However, the Harry Potter fanclub extends well beyond Tory supporters, in part because the books have a visible element of diversity. The problem is that it is little more than a veneer. While women make up many of the main characters, they receive little attention. Even Harry’s friend, Hermione Granger, is a well-worn stereotype: the middle-class “girly swot” who tries to talk Harry out of taking risks. It’s no surprise to learn that her parents are dentists. The only times Harry competes with women as equals – Cho Chang on the quidditch pitch and Fleur Delacour in the triwizard tournament – he defeats them both. All of the central evil characters and senior authority figures in the books are men. ~Richard Adams, The Guardian
Via Steve Sailer
First, a caveat. I am not a “Potterer,” as they are called, and my acquaintance with the story comes only through the four movies released to date, so I am familiar only with the Potter of Hollywood (who is, however, supposed to be fairly similar to the Potter of the written page). Given that Toryism today is represented by a toffy idiot in David Cameron (who is not, repeat not, really a crunchy conservative), the Tories would be thrilled if the left wanted to identify this incredibly popular fictitious character with the ideals of Toryism. (Of course, if Harry Potter’s secret Toryism does for the Tories’ electoral fortunes what The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia have done in shaping British political history, which is to say nothing, the Tories might be less than enthusiastic about claiming him.)
That being said, who is Mr. Adams kidding? One might point out from the first that these are kids’ stories about wizards, and not a nostalgic evocation of the good old days when Britannia ruled the waves (nor is there much coded pining for Bonnie Prince Charlie, but I guess that will be forthcoming in other books).
In my only other public remarks on the Potter stories, where I put paid to the idea of Harry Potter-as-libertarian, I did note that the stories contain certain aspects of Etonian priggishness and an emphasis on class distinctions, but this is to miss the constant theme of mocking the pretensions of the upper class and making Potter’s main enemies the arrogant, twisted, privileged Malfoys. If there are stereotypical privileged aristos obsessed with their pedigree at Hogwarts, they usually appear as foils to the wizard equivalent of poor gentry in the Weasleys, plus the “muggle-born” and “mixed-blood” sort, such as Hermione, who make up Harry’s friends. This is very well-suited to the prejudices of an American audience, as Americans are taught early on that to come from privilege or to have ancestors who actually prepared for the future is to be guilty of something terrible. Americans like the story of self-made men and hard-luck cases whose lives come out right, which is probably why the story of a special orphan wizard boy hits all the right notes. If these themes are made more obvious in the movies, that is because these are the themes Rowling (who has had as much creative control over the adaptations of her books of any author in modern times) wanted especially to emphasise.
The message is entirely clear: the mixing of wizards and muggles, and by implication the mixing of peoples of all kinds, is not only acceptable but positively morally preferable (the alternative is to become Lucius Malfoy), and people born to privileged backgrounds are just as likely as not to be exclusionary, prejudiced servants of the Dark Lord. Not very subtle, but also not readily identifiable with Toryism, either. The stories approve of an egalitarian, multiculti Britain that nonetheless loses none of its very English manners and charm, because this is the lie that multiculturalists tell to people: multiculturalism simply enriches and improves a society, and does not change any of its fundamental core values. In Rowling’s depiction, you can have the best of both worlds, and it is suitable that the stories are fantasy, because that is exactly what its political vision is.
But Mr. Adams is on a roll:
Hogwarts celebrates Christmas and Halloween, but there are no feasts for Rosh Hashanah or Diwali. This is not so much multiculturalism as naive monoculturalism.
See, multiculturalism isn’t naive. It thinks that significantly different ways of life that have been elaborated over centuries in radically different contexts can all be meshed together in harmonious, frictionless tolerance and respect, but that isn’t naive.
Of course, the Christmas celebrated at Hogwarts seems as empty and secular as it is for most Britons (and quite a few Americans) who celebrate it as a cultural and/or family tradition. The reason for the inclusion of Halloween in a story about witches and wizards is so painfully obvious that I don’t need to say anything else about it. There probably wouldn’t too many celebrations of Diwali and Rosh Hashanah because, well, these are actually still meaningful religious holidays that mean something to Hindus and Jews and would be nothing other than an interesting cultural show for everyone else (the pandit at the ceremony might also find all the witchcraft to the work of devas, and not all together acceptable). Perhaps Ms. Rowling didn’t want to cheapen everyone else’s holidays through forced, token inclusion, which is what multiculturalism is and always will be. One can only imagine the accusations that would have been thrown at her by Guardian commentators if she had included Jewish wizards at Hogwarts to be more fully multicultural.
Worst of all, Rowling invokes the mythology of Anglo-Saxon resistance to the Normans:
The characters’ names are important in sending clues about race and nationality. Contrast the honest English yeomanry in Harry Potter and his parents Lily and James, compared with Draco Malfoy and his father, Lucius – names that suggest Norman aristocracy. As does that of Lord Voldemort – “vol de mort” is a French expression for stealing corpses.
Of course, the point of the names is to convey the vicious character of those so named (Malfoy, of course, means “bad faith,” in case you missed that they were untrustworthy and treacherous), but since when has anyone cared about vilifying the Norman aristocracy? Mr. Adams desperately wants to find some sort of racial chauvinism in the Potter stories, and if he twists things enough he might be able to invent a few examples, but all of his “analysis” suggests monomania.
From an historian’s point of view, the Normans certainly deserve more intelligent understanding than is usually on offer in popular treatments a la Robin Hood and Braveheart (of course, the Normans were not all together friendly sorts and were the terror of much of the European world for centuries for a reason). Also, very few modern descendants of the Whigs believe in the nonsense of ancient Anglo-Saxon rights violated by the Norman oppressor, and it only underscores the point that if Rowling was making some political argument in opposing honest Saxons to treacherous Normans she would not be making a Tory argument. Tories then and now do not look askance on the Normans and Angevins, if most of them actually give it any thought, as these were the people who made medieval England and laid the foundations of the institutions the Tories are supposed to treasure.
Everyone today responds more or less favourably to the mythology of the good Saxons and evil Normans because it fits the valorisation of the heroic victim or noble subaltern that is so very typically modern and especially beloved of English-speaking peoples. Is Mr. Adams not acquainted with the enthusiasm for telling the story of the subaltern that is post-colonial studies? This is all the latest rage in some parts of academia. No one would confuse it with Toryism of any kind.