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What Harry Potter Is Really About


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59 replies to this topic

#1
Magnus

Magnus

    Subversive

  • 953 posts

The Harry Potter series is about mental illness.  Hogwarts is a mental institution. 


Bear with me.  I'll explain. 


I watched the fifth Harry Potter movie this weekend.  The series is wildly successful, one of the most successful of all time, and I am interested in understanding why these mega-hits appear from time to time.


As I watched this installment, it became clear to me that the entire Harry Potter series is an extended metaphor -- a coded transcription, really -- about a boy with severe mental illness, suffering from delusions.  Everything depicted in the movie can be interpreted as a recitation (from his delusional perspective) of his attempts to cope with the harsh realities of his confinement in a mental institution. 


Here's my thesis: Every major event in the books is a fantasy/delusional version of the experiences that a child would encounter in the course of being institutionalized and forcibly treated for mental illness. 


When Stef reviewed the Twilight series in one of his podcasts, I was inspired to go back and look at a lot of popular books and movies and interpret them in a new light.  In short, my theory is that most (if not all) of the most popular boks and movies of all time are constructed as a kind of double-fantasy -- the reader and author understand and implicitly agree that the subject matter of the book or movie is not real, but on another level, the events in these stories are also constructed as a fantasy or delusion of the protagonist himself


Typically, the opening act of this kind of story takes place in the real world.  Then, something happens that sends the hero into a new world, where the usual rules of the hero's former life do not apply.  In supernatural-based storylines, this is where the first non-empirical, magical event occurs. 


In the real-world portion of these stories, the protagonist typically experiences some form of psycholoigcal trauma, notably in the form of humiliation, rejection or social isolation.  The hero finds himself to be anonymous, abandoned, dumped, or socially subordinated in some extreme way.  Luke Skywalker is told he can't leave the farm.  Dorothy is told to stay out of the way of the grown-ups, while her dog is about to be killed.  Nick Carraway of the Great Gatsby finds that he is incapable of intimacy, and feels like a fraud among the New York elite.  The narrator in Fight Club is literally anonymous, and lives in corporate hell.  Peter Parker and Clark Kent are bullied relentlessly. 


Then, some outside agency comes along and empowers the hero to respond to these traumas.  The resulting heroism is always the exact opposite of the earlier powerlessness, rejection or humiliation.  Freud called this type of story a "family romance," in which a young hero imagines his primary care-takers to be mere substitutes for his real parents, who are dead or otherwise out of the picture, but are of a higher social class than his foster parents. 


In the Harry Potter series, his parents are famous wizards, who were famous in all the world for their unparalleled love for the boy Harry, which set the whole series in motion, killing them and leaving the boy a scarred orphan. (This is a fantasy, crafted as the direct opposite of the way in which children usually end up scarred -- through abuse and neglect.)


If we interpret the story as Harry's fantasy, then the Dursleys are Harry's real parents, and the Potters are imaginary.  The Durselys either can't cope with the increasingly-delusional boy living with them, or perhaps they are merely abusive, and it's the abuse that's making him delusional.  In any event, the parent-figures constantly mistreat him, favor the brother, and inflict endless cruelty and humiliation on him.  One day, Harry snaps, and Dudley (who is really Harry's brother) is severely injured, in a way requiring repeated hospital treatments.  (In the delusion, Harry imagines that a pig's tail is magically grown from Dudley's buttocks.)  As a result of this incident, Harry is taken away to a "special school."


My theory is that this story line is a coded explication of a delusional boy that is starting to engage in violent outbursts, and is sent to a mental institution as a result.  Everything that happens after that becomes increasingly detached from reality, and what we see, as the audience, is his delusion, which is a re-casting of his institutionalization experience into a kind of adventure.

I believe there is a great deal of evidence in the text for this hypothesis.  Mental illness is featured just about everywhere in the series, and the theme of insanity is very prominent.  Classic features of mental illness, such as delusions, paranoia and multiple-personality disorders become increasingly more important to the story line.  Here are a few examples: 


