Harry Potter’s Universe

I watched Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for the first time last night. During the last couple of weeks I’ve been watching the films for the first time. I haven’t read the books yet, but I had some random thoughts about the universe that has been created:

If a school similar to Hogwarts existed in the Muggle-world, or in our own reality, it would be terrifying. What you have is essentially a secret organization that trains children based on their innate skills. The training is incredibly violent. What happens at Hogwarts would be like normal humans learning to use military grade weapons, make poisons, learn to seduce people, make bombs, hot-wire and drive cars, etc.

In addition, there does not to be any formal education on ethics. I haven’t seen any evidence in the movies that the professors really explain the value of life, how to appropriately use your powers, a duty to protect those who can’t defend themselves, or how to use only the minimum force necessary when using power. Also, they do not seem to learn any non-magic skills. There are no math, reading, language, social sciences, or computer classes. They are being raised purely to use magic in such a way that it is impossible for them to succeed in the muggle world. If an organization did that with children in our world it would be horrifying and rightfully condemned.

Others have pointed this next point out as well, but where are the sex ed classes and discussions of consent. You have dozens (hundreds?) of students living in a castle for nine months with minimal supervision from adults. The professors can’t stop students from sneaking around and you know there is some banging going on in the off hours. So, do they have a class that discusses birth control spells? And, more importantly, why are they given several tools that could easily be used to rape? Both the magic potion and the spell where they change form could be used to trick someone into thinking they are consenting. You would think those two spells would be forbidden or something for new students, or at least appropriate counters-spells and potions would be available.

Now, despite the criticisms of the universe that JK has created, I am really enjoying the films and I’m sure I will enjoy the books. It violates my cardinal rule of fantasy* but I have enjoyed the characters (especially Luna) and adventures they get on. I can easily suspend my disbelief or issues with a universe and enjoy it, and this is one of those cases. I do find it fun to think about and analyze though.

* In fantasy the magic should have some sort of internal consistency and make sense in its use. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss does a phenomenal job of creating a universe where the use of magic is internally consistent and believable.

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