Harry Potter needs no introduction. It would be hard to find someone who has not heard about him. When J. K. Rowling’s first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US), was published in 1997, the entertainment industry immediately “smelled” potential success and invested in the books. Not famous yet, Rowling received $105,000 from the publishing house Scholastic for the American rights of the first book, a sum that retrospectively seems ridiculous but was huge for an unknown author. Eventually, the Harry Potter series soared, both books and movies receiving enormous attention.
As a cultural phenomenon, Harry Potter is quite complex. It is a whole universe, featuring its own order and mystery; it spans time, both internally and as a product line. How many of us have grown up watching a new Harry Potter movie each year?
Beyond the massive promotional campaigns for each new book and movie, several features may have contributed to the success of Harry Potter.
First and foremost, it gives us roots. The magical world of sorcerers is a structured one, featuring rites of initiation, a sense of belonging, magical spells in Latin, and a curriculum dating back to the twelfth century. Characters live in centuries-old buildings in the beautiful landscapes of Scotland. The world of Harry Potter is culturally and racially European, something reflected in the white crowds of fans at Potter events and noticed by Left-leaning media.
Second, it shows us a rich, colorful world. A world full of humans, sorcerers, magical creatures, intrigue, quests – a world that makes a perfect supplement to the real one, “something more” for those who feel bored with the bland world of business, the dirty world of politics, and the generally impoverished world of modernity.
Third, it is structured: we follow the evolution of Harry Potter and his peers, as well as the unfolding of the intrigue, primarily centered on the fight between the young wizard and his nemesis, Lord Voldemort, who killed his parents. Both movies and books unfold as a mega-series that came back each year, coupling the internal time of Harry Potter’s universe with the real world. They show the same structure as a saga, which gives them the taste of a myth, something going beyond the usual ephemeral stuff the entertainment industry provides.
Fourth, it is shared. Fans of Harry Potter have a strong common interest. They can spend hours discussing the aspects of a specific magic spell, a fictional character, and many other arcane topics. In a world where individualism increasingly reduces us to a state of atomization and where multiculturalism leaves us alienated, it is great to have something to share with other fans. Even better when it relates to our roots in a living European tradition.
Fifth, the world of wizards is occult: hidden and filled with magical powers. Though this aspect may be fascinating to some, I believe it has been overestimated. What makes magic fascinating is less its sheer power, than how it goes beyond modern materialistic science and makes a tradition alive – unlike a “dead” tradition that can be revived through a “historical reconstitution” but feels too much like role-playing to be considered genuine. Interestingly, it seems like only Christians focus on the occultist content of the Harry Potter universe. They were uncomfortable with the open practice of witchcraft, spells, and various rites.
This article focuses on the metapolitical content of the movies, which has scarcely been discussed, perhaps because of the idea that it is nothing but childrens’ literature.
Is Harry Potter a Jew?
The media today often attack the traditional family by mocking fathers. Homer Simpson and Archie Bunker are famous examples. In more recent series, the fourth season of Dexter shows us an apparently normal father and husband who is actually mistreating his own children and killing innocent people, while The United States of Tara features a schizophrenic mother with a rather bland husband. Harry Potter’s views on family is a bit more complicated.
Before hearing about his wizard nature, the ten-year-old Harry lives as an adopted child in his aunt’s family. The aunt has a strong dislike for her sister, Harry’s mother. Together with her fat husband and their spoiled son, Dudley, they treat Harry as the fifth wheel. The boy has to do menial work and is made to understand that he does not belong. But though they do not like Harry, they want him to stay: the father destroys letters from Hogwarts (Philosopher’s Stone) and bars the window of Harry’s room (Chamber of Secrets).
Why does Harry live with this family? According to his aunt, his parents died in a car accident. But soon Harry learns the truth. His parents were killed by a dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, who tried to kill Harry too. But even though Harry was then a baby, Voldemort’s spell backfired, outcasting the “Dark Lord.” The boy was adopted by his mother’s sister and raised with no clue about his past.
I wonder whether J. K. Rowling got her inspiration from the Old Testament. Voldemort tried to kill Harry because of a prophecy mentioning a young wizard, born at the end of the eighties, who would be able to defeat him. Just like Pharaoh, the “Dark Lord” has no problem slaying newborn children in order to falsify a prophecy. Just like in the Old Testament, the policy of slaying newborns does not work, and the fated baby survives. When Harry enters the secret world of wizards for the first time, everyone knows his name. He is the only one to survive an attack by Voldemort. He is famous for being “the boy who lived,” the triumph of both life and fatum over a lust for power. I do not speak lightly of fatum, for Harry Potter is also called “the Chosen One.” Harry is fated to greatness and has been chosen. Isn’t there some resemblance with a powerful group that believes itself to be “chosen”?
It is also recognized that Harry has “horrors in his past . . . that others can hardly imagine” (Prisoner of Azkaban). The revelation of Harry’s greatness and specialness cannot be separated from dark memories, which have been caused by Voldemort. As we will see shortly, the latter seems inspired from a source other than the Old Testament, apart from his endeavor to kill a newborn.
Harry’s adoptive family, on the other hand, seems loosely based on the Egyptians as they are depicted by ancient Jews. They dislike Harry but want him close, first in order to perform menial tasks, secondly to isolate him from the wizard world where he belongs. When Hagrid or Harry’s friends come to free him and go to Hogwarts, one can almost hear a Moses-like Dumbledore saying, “Let my people go!” The adoptive family looks like the Simpsons, although they are repulsive rather than fun. They are mediocre, materialistic, and seem animated by the sheer will to conceal or shatter Harry’s inner greatness.
The wizard world exists throughout the Muggle (non-wizard) world, but remains unseen. Some Muggles know about it, usually those whose children turn out to be wizards or witches. To the others it must remain invisible. Wizards have great powers and are somehow above, or different than, the Muggles, although the distinction is far from clear. What matters is that they can keep leading their lives in their own world. Interestingly, the wizard world is not separated but mingled with the Muggle world: it spans several places in England, for example a secret building in London, platform 9¾ at the King’s Cross Station, and a railroad going through a seemingly Scottish landscape. In this respect, the wizard world is very much like the Jewish world: scattered among the goyim, different and somehow superior, and determined to remain unseen. Only the messianic aspect is missing.
Harry Potter’s character is not devoid of Christian symbolism either. From the first movie, Harry steadily appears as a knight who fights various monsters. In The Philosopher’s Stone, he passes a giant three-headed dog. In The Chamber of Secrets, he receives the sacred sword of the Gryffindor house and manages to slay a thousand-year old giant snake, before slaying a dragon, Saint George style, in the Goblet of Fire. Harry also looks for various objects, either endowed with magical properties or trophies, such as the titular “goblet of fire,” which brings to mind the Grail. Yet, each battle is only part of a wider plot: Harry’s struggle against the returning Voldemort.
There is a knightly aspect to Harry’s adventures. Yet, it is subordinated to a mere fight against evil. There is no will for self-transcendence, no yearning for spiritual accomplishment. But there is an imperative to save the wizard world against the big bad Voldemort.
Another Christian aspect of Harry Potter is its presentation of “good” families. Harry Potter’s dead parents appear in a magical mirror (Philosopher’s Stone) and as ghosts, who are mentioned as “ever present” (Deathly Hallows 2). Harry’s real family was full of love. Ron Weasley’s family, although lower middle-class, is generous and has no problem hosting Harry.
The Bad Guys: Lord Voldemort and his “Black Order”
The main villain, who runs through all Harry Potter movies, is the dark wizard Voldemort. In at least two respects, he corresponds to a caricatured view of a “Nazi”: unbounded will to power and “obsession” with the purity of blood.
“There is no good and evil, there is only power and those too weak to seek it.” This caricature of Nietzsche is how Voldemort introduces himself in the first movie. Born in 1926 from a wizard and a Muggle, Tom Marvolo Riddle shows an early fascination with the Dark Side. In 1943, Riddle both opens the Chamber of Secrets, the hidden house of a giant snake devoted to kill the Muggle-born students of Hogwarts, and murders various members of his paternal family. Although there is no reference to the Second World War, the year 1943 brings it to mind. Indeed, the mature Tom Riddle is played by Ralph Fiennes, an actor who already played a villainous “Nazi” commander in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.
Committing various murders as part of magical rites to make himself immortal, Riddle is said to have lost all ability for love and compassion. His followers tend to shut down those parts of themselves as well. Of course, this psychological disposition makes them quite antipathetic, and their communication style only displays disagreeable emotions: disdain, threat, coldness. Together with Tom Riddle-Voldemort, whom they all follow selflessly (an imitation of the Führerprinzip?), they form an order called the Death Eaters. Wearing black uniforms, they make a frightening appearance at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by conjuring a great black skull in the sky.
All this seems to be based on the post-War view of the SS: a fanatical, black-garbed occult order of emotionless martinets. The name Death Eaters may refer to José Millán-Astray y Terreros’ Falangist motto “viva la muerte.” Their use of the skull recalls the SS Totenkopf. As Voldemort’s order expands and gains new ground, the movies’ aesthetic become darker and the contrasts starker.
Because of his use of the Dark Arts, Voldemort turns from a handsome young man to an ugly creature without a nose. In the same vein, many of his followers appear unpleasant or odd, including Lucius Malfoy, a blond and quite beautiful old man who also displays coldness and some repellent sadism. Is Voldemort’s condition a reverse of the prominent Jewish nose? Anyway, here the caricature departs from reality, as the National Socialists prized physical beauty. Revered by his followers, Voldemort shows no positive feeling to them. Instead, he actually kills one out of sheer nervousness (Deathly Hallows 2). Voldemort wants absolute power over the wizard world, perhaps over the Muggle world too.