  • The first book features Harry at his new "school," becoming obsessed with a mirror, where he spends endless days imagining his perfect parents (of course, they are dead, which is a metaphor for saying they are wholly imaginary).  Dumbledore, the paragon of surrogate love, warns Harry that the mirror has driven people insane, because spending all your time in fantasy causes you to become unmoored to the real world.  (This is exactly what happens to Harry for the rest of the series.) 
  • The school is locked.  It is also filled with random, insane dangers that everyone accepts as perfectly normal -- moving stairs, talking paintings, deadly monsters roaming around outside. Mental prisons are dangerous places where crazy situations are, in fact, ordinary. 
  • Sirius Black is Harry's godfather, and is overtly insane.
  • In the 4th book, Black is closely affiliated with (and introduced by and treated as a kind of surrogate for) a werewolf, who is obessesed with the moon.  The moon is a symbol for insanity (i.e., lunacy).
  • The Goblet of Fire contest pits students against each other in contests that are openly life-threatening, which is what students at a school for violent, mentally-disturbed children experience on a regular basis.  
  • The clean-cut Derek Diggery (a fantasy image of the popular, successful boy Harry could have been were it not for his mental problems) is murdered by "Voldemort," who is Harry's alter ego and the projection of his rage and fury.  Harry is the only one who sees this event, and no one believes it was "Voldemort."  This event is a metaphor for Harry murdering a boy who is too perfect, despised for having the life of love and ease that Harry wanted, but never got.  So, he imagines that "Voldemort" did it.  When no one believes him, it's an unspoken metaphor for the fact that everyone knows Harry is the murderer. 
  • If the murder of Cedric Diggory is not meant to be a real event, but entirely imaginary in Harry's mind, then the murder of the normal boy is a metaphor for Harry losing his final
    chance at a normal life. 
  • This "murder" takes place in a maze where the main danger is being
    psychologically possessed and going insane. 
  • Harry is helped in this unwanted fight to the death by "Mad Eye" Moody, who is also openly insane.  To compound the insanity of this parent-surrogate, Moody is not actually the real Moody, but an imposter, who is even more openly insane. 
  • Book Five opens with Harry again attacking his brother/cousin Dudley, leaving him traumatized.  Periodically, Harry returns to civilian life, but finds that he can't go
    five minutes without a seriously violent, delusional episode. 
  • This incident was interpreted by Harry as an attack by "Dementors" who cannot be seen by normal people.  This incident causes Harry to appear before a board of inquiry to determine if he is too violent for Hogwarts, the alternative being Azkaban (i.e., a more harsh mental prison).
  • Azkaban is heavily associated with insanity.  In the story, it is said that inmates go crazy within days of arriving, which is a metaphor for saying that it is a high-security prison for violent mental patients.  It is where Black and Lestrange (and others) went off the rails. 
  • It is also in the fifth book and movie that we meet Black's cousin Bellatrix LeStrange, who is also openly insane. She murders the insane Sirius Black just as he is becoming more stable and normal. This is a metaphor for the violently delusional side of Harry's mind defeating and suppressing the side that might have healed. 
  • Harry's newest friend at school is Luna Lovegood, whose name is another reference to lunacy, and is openly known to be crazy, and is the only other student who can see Harry's delusions, even within the context of an otherwise crazy place like Hogwarts. 
  • Another "class" mate, Neville Longbottom, the forelorn loser, is revealed to have a family history of mental illness -- parents who are mental patients, having been driven insane by Beatrix. 
  • Repeated references are made to "Voldemort" being so evil that he drives his victims crazy with torture, rather than merely killing them. 
  • It is repeatedly indicated that the boy "Tom Riddle" (the young "Voldemort") is actually Harry Potter, with constant parallels and similarities being heavily stressed.  Same books, same wand, both orphaned, etc.  Harry has increasing visions of Voldemort, and they even share thoughts, which is an obvious symbol for saying that "Voldemort" is just a component of Harry's diseased mind, at first only a whisper, and becoming increasingly dominant and thus real to him. 
  • In the 6th (or 7th?) book, I believe Rowling tried to tell us what she was really writng about -- there is a flashback scene where Dumbledore first meets "Voldemort," as a boy.  Dumbledore comes to rescue the boy (who is really Riddle/Harry) from abuse and poverty.  When Dumbledore says he has come to take him to a special school for kids with his kind of needs, Riddle's first response is that he knows Hogwarts is an insane anylum, and he doesn't want to go. 

After I watched the movie, I suspected that the author, J.K. Rowling might have had some family or personal experience with childhood mental issues or institutionalization, and that her Harry Potter series was a way for her to talk about them in a safe way.


I did some quick searching about her online.  I couldn't find any reference to any institutionalization experiences in her childhood, although I did find this: she donates heavily to two causes -- multiple sclerosis, which was her mother's cause of death, and has gone to great lengths to fund an organization called Lumos, described as follows:

We want to end the systematic institutionalisation of children across Europe. We want to see children living in safe, caring environments. We believe this should be the case for all children, whether they’re disabled, from an ethnic minority or from an impoverished background.

We know our vision is ambitious. We understand that removing children from institutions isn’t – in itself – enough. We must work with governments, policy makers and practitioners to enable children to grow up in a family-type setting.


Here's a quote from the author on the subject:

"Twenty years ago, as Communist regimes across Europe toppled, harrowing images of Europe’s hidden children began to emerge,” said Rowling. “Thousands upon thousands of children were living in vast, depressing institutions – malnourished and often maltreated, with little access to the outside world. Slowly governments have begun to transform care systems. Real and lasting change takes time, but today we are putting down a marker and calling for significantly more progress in the next twenty years to ensure that eventually no children are living in, or at risk of entering, such institutions.

Stef once said that Catcher in the Rye was Salinger's way of talking about the sexual exploitation of children, but that he became withdrawn because no one seemed to understand. 

I believe the Harry Potter series was written about the kind of experiences that institutionalized children encounter, the kind that the Lumos charity is working to eradicate, but that most people simply see it as an adventure story about magic.  It's not about magic.  It's about mental trauma and the delusion that results from it.

I would love to hear people's thoughts on this interpretive theory, as to Harry Potter or any other mainstream work of fiction. 


  • 12

"The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime."


-- Max Stirner


#2
chefdave

chefdave
  • 65 posts

Hi Magnus,

I just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading your post and think you have some interesting insights into the themes on these books. Unfortunately I don't have much to add, or to give critique too, as I haven't read the books and have only seen the first 2 movies. A very interesting thesis though. I have saved it for future reference. I look forward to seeing what others have to say, and also seeing if you develop this further.

