This is so sad. I was just flicking channels on TV and came across a show about child prostitution. The reporter had travelled to Romania and was interviewing street kids, asking about them the things they’d done for money, the foreign sex tourists they’d been forced to “service”. It was gut-wrenching to watch.
However, what really moved me was this: to gain their trust, the reporter took some of the children he’d met to the cinema to see Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets. Leaving the building afterwards, one of the kids announced to the camera: “I like Harry Potter.”
“Why?” the reporter asked, smiling.
The little boy looked thoughtful before replying, “Because he’s not afraid.”
Isn’t that heartbreaking?
I think it’s easy to look at something like Harry Potter – or Star Wars, or any huge franchise that’s available around the world – with a purely cynical eye. Yeah, so the publishing houses, film companies or television networks are in it for the money. Yeah, so some of this stuff isn’t as well-made as it could be. Yeah, it’s easy to sit here in the glorious West and think we’re a cut above those poor street kids in Romania who know nothing about what’s “good” popular culture and what’s “bad” popular culture.
Well, we’re not. And sometimes all that matters is that those street kids, and others like them, feel a small glimmer of hope. If Harry can give them that, then I won’t hear a word against JK Rowling, Daniel Radcliffe, Bloomsbury Books or Warner Brothers: in a strange way, they’re performing a desperately needed service. They’re bringing some light into the world.
For me, I love Harry Potter because it’s fun and it’s sassy and it makes me happy. For that boy I saw on TV earlier, Harry represented somebody he could identify with, someone he could aspire to be: a kid taken from a horrible life who becomes a hero.
Let’s hope that kid gets there himself some day.