Psychology: Behind Harry Potter
Psychology, whether known or not, is right in front of our faces every day (literally). It is not that uncommon for filmmakers to plot a story about a girl with depression or even include a therapy session scene for the main character who is going through a midlife crisis. However, psychological lessons are explained to us every day in not-so-obvious ways as well.
When you think of the Harry Potter series of books and movies, psychology is more than likely not the first thing to come to mind. It may come to a surprise that while exploring the magical realm with Harry Potter himself, the movie serves as an input of different psychological lessons into the viewer’s mind. By using common psychological phenomenon such as the us vs. them mindset to teach viewer to work together, and showing us that it is okay to be ourselves by including the struggles of conformity within social groups, and not to mention the implicated psychological anxiety disorder within the main character himself, Harry Potter.
The movie, Harry Potter, tells the tale of a young wizard, whose parents were killed when he was one year old by a dark wizard, called Lord Voldemort. When Harry turned eleven, he discovered his true identity: a wizard. Despite his constant abuse from aunt and uncle and their attempts to keep Harry’s wizard side from him, he is now able to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he learns how to use his powerful magic, and meets his two best friends/partners in saving the world, Ron and Hermione. Throughout the film, Harry and his friends have frequently had to face monsters and beasts, as well as Lord Voldemort’s followers, and Voldemort himself. Ultimately, it is up to Harry Potter and his friends to protect the magical realm from Lord Voldemort and his army of dark wizards. Before Harry could even walk, something life-changing happened to him. His father and mother were killed. This traumatic experience leads to the implication of his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
As said in module 49 of our textbook, PTSD is caused by a traumatic experience that leads to a high-stress feeling, the higher the stress, such as Harry’s mother and father being murdered by a dark wizard in front of him when he was only one, the higher risk of posttraumatic symptoms. But, it is further into the movie that the symptoms make their debut. Within the first month of attending Hogwarts, Harry’s roommates acknowledge Harry’s first symptom, recurring bad dreams. As viewers, we get to even experience the dreams themselves including flashes of his mother screaming, Voldemort himself, and a massive burst of green light-all of which hinted at his repressed memory of his parent’s murder. Another recurrent symptom is flashbacks.
When threatened or exposed to related scenarios of his traumatic experience, he would experience a flashback including the same images as in his dreams. Once these recurring symptoms became a consistent part of Harry’s life, it was clear that avoidant behavior/thinking was the next PTSD symptom to occur, Don’t think about that, Harry told himself sternly for the hundredth time when his mother or father would ever pop up in his train of thought. He also experienced symptoms such as feelings such as blame/guilt, trouble remembering critical parts of the trama, angry outbursts, and tension. To diagnose someone with PTSD, they must have At least one re-experienced symptoms: check at least one avoidance symptoms: check, at least two arousal and reactivity problems: check, at least two cognition and mood symptoms: check, and this must go on for at least one month: check. And as if having a mental disorder wasn’t a big enough toll, Hogwarts itself had concepts of social psychology: prejudice.
The tendency of some wizards to place a premium on pure blood (mother and father are both wizards) and treating half-bloods and Muggles (normal human beings) as second-class citizens is an obvious parallel to our own society’s history of prejudice. Some characters, including Draco and Lucius Malfoy, explicitly espouse the superiority of pure blood, but this racist attitude may be the fault of Sirius’s mother who treats these half-bloods and Muggles as second-class. Thus, her prejudice extends to her son. The emphasis on lineage and blood status suggests that Muggles and wizards are parallel to racial groups. The movie makes a strong link between the evil of Voldemort and the Death Eaters and the belief in pure-blood superiority. Throughout the film, all examples of prejudice and discrimination against half-bloods or Muggles are perpetrated by either the Slytherins or Voldemort’s supporters, while each good character, without exception, not only explicitly denounces prejudice against half-bloods but behaves accordingly.
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