Good job!

Dave 

 


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#3
Ricky Cisco

Ricky Cisco
  • 1115 posts

Magnus, would you post your Theory on my website theoriosity.com, click the submit button at the top of the page. It's a website I started for people to publish their theories on various topics and I think yours would be perfect! Just make sure to post it in the form of a question rather than statement so - What is Harry Potter Really About? I explain why in the intro video =)

 

Let me know what you think and I'll respond to your theory tomorrow =)


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#4
Stefan Molyneux

Stefan Molyneux
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goosebumps. brilliant. me think more.


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#5
J-William

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  • 1315 posts

Your theory sounds awfully good.

two name corrections it's Cedric Diggery not Dirk and Bellatrix not Beatrix. 

One thing that stands out in the order of the pheonix (5th book?) that professor Umbridge becomes more hated and in many ways more evil and sadistic than Voldemort. not to mention that she conspires against him by sending the Dementors.

I think you could expand on the idea further. like what about the Weasleys and Hermione. Hermione is an interesting case because her parents are completely normal, but not abusive like the Dursleys.

 


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#6
fingolfin

fingolfin
  • 2001 posts

This was a truly superb review, thanks so much for posting. 


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#7
Greg Minton

Greg Minton
  • 1319 posts

Holy crap. Mind blown.


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#8
Magnus

Magnus

    Subversive

  • 953 posts

Thanks, everyone, for the enthusiastic responses. 

Considering how dense about people and relationships as I am, I am continually surprised by what I find out there in the world after I fully accepted the basic proposition that there is no magic.  For most of my life, the social bullshit narratives that we are fed ruled my way of thinking (e.g., statism, social organization, mysticism, etc.)  As a result, things usually made no sense, and I spent most of my young life very confused.  I've been studying narrative forms and literary interpretation for as long as I can remember (it was my mother's main activity), but only through rational empiricism can you ever really see what's going on. 

Stories can't really be about magic, and magic all by itself is not actually interesting to people. So, I have to conclude that stories that rely on magic (or anything extraordinary that's beyond plausible experience) must therefore be about something else.  Magic must be a metaphor for something that's meaningful to people.  Usually, magic is a metaphor for the power to resist some otherwise overwhelming force, or a way to overcome anonymity, or it's a feeling of being "cursed" with unwanted knowledge or experiences.  But here, I believe it's primarily a metaphor for Harry Potter's retreat to a safe place, into a prefereable, imaginary setting to get away from a terrifying, abusive environment. 

I put a lot of stock in Alice Miller's basic thesis about child abuse, particularly as expressed in her book The Drama of the Gifted Child.  The word "gifted" is not used here to mean specially intelligent or musically talented, but instead refers to the child that finds a way to appease abusive parents, to suppress his natural anger, and repress his natural needs in order to survive.  That's where all the psychological mechanisms that flow from deficient parenting come from -- they're a survival mechanism.

The first chapter of the first Harry Potter book is called "The Boy Who Lived." 

I'd love to post this on your site, Ricky, but it looks like a video-oriented site, am I right?  I need to clean up the post a lot, I see on second reading, but if your theory-based site is geared toward text, I'm all for it. 

As for Ron and Hermione, I don't really know off-hand how they'd fit into this interpretation, other than to say that they are either intended to be fellow residents of the institution, or they are imaginary in Harry's mind.  I tend to think they are real (to Harry), since the characters that are likely to be wholly delusional are the ones that are especially magical or are larger than life, like Hagrid, the giant who lives outside the normal grounds, and who has no real relationship with anyone other than Harry.  That strikes me as a fantasy of Harry.  The people and events that tend to take place outside the normal school-world, I believe, are delusional. 

I believe the author once said that Hermione Granger was essentially herself.  Ron Weasley is notable because he seems to be so deeply embedded in the magical world that it's totally normal to him, as one would expect for a middle child where all the older children have already been through the system. 

A lot of times, authors will simply give main characters side-kicks, so that they have someone to talk to, so we (the audience) can overhear their conversations about what they think, expect and feel.  Otherwise, that information has to be given to the reader in the form of straight exposition or as interior monologue, which doesn't play as well in the movies.


  • 4

"The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime."


-- Max Stirner


#9
nathanm

nathanm
  • 2010 posts

Interesting angle!  I would try to put forth this analysis to a mainstream Potter fan crowd and see if it has legs there.  These ways of looking at stories rarely come up within those groups. 

I have considered some of the points raised myself, such as how incredibly dangerous the whole magic world is for Harry and everyone else.  But I hadn't considered the mental illness angle, although the notion of fantasy characters being parts of the main character's mind remind me of The Wizard Of Oz and American McGee's Alice.  (I am not sure if the Lewis Caroll book is about mental illness or not, I thought it was political satire, but the game was certainly about mental illness)

 


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#10
wispaintstyle

wispaintstyle
  • 291 posts

I'm not sure why, but I was absolutely terrified as I read this thread. I'll think on it for awhile and be back later.


