I have just taken my family to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It was not the experience publicity had led us to suppose - but it did have its lessons, all the same.
Much of the film was concerned with what happens when an institution tries to repress the individuality and expressiveness of its people. Hogwarts school comes under the baleful influence of the Ministry of Magic, which seems mainly to be informed by paranoia and is more than a little drunk on power. Through the lens of this film, one could suppose that J.K. Rowling is examining the nature of totalitarianism, everywhere.
What is telling about the people in this film is that the children do not allow themselves to be repressed forever. This too, is true to life in most countries of the world and in most institutions where repression has been exerted too long and too hard. However, it is not always the case and, in this sense, the film is not true to what can actually happen in real life. Sometimes, the people just give in and accept their repressive situation - at least on the scale of human lifetimes.
Yet, being Hollywood, of course, the children rebel and reassert their individuality. I suppose that J.K Rowling is stating here, that she believes the desire to be individual and expressive cannot be held down for too long - for when it is repressed a desire to rebel builds up and over time, there can only be an explosion of sorts. So, too, is it in Harry Potter.
A child watching this could learn the lesson that individuality is important and must be nurtured and, at times, even fought for. The children of the school fight for many things - but one of them is simply the freedom to be themselves.
Yet, there is an unconscious irony here. You see much of the Potter themes are derivative and echo other works by other prior authors. Indeed, so obvious are some of the borrowings from other works that Ainan piped up at one time: "Why is this like the Lord of the Rings?", he enquired, not best pleased.
It is like the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien's has a "Dark Lord"...and Potter has a, well, a "Dark Lord". Frodo Baggins has a direct connection to the "Dark Lord" through his Ring - and Harry Potter has a direct connection to the "Dark Lord" - through his mind. Tolkien has Gollum who says "My precious." a lot. Potter has a very Gollum like figure who says "My mistress." a lot. There is a baddie in Potter that looks remarkably like the blond twins, in styling, from The Matrix...I could go on, but you should get the idea by now. Harry Potter is many things but it could never be accused of being original.
This is a pity, in many ways. Harry Potter is the most successful book series, of its kind, at any time. Yet, it is founded on "borrowing" themes and ideas present in prior, greater works. That it succeeds is only because its audience is too young to know where everything comes from - though Ainan is only 7 and he noticed the borrowings from the Lord of the Rings, himself. Usually, however, this derivativeness will pass a child by - and so it is that Potter can succeed.
So, the film left me with mixed feelings about it. One theme is important for children to understand: that the freedom of self-expression should be preserved - but the story is actually an example of the denial of that freedom. J.K Rowling imitates so many others through her work, that one could say she is a potent counter-example of free expression. It is a blow against the creative spirit to derive her works from the works of others. It is a blow against those who had the individuality to create their own original works. In this sense, Rowling works against the very theme that she proposes as central to this film. In a derivative world, the individual creator cannot be free to be themselves, without suffering the indignity of imitation.
It would be good to see more actual originality in Rowling's works. Perhaps it is just a function of being old enough to have seen and read quite a lot - but that background knowledge does make the entire Harry Potter franchise look like a patchwork quilt of other people's ideas. It is tiring to see such tired material up on the screen.
The film was unable to hold Ainan's and Fintan's attention and from about half way through they were getting restless and a little bored. Ainan is 7 and Fintan has just turned 4 - to give you some idea of whether it is right for your child. They preferred to play with each other, in the second half, than watch the antics on the screen. This is not their usual response to a film, by the way.
We shan't be going to another Potter movie. In that way, we will be expressing our freedom to choose, as advised by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
(If you would like to read of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and no months, or Tiarnan, seventeen months, go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html
I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)
Labels: Ainan, cinema, derivativeness, Fintan, Harry Potter, imitation, lack of creativity, Lord of the Rings, Order of the Phoenix, Tolkien