Atulya Dora-Laskey Feb 18, 2019 Thoughts/Opinions Uncategorized

“Harry Potter” & the deathly status quo


In the wake of the 2016 election, confused and angry liberals reached around for the most allegorical piece of literature they could use to orient themselves to these new and scary times, and landed on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Lines were drawn, and comparisons were made. Donald Trump was Voldemort. Mike Pence was Quirinus Quirrell. His supporters were Death Eaters. Betsy Devos was Dolores Umbridge. John McCain was Snape. The #Resistance was Dumbledore’s Army.

Thousands of protest signs read with references like “When Voldemort is President, we need a nation of Hermiones,” “ICE=Dementors,” and “What Would Dumbledore Do?” Author J.K. Rowling took frequent shots at Trump on Twitter saying, “Voldemort was nowhere as bad.” Real life Harry Potter fan clubs dedicated to fighting Trump popped up on the internet, calling themselves “Dumbledore’s Army.”

Perhaps the comparison isn’t that surprising. Harry Potter is one of the best-selling books in the entire world (second only to the Bible), and the books tells a cautionary tale of how authoritarian powers can be used to manipulate existing institutions in order to push their agenda, and Hermione serves as a wonderful role model for young girls in contrast to Trump’s frequent misogynistic comments.

Despite that, the implications in its comparisons to real world politics are clear and unfortunate. Harry Potter is not a flattering allegory for the liberal resistance, no matter how much liberals believe it to be, but it is an accurate one.

If you’ve read Harry Potter, you might come away with the notion that Voldemort was an anomaly. The wizard world was pretty much magical and perfect before Voldemort arrived on the scene. As a result, the sole goal for Dumbledore’s Army is defeating Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Dumbledore’s Army fights for a return to the status quo and nothing beyond that.

If you’re a liberal, you might come away with the notion that Donald Trump is an anomaly. America was doing fine before Trump got elected. As a result, the sole goal for liberals becomes defeating Donald Trump and his supporters. They celebrate Nancy Pelosi for sarcastically clapping, the small amount of Republicans who superficially disavow his crudeness, or SNL for making fun of Trump’s frequent misspellings. Liberals have been overwhelmingly reduced to fighting for a status quo as they reminisce over a time when Obama was President and things were “good.”

Consider, instead, that the wizard world of Harry Potter isn’t a status quo worth returning to. The “magical and perfect” wizard world is based on class, racism and segregation. In a society where magic can magically fix and duplicate things, somehow there are still wizard families living in poverty. The protagonist fights against the enslavement of Dobby and shows disdain for the house-elf system, but doesn’t pursue any real institutional change beyond joining Hermione’s S.P.E.W. club (which is played as a ridiculous joke and completely left out in the movies). The protagonist fights against Voldemort’s persecution of half-bloods, but never has any problem with the strictly enforced apartheid between muggles and wizards.

Consider, also, that the PreTrump world of America isn’t a status quo worth returning to either. The “good” Obama refused to prosecute anyone from Wall Street after their systemic fraud caused the 2008 financial crisis, used I.C.E. to deport 2.5 million people (more than any other president in history), ran a warrantless NSA program that invaded the privacy of millions of Americas, aggressively fought to silence whistleblowers and conducted an unaccountable drone program that left thousands of civilians dead throughout his time in office.

Obviously, Voldemort is worse for the wizard world, but he’s also a product of it. An apartheid society where no one questions the “supremacy” of magical beings over muggles is a society that will eventually yield a fanatic like Voldemort who believes in the persecution and extermination of those who are “inferior.” The return to the status quo at the end of the seventh book isn’t a victory; it’s a tragedy that shows that all the hero’s efforts were in vain. The epilogue in the final film shows an unchanged society that is basically a ticking time bomb, counting down until the rise of the next evil wizard who will once again try to follow this segregated society to its logical next step by oppressing muggles.

Similarly, Trump has far more flagrantly abused his power than Obama and dramatically expanded the deportation and drone program, but he didn’t get here by himself. The election of Trump isn’t an anomaly; it’s the logical conclusion of a society that refuses to hold the rich accountable and is comfortable with the use of a racist deportation systems. The problem is no more emblematic than when liberals celebrate Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats for resisting Trump, but they are overwhelmingly quiet when Pelosi and the Democrats block progressive advancements that could solve the issues that got us here in the first place.

The allegory of Harry Potter to liberal resistance shares one more fatal flaw: the idea of the chosen one. In J.K. Rowling’s series, there is a strong resistance built up against Voldemort, but no matter how big or united this resistance gets, all their hopes hinge on Harry. Only Harry Potter is the one who is fated to deliver the fatal blow to Voldemort, everyone else is just there to support him as he collects all the Horcruxes. Liberals share this same fascination with a singular person: Robert Mueller.

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