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#11
Magnus

Magnus

    Subversive

  • 953 posts

I would try to put forth this analysis to a mainstream Potter fan crowd and see if it has legs there.  These ways of looking at stories rarely come up within those groups. 

I don't know if that's a good idea!  Some people want to live inside a self-contained fantasy world.  That's what Harry Potter does, after all, according to my interpretation.  I suspect that a lot of those devoted fans are devoted for that very reason -- they personally relate to the idea of using a seamless fantasy as a means of wiithdrawing from a reality they find intolerable. 

My wife is a Harry Potter fan, and has read the books several times each, and listened to them all on audiobook a dozen times or more.  (She's a novelist -- she reads a lot.)  I instinctively know that she would find this theory extremely off-putting.

I think it would be kind of like approaching a group of very serious Christians and floating the idea that "God" is just a projection of their own abuse-derived grandiosity, or that prayer is a misperception of how their own unconscious mind works.  I think the most likely reaction would be hostility.  And I've provoked enough of that for one lifetime, unfortunately.


  • 0

"The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime."


-- Max Stirner


#12
Nathan

Nathan
  • 13064 posts

I enjoyed reading this, quite a brilliant analysis.


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#13
nathanm

nathanm
  • 2010 posts

I don't think it's necessarily threatening.  If you put it in terms of "Here's another way of looking at the story" rather than "This is what I honestly think the plot of the story IS." then it is simply just an interpretation.  I think the mainstream fans are concerned with the internal series of events and not any overarching themes .  I don't suspect there will be a big reveal that It Was All Just A Dream at the end of the story, but I don't know - if I read the books I'd probably know the ending, but I just watch the movies.  I suspect there will be yet another Voldemort End Boss level as there usually is.

Although I can't say that philosophical analysis does not have drawbacks.  Certainly listening to Stef's movie reviews have sapped my ability to suspend disbelief.  Entertainment is very difficult when one's mind is overrun with metaphorical thoughts.  But it's not just him, it also happens with the more movies you see.  The thematic stuff starts to become more obvious.


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#14
Emil Karlsson

Emil Karlsson
  • 18 posts

Reply to Magnus:

I am a devoted fan of the Harry Potter books and I must say that the idea of the story being about a mentally injured child fits in quite well. Take for example the fact that (SPOILER btw) in order to kill Voldemort, Harry must first kill the next-to-last piece of Voldemort's soul, which is inside him. So he can finally kill Voldemort when Voldemort is no longer a part of him.

It isn't easy for me to admit it, but I did have a rather bad childhood and the Harry Potter books helped me a lot. I wanted to live inside that fantasy when I grew up, but now when I am grown up I can almost entirely accept that it was just a fantasy and I can keep myself to the real world instead. You are right when you say that some people want to live inside a fantasy, but I think it is important to make these people aware of the truth so that they can start recovering from their problems. Imaginary friends can only hide your problems, they can't cure them.


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#15
Emil Karlsson

Emil Karlsson
  • 18 posts

Because of this thread I decided to look something up in the last Harry Potter book. I remembered a few lines that might be worth mentioning (especially since it is in the end of the last book). Here is the exakt quote (SPOILER obviously):

'Tell me one last thing' said Harry. 'Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?' [...] 'Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'


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Destroying evil is a noble deed, but to be truly heroic you must create the good.


#16
Ricky Cisco

Ricky Cisco
  • 1115 posts

'Tell me one last thing' said Harry. 'Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?' [...] 'Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'

 

wow, what was that in reference to?


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#17
Magnus

Magnus

    Subversive

  • 953 posts

 

'Tell me one last thing' said Harry. 'Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?' [...] 'Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'

Wow!  Look at that!  I stopped reading the books relatively early on, and have only been watching the movies.  Can you point me to a page reference, or if we have different editions then maybe the chapter so I can find it? 

I have yet to find a successful, mainstream movie or modern novel that does not fit this interpretation -- where the events of the main part of the story take place inside the protagonist's mind, with perhaps a minimal connection to some unseen reality. 

Here's an example -- relatively minor, but it helped convince me that this "double fantasy" approach is a standard method for writing almost all of modern fiction.  It's a movie called Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, a teen comedy about a boy who falls for a girl, but to win her, he must do battle with her seven ex-boyfriends, all of whom happen to be evil super heroes. (Silly premise, but successful.) 

http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/universal/scottpilgrimvstheworld/

One of the video clips is called "Featurette," which includes an interview with the director.  At 00:16, he let's the cat out of the bag, and says how the protagonist is "the hero of a fantasy story in his own head, and this is that movie." (or something like that)

(From seeing the trailer, I suspect the movie would have been more powerful and engaging if it followed the usual pattern of making the protagonist more humiliated or rejected at the beginning.  It seems to focus on the fact that he's flawed, and lacks intimacy, but the story starts with him having a good and easy life that he likes.  The usual pattern is to start with more psychological suffering, which is what prompts the protagonist to create the fantasy that follows.  Without that early recognition of his own powerlessness and humiliation, the grandiosity that follows is sort of out-of-context.)

The Double Fantasy appears to be the main structure of most mainstream fiction, except that most authors have the good sense to hide that fact from the audience.


