I went home to Alabama this weekend, and I found myself watching a lot of Harry Potter. In fact, I think I saw all or part of every Harry Potter movie with the exception of the first one. They are really great movies, and I remain astounded by the brilliance of J.K. Rowling’s masterful series. And yet, having seen the movies dozens of times now, I’ve started noticing a few things that, in the immortal words of Arsenio Hall, make me go hmmmmm. For instance,
Why do the wizards act like they know absolutely nothing about muggle life?
It’s a reoccurring joke in the series. Hermione or Harry mention something related to the muggle world, and all the other wizards look at them like they are crazy. We see this most prominently in the fifth movie when Harry and Mr. Weasley travel through the subway system to the Ministry of Magic, but it happens all the time. No one knows what a dentist is. They’ve never heard of cappuccino. You’d think they knew nothing about muggles at all.
What is this magical contraption!?!
But we know that’s not true. Mr. Weasley is a muggle expert. They have a class called muggle studies. But it goes beyond that. Unless wizard and human society developed—magically, as it were—along the same track, at some point in the past wizards were far more integrated. They have trains. They have quills and books. They build with brick and mortar and glass. They divide themselves along the same geopolitical lines (Ireland plays Bulgaria in the Quidditch World Cup). It makes you think that sometime around the turn of the century, there was a break between the muggle and human worlds. The wizards are now stuck with whatever technology they had at the time. I suppose that is not surprising. When you have magic, you don’t have much of an incentive to develop new technology. But man, wouldn’t it have been nice to have Google when they were trying to figure out who Nicholas Flamel was in The Sorceror’s Stone?
Doesn’t the Snitch completely ruin Quidditch?
Quidditch is a pretty cool game. You get to fly around on broomsticks. It has the best parts of football, basketball, soccer, and hockey. It’s exciting. It’s violent. People die. Pretty much everything you need in a great sport. But then there’s the snitch.
Capturing the snitch ends a match of Quidditch. That in of itself isn’t so bad. I can imagine the strategy. You’re down a goal. The snitch is in sight, but you have to let it go because you don’t want the game to end. But here’s the problem—getting the snitch also earns you 150 points. That’s the equivalent of 15 goals in a sport where goals don’t come that easy.
The disparity between catching the snitch and virtually anything else you can do in Quidditch is so dramatic that I can’t imagine it wouldn’t quintessentially affect the game. For instance, why have one seeker? Take some of the other offensive guys and send them after the snitch. Have all your offensive players go after the snitch.
Now, I am sure somebody is going to say that only the seeker can touch the snitch. OK, that gets rid of one issue, but it brings up another. Quidditch would turn into basketball, pre-shot clock.
The smart thing for both teams to do is hold on to the ball for as long as you can, keep the score low, and wait for the seeker to get the snitch. That’s particularly true if you have a decent seeker. And that means that no position in any sport—not QB, not point guard, not goalie, not pitcher—would be as important as the seeker. Basically, you might as well put two seekers out there and just let them go at it. Quidditch would go from football to tennis in the space of a generation.
And a bunch of other random stuff?
I’m getting long winded here, so let’s hit the highpoints.
If avada kedavra is unblockable and deadly, why do the bad wizards ever use anything else? Why stun when you can kill? Even Voldemort fails to use the killing curse the one time it could have saved his life—against Snape in the last book. (Though let me say, the fact that in the Harry Potter Universe abracadabra is a muggle mistranslation of avada kedavra is brilliant. Of course the only curse we would have heard of is the most infamous one, and we turned it into a saying to delight children.)
Why don’t they use magic more? Harry has glasses. Why not just use magic to fix his eyes?
Isn’t their education woefully underdeveloped? Do they learn math? Science? History?
Where are the American wizards? Surely we have just as many as England, and does anyone really think we’d stand by and let Voldemort come to power without sending in the wizard Marines?
Questions to think about my friends. Questions to think about . . .