Harry Potter: Parents Matter.

by Meredith O'Brien


Harry Potter has been on my mind a lot recently. He’s been on the minds of a lot of other people as well. Why? Well, unless you have little to no contact with the outside world, you couldn’t help but notice that the sixth film based on the books about the fictional British boy-wizard has just came out and is achieving boffo box office numbers after having garnered a ton of media attention and the cute-as-a-button Daniel Radcliffe (Potter) has appeared on magazine covers with his co-stars.


For the past few weeks, as the date for the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince approached, I re-read the sixth book, then started re-reading the seventh and final book, which is being made into two separate movies. (For the record, my twin 10-year-olds have read all seven books at least seven times a piece. Maybe more. I’ve lost count.) As I poured through hundreds of pages of Potter, it dawned on me that the series could, in some ways, be considered a public service campaign which promotes a rather parent-positive notion. You see, Harry Potter lost his parents when he was a baby, in fact they died in the act of trying to protect him from an evil wizard who wanted to kill him. Throughout the entire series, Harry keenly and deeply felt their absence. The message: Parents matter, which is quite refreshing, actually. How many times have you read analyses complaining that in many popular kids’ movies -- particularly of Disney ilk -- moms are absent, usually dead and occasionally replaced by wicked stepmothers? Plenty of verbiage has been offered to deconstruct these films and discern what kind of message this fare sends to children about mothers, especially when they’re “replaced” by selfish step-monsters.


Not so in the Potter series. Harry spent his childhood seeking out parental role models to fill the gaping, empty holes in his heart left when his mother Lily and father James died. Sadly, no one ever quite filled the parental roles, not for long anyway, because just when Harry would think he’d found someone who’d treat, guide, love and nurture him like kin, that person seemed to disappear or get killed. The closest Harry got to feeling like a member of a loving family was when he spent time with his best friend Ron Weasley’s family, helmed by Ron’s parents Molly and Arthur who gave Harry birthday and Christmas gifts and generally looked out for him when they could. (It should be noted that Harry did have a few blood relatives left – his mother’s sister Petunia – but she, her husband and their son emotionally and physically abused Harry throughout his childhood, embittered because they’d been forced to house and feed what they saw as the spawn of the weird, magical side of the family about which they never spoke and pretended didn’t exist. In the first book began, readers learned that Harry, who was dramatically underfed, was forced to live in a closet underneath the stairs.)



I am reading the HP series with my 6 year old daughter. Your insight into the role and value of Harry's parents has given me a delightful theme to explore as I move through the series with her. Such a touching essay! Thank you!