Prejudice in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, written in 1998 by famed author J.K Rowling, was quickly developed into a film in 2002 following the novels thriving success. The story, originally based in London, and the mythical school of Hogwarts, in this film, follows the account of a young boy, Harry Potter, encountering trouble during his second year at Hogwarts. The ‘magical’ world of Hogwarts introduces us to the world of wizards, witches, ‘muggles’ (non-magical), mud-bloods (wizards born to non-magical parents) and House-elves, with excessive prejudice and unworthy discrimination placed upon them by the magical community. Throughout the film, racism and other social prejudices play a major role in the plot. From House-elves to even discrimination to folks as simple as a muggle and non-magical folk. Immediately as Harry is introduced to the movie, the social classes become clear, with some folks being immediately looked down upon by the magical community, with often no prior knowledge of the individual circumstances, only of the social class they are involved with. By offering readers with this complex world, Rowling was essentially holding a mirror up to society, first showing that racism and discrimination is something to be fought against, but introducing viewers to the forms that prejudice can take shape in, and the role of racism and prejudice in a current and developing culture.
From the moment Harry first engages with the magical world, prejudice lay beneath the hard-capped veneers of magical creatures, mystical wands and the ever so faint sense of an egalitarian society. The first and most prevalent form of discrimination, is through the audience, almost immediately being taught that anyone other than wizards and witches from pure-blood families, where inherently inferior to pure-bloods and should be punished in ways appropriate. The audiences first ‘villainous’ character, Draco Malfoy, followed these beliefs to the letter, being raised in a prestigious, pure-blood family, his hate toward non like folk was quickly discovered. Draco’s reaction to Hermione, a mud-blood, insulting him, had him abruptly state, “No one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood” (201.45), in attempts to use her wizarding background as an argumentative insult, despite them having identical magical abilities. Similar to contemporary society, in which individuals are discriminated against, entirely due to their background or race.
As previously stated, House-elves are a predominant example of injustice in the film. Not only do house-elves possess untold magical abilities, but can communicate and interact with humans, as a species they are portrayed as docile and servile, with little to no problem with their treatment. A prime example of the ideal house-elf is Dobby, Dobby originally serves the Malfoy family, in which he is treated terribly, despite being kind-hearted and caring. Dobby’s relationship with Harry, is a key example of the disregarded nature House-elves possess if allowed to show emotion and when not abused. House-elves as a species are seen to higher up magical folk as bred servants, their sole purpose is to serve their master, with no hesitancy or questions asked. encompassing the nature surrounding these relationships and house-elves societal position, their masters often have no problem abusing them and instead of pushing for an egalitarian society, the characters show persistent and consistent exclusion and poor treatment of them, keeping house-elves enslaved, and pushing other like species toward the same, unjust treatment.
The tale of Harry Potter is more than just ‘The Boy Who Lived’, Rowling’s unfathomable capability to effortlessly write emotion alongside real-world situations and circumstances into mythical stories and situations, provided the viewers with an undisclosed sense of realism and empathy toward targeted characters and scenes. This film presents an incredibly complex take on prejudice and discrimination, with not only villains but ‘good guys’ also displaying unprecedented prejudice. In doing this, Rowling showed her audience, the flawed take on prejudice in modern culture, in which all prejudged discrimination is frowned upon at face value, but can sometimes be shown almost involuntarily, as a complex societal preconception toward individuals and races