When I received Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (first American print edition, I might add) for my Bat Mitzvah in January 1999, I’ll admit I was skeptical. This was my Bat Mitzvah! Where was my tree in Israel or my Jewish Book of Why? A wonderful family in my synagogue gave me this book with a note saying they all loved it. It took me a while to come around, but I’ll always take a book recommendation. And when I finally read it, I was hooked.
So it was no surprise to anyone that I bought tickets to the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. At 10pm, I left my apartment to stand in line with my wizard hat atop my head. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
At 13, I thought the books were entertaining and fairly well-written. The traditional clash between good and evil was strong, along with social commentary on prejudice against those who are different (I speak mainly of the Mudbloods).
But it was only after this last movie that I walked out of the theater with a feeling of anxiety. Why is Draco Malfoy so freaking scary? Every time he appeared on the scene, a feeling of doom washed over me. This blond haired boy in a striking black suit scared the crap out of me! Is this just great acting?
Walking out of the theater, I had a thought: he looks like he could be cast as a young Nazi in any given Holocaust film. The tall, trim, almost white-blond haired actor Tom Felton strikes fear in my heart. If I saw him on the street, I would want to run screaming in the other direction. He looks like a Hitler Youth – or, at least what I imagine one would look like.
J.K. Rowling clearly went out of her way in her novels to add diversity to the wizarding world. There is Cho Chang, of Asian descent and the Patel twins, beautiful Indian girls. There’s Seamus Finnigan – clearly Irish – and Dean Thomas, depicted in the movies as Black. With this array of characters, the one that visually stands out the most as a misfit is Malfoy. He is blonder than any of the other blonds, and his skin appears as if it’s never seen the light of day. His father’s long, silvery-blond hair is only made more alarming in combination with his ice-blue eyes. And is it any coincidence that the Malfoy family are the greatest villains in the book (well, greatest only second to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named)?
The Malfoys are determined to rid the wizarding world of mixed blood wizards as well as Muggle-borns. They pride themselves on being “pure blood” through and through. But did they have to be tall, super blond, pale skinned and blue-eyed? Do these features frighten the rest of the audience as much as they frighten me? And as a short, dark skinned/haired/eyed Jewish girl, I will admit: these features alone make me squirm! Forget about the vileness of the characters!
If the the filmmakers wanted me to crawl into fetal position when Draco Malfoy graced the scene, then bravo! But does anybody else get this allusion? And I wonder: what does this say about me, that physical features so different from my own make me squeamish?
What do you think? Malfoys = Nazis and Voldemort = Hitler? Or have I just been reviewing too much Holocaust literature in preparation for the Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival on October 18-28, 2009 (shameless plug).