Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Only A Single Mom Could Have Written This Fantasy Epic
"Where your treasures is, there your heart will be also."
~ Matthew 6:21
"The last enemy to be destroyed is death."
~ I Corinthians 15:26
I had the strangest experience watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 this evening. I was filled with a deep appreciation and love for my mom, who has loved and sacrificed and prayed my sister and I through the past two decades. Strange, not because it's inappropriate to feel this way towards my mom, but rather because through all those years she has also been a vocal opponent of all forms of fantasy fiction. To her it is all too tolerant of the occult, grievous to the Holy Spirit and a dangerous gateway for sparking interest in the demonic and the mystical. As a schoolteacher, Harry Potter and his tales have been especially worrisome, given their massive popularity with students and teachers alike. Strange then that a Harry Potter film would so powerfully and forcefully remind me of her Christocentric motherhood.
During this evening's movie-going experience, I was struck by how much J.K. Rowling's experience as a single mother had shaped the series' conclusion. Obviously, that Rowling would make Lily Potter's motherly love the mythological foundation of the most powerful magic in Harry Potter's wizarding world betrays her sympathies. It is the recurring theme of the series, and Deathly Hallows is its swooning thematic crescendo. Several of the leading adult ladies of the series vividly illustrate such love in the epic's climactic moments.
First off, Professor MacGonagall's face-off with Snape in order to protect Harry seemed to me a capstone to her quiet and dutiful stewardship of him over the years. She fought as surrogate-mother, as one of the many who have stepped in to fill the family void left by the murder of Potter's parents. Her fierce determination to protect Harry and all of the other students revealed this usually reserved and proper school-marm as the lioness she has always been.
Concordantly, Narcissa Malfoy's role in the series seems to have been to show that, even in the most despicable of families, a mother's love will trump all else. After Harry returns from King's Cross, she reveals that her devotion to Draco goes far beyond whatever she gives to Voldemort. If Potter will confirm Draco's life, she will not betray Harry's resurrection. It is Draco's life and well-being that matter, not the dark lord's. Her pact with Snape in The Half-Blood Prince also underscored and highlighted this concern.
Bellatrix Lestrange, on the other hand, is the anti-Lily and the anti-Narcissa. Her devotion to Voldemort is absolute, her emotional compass as intelligible as the Joker's. She has no family, no discernible friends, and no relational inter-connections to establish her as a psycho-social being. Bellatrix embodies the nihilistic consequences of Voldy's will-of-death, a dehumanized freak and a picture of what might have become of a humanity enslaved to an immortal demon. Helena Bonham Carter tweaks the character performance to 11, and, while never boring, I think she mistakes cartoonishly outlandish evil for dehumanized amorality.
As far as cinematic high points go, Molly Weasley's face-off with Lestrange far outstrips Voldemort's demise--the audience cheered for "Not my daughter, you bitch!" and Neville killing Nagini in roughly equal amounts, but not nearly so much for the final defeat of the dark lord. When she defends Ginny and defeats Bellatrix, Molly both embodies and makes bad-ass the same motherly love evinced by Lily so many years before. Her defeat of Lestrange is Lily's first vindication: motherly love defeating evil without the sacrifice of martyrdom.
Lastly, even the somewhat-derided "19 Years Later" series coda demonstrates a mother's touch. Rowling has said that this epilogue was written at the same time as The Philosopher's Stone, meaning she always had a kind of boring normalcy in mind as the fruit of all their labors. A man (or a rabid fan or sequel-hungry studio head) would have come up with something like Harry's life being filled with a series of ongoing adventures and derring-do. A single mother understands, however, that to have life and a functioning family that you love is all the reward one needs.
In Harry's epic tale, it's motherly love that serves as protection against the abyss. And experiencing its conclusion in full sight and sound this evening reminded me just how much I owe to my mom for serving the same purpose. I have walked away from the charismatic fundamentalism of my past for myriad reasons I won't describe here. But I am forever indebted to my mom, charismatic and fundamentalist if anyone else is, and for the prayers she prayed and the tears she shed to shield me from the will of death which sought to destroy me. It almost did; I was almost lost to radical unbelief and nihilistic amorality forever but she never stopped praying. She never stopped fighting for me or my sister.
I know that, ultimately, it is God's faithfulness which holds me secure and has kept me for his purposes all these years. But I am no less convinced that my mom has been an integral part of his means for doing so. God has chosen to partner with and work through human beings on this earth--essential to his very purpose in creating us was to grant us dominion over creation. So thanks mom; thanks for wielding the mythic power of God's love, the deep magic from before world began which is rooted in the sacrifice of love. And thank you, Jesus, for laying your life down for us, for making a way out of sin and death and into an abundant and eternal way of life. You deserve all the honor, all the glory and all the praise.
And Jesus, thank you for Joanne Rowling. Thank you for allowing this woman to glimpse your love and refract it through the dark glass of fiction in such a moving and powerful way. Please continue to reveal yourself to her and all who love the story she has told, because it's always been your story, the only one we want to hear again and again, where love wins, evil passes away, and all the things that were wrong are made right again. Lord Jesus, let these tales stir our hearts and imaginations, spur us to live lives not for ourselves but for others, and provoke us all until we continually seek to fill our beings with you, the man who lived.
If you enjoyed this, I recommend "Harry, the Hallows, Love, and Life" by my friend RebbieJaye who knits and blogs @ osbornfiber.com.