When people say these books are children’s books, as if to demean them, I balk. These books dealt with themes that adults do not fully understand or wish to. It dealt with racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, prejudice, and general ignorance. These books taught us that it doesn’t matter how you were raised, but that you get to choose to be kind, loyal, brave, and true. They taught us to be strong under the pressures of this world and to hold fast to what we know to be right. These books taught me so much, they changed me as a person. So just because they’re set against a fantastical backdrop with young protagonists does not mean that their value is any less real.
First book: Starts with the double murder of a pair of twenty-one year olds who were much missed and leaving their baby son a war orphan. A child growing up in abusive conditions that would give Cinderella the horrors. Dealing with peers and teachers who are bullies. The fickleness of fame (from the darling of Gryffindor to the outcast.) The idea that there are things worth fighting and dying for, spoken by the child protagonist. Three children promptly acting on that willingness to sacrifice their lives, and two of them getting injured doing so.
Second book: The equivalent of racism with the pro-pureblood attitude. Plot driven by an eleven year old girl being groomed and then used by a charming, handsome older male. The imbalance of power and resultant abuse inherent in slavery. Fraud perpetuated by stealing something very intimate.
Third book: The equivalent of ableism with a decent, kind and competant adult being considered less than human because he has an illness that adversely affects his behaviour at certain times. A justice system that is the opposite of just. Promises of removing an abused child from the abusive environment can’t always be kept. The innocent suffer while the guilty thrive.
Fouth book: More fickleness of fame. The privileged mistreating and undermining the underprivileged because they can. A master punishing a slave for his own misjudgment, and the slave blaming herself. A sports tournament which involves mortal risk being cheered by spectators. A wonderful young man being murdered simply because he was in the way. A young boy being tortured, humilated and nearly murdered.
Fifth book: PTSD in the teenage protagonist. Severe depression in the protagonist’s godfather, triggered by inherited mental health issues and being forced to stay in a house where abuse occured. A bigoted tyrant who lives to crush everyone under her heel, torturing a teenager for telling the truth in the name of the government (and trying to suck his soul out too). The discovery that your idols can have feet of clay after all. An effort to save the life of someone dear and precious actually costing that very same life. The loss of a father-figure and the resultant guilt.
Sixth book: The idea that a soul can be broken beyond repair. Drugs with the potential for date rape are shown as having achieved exactly that in at least one case, resulting in a pregnancy. Well-meaning chauvinism trying to control the love life of a young woman. Internalised prejuidce resulting in refusing the one you love, not out of lack of love but out of fear of tainting them. The mortality of those that seem powerful and larger than life.
Seventh book: Bad situations can get worse, to the point where even the privileged end up suffering and afraid. More internalised prejudice and fear hysterical terror of tainting those you love. Self-sacrifice and the loss of loved ones, EVERYWHERE. Those who are bitter are often so with a reason. The necessity of defeating your inner demons, even though it’s never as cool as it sounds. Don’t underestimate those that are enslaved. Other people’s culture isn’t always like your own. Things often come full circle (war ending with the death of a dearly-loved pair of new parents and their orphaned baby son living with his dead mother’s blood relative instead of his young godfather). Even if ‘all is well’ the world is still imperfect, because it’s full of us brilliant imperfect humans.
So… still think that Harry Potter is a kid’s series with no depth?