Harry Potter recently rumbled back into town, and the debates amongst the Christian community arose again. To reject the series on principle: because the entire story is set within a world of magic? Or to place it within the canon of British allegorical writers with J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis?
J.K. Rowling is a great storyteller, and I’m one of many who has been drawn in. Her stories, although set in a fictional world, chime with real-world choices and dilemmas. In 2007, with the final book published, Rowling stated that “the religious parallels have always been obvious”, but had not been made explicit, to protect future storylines. The Deathly Hallows was the most overt, so did this translate on screen?
As with the book, this film is the darkest yet. The film assumes deep knowledge of the backstory. Harry, Hermione and Ron (and friends) work together to fight the power of the horcruxes, those parts of Voldemort’s soul, which, if not destroyed, will give him ‘ultimate’ power. In the film, the ‘evil characters’ are particularly powerful. Throughout, however, it is clear that the magical world itself is deeply flawed, with an unjust power structure. Those wielding power are skilfully depicted as imperfect, false, untrustworthy, and downright dangerous.
The film convincingly illustrates the spiritual power of the undestroyed horcrux. In the fight against these dark forces, faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:13) are clearly displayed amongst the friends. In the book, the clearest Biblical references are upon gravestones, including Matthew 6:21: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. Excluded from the film, this would have explained more clearly Ron’s return, as Dumbledore’s gift guides him back to Hermione.
Great stories. Great conversation starters. July 2011 still seems a long way away, when the final battles commence – onscreen and offscreen!
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.