2011-07-20

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 2 – What Do We Do Now?

by Yo Snyder

So it’s all over. The final Harry Potter movie is here and the
worldwide phenomenon is going out with a bang. The film was already breaking
records before it even released, and ended up having the biggest opening
weekend of all time. It’s hard not to be a little awed at what this franchise
has achieved in the past ten years;  keeping the same cast, consistently improving
in quality, finding ways to appease book fans and new fans alike. However, now
that it’s all over, we’re faced with an interesting question. More
specifically, now that we know the whole story of Harry Potter’s journey, the
question is; what do we do with Harry now?

Way back in 1997 when an unknown author by the name of J.K.
Rowling introduced her character Harry Potter, whether she knew it or not, she
was about to change the world. When Harry
Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
(changed here in the U.S. to The Sorcerer’s Stone) released in the
United Kingdom, it was the first step for the boy wizard Harry Potter to
becoming a pop-culture phenomenon and one of the most popular literary
characters in modern history. The books have sold over 450 million copies
worldwide, hold several records for being the fastest selling books in history,
and have been translated into 67 different languages. In 2011 the first movie
was released, and its modest $300 million plus run was just the first drop in
the bucket for a franchise that has grossed over $5 billion thus far.

Of course, all of that success hasn’t come without
controversy. From the very start, there were some concerns with the wizarding
world of Harry Potter, especially among conservative Christians. There were
concerns over the magic and witchcraft in the books and movies. There were
concerns that since it was a story about a boy learning to become a wizard, it
would encourage impressionable young children to pursue the same thing. There
were concerns that it made something the Bible took very seriously, magic and
witchcraft, and made it look like harmless fun, undermining the Bible’s
authority on that subject. These are all valid concerns to be sure, and they’ve
been addressed over and over again over the past ten years and I’m sure they will
continue to be addressed in the years to come. What we’re chiefly concerned
about discussing here is now that we know the whole story, now that we know
what Harry’s journey was truly about and what sort of character he truly is,
what do we do now?

When I say now that the whole story is known, I’m of course
referring to (and if this spoils anything for you, you’re probably not the type
to read the books or what the movies anyway, so think of it as being better
informed rather than having something spoiled) the fact that Harry Potter, as
the chosen one destined to defeat the evil of Lord Voldemort, willing lays down
his life and sacrifices himself in order that others may live. The only way
Voldemort can be defeated is if Harry is killed; not any easy thing to
contemplate for a young man. Nevertheless, he walks into the Forbidden Forest
willing to die so that evil can be defeated. And that’s what happens. Harry is
killed, but the story doesn’t end there. Following an after-life encounter with
his mentor and friend Dumbledore, who helps him understand there are greater
things in this world than just magic, and deeper forms of magic, he is
resurrected and ultimately defeats Voldemort, saving the world.

Now any other time something like this happens in a story,
it’s typical for Christians to point out the Biblical parallel and the Christ
allegories of such characters. In fact, it happened earlier this year with the
release of Thor. The whole
death/resurrection moment played a pretty minor role in that story, and yet Christian
reviewers were quick to point out how that film at times felt almost Christian
because of the themes it explored and the sacrifice its hero was willing to
make. But what about Harry Potter? His journey ended in a similar fashion. With
its themes of the importance of love — true sacrificial, selfless love — and
deeper magic, what is one to make of this boy wizard? Can we now say “Though
the HP series isn’t overtly Christian like Narnia, it’s on equal ground
spiritually with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.”? Or must we continue to debate
whether or not it violates biblical mandates on sorcery and encourages young
ones to become witches?

You know, the truth is the lasting impact and legacy of
Harry Potter has yet to be assessed. Time will tell if he’ll be remembered as a
pariah promoting the occult or as yet one more classic figure in popular
entertainment who echoed Christ. Figuring out what to do with Harry Potter has
never been easy, and it’s stirred plenty of discussion, division and
controversy over the past decade. Now that the series has truly come to an end
with the final film, and now that widest possible audience has seen exactly how
this epic story comes to an end, will it change opinions and sway convictions
on whom this character really is? Is he Aslan or Maleficent? It’s hard to miss
some of the Biblical parallels of Mr. Potter’s journey, so what do we do with
Harry now? Was it a good ending with redeeming value, or should we just be
happy that the end is come and let the debate finally die?