Watching Harry Potter weekend on the FreeForm channel is one of my favorite things to do. While most people were off debating over the Falcons and the Patriots, I sat back and fully immersed myself in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world last Super Bowl weekend. But as I was watching these films, I just couldn’t help but think about how ironic the timing of this marathon was.
A few days before the marathon, Rowling expressed her disappointment at the recent executive order from President Trump, which institutes a travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries. These comments did not go over well with some. Several people responded on Twitter about how “disgusted” they were. They were so upset that some have tweeted that they are going to burn the books, and even the movies, as a form of protest against Rowling and her political views. (I wonder what would happen if they bought the book digitally. Will they burn their kindles too?)
This isn’t the first time the Harry Potter novels garnered controversy. The books have always been accused of promoting satanism, witchcraft, and the occult by religious fanatics since they came out. And don’t even get me started on the “Dumbledore is gay” fiasco. Rowling never seems to care about these controversies, and still criticizes Trump on a regular basis.
As for politics in literature, Trump seems to have had a minor effect it. Sales for George Orwell’s 1984 have skyrocketed since the inauguration. People are sending books to the White House in hopes that the President reads them. Magazines are compiling lists of books that not only explain the new political wave, but also directly relate to what is happening now. This lists are mostly all the same: dystopian novels like The Hunger Games, memoirs about economic hardship such as Hillbilly Elegy, and some Hitler biographies thrown in there for good measure.
Much to my surprise, Fahrenheit 451 did not appear on most lists. It seems like the perfect book for today’s age, where facts and censorship are still being debated.
For those of you that don’t know, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 takes place in a society where books have no value. The people are more interested in mass media and superficial drama, and their tiny attention spans can’t handle all the nuanced facts that books provide. So the government uses this to enact laws that force all books to be burned. There is no art or learning. People believe what they want to believe, and what they don’t understand they deem irrelevant. Just the thought of books send most of the characters in this novel into a frenzy that, without spoiling anything, leads to some pretty explosive results.
I find parallels between Bradbury’s novel and real life more and more each day. We do live in a society obsessed with mass media and superficial culture. Facts scare us if they contradict what we already believe so we disregard them, leading not only to mass manipulation but also an absence of individuality. We try to censor those who speak up or against the norms of our society while supporting those who do for our own benefit. People don’t want to spend their time reading or waiting things out. They want things done fast and they want it now.
Now, obviously I don’t think we live in a world as extreme as the one Bradbury mentions. What I’m saying is that I find irony in the people who are going out of their way to burn Harry Potter books because of the authors beliefs. These are the same people who for months have been going on and on about the importance of freedom of speech and how we need to be unified and listen to one another and give each other chances. You can’t really do that if your burning children’s books, insulting others on social media, and boycotting anything that doesn’t agree with you from a coffee brand to a broadway play.
Bradbury’s novel serves as a critique on the culture of censorship and the triumph of knowledge over ignorance. Two things that couldn’t be more relevant in our toxic political climate. I urge many of these Trump supporters who are burning Rowling’s books to read this one, in hopes that it might open their minds. After all, you can’t make America great again if you try to silence anyone who tries to help.