Harry Potter and the Politics of Hate
As J.K. Rowling's rich allegory reminds us, intolerance is an inner battle.
Although the series was originally intended for children, many adults also have been drawn to the world of Potter. This crossover appeal is due to the fact that the story often works on multiple levels; creator J.K. Rowling has worked in a criticism of racism, intolerance, and xenophobia. In setting her World of Magic amidst a population of non-magic-wielding “Muggles,” Rowling creates an “Other” that the evil Voldemort and his cronies can target as they rise to power.
In this culture of discrimination, anyone who is “tainted” by non-magic blood is considered less than. There's even a fictional slur—“Mudblood”—to show the hatred and vitriol that comes with this prejudice. Interestingly, as fans of the Potter series will know, Voldemort himself is “Muggle-born,” and his hatred stems from his own insecurity and self-hatred. The allegory is all too apparent as Rowling paints the ultimate evil (Voldemort) with the prime objective of obliterating those who are not like him. He even installs his own lackey in the Ministry of Magic, which begins to parallel a Fascist state. In June, Rowling posted an essay to her website, On Monsters, Villains and the EU Referendum, laying out the problems with the exclusionary politics that underscored the Brexit vote.
Harry Potter is indeed a tale of a magical world that parallels our own—one of coming-of-age friendship and humor—but the subtext clearly instills the values of combating injustice and repression of marginalized people. Judging from the trailers for Fantastic Beasts, Rowling has not shied away from these themes, and we can expect them in films to come.