In The Order of Phoenix, as the signs of the Dark Lord’s comeback are becoming increasingly obvious, the Minister of Magic refuses to believe it. To us, he looks like a post-war liberal who believes that ignoring or concealing non-white pathologies will help us “integrate” them, but for J. K. Rowling or her screenwriters, the Minister’s behavior is likely analogous to Neville Chamberlain wanting peace in Europe – according to the official version of history – and believing it to be possible with the “warmongering” National Socialists.
Besides this villainous will to power, the Dark Lord is also a firm proponent of blood purity. Some wizards hail from ancient families, with a pure wizard ancestry, while others have Muggle ancestors, and even in some cases only Muggle parents. Though he is only a half-blood, Voldemort wants to “purify” the wizard world by restoring the power of pure-blood families and cleansing Hogwarts of students “unworthy” to study magic.
This latter aspect of Voldemort’s personality is crucially important to the whole plot. When Hogwarts was founded in the tenth century, one of the founders, Salazar Slytherin (here again, a likely reference to the twentieth century, Slytherin sharing a part of his name with the Portuguese statesman António de Oliveira Salazar) wanted to restrict the teaching to students of sufficiently pure blood. This desire is treated as completely arbitrary, as if Slytherin were simply a monstrous or defective individual. Rejected by the other founders, the “good” ones, Slytherin created the Chamber of Secrets and a monster able to kill unworthy students. This monster is the giant snake Harry defeats in the second movie. Given its allegiance, it is a clear reminiscence of Bertolt Brecht’s “foul beast” or “vile beast,” an expression meant to epitomize the “far Right.”
By 1900, all the “pure” families are mixed, although some claim to be pure, or at least want to retain whatever purity they have. But in the Harry Potter world, such families are villains and snobs. The wealthiest pure blood families, such as the Blacks, Lestranges, and Malfoys, are contemptuous of others and associate with Voldemort. They seem to be a mix of ancient nobility, the traditional bourgeoisie displaced by twentieth-century managerial elites, and of course National Socialists. Needless to say, they are presented in an unflattering light as remnants of an outdated past one ought to sweep out.
“Hereditarianism” is a recurring theme in the Harry Potter movies, and is constantly associated with negative emotions or characters. Malfoy is the prototypical arrogant young man who shows open contempt for most other wizards because of his pure origins. In the Chamber of Secrets movie, he calls Hermione a “mudblood,” referring to the fact that her parents are both Muggle. As the good guys discuss the event, Ron Weasley pukes while complaining how “disgusting” Malfoy’s remark is (a symbol so void of subtlety it should rather be considered basic psychological conditioning).
In the beginning of The Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry’s adoptive family meets a puffy Englishwoman who happens to be a dog-breeder. Defending a caricature of a hereditarian view of human nature, she carelessly insults Harry’s parents with such a repugnant demeanor that one is glad to see her thrown out of the house by the hero’s magical wrath.
Pure-bloods have to betray their families in order to join the good side. Sirius Black rebels against the family rule by displaying motorcycles and other Muggle stuff on the walls of his room, then expands it by railing publicly against his cousins who care about family integrity. Draco Malfoy, the infamous blond-haired rival to Harry Potter, defects from the Death Eaters at the last moment – which means betraying his own parents as well – and becomes a distant friend to the “Chosen One.” Only by casting aside his family or inheritance can Malfoy join the fold of “normal people,” those who can live in a world where Voldemort is dead. As the wizards’ origins are purportedly diluted, even among the most ancient families, and as the pure-blooded tend to associate with the Dark Side, what remains of ancient blood must be squandered so that “progress” can happen.
The Good Guys
As the bad guys are strongly linked with dark emotions, genealogical integrity, and an undeserved sense of superiority, the good guys tend to struggle for “equality” in diverse forms, prominent examples being the SJW-like Hermione and the headmaster Dumbledore, who displays a lukewarm anti-essentialism.
The dark wizards tend to entertain an anti-Muggle attitude. Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald wants to “enslave” Muggles. In the Goblet of Fire movie, Death Eaters kill Muggles for fun. Those in favor of pure-blood power equate a Muggle origin with a muddy one. On the opposite side, the good guys also do not belong to the Muggle world – many of them show a poor understanding of modern technology – but do not bully or attack them either. They accept Muggle origin as any other and let some Muggles, usually the parents or relatives of wizards, enter parts of the wizard world as well.
