Happy Birthday, Harry Potter! Here Are 8 Things That J.K. Rowling's Characters Taught Us About Tolerance
Although we always knew in our heart of hearts the argument that Harry Potter was turning our children into devil-worshipping maniacs was bullshit, now we’ve got proof positive. In fact, the boy wizard and his friends actually help us fight evil: According to new research published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, reading Harry Potter is actually making kids more tolerant and accepting of people who might be different from themselves. Score one for team Hogwarts!
The researchers conducted a variety of studies to see whether the themes of prejudice that run throughout the books and the movies register with kids, as well as how they might affect them if they do register. One of the studies, though, is arguably the most interesting: In it, the researchers asked 34 Italian fifth graders to fill out a questionnaire asking them about their attitudes toward immigrants. Then, for six weeks, a researcher met with the kids in small groups (five or six students per group) to talk about Harry Potter — although not all the groups talked about the same things: Half of them read and discussed passages that focused specifically on prejudice, while the other half put their attention toward passages that dealt with other, unrelated issues. After the six weeks were up, the kids were again asked to fill out a questionnaire asking them about how they felt about immigrants; additionally, they listed how many Harry Potter books they had read or films they had seen and answered how much they wanted to be like good ol’ Harry. They found that the kids who both discussed the Harry Potter passages about prejudice and identified with Harry showed “improved attitudes towards immigrants.”
To that end — and in honor of Harry’s birthday, which just so happens to be today — we’ve assembled a list of quotes, memes, and GIFs from Harry Potter that definitely taught us the importance of tolerance. Obviously this is by no means an exhaustive list, so feel free to add your own ideas via Facebook or Twitter. Happy birthday, Harry!
1. Concerning Mudbloods
“Mudblood’s a really foul name for someone who is Muggle-born — you know, non-magic parents. There are some wizards — like Malfoy’s family — who think they’re better than everyone else because they’re what people call pure-blood.” He gave a small burp, and a single slyg fell into his outstretched hand. He threw it into the basin and continued, “I mean, the rest of us know it doesn’t make any difference at all. Look at Neville Longbottom — he’s pure-blood and he can hardly stand a cauldron the right way up.”
“An’ they haven’t invented a spell our Hermione can’ do,” said Hagrid proudly, making Hermione go a brilliant shade of magenta.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
I think this one speaks for itself.
2. Dobby Is Free!
Dobby may have been kind of annoying when he first appeared, but he ended up being an unsung hero throughout the series; I would also argue that the house elves in general and Dobby in particular are one of the series’ most powerful statements against subjugation and oppression. Did anyone else cry when he died? Because I sobbed like a friggin’ baby.
3. Sirius Black
I would argue that Sirius had the most ups and downs of any character in the series in terms of how others perceived him: First he was reviled; then he was a hero; and though he turned out to be quite flawed, he ultimately came down firmly on the side of good. This quote? Is why.
4. Neville Longbottom
Neville may not have been able to stand a cauldron the right end up, but that didn’t mean he was useless. He taught us not to underestimate anyone, no matter how “useless” they may seem. You never know what they’ll reveal when the moment is right.
“You see!” said a strained voice. Tonks was glaring at Lupin. “She still wants to marry him, even though he’s been bitten! She doesn’t care!”
“It’s different,” said Lupin, barely moving his lips and looking suddenly tense. “Bill will not be a full werewolf. The cases are completely — ”
“But I don’t care either, I don’t care!” said Tonks, seizing the front of Lupin’s robes and shaking them. “I’ve told you a million times…”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
This passage is notable both for its preceding action — Fleur stating that of course she was still going to marry Bill, even though he’d been bitten, because she loved him — and for what happens within it for Tonks and Lupin. Sure, there are bad werewolves in the world; but there are also good ones, too. That’s the case with any group of people. No one is defined solely by their “condition”; we’re all greater than the sum of our parts.
6. Dumbledore’s Final Words
7. Dolores Umbridge
Dolores showed us exactly what none of us should ever aspire to be. Ever. I can’t even pinpoint just one moment for her; it’s the whole package.
But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend. There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone.