking advertisement for the joys of starting your own business. Even the fight against Voldemort is handled without the "help" of the government.

• Anti-Cult of Personality Themes. The Death Eaters, Voldemort’s followers, worship him in a strange cult of personality. They do as they are told without question. . . “Yes we can, my master, yes we can.” Nothing is more classically liberal than thinking for yourself. Nothing is more modern liberal than uncritically believing what you are told by a "gifted" leader.

But what about traditional morality? That’s the second part of the equation (Portus). Well, Potter is deeply conservative there too:

• Rejection of Moral Relativism. Rowling simply does not accept shades of gray in these books. The good guys are good and the bad guys are bad. It’s black and white. Readers are told repeatedly that you cannot do evil and remain good, even where evil seems to offer an easy solution. And whenever a character suggests that an evil character might only be evil because they feel pressured or disadvantaged (like Dumbledore suggests about Malfoy or Tom Riddle), those characters always prove that person wrong with violence.

Further, Voldemort is an evil man. He is not evil because he is misunderstood, or the product of an unhappy childhood, or driven to evil by economics or lack of health care. . . he is evil by choice. And while various motivations are offered to explain him to the audience, it is never suggested that the audience should sympathize with him or excuse his behavior. This is a truly conservative message: evil should be fought, not sympathized with. Heck, this message is so conservative that if you put the third book to your ear, you can actually hear an ACLU lawyer weeping.

"My social worker said I have clarity issues. . . so I killed her to make myself clear."

• The Value of Hard Work/Self-Reliance. Unlike most modern heroes, Harry is actually nothing special. He’s not smarter or wiser or stronger or faster than the other kids. He doesn’t have super powers. What Harry does have, is a group of people who care about him and who push him to work harder. When he does, he succeeds. When he doesn’t, he fails. It’s that simple. In the Harry Potter world, hard work gets rewarded, slacking gets punished, and anyone can succeed if they are determined to succeed. What could be more conservative than that?

• Belief in Traditional Families. The series repeatedly stresses the importance of the traditional family. Harry’s mother and father died to protect him, and in so doing, put a charm on him, which protects him so long as he has family, even nasty family like his uncle and aunt. The happiest people in the series are the Weasley family, who impart invaluable lessons about love, responsibility and all the other things conservatives want parents to teach their kids. By comparison, the messed up kids, from Neville Longbottom to Luna Lovegood, come from single parent homes (though they rise above their problems -- another conservative theme). Similarly, Malfoy and Dudley, who have complete families, are taught the wrong lessons. Malfoy's family is loveless and spiteful. Dudley's family is over- indulgent and selfish. Consequently, Dudley and Malfoy became really messed up. The implication is clear throughout the book: a strong family is the best foundation. Love your parents, love your kids, and teach the right values. Indeed, the greatest moments in the book involve self-sacrifice to save family members.

• The Gay Issue. But what about Dumbledore being gay, you ask? Well, first, there’s no reason a gay person can’t be conservative. If Ronald Reagan had been gay, he’d still be my favorite President. And having gay characters in films really should not be a problem for conservatives unless they’re attacking traditional or religious values. Even then, remember that you have to look beyond single moments in films to determine the overall ideology. One leftist gay character does not a commie film make (Portus). And in any event, in the Potter series, the issue of Dumbledore being gay simply NEVER comes up. . . and no, that's not innuendo for anything -- you people have dirty minds. At no point is it ever mentioned.

"Um. . . Professor Dumbledore, will this be on the test?"

There you have it. Call me crazy, but that all seems pretty conservative to me?

Thoughts? Commento Lumos!!


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

You hit another grand slam with this post, Andrew!
Well said!

You know, if lefties read this their heads will explode! LOL!

Also, nice takedown of those commie smurfs.
Their blue skin and "innocent" looks don't fool me.
Better cool than blue.

I concur, Harry Potter is indeed a conservative hero.
Refreshingly so, I might add. :^)

Tennessee Jed said...

Just got back this afternoon and read the article over at BH. Left you a comment over there, but again, great job

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I'm not sure if Rowling is a closet conservative or if she's a subconcious and unawre one.

