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.
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.
Hedwig’s Theme, Opening Notes
On July 31st, 1991, Harry Potter turned 11. It was on that day, 27 years ago today, when Hagrid presented Harry with his Hogwarts’ letter. The same day Harry received his letter, his life – and the lives of nearly an entire generation of children – was forever changed.
I was introduced to the Harry Potter franchise when my daughter was in first grade. It was Halloween, and there was a parade at her elementary school. Children and teachers alike wore costumes – pirates, Power Puff Girls, Ninja Turtles, and more. Most memorable, however, was the school principal’s costume, which was a long black hooded robe, round glasses, a wand and a hand-drawn lightning-bolt scar on her forehead. I confess, I had to ask her who she was supposed to be. She looked at me, dumbfounded, and said, “Well…Harry Potter, of course!”
But of course.
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” ―Albus Dumbledore
Immediately after that, I introduced my daughter to the books, and then to the movies. And that was when we became a Harry Potter family. We watched in awe and wonder as Harry, Ron, Hermione – and all the rest – grew from wide-eyed wizards studying potions and wand-work, to young adults bravely fighting demons so fierce, so cruel, even the elders among them doubted their chance for success.
“The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters.” ―Sirius Black
As adults, we often teach our children that the world is not black and white, that our foes are sketched in as many shades of gray as our friends. Yet, I wonder whether we teach that lesson in word only, rather than by example. And I wonder, too, whether our children are wiser than we might expect and see those shades of gray all on their own.
“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” ―Sirius Black
As we read the books and watched the movies, Harry, his friends, and even Draco, grew into young adults with a healthy skepticism of those around them. They had a keen awareness of a complacent media unwilling to address the first hints of danger. They also harbored a healthy rebelliousness against language and ideas that were divisive, bitter, and cruel, even when that language and those ideas came from authority figures.
We watched young Harry become a man as he learned that while those who chose to be Death Eaters were one form of evil, so too were those who willingly ignored the slow and steady rise of evil in favor of personal gain. We even watched as Draco came into his own as he learned, too late, that ‘otherness’, which was so passionately loathed by the elders he idolized, was not, in fact a “crime” at all, nor was it an offense worthy of death.
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” ―Albus Dumbledore
I wish our kids the same fortitude displayed by Harry and the gang as they face the challenges this world presents. I wish them stamina, foresight, and trust in themselves – no matter what others say – to know they have the ability to change the world. To turn on the lights when times are dark. To see the value in friends, family, and strangers – both familiar and unique. And I wish them the wisdom to know that, while they each have those abilities within themselves, we are all so much stronger together.
“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” ―Albus Dumbledore
Happy Birthday, Harry… or perhaps I should say “Happee Birthdae, Harry”, as Hagrid did that magical day so long ago. And thank you.
For this Christmas holiday, I vacationed in Florida with my family. We visited the ever-amazing Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and spent nearly every waking moment traveling between Hogsmead and Diagon Alley via the Hogwart’s express. It was an awesome experience filled with magical moments of discovery.
But in addition to time in the world of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, we visited Disney’s World Showcase at Epcot Center. Talk about magical moments.
We strolled from Canada to the UK to France, Morocco… all around the world, taking in the sights, the sounds, the scents and flavors.
While in each country, we learned about their holiday traditions. I was, at first, impressed by how familiar so many of those traditions were, and how many of them overlap and compliment one another. We’re all separated by borders but share so many ideas, ideals and passions.
Despite the similarities and the exciting differences, one country’s traditions stood out the most for me. It was unique (to me) and made me smile as I considered implementing them myself. It was in Japan.
One of their traditions involved the Daruma Doll. It is a small hollow “head” with blank white circles for eyes. The idea is to consider and plan your goals for the coming year and then to color in one of the doll’s eyes. The doll will sit on a shelf, untouched, until you have reached your goal or goals. At that time, you may color in the other eye.
I love that idea so much I bought tiny Daruma dolls for my family so we might each strive to reach our personal goals with this doll as a reminder to do so.
Another Japanese tradition associated with the coming of each new year, involved refreshing the home so you have a new start with the new year.
I doubt this means anything as extreme as remodeling, but rather a change of window treatments, new slipcovers, or, perhaps, a fresh coat of paint. I can see myself doing that. I can also see myself altering my furniture layout so my rooms feel new even though they are not.
I don’t know about you, but I often find myself falling into a rut. When I came home from our holiday getaway, I noticed a drop in my energy and enthusiasm. While away, we were up at the crack of dawn and out well after midnight. Those couple of sleep hours were enough to propel us into each next day of adventure. While at home, if I tried to stay up that late and rise that early, I’d be dragging myself through the day and would be grouchy to boot.
Not that I intend to deprive myself of sleep every day, but the idea of a fresh start to the new year, with new draperies or shades, with new colors on the walls or even a simple rearrangement of furniture intrigues me. I can imagine wanting to spend time in this ‘new’ space and feeling good about the environment, because, I would assume, if I’ll be shifting stuff around then some of that ‘stuff’ will be left at the curb.
When it comes to living space, there is little I can do that’s more satisfying than purging. I think of how often I open my closet door, just to peak inside, after I’ve reorganized it. Admit it, you’ve done that, too. 😉
So, this year, for 2015, I will start a new tradition in my little home and freshen my space. Papers will get tossed, clothes we do not wear (or can no longer fit into) will be donated, the fridge will be cleaned, the cupboards stocked with healthy choices, the throw rugs and pillows replaced and the furniture shifted about. I will rediscover my home and be happy here. Maybe you’ll try this to? You just might find a way to bring adventure into your own home. Or do you already do something like this? What are some of your holiday traditions?