  • 0

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-- Max Stirner


#18
J-William

J-William
  • 1315 posts

[color= #333333; font-family: 'Trebuchet MS'; font-size: 13px]Wow!  Look at that!  I stopped reading the books relatively early on, and have only been watching the movies.  Can you point me to a page reference, or if we have different editions then maybe the chapter so I can find it? [/color]

don't know the page cuz I don't have the book handy, but I think it must be chapter 35 (next to last) "King's cross".

 


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#19
J-William

J-William
  • 1315 posts

It isn't easy for me to admit it, but I did have a rather bad childhood and the Harry Potter books helped me a lot. I wanted to live inside that fantasy when I grew up, but now when I am grown up I can almost entirely accept that it was just a fantasy and I can keep myself to the real world instead. You are right when you say that some people want to live inside a fantasy, but I think it is important to make these people aware of the truth so that they can start recovering from their problems. Imaginary friends can only hide your problems, they can't cure them.

I was not really interested in the series, thought it was probably interesting but I was busy in university and it was a book for "kids". I started reading the first book in 2008 after the last one came out, and I found it very easy and entertaining to read through the whole series.

It's interesting to think about what drew me to reading through the whole thing.. [^o)]


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#20
Emil Karlsson

Emil Karlsson
  • 18 posts

Yes, it is at the end of the chapter King's Cross. Page 579 in the Brittish edition.


  • 0

Destroying evil is a noble deed, but to be truly heroic you must create the good.


#21
Ricky Cisco

Ricky Cisco
  • 1115 posts

Did you get my PM's magnus? =)


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#22
LokiLoks

LokiLoks
  • 10 posts

Just got into this from Stef's reading in a YouTube Vid.

 

I must say, quite an explosive reading of the story and well supported. Truly, I believe that you could write a book on this and get it published.

 

Robert


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#23
Livemike

Livemike
  • 1002 posts

 Notice how this explains all the times when Harry and others don't act even close to optimally given their resources?  Like when they have a time machine in one of the later books, Hermoine originally uses it to attend more classes, then to go back to the point where, if they really hurry and are really smart, they can save the day.  They do this instead of simply going back and telling their former selves "This is what's happening, use the watch and go back and warn your former selves.".  In fact this is a consistent flaw in most superhero/fantasy/fantastic sci-fi fiction, that the truly awesome powers aren't used halfway intelligently, even when the characters possessing them are allegedly really smart.  The explanation is simple, they only resort to their "powers" when they retreat from reality, therefore they aren't thinking of them when they're rational.. 


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#24
Livemike

Livemike
  • 1002 posts

'Tell me one last thing' said Harry. 'Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?' [...] 'Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'

Wow!  Look at that!  I stopped reading the books relatively early on, and have only been watching the movies.  Can you point me to a page reference, or if we have different editions then maybe the chapter so I can find it? 

I have yet to find a successful, mainstream movie or modern novel that does not fit this interpretation -- where the events of the main part of the story take place inside the protagonist's mind, with perhaps a minimal connection to some unseen reality. 

Here's an example -- relatively minor, but it helped convince me that this "double fantasy" approach is a standard method for writing almost all of modern fiction.  It's a movie called Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, a teen comedy about a boy who falls for a girl, but to win her, he must do battle with her seven ex-boyfriends,

  It's the seven evil exs, not the seven evil ex-boyfriends. 

  That concludes the pedantic nitpicking section of the evening. 

  SPvstW was another "romantic" movie where the attractive girl is a complete and utter waste of a human being.  I mean seriously imagine not telling someone, "Hey if you try to date me, seven sociopaths with some sort of attachement disoder will try to kill you.".  I mean it's not like this is ever implied to be the first time it's happened, nor is it implied that they never killed her new boyfriends before.  So given the incredibily casual attitude that she has to SP's survival, why would anyone, let alone Scott want to be with her.  Don't get me wrong, she's hot, she's not hot enough to die for without even a glimpse of an explanation for why she's being such a megabitch.

 all of whom happen to be evil super heroes. (Silly premise, but successful.) 

http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/universal/scottpilgrimvstheworld/

One of the video clips is called "Featurette," which includes an interview with the director.  At 00:16, he let's the cat out of the bag, and says how the protagonist is "the hero of a fantasy story in his own head, and this is that movie." (or something like that)

(From seeing the trailer, I suspect the movie would have been more powerful and engaging if it followed the usual pattern of making the protagonist more humiliated or rejected at the beginning.  It seems to focus on the fact that he's flawed, and lacks intimacy, but the story starts with him having a good and easy life that he likes.  The usual pattern is to start with more psychological suffering, which is what prompts the protagonist to create the fantasy that follows.  Without that early recognition of his own powerlessness and humiliation, the grandiosity that follows is sort of out-of-context.)

  Unless even this is a fantasy.  That he's even more of a loser than the Scott portrayed at the start.

The Double Fantasy appears to be the main structure of most mainstream fiction, except that most authors have the good sense to hide that fact from the audience.