Either way, I'm glad it came out in her books. :^)

I do hope she does come out of the closet someday, whether it's a concious or subconcious one.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Thanks! It's getting a good response, though there is a very vocal "it's just a kids story, you can't read anything into it" which I think is really just strange thinking.

I guess Animal Farm is just a story about some pigs?

I would be curious to see what leftists make of these arguments. They probably wouldn't be too happy about it. . . even if they know that deep down, I'm right. ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Jed! I look forward to your comments! :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Everything I've read about her tells me that she thinks she's a leftist. But it's pretty clear that she doesn't realize that her core beliefs are solidly conservative. And I think she probably doesn't realize either that the things she doesn't like about government are the result of leftist ideas.

But who knows? She's the only one who knows what she was really thinking and what she really believes?

Whatever it is though, I'm glad she wrote them too.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Some of my relatives are the same way, Andrew.
Now if only I can convince them to vote their true convictions...LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I found whole towns of those people. I literally wanted to run through the streets saying "look at this chart.... you're conservatives dammit!!"

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: My kids, grandkids and I have enjoyed the Potter movies for all the reasons you stated. Even the youngest ones could see the family connection even if they're too young to know that it also has a connection to adult life and politics.

As for the gay issue, who cares? After all, Abraham Lincoln was gay, wasn't he? LOL

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I think I heard that recently that they want to make Lincoln gay in some crockumentary.

I think the films are fun and have all the right lessons, and since those are conservative lesson, all the better.

rlaWTX said...

great article - again!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks rlaWTX! I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for commenting!

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, if any of you have an ideas you'd like to see in future columns, I'm open to suggestions. :-)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Suggestions? How about some of your greatest hits both here and at the main blog?

Maybe mix it up a bit, or do a rewrite of a film review to include How Conservative Are Americans? or Forget What You Thought You Knew?

Your past posts definitely deserve more exposure. :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ben. Those are good ideas. So far I've only looked at the film site for old material because I need to keep it relevant to Hollywood, but there might be some good material I can use from the main site too!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

One good thing (among many) about principles grounded in truth is that they're timeless, always relevant, and apply to any medium and format.

Okay, that's three good things. Heh.

Also, Ithink this is a great opportunity (and you have already started doing so) to put the question and answer to folks of WHY these are good, time-tested principles.

As you've mentioned before, lots of conservatives recognize and believe these self evident truths but many do not know why.

I'm still learning myself, and will until I die.
These truths go deep.

The more I learn, the more I appreciate (and stand in awe) how brilliant our Founding Fathers were, as well as those great minds and souls who have gone before and after them. Divine Providence indeed! :^)

Sadly, most of this is not taught in public schools anymore so we all must do what we can to learn and hopefully pass on this vital wisdom.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...


That you can do so in an interesting and entertaining way is a remarkable talent (and a lot of hard work)!

So thank you, Andrew! :^)

AndrewPrice said...

You're welcome! And thanks Ben, you're making me blush! Seriously though, thanks! :-)

It is stunning when you think of how smart our Founding Fathers were. This was not a collection of politicians or wannabes. They really had an incredible grasp of philosophy and politics and human nature. It's truly impressive.

I am indeed looking at this as a chance to teach rather than a chance to just rant about things like Matt Damon and Sean Penn. So I will definitely be looking to find ways to explain to people why conservative values are important and how to apply them to storytelling.

The key will be finding ways to do that which are interesting and entertaining.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Okay, enough with the chick flick moments.

I noticed you only got 328 comments at BH this time.

Quit slacking off! :^)

AndrewPrice said...

LOL! Ben, I haven't been over there yet today. 328 is it? Hmm. Not a great score it is? I'll do better next time! ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I'm reviewing Twilight today... it's gonna be ugly.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

tWHYlight? I better not tell my wife. She's a Twilight fan, although she like the books more than the movies.

I have discovered it is most prudent to keep my tongue in check when speaking about Twilight in an audible voice.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Yeah, you might not want to share this one with her.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

It will be like forbidden fruit to me.

"What are you reading?"

" Just some political stuff...ha ha."

"Why did you delete that page so fast?"

", heh...this is pretty funny actually..."

Gotta keep this on the QT.
Loose lips sink ships.

AndrewPrice said...

I won't say anything Ben! LOL!

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