Lord Voldemort is no Gellert Grindelwald.
Why? Because as a villain, a dark lord, Lord Voldemort was so extreme, so vile and hateful and cruel, that he was easier to see as fictional than the insidious Gellert Grindelwald who easily wins people over to the dark side with soft words, a gentle touch and a deceptively calm demeanor.
Anyone who has stopped by here knows my love for the Harry Potter stories, and how much I admire the way they shaped the reading habits of an entire generation. My own daughter grew up with the books – reading them numerous times in English and in Russian.
Naturally when Fantastic Beasts came out, we were eager to dig into that adventure as well. Though not as spellbinding as Harry’s story had been – with the newness of it all: Hogwarts, Hedwig’s Theme, wands, cloaks, magical spells and good against evil – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as well as The Crimes of Grindelwald, do have their own magic. Their own newness. Their own sense of foreboding.
Attractive Villains are Easier to Love
As a charismatic and cunning villain, Johnny Depp’s Gellert Grindelwald confidently stood in the center of a crowded arena and told the people who had come to hear him speak of the evil that we, the ‘others’ – the muggles/no-majes – would inflict upon the world. He did not lie to them. He had no need to. Instead, in a blinding and vivid vision, Grindelwald showed them the coming horrors and destruction.
Horrors and destruction described in our own history books. Horrors and destruction we cannot ignore, forget or deny.
Yet Grindelwald’s plan to prevent it all – a plan willfully applauded by many in attendance – was darker, more horrific and destructive than what already seemed fated to come.
Sadly, he offered only one of two nightmare scenarios. And each was tainted by the lust for total dominion of one people over another ‘lesser’ kind.
The pitting of one people against another, the vilifying of whole groups, of blaming them for all the world’s ails…is as old as time. That’s why I find Johnny Depp’s spellblindingly understated portrayal of Gellert Grindelwald so terrifying. He’s refined. Beautiful. Charming. Yet beneath that compelling mystique are hints of a bubbling cauldron’s worth of power and emotion.
Warnings signs are all around us, in plain sight. They have always been. Yet while generation after generation adopts the slogan: “Never Again”, that same frightening and divisive call to arms is too often repeated. In film as in real life.
I don’t think Johnny Depp will ever be at the top again because too many people believe the lies about him. I think he was a great Grindelwald and I was excited when they signed him for the third movie in the series, but I don’t have confidence in Hollywood or in the public to treat him fairly. Just look at what disney did to him and Jack Sparrow.
I hear you, Leigh, and agree on some level. But, I think there are enough fans and supporters out there–including JK Rowling herself –who support him that this *might* be a turning point against the knee-jerk reaction that convicts before all evidence is in. I also think when the truth comes out, it’ll prove what we already know: Johnny Depp uses drugs and likes his booze but he’s not, and never was, abusive to the women in his life. Given the evidence in the public domain now, so far, I think it’ll also prove that rather than being the perpetrator of domestic violence, he was the victim of it.
I look forward to seeing him in the third installment of Fantastic Beasts and I hope Disney sees the error of their ways and signs him back on as Jack Sparrow. I also hope those who’ve set out to destroy him get what they deserve.
Interestingly, it’s the spin on a story that compels, isn’t it? The way Grindelwald spun his tale, making people believe he could help them when what he wanted was to control them…and the narrative. People are drawn to compelling stories, we’ll suspend disbelief if we like the way the tale is told or the person telling it. Only some of us need to be convinced in order for the rest to fall in line and to believe that IS what’s best – it’s easier to follow someone who seems to know what s/he’s doing than to verify the truth and plot our own course. It seems to me that fiction–and true life–have shown us, once again, that more of us need to think for ourselves and stand on our own, rather than fall in line.