A subplot is introduced in the second movie. When the house elf Dobby inadvertently shows up in Harry’s room, we discover the existence of his kin. A type of magical creatures, house elves are small humanoid servants. Attached to a particular house, they are loyal to its owners (an individual or a family) and serve it. House elves usually feel the loyalty they ought to show and even take pride in not being seen while performing flawless work. As the story unfolds, we see how much house elves live like slaves. Dobby, belonging to the Malfoys, gets so mistreated that he seeks Harry Potter’s help, while Kreacher, another house elf, is said to be accustomed to “bad, even brutal treatment.” Lucius Malfoy hits Dobby with his cane even in front of strangers.
When Harry and his friends become aware of the existence of house elves in Hogwarts, Hermione creates the “Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare” and tries to free them. Although the elves reject Hermione’s paternalism, considering it as an insult, the girl will be rewarded for her activism by a job at the Ministry of Magic, which allows her to intervene in the families’ life as an enforcer of “Guidelines on house elf welfare.” This subplot shows Hermione as a SJW: a girl or a member of a “minority” perceiving an “inequality” to correct, performing activism for “change,” and getting rewarded by the system. Isn’t that an all-too-familiar pattern? Tangentially, one can also see here the triumph of the managerial state over traditional institutions, including property and the family.
Hogwarts, the academy for wizards, unequivocally stands on the good side. It outvoted the dark wizard Slytherin when it was created. Later, it turns into a fortress that Voldemort cannot conquer. As we said earlier, an important aspect of Hogwarts lies in its living culture. The school is not multicultural. It lives according to one culture, compounded of magic and northern Europeanism, ranging from school uniforms to the architecture of the whole place.
However, though a large majority of Hogwarts students are White, there are some Blacks and Indians here and there. Yet this sort of tokenism is the weakest form of political correctness in the books and films. Non-whites are assimilated. They exist as individuals, not as groups, and live by the rules of Hogwarts, rather than try to change it to suit them. Thus Harry Potter subscribes to a now outdated form of political correctness: it turns a blind eye on racial differences, hoping to dissolve them into the unifying effect of a shared culture. In contrast with the real world, assimilationism actually works at Hogwarts.
Beyond this tepid political correctness, Harry Potter is hugely satisfying on the plane of implicit whiteness. It shows a rich diversity among White students, be it the red-haired Weasleys, the blond Malfoys, and many others. Besides, the shared culture of Hogwarts has its roots both in the stunning architecture of the middle Ages and in the pagan Northern Europe. The ball of the Goblet of Fire is called “the Yule Ball,” which refers to the pre-Christian feast later transformed into Christmas.
It must also be said that Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, is something of a PC icon. “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” he says in Chamber of Secrets. And later: “It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be” (Goblet of Fire). Heredity, and even excellence, are brushed off as unimportant. Innate abilities are rejected for an emphasis on nuture an education. Instead, Dumbledore promotes an existentialist or nominalist position, with an emphasis on “choice” and of course on joining the good side. Existentialism goes hand and hand with a political Manicheism. Innate abilities are rejected for an emphasis on choice, nuture, and education.
Dumbledore’s philosophy is actually at odds with Harry Potter’s universe. The wizard world is, by definition, restricted to wizards and a very few Muggle relatives. Hogwarts only accepts children able to perform magic and strives to turn them into accomplished wizards. When a new student enters the school, a magical device – the Sorting Hat – finds his inner vocation and sorts him into the right house. How is all this consistent with existentialism and denying the importance of innate ability? The “wise old” character hides contradictions under his grey beard. These contradictions line up with the opposition between traditionalism and political correctness that runs thorough the entire series.
Most Whites suffer from what Greg Johnson called homesickness. Feeling no longer at home in our native countries, we retreat into the individual realm or stick with poisoned entertainment. We watch Harry Potter, but Harry himself has no need to watch movies when he is at Hogwarts. Nor does any other wizard. As Harry says, “Hogwarts is my home” (Chamber of Secrets). He has no need for a surrogate home.
The type of political correctness seen in Harry Potter is colorblind. As such, only four years after the last movie came out, this aspect already feels outdated. Postmodernists constantly chatter about race and identity – two themes that Harry Potter writers have carefully avoided. Ironically, colorblind political correctness seems now more outdated than the magnificent medieval architecture of Hogwarts or Harry’s chivalrous virtues.
Harry Potter should not be approached uncritically. One should be wary of its politically correct content, especially in the character of the villains. But Harry Potter has many genuine virtues. Aesthetically beautiful, it gives an idea of what living in a real identitarian culture is like. Like the movies, the fan gatherings display a great deal of implicit whiteness. Also, like Lord of the Rings and perhaps even more so, Harry Potter is one of the few contemporary sagas we have. Harry’s universe feeds the need for genuine white identities. Perhaps many of those who follow the adventures of this young sorcerer are traditionalists in the making.