141. The taming power of the small (IV)
Updated: Jun 4
I had ignored Harry Potter up until the point I got a girlfriend; then, out of charity, I went to the various films—always bored throughout the entire experience. In the end, I saw the whole lot; and an uninspiring lot of films they were. I had read the first book in the series quite late, probably around seventeen, just to find out what the fuss was about. I was unimpressed; it was all too late, when the first book came out I was thirteen or so; just a bit too old for that kind of magic—I had been through my magic phase and had moved on, in my mind, to more serious matters.
Harry Potter is a girl: it is a series for girls, and the fanbase is predominantly female; hence my first girlfriend adored it so. Harry Potter is a boy who everybody overlooks, even though, secretly, he is very special, the magic “chosen one”; only girls think like this: only women think that they have an inherent value that is simply being overlooked—men, by contrast, have to make themselves. Potter, being a girl, knows he is special from the beginning; he just has to wait for everyone to recognise the fact, and so he never goes on a real adventure of self-discovery.
Potter was conceived, quite consciously in my view, as a subversive alternative to the classics of the fantasy genre, The Lord of the Rings and Narnia. From the very first moment, J.K. Rowling was presented as an “abused” single mother who had struggled in poverty to become a bestselling author; she fulfilled a certain liberal progressive archetype. From this biography, you might imagine that she had struggled out of the gutters—out of some tenement flat in Glasgow, where she was beaten nightly by a father reeking of booze. In actuality, she came from an upper-middle-class home, attended the elite University of Bristol, and then worked for the progressive NGO Amnesty International—she was a translator. She was a pretty high-status woman as it turns out, deeply embedded in the progressive ideological complex.
Potter’s world—unlike Narnia or The Lord of the Rings—has no deep connection to myth, spirituality, or history: Narnia explores the world Protestant Christianity; The Lord of the Rings, the deeper and more sophisticated work, explores Catholicism and, behind Catholicism, the Indo-Aryan tradition—Tolkien’s mastery of etymology and mythology granted him the deepest of insights. This was the world that Potter was conceived to liquidate and distort, since these books connected European people with Christianity and, deeper, their Indo-Aryan roots.
The moral thrust of the Potter series is merely the same as almost all mass entertainment products in the post-war era: the heroes are at war with rooted aristocratic “Nazis” who are obsessed with blood purity, and their victory is to place marginalised people on top—values transvalued. Almost every Western mass entertainment product in the post-war world follows this progressive thread, as surely as every Soviet film venerated the proletariat.
In the case of Potter, the institution of the boarding school and blood aristocracy are particular targets; the series is set in a boarding school and the villains are concerned with blood purity over and above the “mudbloods”—non-magical people. Potter’s allies include Ron Weasley, a boy from a magical but poor family, and Hermione Granger—a girl swot—who comes from a non-magical family but has worked her way up through merit. Potter leads a coalition of the fringes against the imperial centre.
Potter’s enemy Lord Voldemort scars Harry’s head with a thunderbolt in infanthood; this represents the vajra, the diamond-thunderbolt or world axis—Voldemort represents, in other words, the solar principle of indivisibility and immutability. The idea within Potter is to demonise the masculine or solar principle; the use of the thunderbolt as a weapon recalls the double-flash symbol of the SS. So, indeed, Potter-world is based on the rejection of the deepest European values in place of shallow materialism and egalitarianism.