Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Harry Potter as a Christ figure

I went to watch the final Harry Potter film last week. I’ve not read any of the books, but my kids had suggested I watch all the films in preparation for this grand cinematic finale. (For my review of Deathly Hallows part 1, with a focus on character, go here).

The theological part of my brain came away thinking about Harry Potter as a Christ figure. Lloyd Baugh, Imaging the Divine: Jesus and Christ-Figures in Film , divides Jesus films into two categories.

First is films which tell the gospel story of the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth (eg King of Kings, Godspell, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Gospel according to Saint Matthew). Obviously that does not apply to Harry Potter.

Second are movies which on the surface are simply telling a story, but offer deeper links and parallels to Christ. Baugh calls this the arena of analogy; “They are not unlike the parables of Jesus which, when “read” on a literal level, remain brief narratives of human experience, but when interpreted metaphorically, fairly explode with theological and christological significance.”

Baugh suggests 11 elements by which to assess whether or not the characters in these movies function as Christ figures:

  • mysterious origins
  • conflict with authority
  • performing of wonders
  • attracting a group of followers
  • becoming a scapegoat
  • withdrawing to a deserted place
  • acting as a suffering servant
  • showing a commitment to justice
  • entering passion
  • reaching out to the repentant thief and
  • a metaphorical resurrection.

Baugh asserts that, since “the filmic Christ-figure does not always reflect the totality of the Christ-event”, the eleven elements are descriptive and generative rather than exhaustive.

So let’s place the 11 alongside Harry Potter (after the fold line cos of spoilers) (more…)

Posted by steve at 06:13 PM