The last part of my “Apologetics” for giving respect to the Potter world. Addressed to secular critics.
Regarding the “lightweight” quality of the HP books: I find more and more these days that books that are written for adults tend to paint a very dreary portrait of reality. As if being an adult means that all my fiction must dwell in gritty “realism” where everything is bad and getting worse, all the heroes are corrupt, and there are no happy, or even hopeful, endings. In real life, of course things are bad. Science says the earth is in crisis and it’s our fault, wars are rampant, corporations are greedy, racism still lives, our educational system is awful, our politicians lie, even our media lies now, and the list goes on. I don’t go to fiction to find out how bad things can get. At least not all the time. I go to fiction to enlarge my soul, to help me imagine what can be possible, to imagine myself in another’s shoes, to rediscover hope. Harry Potter’s journey from awkward orphan to power-wielder to ultimate sacrifice-er is a classic hero’s journey. We need more heroes. We need more people to imagine themselves as heroes. I won’t insist that “Harry Potter” is great literature, but I do find it refreshingly joyful, celebratory, and hopeful at its core.
Also, Rowling is a gifted satirist.
Also, I just like it, ok?
For people who just don’t get sci-fi/fantasy – I personally think it’s a lot of fun. I enjoy exploring the imaginary worlds in someone else’s mind, and discovering their values and heart in that way.
I also find sci-fi/fantasy work can be a good platform for examining ethical questions. For example – if you have been given more power over another being, through magic, technology, wealth, etc., how do you use it? What are your responsibilities to those less able to help themselves? And what are the consequences if you fail in these responsibilities? What happens when you divorce reason from emotion? Is revenge ever justified? Sci-fi/fantasy worlds give us a way to play with these questions without immediately igniting the fire of dispute, because the characters populating these stories are at all times everyone and no one. We can identify with their plights without having to identify with their politics. We can watch them explore these questions, make choices, earn consequences, and make mistakes while remaining relatively neutral (unless it’s really bad, bombastic stuff, which is terrible in any genre). It’s a way of experimenting with these questions in a non-volatile, playful way. In a world as rapidly changing as this, we need ethical and philosophical playtime like never before in order to find our bearings.
If you already get all this and you just don’t like sci-fi/fantasy, I doubt anything I say will persuade you, and that’s ok. Different strokes for different folks 🙂