Quick Quotes and Quibblers – Lola Burnham : CMA 2010

When I saw that there was a media in Harry Potter class being offered at the CMA convention, I flipped out. Though I so desperately wanted to sleep in on a Saturday morning, I made it downstairs and sat in the front row.

It was an amazing presentation. Speaker Lola Burnham is a huge Harry Potter geek and traced the instances of media mentioned in the series from the very first book. We talked about Witch Weekly and The Daily Prophet, of course, as well as wizard “radio” and owl post.

After the overview, Burnham began talking about the instances of censorship in the Potter universe, which, for anyone who has not read the books, begins around book five. As uncertainty in the wizarding community mounts, the press (and particularly The Prophet) clamp down on any information that might be “dangerous,” and shirking from their journalistic duty to tell the truth.

Burnham gave real-life examples from British press. I didn’t know, but should have, that the U.K. does not have a “first amendment” law similar to ours. There are also rules about running corrections and libel, as well as several instances through the 20th century where the press has been more than compliant with the government’s propaganda messages.

Burnham argues that particularly books 4 and 5 are a critique of the modern British press. Reporters like Rita Skeeter are vilified, and alternative publications are mocked – so it is likely Burnham is right.

We then moved on to talk about sacrificing for what is right, or sacrificing for the greater good. Harry Potter must sacrifice his own life to stop Voldemort, but Xenophilius Lovegood is not willing to stand up to the government while his daughter is held captive. This raises an interesting point – how far would you or I go for the story, or for the truth? I’d like to think that I’d be able to make deep sacrifices, but I know deep down it’s probably not likely.

The session ended with an intense discussion about the ending of the series, whether the epilogue and Harry living were good choices. It’s clear that Burnham knows her stuff, and it’s also interesting to see that there’s so much more to the Potter series than just what is on the page. There are layers to uncover and different meanings to wrest out (I have theories of my own) that provide consistent re-read and discussion value.

-Lauren Ramsdell

 

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