Akemashite Omedetō Gozaimasu – Happy New Year.
May 2015 bring smiles to your face, health to you and your loved ones, peace to your home, and fulfillment to your heart.
More than a decade ago, an entire generation was introduced to the magical, wondrous world of Harry Potter.
It was a world full of friendships, hard lessons and evil.
Harry’s innocence, though it fought valiantly to hang on, was lost very early. The tragic attack on his world, his family and others, left him scarred – physically and emotionally.
A decade ago, another scar, a real scar in the real world, was left on American soil and in the hearts of many around the world. 9/11 changed the perception of adults. It changed our sense of security. The collective sense of insecurity became pervasive, and could not be hidden from our children.
Years ago – a generation ago – adults worked to absorb and hide concern and fear so children wouldn’t have to know about danger in the world. Children could be children – innocent, naïve, oblivious. Happy and free from worry, free from the burdens of adulthood, of evil.
But, 9/11 brought that evil into focus. There was no hiding it. Our children felt every breath of it. And while they could not ignore it, many of them were too young to process it, to understand it.
With Harry Potter books and movies running along the same time as al Qaeda gained steam, the children were able to give fear a home. They saw Voldemort as evil while we saw bin Laden as evil. They watched this fictitious evil grow stronger, be fought, grow stronger yet again. And they watched Harry, and all the other ‘good’ people, as they struggled to counter the terrorist acts of Voldemort and the Death Eaters. It was much the same as the West struggled to beat back, contain and defeat bin Laden and al Qaeda. While this real-life process will take a lot more than a wave of a wand or a spoken Latin phrase, the connection is clear.
Now, a decade later, Bin laden is dead, killed on May 2nd. Voldemort has been obliterated (his last breath ALSO on May 2nd). And while the destruction, pain and devastation remain, so does hope. Our children have grown. They’re no longer wide-eyed and innocent. They are now street smart and educated. They’re young adults coming into their own, recognizing good and evil. Understanding where each rests in society, and feeling confident that they can overcome it. They can fight back. They witnessed the most horrific act of terrorism in US history. They witnessed the destruction of the fictitious world they love. And they witnessed, “19 Years Later” as it says in the book, how even through horror, even through death and destruction, life goes on.
There is no line between winning and losing. That area is blurred and wide. Winning is measured by love, friendship and integrity, while loss occurs when there is no hope.
Harry Potter will forever be a force in the minds of an entire generation. It thrilled. It frightened. It stirred. I will miss hearing about the newest book coming out and the newest film being released. I will miss the excitement in my daughter’s young eyes as she discussed the symbolism she saw in the stories. I will miss the years of toy wands, wizard-cape costumes and witch’s brooms. A lifetime – my child’s lifetime – was shared with Harry Potter. I watched her grow and mature along with the characters. The actors.
I am sad to see it end, but I am happy we had it at the time we did. Besides giving children a fantasy to explore, it gave them books to read and ideas to debate and exchange. In the dark shadow of 9/11, Harry Potter offered hope, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Thank you Harry, Hermione, Ron and all the others. Most especially, thank you J.K. Rowling.
The last movie to excite me was Harry Potter – pick a number in the series, it doesn’t matter, I enjoyed them all. My daughter was the age of the main characters when the first film came out. She has matured along with Harry, Hermione and Ron. She ‘gets’ it now. She follows the emotional reactions that are so much more complicated now than they were when the characters – and she – were so young.
I enjoy Harry Potter because of the fantasy. The way the films – and of course, the books – took my daughter’s imagination to a new level. She was fascinated by something exciting and new, and I watched her enjoyment with my own.
And so it was again today when, together, we saw a matinee of Twilight.
Twilight will captivate your teen. There’s no question in my mind about this. The girls will definitely relate to the teen heroine, Bella. They will understand her angst, her passion, her confusion and her ever-so-teen-like superiority and awkwardness.
While I watched this movie, I thought like a writer – and no, I have not yet read the books but do intend to. I watched the first hour or so with intense interest. There was little physical action, yet I was drawn in. I listened to every word spoken, because every word spoken sounded and felt like it mattered. And it did. To the seventeen year old heroine. And to me – a one-time teen. I understood her. I WAS her at one time in my life. Not that I experienced the same events she did, because, let’s face it, to my knowledge, I never fell in love with a vampire. But, I did experience the same emotions. The same doubts, needs, desires.
The beginning of the movie introduces us to high-schoolers just months before their junior prom. They are children on the cusp. Their passions run deep and pure. Their emotions, all-consuming. They react, not act – the exact opposite of what I try to teach Daughter now so when the time comes, she’s prepared.
Who is ever prepared for the tsunami of teenaged emotions?
It’s to that issue this movie speaks. Strike all logic and forethought from your mind if you see this. Consider instead the needs of teens. Consider how paramount each moment is to them – or was to you. Consider how vital it was to just be with the boy you liked – to just have him smile at you. Heck… to just have him LOOK your way. All that and more is what oozes from this film. The acting. The writing. The filming. The memories we bring to the theater. They all work together to make this romance – which is the crux of the film – palpable. Identifiable. Believable.
I’m thrilled Daughter and I were able to see this today – the first showing in my area. And I’m thrilled we were able to see it together. Most of all, I was thrilled each time I glanced over at her and saw that – no matter how complex the behaviors seemed to be – she ‘got’ it.