With Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix due soon in theaters and the book release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows imminent, children, pre-teens and functionally retarded adults across America can sigh with relief: Their favorite boy wizard is back. But are kids, young adults and the mentally stupid Potter's target audience anymore? Both the films and their source material, J.K. Rowling's book series, have increasingly started to incorporate dark, violent subject matter. In the place of fantastical creatures, childhood wish fulfillment fantasy and schools of fatherly wizards, we now have hideously deformed and fanged dark lords, soul-stealing wraiths and parents murdered on-screen.
Was it always like this, and we just didn't notice? Below, six reasons why the popular children's series has always had its dark side.
Moaning Myrtle, a ghost who haunts the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, is clearly meant to be adorable: She talks in cutesy baby-talk, wears big nerdy glasses and seems to harbor a quiet crush on our hero, Harry Potter. Aww.
She's so adorable, in fact, that it's easy to forget that we're talking about the tormented specter of a child who's doomed to exclusively haunt middle school bathrooms. Assuming she's into it, you've got a pubescent dead voyeur watching school-age boys use the toilet. Assuming she's not, you've got a murdered child who's forced to hang out in a smelly-ass bathroom for all eternity.
Either way, holy Hell, is that some dark shit. Children who read this book will probably have difficulty using public restrooms for the rest of their lives, forever looking over their shoulders while dropping deuces, fearful that they're being scrutinized by an underage poltergeist with a weird bathroom fetish. Thanks a lot, Rowling. We'll be sending you our psychiatrist bills.
Not to give too much away, but as the Harry Potter series progresses, Harry-our lovable Everyman protagonist-starts dating his best friend's sister. Granted, if our experiences were any judge, it's not like most of the douches you meet in college need J.K. Rowling's approval to start seeing your sister or girlfriend behind your back. Nonetheless, that's a little creepy. It's difficult to imagine wanting to help your best friend defeat Voldemort when you know he'll be celebrating afterwards by casting "Disapearro Clothesimo" on your sister.
To her credit, Rowling tries to temper the example set by Harry by teaching us that your best friend's sister is almost always secretly possessed by some manner of dark lord. Still, we're pretty sure there are subtler ways of teaching children who to date than suggesting that a crush on their pal's kid sister involves getting roped into a creepy three-way with a noseless Ralph Fiennes.
Quidditch is a dirty, filthy game that should not be viewed by anyone at all, let alone children. Let's start with the obvious: The game is played by having each player climb on top of a long wooden shaft. Then everyone rides their shafts around, trying to "beat off" the other shafts flying all over the place and chasing balls around the field.
There's also something called the golden snatch-excuse us, "snitch." A few talented young boys try to find this special tiny thing, which is hard to find, but makes women squeal with delight when you grab it. What kind of author is J.K. Rowling that she'd try to convince impressionable children that the mythical G-spot actually exists?
Subtler entertainers for children like Walt Disney and Mother Goose were known for creating magical universes, with the covert aim of introducing children to the concept of evil while disguising the fact that evil exists in the real world. Rowling, on the other hand, takes the Law & Order approach, lifting the most evil things she could find in history books and changing the names enough that she could still call it fiction.
For instance, what are children supposed to make of the series' antagonists, a group loosely organized around the ideal of "purity of blood?" What about their leader, Voldemort, who is the most rabid defender of blood purity despite that he himself is part Muggle? Cough, Hitler, cough. Oh, and how nice, she even made the word for those of impure blood close to "mongrel," the word that the KKK used to describe the racially impure.
Let's just hope that in the seventh and final installment, Rowling elects to forgo the Magi-caust, or the Muggle Rights Movement, and all of the innocence shattering violence that those events entail.
When asked in an interview to sum up the main theme of her novels, Rowling offers up a cheerful, "Death." And sure, why not? The countless 6-year-olds being read the Potter series as a bedtime story are going to have to face their mortality someday. What better way to tell them what we've all got waiting for us on the business end of 60 to 70 years than having likable classmates and parents murdered by an evil overlord who intends to use their husk of a corpse as a depository for his soul? We're all going to have to face it someday, right?
Well, at least the kids have the grandfatherly Dumbledore to explain away the pain, giving everything a rosy, paternal spin at the end of each book. The character is pretty much the closest thing to a fictional grandfather that a kid could want. So naturally, we might as well have ol' Dumbledore brutally murdered, too.
Yeesh, Rowling-these Potter plot summaries are starting to read like bad slashfic. We hate to side with conservative parents on anything, but for chrissake, we grew up playing Nintendo games where any person or mushroom we killed blinked a couple times and disappeared. Nobody was trying to prepare us for the realities of death. Why should the current generation of runny-nosed brats get to have all the gory fun?
Of all the cruel tricks an older brother or sister can play on their younger sibling, probably the most effective is to tell them that they were adopted. "Mom'll deny it, but on your 18th birthday they're going to sit you down and tell you that your real father is Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis."
Why? Because chances are, given all the fat morons we see lugging their kids around in supermarkets, you have awful parents. What underappreciated kid wouldn't want to find out they're really the the super-special Crown Prince of Wizard Land? Show us a 12-year-old who doesn't secretly believe this and we'll show you a child who has parents who are magical wizards who poop PlayStation 3s.
You might think this is harmless fantasy, until you realize that every young Harry Potter fan with a troubled home life spends his or her days waiting up for goblins to carry them off to a land where wizards don't come home drunk and yell at witches all night. Worse than this: For some reason, all of the people who love Harry and value his wizarding ability at the end of each book, against all reason and humanity, let him return to his abusive home each summer. Apparently, Harry's gotten adept at telling the Hogwarts nurses he "ran into a door again."
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