Harry Potter meets Laura Bush
I wanted to hate Harry Potter’s latest movie but for one happy surprise: the villainous Dolores Umbridge, played not as a malignant Mimi Bobeck, but instead a spot-on incarnation of First Librarian/Educator guess who?! The First Lady played herself, a smiling headmistress pulling a no-child-left-behind clear-skies-initiative at Hogwarts to subvert the education process lest new skilled wizards graduate to jeopardize the duplicitous aims of the state ministry. With a saccharin plastic grimace and trademark twinkle in her eye, Ms Bush thwarted the young wizards’ magic lessons and exacted Kafka’s Penal Colony punishment on her unresisting subjects.
The unflinching First Lady caricature lent this Potter adventure a semblance of social commentary, but betrayed us thereafter, offering nothing else resembling Muggle/human nature or societal fabric to give a viewer insight into their own lives. Except maybe the ugly scarves at Christmas for comic relief. Otherwise Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was pure entertainment at the cost of two hours of your imagination on idle, but I’ve read no more than a page of Potter, so what do I know?
I also really don’t know enough about Dungeons & Dragons or Tolkien to be able to judge the genre. Is it enough to appreciate J.K. Rowling’s fanciful parallel world like an elaborate puzzle or computer fractal marvel? It’s not my resistance to trivial minutia, it’s that all the clever pieces form an intricate lattice holding up nothing. This is my usual rant against videogame storytelling, always swimming upstream against currents of obstacles, pocketing clues. It’s myth-telling void of any wisdom, natural or historical, unless you count history as keeping a bread crumb trail of Harry’s info quests.
The forces of darkness and light in Harry Potter’s Tatooine lack for every dimension except on/off amplitude, even there without shades of grey. The characters’ actions are driven by neither sociobiology nor mortality. Only at the film’s close does our young Jedi/Chosen One offer an afterthought about team spirit to buoy his friends as they contemplate the battle with evil coming in the next installment: “Unlike Voldemort, we have something to fight for.”
Really? To my mind, anticipating that great evil fights for no reason misjudges its relentless zeal. The misdirection echoes the New World Order fear-mongering against Moslem Evildoers, terrorists apparently who act “because they hate us.”
Surely this underestimates the selfishness or desperation that makes the real world go ’round, motives neatly incomprehensible to young altruist minds. Real evil is an infinitely more ruthless force which preys already on the Harry Potter generation outside the theater doors. That evil is systemic, its motive is greed, and it perpetrates dehumanization. Also like the movie’s corporate makers, it employs misdirection just like Dolores Umbridge Bush to neutralize Harry and his friends.
That said, Imelda Staunton’s flawless turn as our Cretin-in-Chief’s cretinous better half was gloriously, fearlessly in-somebody’s-face.