While feminism may ignore boys and young males, capitalist patriarchal men do not. It was adult, white, wealthy males in this country who first read and fell in love with the Harry Potter books. Though written by a British female, initially described by the rich white American men who "discovered" her as a working class single mom, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books are clever modern reworkings of the English schoolboy novel. Harry as our modern-day hero is the supersmart, gifted, blessed, white boy genius (a mini patriarch) who "rules" over the equally smart kids, including an occasional girl and an occasional male of color. But these books also glorify war, depicted as killing on behalf of the "good".
The Harry Potter movies glorify the use of violence to maintain control over others. In Harry Potter: The Chamber of Secrets violence when used by the acceptable groups is deemed positive. Sexism and racist thinking in the Harry Potter books are rarely critiqued. Had the author been a ruling-class white male, feminist thinkers might have been more active in challenging the imperialism, racism and sexism of Rowling's books.
Again and again I hear parents, particularly antipatriarchal parents, express concern about the contents of these books while praising them for drawing more boys to reading. Of course American children were bombarded with an advertising blitz telling them that they should read these books. Harry Potter began as national news sanctioned by mass media. Books that do not reinscribe patriarchal masculinity do not get the approval the Harry Potter books have received. And children rarely have an opportunity to know that any books exist which offer an alternative to patriarchal masculinist visions. The phenomenal financial success of Harry Potter means that boys will henceforth have an array of literary clones to choose from.
Friday, November 25, 2005
bell hooks v. harry potter
From The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks: