Harry Potter, in fact, functions something like a Rorschach Blot: In countries around the world, it captures various national anxieties about contemporary culture and international affairs. French intellectuals, for example, debate whether or not Harry Potter indoctrinates youngsters into the orthodoxy of unfettered market capitalism [!]. Some Swedish commentators decry what they perceive as Harry Potter’s Anglo-American vision of bourgeoisie conformity and its affirmation of class and gender inequality. In Turkey, we find a significant discussion of Harry Potter that pivots around issues of Turkish civilizational identity: whether Turkey is part of the West, the East, or a bridge between the two. A few Turkish writers have even asserted that controversies over Harry Potter in the United States demonstrate how Turks are more “Western” than Americans. And in Russia, a country whose concern over international status and prestige becomes more apparent each day, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta created a minor firestorm when it claimed that the film visage of Dobby the House-Elf was a deliberate insult to President Vladimir Putin [bold mine-DL]. ~Daniel Nexon
What is the strange obsession that people have with imputing grandiose cultural significance to the Harry Potter books and films or the popularity of Harry Potter? Why must everyone constantly be looking for clues as to its political message, or seeking some lesson of political morality from a tale of battling wizards?
If you look very closely, and really try to see the resemblance, I suppose you can see one, but then you would have to be extremely anxious to find negative portrayals of Putin in a story about adolescent wizards. What does it say of your own view of the Russian President that you see a similarity between him and an imbecilic, droopy-eyed elf?
Does it actually make any sense to be offended by this? Granted, the character in question is a slave and not terribly bright, but he does come across as genuinely good and as someone interested in helping the hero with various (admittedly dimwitted) stunts. To put it mildly, this is not how Putin’s critics view the man. On the contrary, his critics concede that he is smart, shrewd and ruthless, but they also regard him as utterly villainous–more Draco than Dobby, to say the least. For Putin to resemble a character who hates his Death-Eating master is actually a kind of compliment to Putin (the realisation of which will probably lead to a flurry of anti-Potter articles as subtle pro-Putin propaganda). At the rate these ridiculously politicised readings of Potter are going, we will shortly hear from the Kremlin’s answer to Michael Gerson, Vladislav Surkov, who will assure us that the Order of the Phoenix is actually just a proxy for Boris Berezovsky’s seditious efforts against the Russian government and the depiction of the Ministry of Magic is designed to make Russians lose faith in their government as part of Britain’s grand conspiracy to subvert Russia from within by way of the Potter movie franchise. Enough is enough.