Saturday, July 24, 2010


In the joyous afterglow of the HPAFTW success, I was surprised to find that a good friend (and fellow Potter fan) of mine didn't share in the collective happiness that was going around. This was a bit confusing to me - said friend has been a Potter fan for a decade now, and has often been involved with the fandom, including many HPA campaigns, before. Why wouldn't you be happy about the HPA winning a freaking quarter of a million dollars!?!?

But it's exactly because she's been so involved with the fandom and so invested in the HPA's cause that I took her seriously. It's one thing for people unfamiliar with the organization and the things it's accomplished to question it, but when dedicated members have their doubts, what's going on?

So I asked her straight out: Why aren't you happy that the HPA won?

Her answer, in short, was: "It feels like we're becoming Scrimgeour."

We had a long conversation after that about what she meant. How Scrimgeour wanted to use Harry to achieve his political ends. How he wanted Harry to be a front for his propaganda. How she understood and yet distrusted the way Andrew was schmoozing YouTubers at VidCon. Or how she was disheartened that the organization was encouraging its volunteers to be pesky and persistent and in-your-face - not about human rights violations or equality or literacy, but about, of all things, money.

I don't think she's right about these things, but I respect her doubt. I'm glad she's afraid of the HPA becoming Scrimgeour, because that is something the HPA will always have to keep in check. Because believe it or not, it's a fine line between being a Dumbledore and Scrimgeour.

Heretic! you cry. Dumbledore is awesome. Scrimgeour is icky. No comparison there.

But there is... kind of.

Scrimgeour wanted to use Harry as a pawn, but Dumbledore actually did. This was one of the parts of the series I had the most trouble coming to grips with. I had this image of Dumbledore with his twinkling eyes and fantastic wit and his wisdom (and even his sorrow). I wanted to think of him as an idealist and an innocent. And in a way he was. But he was also a very calculating person. The word "pawn" calls to mind the image of the chess player, and this was Dumbledore to a T: always working several moves ahead of what was actually on the board. He knew the fate of all rested with Harry, and so he manipulated the course of events, even sacrificing himself in the end, to make sure Harry was able to make that final stand against Voldemort.

We praise Dumbledore because while he was calculating, he also genuinely loved Harry. He was noble, working for the good of the entire community. He was selfless, caring. But he was also manipulative and shrewd, political in his thinking. The perfect embodiment of the phrase "wise as serpents and gentle as doves."

So this was my argument to my friend: Sometimes it may seem like we're "using" Harry Potter in order to accomplish our goals. But unlike Scrimgeour, we genuinely love Harry Potter and we sincerely hope that by doing these things in his name we'll generate great interest in doing good things in the world... that we'll be creating a positive change for the good of all. The HPA is Dumbledore, the very embodiment of his spirit. Political sometimes? Yes. But ultimately the thing that inspires us, the thing we work toward, the "weapon" we wield, is love.

Her fear is legitimate. It should be a warning to the HPA as a whole: let's strive to never forget ourselves, to never become Scrimgeours. Instead, let's hope that when people see the things we do as an organization they'll say, "Dumbledore's... through and through, aren't you?" so we can reply, "Yeah, we are. Glad we straightened that out."

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