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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

01/09/2011
...or the book when Ginney shows up, kids start getting hurt, and Dobby begins his inevitable march to his demise...

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

There are two moments in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 (the film) that were my favorites.

The first moment is the dance scene between Harry and Hermione. I think it fit with the characters, the story, and the setting perfectly, and was a very mature moment between the characters. I’m very glad JK Rowling approved it’s use in the movie, and I think even helped promote it, or so I may have read. I found myself smiling in the cinema, caught up in the moment between these two characters as they enjoy a brief moment of brevity and close companionship that is only possible when a man and a woman have been friends for years, intimately familiar with each other, and yet are not attracted to each other. In a way, it was like watching a brother and the sister he never had; I still wish Harry and Hermione had married, but I understand why Rowling didn’t pursue that. That dance scene will probably be one of my top 5 favorite moments of the whole film series.

The second moment is when Dobby finally, finally dies, because I have never liked that character, and the new film made me dislike him even more than the first film did (EDIT – the first film he was in, which was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, naturally). On the written page, he’s ok. On film, I can’t stand him. Perhaps it’s the voice actor. Perhaps it’s the animation. Perhaps it’s the incredibly cheesetastic Jar Jar Binks lines (“Dobby is a free elf!”). Right now I forget which book it was that had the subplot about the House Elves Revolution, but I’m glad they never filmed it. It’s like Tom Bombadil or the Scouring of the Shire: perhaps somewhat necessary in print, but totally unnecessary in film, as it adds nothing and just acts like filler.

I can almost imagine Dobby going “Hannie!”…

Now, if I had been younger when the films came out, I may have liked Dobby. But I understand that many do, and quite a few were making doe eyed moments during Dobby’s Triumphant Speechifying during The Deathly Hallows. So I don’t criticize too loudly, and realize quite rightly that it’s just my opinion, preferences, and disposition that lead to me not liking Dobby. He’s not Jar Jar, in that he’s not universally reviled. If you like Dobby, good for you.

Once again though, this book managed to suck me in. Chamber of Secrets is part of the “trilogy” of books that doesn’t quite have dark elements yet. In a way, the book and the events are presented from the age group and view of Harry, so while Tom Riddle might be harrassing Ginny and others, there is a deeper, darker subtext that you only true understand after reading the latter books.

Ron, Harry, and Hermione, the heroes of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Ron, Harry, and Hermione, the heroes of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

But in a way that’s how the world operates for kids. How many nursery rhymes and playground songs are playful little ditties masking a deeper, darker subtext? London Bridges is one of them…or this great classic:

Ring around the rosy
A pocketful of posies
“Ashes, Ashes”
We all fall down!

Historically this is a song about death and the Black Plague. The lyrics are anything but comforting if you know the history behind them. And yet children, including myself, grew up singing and knowing them to this day. It is amazing that they are still being sung, especially as society, particularly in America, has moved toward a hyper-protection of children, shielding them until a later date from such things as pain, hardship, and death. Shielding them from reality, I’d argue. I wonder if our overprotection of our children from life is what has contributed to this youthful mentality in society where people are no longer getting married at a young age and often still feel lost until middle ages.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets also feels less distinctly British to me, compared to Sorcerer’s Stone. I wonder if this was a result of the massive popularity of the first book prior to the second one being written, or if it was a suggestion by the publisher or something. I quite enjoy the British-ness of the series, and the films have this in spades. The more “Cambridge” Hogwarts feels, the happier I am. Hopefully as a result of a generation of kids growing up with these books and films, we will see a generational “rebellion” against the aesthetics of our fathers, specifically the Baby Boomers and their kids, and society in general will return to embracing a “high liturgy” or higher aesthetic with everything. Kids who love seeing the robes, for example, in the Harry Potter films may want that look for more things. I noticed this in myself at my college graduation, as I was quite envious of the elaborate colorful robes the professors and PhDs were sporting. The red ones in particular looked quite fetching.

Americans in general threw off what was viewed as archaic styles, mainly through the 60s rebellion and the rock and roll culture. But those days are behind us. Perhaps it is time to return to “tradition”.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was a good book. I have no idea where I’d rank it in the series, except above Half-Blood Prince, which I consider the low point of the series. The book has its flaws, but overall is an enjoyable and remarkable literary achievement that one day I hope to introduce to my children and see them fall in love with Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the Hogwarts cast and characters.


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