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#25
gregroberts

gregroberts
  • 44 posts

Even AS isn't safe from interpetation

 "In 1957, a 1,168 page book by Ayn Rand, called Atlas Shrugged, was published. According to one source, Rand was alleged to be a mistress to Philippe Rothschild, who instructed her to write the book in order to show that through the raising of oil prices, then destroying the oil fields and shutting down the coal mines, the Illuminati would take over the world. It also related how they would blow up grain mills, derail trains, bankrupt and destroy their own companies, till they had destroyed the economy of the entire world; and yet, they would be so wealthy, that it would not substantially affect their vast holdings. The novel is about a man who stops the motor of the world, of what happens when “the men of the mind, the intellectuals of the world, the originators and innovators in every line of industry go on strike; when the men of creative ability in every profession, in protest against regulation, quit and disappear.”"

http://www.illuminati-news.com/2007/0322a.htm

BTW, Voldemort not having a nose is to make him look more like a snake, you know being a Slitheren.

Stef said that no abused child could be a hero, what about Stef? he's my hero.

Wookies might reproduce differently than humans.

Death Star a testicle, come on?

How HP should have ended, Harry does call Voldemort insane, could it be true?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsYWT5Q_R_w


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#26
JKPgamer

JKPgamer
  • 118 posts

'Tell me one last thing' said Harry. 'Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?' [...] 'Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'

 

wow, what was that in reference to?

Just because I didn't see this answered.  This statement in context is: Harry goes to face Voldemort after he realizes he must die because he has a piece of Voldemort in him.  So Voldemort "kills" him and what emerges is Harry in a dreamlike state talking with the deceased Dumbledore at King's Cross.  Underneath one of the benches is a very sick blood soaked baby meant to be Voldemort's soul piece in the book.  At this point is where the above quote is inserted.  Then after the piece of Voldemort's soul is dead Harry goes back to his own body.

-----------------------------------------------

Really great analysis Magnus I'm a fan of Harry Potter read/seen them all and I think It's a brilliant theory.  I never thought about it in this way thank you for showing me.  On a side note have you ever seen the movie "Revolver"?  The movie for those who don't know was Guy Ritchie's response to "Fight Club."  The movie is rather confusing and I've watched it several times and don't think I've gotten the full gist of it.  I do enjoy the movie even though I don't fully understand it and I would be very curious to hear your thoughts on the matter.


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                                                                 Hide your fires, these here are my desires,
                                                           and I won't give them up to you this time around
                                                      and so I'll be found with my stake stuck here in this ground
                                                           marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul.
                                                  and you, you've gone to far this time you have neither reason nor rhyme
                                                               to take this soul that is so rightfully MINE!


                                                                                                      -Roll Away Your Stone, Mumford & Sons


 


#27
gregroberts

gregroberts
  • 44 posts

 First off I want to apologize for being flippant about this thread, I have come to realize at 2am this morning that I was using our present irrational standards to judge movies. Yesterday I would have said it (Harry Potter) was an adventure story about magic today I would say it's a delusion caused by childhood trauma.

 If we lived in a rational world Harry Potter and other supernatural based stories would not be popular as they are now. Magnus' review shows what it would be like to live in a rational world, where the supernatural is non-existant and given no credence. I am embarrased that I made a mistake of this magnitude but it answers the question of why I read the review with fastination yet rejected it. I will look at things like this quite differently from now on. Thank you.

 Like teaching children about god, letting them watch or read stories about the supernatural is not a good idea for the same reasons. I agree with the idea that art should show things as they could or should be and the supernatural is neither.

 


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#28
FreedomWins

FreedomWins
  • 2098 posts

Stef said that no abused child could be a hero, what about Stef? he's my hero.

Well, Stef is not currently an abused child, both for the obvious reason and because he's spent a lot of time working on recovering.


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#29
Magnus

Magnus

    Subversive

  • 953 posts

Thank you all for the terrific feedback.  I more or less disappeared from FDR recently, when several parts of my life began to fall apart all at the same time, but I flipped through the recent podcasts and came across FDR 2047 and was both surprised and elated to hear Stef reading my Harry Potter post.  It was a pleasant reminder of the kinds of things I used to devote a lot of time and thought to, before I ran into a series of personal problems that consumed my attention. 

I went back to review some of the most successful movies of all time, since they are the Western world's preeminent form of popular entertainment, to see if this theory would hold water.  What I found is that the thesis about the "humiliation fantasy" pattern is mainly applicable to stories with a fantasy or supernatural element to them, but less applicable to epics and ordinary dramas.  Hollywood doesn't make epics much anymore, so I hadn't really considered them much, but there are quite a few of them on the list of all-time popular movies.

Adjusted for inflation, Gone with the Wind is the most successful movie ever made (although to my mind, it has always seemed incomplete and oddly-paced), with the original Star Wars a close second.  In the top ten, we see mega-hits like the Ten Commandments, the Sound of Music and Ben-Hur.  I tried to interpret films like these as though they were fantasies occurring inside the minds of the protagonist, but it didn't quite fit. 

