Monday, July 19, 2010

Harry Potter and Vampires

Update 10/15/2013: I should note that at this time I had just read the Twilight books, and I like a lot of things when I first read them more than I do later. I still like Harry Potter, but looking back I realize the Twilight books were actually fairly boring quite a bit of the time... and I don't particularly like the boost they gave to the fascination with the undead. But, I suppose most of what I said is still valid.

As someone who enjoyed the Harry Potter series, and more-or-less enjoyed the Twilight series, but can see reason for concern about them, I wrote the following addressing a comment which stated that both series could be dangerous because both vampires and witchcraft are evil.

I just want to point out that since vampires don't exist, they are not inherently good or evil, but only as good or evil as their particular fiction presents them as being.

Thus, in Twilight, I don't think vampires are evil, so much as they are addicts. Becoming vampires in the series gives them an addiction to human blood (without ever having had to have tasted it). Where they go with their addiction is up to them. However, in the original "Dracula," (my favorite vampire book) and in most older myths, vampires were evil.

I have some problems with the 4th twilight book, especially that it seems to depict vampires as being in every way superior to humans, and especially that it depicts infertile sex between vampires as being better than the fertile sex of humans. I would say that the book does contain certain dangerous ideas that might cause an unhealthy fascination with the idea of being a vampire. Though I will also note several positive messages: valuing chastity, a strong pro-life/anti-abortion message, and a favoring of peaceful resolution to conflicts over violence.

Witchcraft is a bit different, since a form of it exists in reality. I would argue that the "witchcraft" in Harry Potter is different than real magic. The fact that it does not call on spirits for power is a key difference. Magic is treated more as a gift that needs to be directed, more like a superhero's super power than like real world magic. I view it the same way as I view magic from fairy godmothers, as just a part of fantasy. Thus it is not inherently evil.

That said, I see Fr. Euteneuer's concern. Basically it seems that these things can be gateway drugs of a sort. Catholics certainly view it as acceptable to drink alcohol in moderation, but do we find recreational use of heroin to be acceptable? And if we do, do we find heroin addiction acceptable? Is a person who refuses to even drink alcohol likely to try something like heroin? It seems that alcohol use probably in most cases predates use of other drugs.

Of course the acceptability of alcohol doesn't mean that we should leave children alone with an open bar to drink as much as they please, or even that children should be allowed to drink at all. Likewise, there are dangers in leaving children to explore fantasy worlds like that of Harry Potter on their own. We must determine what age our kids must be before we allow them to read such books, and we must not let them read the books in a vacuum without personally discussing the differences between them and real-world magic.

I think that we also have to recognize that children will encounter the Harry Potter style magic in school, and if we want to help shape their thinking on the issue without causing them to start calling all their classmates satanic, we might want to familiarize them with the differences between fantasy magic and real-world witchcraft.

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