It’s been 20 years since we read the words “You’re a wizard, Harry,” but the magic remains as strong as ever. A whole generation of children grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione and going back to reread the series is like returning home for many of us. There’s nothing quite like curling up on the couch for a movie marathon and falling asleep to the final rendition of Hedwig’s theme caressing our ears.
So here are 7 reasons why everything that made us fall in love are still relevant in today’s world:
1. Love is the most powerful thing in the world
Love has saved Harry countless times through the series. His ability to love deeply and wholly despite his tragic past is the “power the Dark Lord knows not.” It’s Harry’s love for Sirius that protected him from LV invading his mind and soul at the Ministry of Magic in OotP. He wouldn’t be alive without his mother’s sacrifice and has been saved by a mother’s love several times since (think of Molly Weasley & Narcissa Malfoy). The love showered on Harry by the Weasleys and Hermione was probably the only thing keeping him sane. Harry Potter also teaches us to value, respect and treasure friendships because it is possible to get through anything with friends by our side.
2. Bravery and courage
Gryffindor is where the brave dwell at heart, but courage is not exclusive to the lions. Dumbledore’s Army had plenty of members from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, and it was the entire bunch who followed the Chosen One into battle every single time. It also takes no small amount of courage to leave school to open a joke shop, or to marry someone you love knowing you’ll get blasted off the family tree. But most of all, it takes bravery to sacrifice everything for someone you love, or a cause you believe in.
3. Nothing is inherently good or evil
Not every Gryffindor is good and not every Slytherin is evil. Even Harry made questionable choices – casting the cruciatus curse. Snape’s character was made up of about 50 shades of grey. Pettigrew, one of Gryffindor’s golden Marauders betrayed his best friends over and over again. Dumbledore, the leader of light, left Harry to be abused by his relatives, hid important information from and manipulated his own side. Tom Riddle himself was abandoned and loveless as a child, turning him into Lord Voldemort.
4. Discussion of power
Voldemort’s reign, the Ministry of Magic, the Order and Dumbledore’s Army all elicit different responses: fear, resentment, submission and faith, among others. Even Hogwarts was subject to such hierarchies: think of Snape’s rule-by-fear classroom policy and Umbridge’s educational decrees. It was clear Voldemort did not truly care for the pureblood agenda. All of the war and destruction he rained on magical Britain was in the quest for power over the wizarding world. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Dumbledore was offered the post of minister numerous times and turned it down each time, knowing that he couldn’t be trusted with power. It raises the question ‘how does power shape us?’ What about our country leaders who do possess it?
5. It’s okay to not be just a pretty face
Hermione taught us it’s okay to be smart, bold and bookish. Snape, with his “greasy hair” and “sallow face” was one of the “bravest men Harry ever knew”. Ron was tall, skinny and had a face full of freckles, but that didn’t stop him from supporting Harry the whole way. LV didn’t even have a nose, but he was the greatest dark lord of the century.
6. Acceptance of people
The Harry Potter series features people of different species, backgrounds, genders, sexualities, races, nationality and socioeconomic classes. The protagonists learn to accept them all and appreciates the differences from their own lifestyles and cultures. The stigma faced by muggleborns is an allegory for racism. The stigma faced by lycanthropes like Remus Lupin can be compared to pretty much any social issue today: HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ rights, etc.
7. The importance of media literacy
It is difficult to stress how important a role the media plays in our lives; it shapes our perception of national and international events. Thus, it is important to be able to differentiate between real news and sensationalism. Rita Skeeter’s articles in Goblet of Fire taught us how to do that. Hermione and the Quibbler taught us in the Order of the Phoenix that the media can also be used as an ally, to get the truth out to the world. And finally, in Half-blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, we saw how effective a tool of propaganda the media could be when the Ministry used the Daily Prophet to slander Harry and Dumbledore.
8. The costs of war
Despite hearing about conflict in Syria, Israel, etc. it is still difficult for those of us who have grown up sheltered in conflict-free nations to truly imagine the horrors of war. The Harry Potter series delves deep into this: we see the leaders on either side, we see the messiah, the martyr, the soldier who wants an out but can’t find one, the people playing both sides, the people at the top and the footsoldiers. We see the people who get to live, the people who have to live with loss, the people who betray the cause and those who die fighting for things more important, like “friendship and bravery.” We live the story along with the characters on the page and suddenly we can feel everything that they do and it all becomes real. But the most important thing, always have something worth fighting for.