I did, however, note that Titanic was the most recent "epic" style hit movie.  At first, I tried to shoe-horn the film into the Humiliation-Fantasy theory -- that the events of the film were occurring in the mind of Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), but I couldn't see how it worked.  Then I realized that Titanic is really not Jack's story at all.  He doesn't change, and doesn't have to.  It's actually Rose's story (Kate Winslet).  Seen this way, the Humiliation-Fantasy theory works perfectly.  The first 45 minutes of the movie relentlessly hammer the theme of Rose's powerlessness -- the abuse and lack of love shown by her fiancee who sees her as another possession, and more importantly the mother who won't let her out of the engagement out of fear of poverty.  Rose isn't allowed to exist as an individual, have opinions and preferences of her own or exercise control over her life.  Everyone in her life uses her.  Jack is her fantasy, because he's the exact opposite of these things -- poor but not troubled by his poverty (Rose's mother and fiancee are terrified by the mere whisper of it).  Jack sees her as an individual, as symbolized by his illustration of Rose.  In the Humiliation-Fantasy interpretation, we can read the movie as though Jack never really existed except in Rose's mind.  That's why he had to die at the end.  The sinking of the Titanic is just a metaphor for the emotional crisis Rose experiences when she destroys her old life by breaking ties with her mother and fiancee. 

Avatar is similar.  I didn't make it all the way through, but it began with the protagonist cremating his deceased twin brother.  I see twins as a metaphor for a side of one's personality, or an alternate life.  In Avatar, the protagonist is paralyzed.  If we interpret the twin brother as imaginary, then the "death" of his twin can be interpeted a metaphor for the life the protagonist would have had if he hadn't been injured.  The story then goes on to humiliate him repeatedly, before engaging in a crazy power fantasy where the protagonist, once treated as disposable, becomes all-powerful. 

Even the James Bond movies always begin with 007 being pushed around and demeaned by politicians.  In the Humiliation-Fantasy interpretation, there is no secret agent super hero, only an ordinary bureaucratic office drone paper-pusher who gets chewed out by his boss on a regular basis. 

In short, although it is not 100% applicable to some of the hugely successful movies and books, the Humiliation-Fantasy theory holds up with many of them.  The audience typically believes they are drawn to these stories because of the fantasies and action elements, but I suspect that they are actually drawn to the humiliation and powerlessness depicted in the first 20 minutes.  If the directors and writers were to take those parts out, leaving only the fun parts in Acts II and III, I am convinced that audiences would instantly find them boring.  It's the humiliation and powerlessness that draws people in. 

Now that I am looking for this pattern, the thing I find most surprising is that the public's appetite for this story line is apparently insatiable.  The same damned story pattern gets told over and over and over.


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"The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime."


-- Max Stirner


#30
Dave Bockman

Dave Bockman
  • 2849 posts

Thank you all for the terrific feedback.  I more or less disappeared from FDR recently, when several parts of my life began to fall apart all at the same time, but I flipped through the recent podcasts and came across FDR 2047 and was both surprised and elated to hear Stef reading my Harry Potter post.  It was a pleasant reminder of the kinds of things I used to devote a lot of time and thought to, before I ran into a series of personal problems that consumed my attention. 

A sincere welcome back Sir Magnus, your contributions were missed by me. I'm sorry to learn about your challenges, if there's anything I can do I hope you'll ask, I'd like to help if I can.

Dave


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"Use the flame of knowledge to light candles, not peoples' hair"-- S. Molyneux


#31
Blank

Blank

  • 14136 posts

The Humiliation-Fantasy Theory of literary interpretation is bloody genius, Magnus. 

Thank you for that. 


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#32
Bardan

Bardan
  • 102 posts

Very much enjoyed your Harry Potter reading and the methodology behind how you managed to do that. Must indeed have been a buzz for you to stumble upon it in the podcast stream.

I was gardening today for bugger-all money and it made the job a whole lot easier on me. Especially since I could then save batteries by carrying on thinking about movies, trying to use your template.

The two I was thinking of were Doctor Who and Highlander. So I'd really like to know if you can share your thoughts on these? I think that if I could catch on with the methodology I'd enjoy and be pretty good myself at cracking films. Like you I enjoyed Stef's Twilight interpretaion but I just can't figure out how to unravel these things.

Doctor Who seems to be a boy who has run away from home...can't really make or keep friends...reinvents himself...repairs to his bedroom/TARDIS within which he generally is safe and at home but outside of it there's all kinds of fantastical strife. His bedroom/TARDIS is in a constant state of disrepair and is antiquated and something the Doctor has an actual relationship with. So, perhaps a hint at a poorly attached boy who connects with inanimates rather than people? I can relate myself to repairing to my bedroom away from the rest of the FOOhouse and to this day have a stronger sentimentality toward everyday things than usual (I give my old shoes a funeral sometimes.)

Might just shift this over to the forum acutally...

Had a Queen track on the mp3 player today too (Gimme The Prize) so started turning that one over. Wracking my brain, can't see how taking someone's head off works metaphorically. The Highlander flashbacks are delusionary and include the fantasy interpretation of his origion. Parents and family who stop caring about him after he recovers from fatal wounds. Now he is rejected, turned on, humiliated, pilloried. All the while, pleading to be accepted and loved. Isn't it a good thing that he isn't broken, didn't die? No, he's a demon to them. This may be a metaphore for a child who is treated well while sick in bed but for whome mistreatment resumes when he has worked hard to get back on his feet? I don't remember the fate of the FOO and the villiage, perhaps something bad happened? Highlander has a great love named Heather in his flashbacks who may have been imaginary after all. He seemed to be living as a hermit at the time but now is when Sean Connery's character, the Wizard/Jedi Master, appears with training about the magic of immortality (freedom from drowning, deer empathy.) Connery's character is killed and Heather raped by Highlander's great enemy and possible alter-ego the ancient and powerful Kurgan. Might make for a very similar subliminal story to Harry Potter in this way and I'd love to see it all made sense of.

