How Harry Potter Makes You A Better Person

Source: Imago

Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley were probably the greatest heroes of my childhood and teenager years. The movie „Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone“ (2001) was one of my first cinema experiences as a little 6-year old (at the time I was too young to read it, but I made up for that later). And from this moment on until the latest play script „Harry Potter and the Cursed Child“ that was released in 2016, I have never missed a single book or film that came out. I grew up with Harry and his friends, watching and reading about them saving humanity and the wizarding world several times, and making the world a better place.

It also had a huge impact on my personality. I found out recently that reading and watching Harry Potter as a child and teenager might have actually made me (and many other people) a better person. He might have been the reason for me being more tolerant and open towards minorities and stigmatised groups, such as immigrants, refugees and homosexuals.

How is that?

There has been a study by Loris Vezzali, Sofia Stathi, Dino Giovannini, Dora Capozza and Elena Trifiletti, published in 2015 in the Journal of Applied Social Psychologythat asked: „Can the novels of Harry Potter can be used as a tool for improving attitudes toward stigmatised groups?“ – and the answer is: YES, they can!

According to the study, reading Harry Potter novels can not only „lead to educational benefits, such as improved reading ability, reading engagement, and literacy development“, but also reduce prejudice by adressing issues such as culture, society, social inequalities, opposing identities and conflict (Vezzali et al. 2015). 

Now, this actually makes sense if you think about it: Harry Potter always takes the side of the weak. He sympathizes with mudbloods (witches and wizards without a magical family background, which his best friend Hermione happens to be), where others discriminate against them; he helps his classmate Neville, who gets bullied for being clumsy and forgetful; and he also has empathy for Dobby, who is seen and treated as a slave by many others.

So in this sense, the author J.K. Rowling encourages her readers to do the same: Stand up for your friends, for minorities, for outsiders, and be tolerant!

In my opinion, this is a really important message. Especially these days, where a person like Donald Trump becomes president of the United States and excludes Muslim Americans from their own country, or where right-wing parties like the AfD, whose party leader Frauke Petry wants to shoot refugees at the border, get more and more popular in Germany.

I hope that children, teenagers and adults all over the world get to read and watch the Harry Potter books and films, and learn from them to stand up against discrimination and prejudice. Especially if this means reducing the number of supporters for intolerant and racist people like Trump and Petry, and spreading tolerance and solidarity instead.

„Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.“ – Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
(c) Warner Bros.
Vezzali, L., Stathi, S., Giovannini, D., Capozza, D., Trifiletti, E. (2015). The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing prejudice. Journal of Applied Social Psychology Volume 45 (2), 105–121.

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