Harry Potter and the Cognitive Dissonance

Well, the penultimate Harry Potter movie is in theaters, based on the first half of the ultimate Harry Potter book. I will be seeing it, eagerly, soon. As should come as no surprise, given my penchant for writing about juvenile witches, I’m a fan of the books and movies. J.K. Rowling and her cinematic translators crafted an inviting world, good characters, and a hell of a through line to keep people hooked for seven increasingly heavy books (that through line: the rise of fascism, but with magic!)

I think one of the biggest reasons for the success of the series is the way it matured with its core audience. In every way. The tone, stories, writing, characters, and even the actors who played the characters, matured with each book, and so did the millions of young readers who made the series the phenomenon it is. Which is a pretty remarkable feat.

Which brings me to my favorite part about the Harry Potter series: the weird cognitive dissonance in the final books. By that I mean the juxtaposition of the cutesy, Dahl-esque whimsy of the wizarding world introduced in the first book, with the grim “fighting Magic Nazis” tone of the last ones. Rowling and the filmmakers make it work, though, despite the fact that, really, people who belong to something called Hufflepuff really have no business fighting a man who feeds old ladies to pythons.

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3 Comments

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  1. read the first 85 pages of Deathly Hallows last night in preparation for the movie, which a bunch of us Ehrlich/Riggses will be seeing later this week (as will much of America, no doubt).

    This is my second attempt at completing the HP saga. The last time I tried to read HP7 I got bogged down with Harry, Hermy and Ron out on an extended camping trip. I hope to persevere and finally learn how it all ends this time around.

  2. Yeah, the camping was rough, especially since the whole section also centers around a really obvious Lord of the Rings rip-off (the Dark Lord’s evil jewelry that makes you an asshole if you wear it too long). It gets a lot better after that.

  3. here’s hoping

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