Thanks for your work, and I hope you're getting the Alice Miller you need.


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Skype: Clarkvillian


#33
Alan Chapman

Alan Chapman
  • 5155 posts

Rowling weaves her magic with a VERY grown-up novel: Author's new book is tale of class warfare, heroin addiction and teen sexuality

Miss Rowling said she drew on her own upbringing near the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire for the novel, in which the middle-class can barely hide their loathing for the inhabitants of a neighbouring sink estate.

But locals in her old home village say the portrayal of snobby residents is as much ‘fantasy’ as Harry Potter is.

Residents in Tutshill, a small community on the English side of Chepstow, where Miss Rowling used to live, said the author’s childhood could have coloured her memory of village life.

Miss Rowling has previously said her childhood was unhappy and she couldn't wait to leave Tutshill.

Her mum suffered from multiple sclerosis and she had a difficult relationship with her father.


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#34
Magnus

Magnus

    Subversive

  • 953 posts

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The two I was thinking of were Doctor Who and Highlander. So I'd really like to know if you can share your thoughts on these? I think that if I could catch on with the methodology I'd enjoy and be pretty good myself at cracking films. Like you I enjoyed Stef's Twilight interpretaion but I just can't figure out how to unravel these things.

 

Sorry it's taken me 9-10 months to get back to you! I didnt see your question until it popped up on my control panel as my most recent discussion. 

 

I don't know anything about Doctor Who. But I do know Highlander very well. As fate would have it, I was listening to Gimme the Prize while doing yard work just the other day. 

 

Most of the stories I've analyzed using the Humiation-Fantasy paradigm relate to young people. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Narnia, etc.

 

But Highlander fits, when you begin with the flashback scenes. When we rearrange the scenes chronologically, Christophe Lambert's character was young back then, going into his "first battle," thus making him a teenager. He survives (possibly a metaphor for a violent home), but is accused of devilry, and is banished. Classic humiliation sequence. 

 

The key to this analysis is to remember that anything supernatural is a metaphor. In Highlander, the hero's discovery that he is extraordinary is what gets him banished. This might be a metaphor for a teen realizing he's better than his small-minded town, or that he refuses to yield to his abusive parents (symbolized by "surviving a medieval battle"). Maybe he's more intelligent, sensitive, artistic, or just aware that they're all just provincial rubes. In any event, the scene tells us that an extraordinary teen gets humiliated and excluded by inferior, hateful people just for asserting that he has special gifts. 

 

Everything else after that is the Fantasy. In classic form, he soon gets recruited into the secret war by Obiwan/Gandalf/Aslan/Dumbledore. He's then aimed as a weapon at the Main Enemy, who is a manifestation of blind rage. The pattern is very similar. 

 

Note that this Rage Monster (the Kurgan) was there at the beginning of the hero's journey to greatness, just like Darth Vader was Luke's father, how Voldemort started Harry's heroic life by killing his parents and becoming incorporeal in the process, or how the Ice Queen of Narnia (or her agent) was the very first person that Edmund met after going through the wardrobe. 

 

This suggests that the rage monster is a part of the hero's own mind, being so intimately bound up with his crossing over into Fantasy Land. The Rage Monster is the hero's own latent anger, inseparable from the reason for his movement into Fantasy. 

 

In Highlander, the Rage Monster rapes his girlfriend, which eventually strains their relationship to the point it dies (as symbolized by her aging as he does not). This pattern is repeated in the extended cut of the movie, where his secretary is the young girl that MacLeod rescues during WWII. Eventually he has to move on to another woman. The romantic-aging problem is a metaphor for the fact that he's unable to maintain a long term romantic relationship. 

 

All in all, it fits the Humiliation-Fantasy pattern very well. 

 


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"The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime."


-- Max Stirner


#35
Magnus

Magnus

    Subversive

  • 953 posts

Miss Rowling said she drew on her own upbringing near the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire for the novel, in which the middle-class can barely hide their loathing for the inhabitants of a neighbouring sink estate.

But locals in her old home village say the portrayal of snobby residents is as much ‘fantasy’ as Harry Potter is.

Residents in Tutshill, a small community on the English side of Chepstow, where Miss Rowling used to live, said the author’s childhood could have coloured her memory of village life.

Miss Rowling has previously said her childhood was unhappy and she couldn't wait to leave Tutshill.

Her mum suffered from multiple sclerosis and she had a difficult relationship with her father.

I was reading in the Guardian that Rowling's new novel is not merely about some middle-class people who sneer at a welfare mom.  A central element of the plot apparently deals with their attempts to have the welfare mom's child taken away from her by the State.  A theme of the book is "the ignorance of elites who assume to know what's best for everyone else."

His preoccupation with "authenticity" develops into a fascination with [the nearby welfare housing development] and its most notorious family, the Weedons.T erri
Weedon is a prostitute, junkie and lifelong casualty of chilling abuse,
struggling to stay clean to stop social services taking her
three-year-old son, Robbie, into care

The forced institutionalization of children is certainly a major theme of Rowling's.


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"The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime."


-- Max Stirner