Sunday, July 10, 2011

Harry Potter and the Historical Interpretation

With the Harry Potter films ending this week, it is an appropriate time to analyze the series, which is now the highest grossing in the history of Hollywood.  First, I’d like to examine the historical roots of some of J.K. Rowling’s ideas.  A re-watching of Deathly Hallows, part 1 and parts of some of the other films this weekend reinforces my view that Voldemort and his allies are partially modeled on the Nazis.  For instance, Voldemort is obsessed with a desire for “pure-blood” wizardry and wants to purge the magical community of “mudbloods” (wizards with Muggle, non-magical parents).  This is eerily reminiscent of the Nazis’ views toward the Jews.  Furthermore, in Deathly Hallows, Part 1, Voldemort expresses his fear of mating between Muggles and pure-blood magicians, another typical concern of the Nazis and others who have promoted ideologies of racial superiority. Also, the Ministry of Magic’s architecture in the film version of Deathly Hallows, pt. 1 bears a strong resemblance to Albert Speer’s Nazi style.  Finally, Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) paints “mudblood” on Hermione’s forearm and it looks almost like a concentration camp tattoo.
Rowling and the filmmakers did not simply draw upon the Nazis as an inspiration for the villains.  Voldemort’s fear of “race-mixing” also laid at the root of white supremacy in the Jim Crow South.  Similarly, the description of the Death Eaters in the attack on the Quidditch Cup in Goblet of Fire bears a strong similarity to the Ku Klux Klan.

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