Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Is Harry Potter "Corrupting the Minds of Our Youth?"

And now for something completely different...

Not to be like the Huffington Post, and report July's news in late August, but I just had to venture in on the "Harry Potter is Evil" discussion. Throughout most of my life I have heard a constant mantra, from certain segments of society: "Fantasy Fiction and Roleplaying games are the Devil's work! Anyone who reads them is practicing Devil Worship." One of the antagonists was Tipper Gore who stated that Dungeons and Dragons was a form of Satanism in her book "Raising PG Kids in an X-rated Society." But my least favorite, or at least the most aggravating, antagonist has historically been Pat Robertson who, while opposed to foreign terrorism, thinks we ought to "take out" the Venezuelan President.

To those of you who think that Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons, and Fantasy literature are a form of "devil worship" let me give you the following advice.

First, read this brief piece which gives an overview of what a "Satan Scare" is and how they are linked to historic blood libels with regard to their content. Another useful resource is Satanic Panic which works to dispel the validity of most claims of insidious Satanism in American culture.

Second, read this very in depth analysis by Michael Stackpole who is responding to Pat Pulling (the founder of Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons). In the essay, Stackpole breaks down many of the myths around Role Playing and Fantasy.

Third, I recommend that you yourself read the material in question. If you do, you will find that Harry Potter has a clear moral compass with Good combatting Evil, Tolkien's work contains Biblical references, CS Lewis' fiction is Biblical allegory, and that a great deal of fantasy is inspired by classical concepts of Virtue. It is this focus on virtue that is one of the key reasons people are drawn to Fantasy. They like to see people struggle to do Good, even when it is extremely difficult.

Lewis, Tolkien, and Potter are easy to defend on this ground, as are many others. Some authors, like Philip Pullman with his "advocacy for a democratic revolt in Heaven because a Monarchic Heaven is unjust", are worth reading to discuss the arguments with your children. Do you disagree with Pullman's fantasy based moral argument? Good. Now tell children why you disagree. Write fantasy countering the argument, but don't fetishize the argument by banning Pullman books.

Some books, like Zorachus, really oughtn't be read by children at all, but it isn't meant for children. The themes of the book regarding what happens to a good man who is given power in a corrupt and evil society ought to be examined and discussed.

Oh and before you think I believe all criticisms of Fantasy are unjust. I agree whole heartedly with The Entertainment Complex
and the sentiments expressed in the photograph (by EC) below.

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