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Friday, February 17, 2006
Weighing in with my two cents...
An old debate has reared its ugly head on-line--is Harry Potter the work of the devil?

The latest opening salvo was tossed by (Pastor) Dan Reed over at Conservative Corner. Here's what kind of started the whole thing:
Today as I was driving home I jokingly asked my daughters if either of them got any Harry Potter valentines today. My oldest daughter said "NO Daddy and I know I know Harry Potter is the devil" Man I was so proud.
The thread was picked up on by Mark Rose, who offered his support of Pastor Dan. Rose correctly asserted that its the right and the responsiblity of parents to judge what children are exposed to and at what age. I fully agree with that, as does my blogging buddy, Katherine Coble who picked up the debate at her own blog. (Rose's blog requires a TypeKey registration to comment).

But what kind of got me was the admission by Reed and Rose that neither of them had read the Harry Potter novels or seen the movies but yet they were condemning them. This wholesale dismissal of something that you haven't experienced or are taking someone else's word for really bugs me.

Now, I'll step up now and admit that I don't have children of my own. I will also say that I do subscribe to the it takes a village theory. I don't want to undervalue the importance of the children's parents as the primary source of guidance, upbringing and raising. But I will also say that the rest of us have a responsibility when it comes to the raising and guiding of children. In the Methodist church, part of the baptism covenant is a promise by the congregation to help the parents raise the child. I take that vow seriously and reverently and do my best to try and live up to it. I try to be aware that I can be and should be an example to the young people I come into contact with in my life. I'm not always the best I could or should be, but then again I am human and will botch it from time to time.

And so maybe I just can't understand how it is that some parents out there can judge things wholesale. In her post, Kathryn points out that every generation has that thing which is perceived as "evil"--whether it be rock music or the internal combustion engine. Again, I agree with her point.

And like I said--I don't want to insult parents who choose to not let their children read Harry Potter. Also, I strongly believe there are such things as appropriate for the age of the child. I know that when Barry and his family came through Nashville a few weeks ago, we talked about all kinds of movies that BrainBoy wants to see. He asked me about seeing Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I think is a perfectly hysterical movie but isn't exactly suited to a 10 year old, simply for the scenes in Castle Anthrax. But give him three years and I think he's at a more appropriate age to see it. Or with Harry Potter--I wouldn't let Gracelyn and Davis watch the movies yet simply because they're both under five. I think a lot of it would be lost on them and they might be frightened by some of the visual images. But when they're a bit older, I have no problem sharing the stories and movies with them, so long as their parents approve. (I am waiting for no such permission for Doctor Who since I know my sister is dead-set against them ever watching it not because it's bad but because Uncle Michael loves it more than one grown person should).

I find it interesting to consider what is and is not appropriate for certain ages. Over the years, I've been in situations where young people have come to me, knowing I've seen or read a certain thing and wanting me to be the voice of reason when it comes to talking to their parents. Which if you know me, you'll find the irony in the fact that anyone considers me the voice of reason....

I'll admit it--I've read the Harry Potter books. I'll also admit that I've enjoyed them a good deal. I like the movies. They're all perfectly fine entertainment and a nice journey of the imagination. And when you boil it down to the most fundamental level, the Harry Potter books are about making the choice between right and wrong. It just so happens that magic is part of the way the stories are told. It's an element of the fictional universe J.K. Rowling has created. As I love to tell people, I've no more learned to cast a spell reading Harry Potter than I've learned to travel through space and time in a phone booth by watching Doctor Who.

Now, I don't see anything fundamentally wrong with Harry Potter. I do think there is an appropriate age. But what drives me nuts in people who condemn it as being this or that without actually having read the books or looked into it themselves. And I hate to remind parents of this, but remember when you were younger and your parents strictly forbade you from watching something. Did you just accept it and figure you'd see it later or did it somehow make it more intriguing and desirable to you? In a lot of cases, I'm betting it's the latter not the former.

In the case of Harry Potter, I think some people miss what I call a great parenting opportunity. So many times as the kids grow older, parents struggle to find ways to connect with them, to have something to share and enjoy together. I was listening to Wil Wheaton (Wesley on TNG) on the Slice of SciFi podcast talk about how he and his step-son bonded over episodes of Battlestar Galactica...he said it was valuable because they were both speaking the same language as it were and that shared experience to talk about. And I see a lot of parents who seem to miss that similiar opportunity.

The way I see it, if your child is old enough to read Harry Potter but you're worried about them reading it, why not read it with them. The two of you could read it and then talk about the viewpoint it has and how your values disagree and here's why. It could open up a meaningful dialogue and a connection between parent and child that might not ordinarily be there. And if your child can trust you about Harry Potter, than hopefully he or she can trust you about other things that come along.

Instead, some are content to quickly dismiss it and say its wrong and miss a golden opportunity.

Harry Potter is not Satan. He's not evil. The books are not going to cause you to go to hell from reading them. Now, if you get so caught up in them that that becomes your defintion of what is reality or how you define the universe, then that's an issue. (And if you're an uber-Trek fan, you can be the source of much hilarity in a documentary...but that's another post). But just reading and enjoying them as works of fiction is not going to send you straight to hell...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/17/2006 01:55:00 PM | |
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