Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Harry Potter: Anti-Christ

God knows that my step-daughter has watched the oh-so-dreamy punk who plays Harry Potter so many times that I cringe at the mention of anything Potter-esque. Yet even I have to object to Harry Potter, Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings: What you Need to Know about Fantasy Books and Movies by Richard Abanes. Apparently the Potter books are the gateway to hell and Philip Pullman of the Dark Material Trilogy is the anti-C.S. Lewis.

Staunch Christians like Tolkien and Lewis get a pass but Abanes brings up several objections to Rowlings. Most telling was the statement: "Harry Potter is a fictional tale with a nonfictional backdrop." In other words, wizards and witches really can fly about on broom sticks but they don't all live in English boarding schools. It gets better:

1. "Those who stand against Voldemort are good. Those who stand with Voldemort are bad. . . This morality is not only flawed, but also simplistic."

Lewis did make Narnian morality more complex but Tolkien sure as hell didn't. Other than Gollum, Middle Earth is as black and white as the Potter-verse.

Also Abanes' entire morality is "Jesus=good; Satan=bad," making this one of the unintentionally funniest lines in the book. Somehow I can't see him applying this argument to the Bush administration.

2. Objecting to the argument that while not overtly Christian, Harry and the other good guys have positive attributes: "What everyone is failing to recognize, however, is that Rowling's 'evil' characters are brave and courageous, too. Her evil characters also show perseverance, loyalty (in the face of persecution), and a willingness to make sacrifices for their cause."

Again true of Tolkien--the orcs knew they were cannon-fodder but kept on coming--but even more true of Lewis. Even though evil puts up a decent fight, there is no mistaking the good and evil sides of any of the books.

And isn't Satan the very model of perseverance? Booted out of heaven, slapped around the Holy Lands, destined to lose the Final Battle, but never stops tempting.

3. In deriding the argument that the series provides good role models, he writes "it is a mistake to think that our culture exalts only those icons that are good role models for children" and lists Beavis and Butthead, Freddy Krueger, and the MTV show Jackass.

Here's the tortured logic:

Potter fan: Harry's a good role model because he fights against the rise of power of a mass murderer who wants to enslave the world.
Abanes: Ahh, but isn't Hitler a role model to neo-Nazis? Ipso-facto: Potter=Nazi.

I think Abanes realized that this doesn't make sense and he glossed it over to get to his next point.

4. He states that the number one reason for Potter's popularity is "gross imagery and crass humor" which is described as "vomit candy, pus and booger references, assorted profanities, 'Uranus' jokes, and a dash of bloody violence." (Abanes admits in the text that there was only one "Uranus" joke but what's a little lie between friends?)

It's true that the Potter books I've read are more crude than Lewis or Tolkien's but compared to the backdrop of society, Rowlings is old-fashioned and uptight. Harry asks a girl on a date in one of the books but does he bring along any magic condoms? Does anyone in these books have sex at all? Unwed comic book characters have been fathering and giving birth to children since the 1970s (Speedy/Arsenal was also a heroin addict in the 70s; Rocket, the first single mother superhero; Mystique who has supposedly given birth to and fathered mutant babies; Spoiler/the new Robin; Plastic Man; etc.[believe me, I could go on a while])

Today Disney characters fart and belch. Many family movies include scenes of animals sodomizing unlikeable characters (Dr. Doolittle II first to come to mind). Is there anything in the Potter books to compare to that?

And does anyone at Hogswarts smoke fairy pot or snort magi-coke? The hobbits smoked pipeweed which sounds suspiciously like hash but Abanes gives them a complete pass.

5. Claims that some of the occult shows influencing Christian American youth are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed and Sabrina: The Teenage Witch. At first I thought it was a fluke but he repeatedly mentioned Sabrina as an occult influence.

Sam Kinison had a routine about what if Manson had blamed the Monkees, not the Beetles? "'Hey, hey, we're the Monkees! People say we monkey around! Last train to Clarksville!' How clearly does he have to say it?"

I'll alert the FBI to be on the outlook for infant sacrifices if UPN shows Sabrina re-runs.

6. His defense of censorship: "Censorship is merely the way a community (or segment of it) deals with certain material that it deems inappropriate for a specific location or readership--for example, racist, pornographic, or anti-Semitic literature."

In a loose sense, I agree with him. I don't think Hustler should be in the children's section in the library. But Abanes is seriously worried. He refers to a seven-year old who killed his brother by imitating WWF moves, a story that was debunked by news agencies as a fraud. He also cites a four-year old who was left unattended by a babysitter who went to buy cigarettes. The four year old killed his 15-month sibling while wrestling was on television. Who is to blame? The babysitter? Well, you can't sell a book that condemns babysitters or lack of personal responsibility.

Do you consider a work's age-appropriateness on multiple factors or do you just toss anything that doesn't include Jesus on the cover?

I believe it was Edith Wharton who said, "Censorship, like charity, should begin at home. But unlike charity, it should stay there." I'm not sure if that would go over for Abanes' crowd.

7. The author also wrote Becoming Gods which warns "Did you know Mormons hope to eventually become Gods?" Now that he's picked on a fictional character and the LDSs, let's see if he's up to a cartoon book about Islam or if he'll continue with subjects that won't bite back.

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