I remember watching Deathly Hallows: Part 1 in theatres for the first time. I thought it was a step up, quality-wise, from the other movies in the series (I’ll always love Prisoner of Azkaban, though; that one is interesting to look at). I liked the animation sequence for the fairy tale.
I liked how quiet and thoughtful it often was, and I found everything at the Ministry of Magic really impressive.
I do remember thinking, “But why Nazis?”
The Nazi imagery is pretty unmistakable in this movie. I thought it was well done, but I also thought comparing the tyranny of Voldie and like-minded wizards to Nazis was a little bit reductive since, oh, I don’t know, it had been decades since the Nazis were defeated. Comparing everything to Nazis, I thought, was a pretty unchallenging thing to do. Everyone knows Nazis are bad, I thought, and it’s been so long since they’ve had any real power and influence that it would probably be better to make some other, fresher connection with a prejudice story like Harry Potter.
So. I’ve changed my mind.
Let’s not dwell on the empowerment of idiot Nazis all over the globe because of the idiot president, though. I just wanted to take a look at the statues at the Ministry to see how Rowling makes her fantasy society all flawed and oppressive and stuff by degrees and it’s awesome.
The Fountain of Magical Brethren
I spent happy hours staring at this illustration on the back of Order of the Phoenix. Yeah, I was that guy.
(That guy, but actually reading the book and not staring at the cover ^^^)
This statue simply shows magical people/creatures being happy and getting along in a fountain of magic. When Harry sees it, he’s a stressed out fifteen-year-old and promises to put 10 galleons in the fountain (it’s for St. Mungo’s) if he doesn’t get expelled.
He doesn’t get expelled and dumps all his money in it, but he also makes this observation:
He looked up into the handsome wizard’s face, but up close, Harry thought he looked rather weak and foolish. The witch was wearing a vapid smile like a beauty contestant, and from what Harry knew of goblins and centaurs, they were most unlikely to be caught staring so soppily at humans of any description. Only the house-elf’s attitude of creeping servility looked convincing. With a grin at the thought of what Hermione would say if she could see the statue of the elf, Harry turned his moneybag upside-down and emptied not just ten Galleons, but the whole contents into the pool at the statues’ feet.
Lookit Harry making wry socio-political observations. I love him.
The fountain gets destroyed because Dumbledore and Voldemort have a huge fight (I am also a big fan of the movie-fight), and then Dumbledore states things a lot more plainly:
The fountain we destroyed tonight told a lie. We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward.
Before the full and open return of Voldemort, the magical community is still prejudiced and awful. The Fountain of Magical Brethren is kind of like the magical community’s version of a microaggression, in that it presents a version of reality through art that, intentional or not, doesn’t challenge anyone to rethink the status quo and probably contributes in its own way to the misguided thinking that human magical folk should be the only ones allowed wands, and that the whole house-elf thing is still a good idea, and so on.
It gets replaced with the Magic is Might statue.
“Muggles, in their rightful place,” Hermione explains.
It’s just slightly different in the book.
Now a gigantic statue of black stone dominated the scene. It was rather frightening, this vast sculpture of a witch and wizard sitting on ornately carved thrones, looking down at the Ministry workers toppling out of fireplaces below them. Engraved in foot-high letters at the base of the statue were the words: MAGIC IS MIGHT….
Harry looked more closely and realised that what he had thought were decoratively carved thrones were actually mounds of carved humans: hundreds and hundreds of naked bodies, men, women and children, all with rather stupid, ugly faces, twisted and pressed together to support the weight of the handsomely robed wizards.
Still awful, still Nazi.
Now that a Death Eater is Minister for Magic, they can come right out and display this crap. Such a statue would not have been tolerated previously, but because of how problematic the Fountain of Magical Brethren was, it’s clear that in the wizarding world the prejudice against everyone who isn’t a witch or wizard has already been brewing for a long time. Voldemort is a product of it, he exploits it, he empowers it; it was already there before his birth and it remains after he dies.
It’s nice to take a minute and not hate the Harry Potter movies. They’re pretty decent, actually, even if they despise my favourite character. Poor Ron, no one appreciates him.