Harry Potter’s window on our world

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emily Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman; Directed by David Yates

Rating: A consistently fun, bewitching franchise that gets darker and more mature with each installment — and it still mirrors things going on in the world of us Muggles.

The wizards of the Harry Potter world seem to exist in our reality while also existing in some alternate reality that only they can see. That seems a tad unfair — Harry and his ilk get to live in two worlds at once while we are limited to one.

But on closer inspection, Harry’s world is (unfortunately?) really not that much unlike our own. If we human Muggles were to stand in Harry’s world and look around, we would likely see many reminders of things happening in our own.

However, as the Harry Potter movies demonstrate, intermingling our two realities can be fraught with peril. Nevertheless, at the risk of encountering that peril, here is a list of how the world of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince intermingle with those of our Muggle world. (Warning! The following contains spoilers.):

Movie: Real World:
Harry has been traumatized by his encounter with Lord Voldemont at the end of the previous film and is reluctant to return to Hogwarts, but Dumbledore talks him into returning. See, e.g., the mental and emotional trauma of returning Iraq War veterans and the help they are encouraged to get from mental health professionals.
Ominous storm clouds appear over London and the Millennium Bridge is destroyed. See, e.g., the havoc likely to be produced by unchecked climate change.
The Death Eaters kidnap a wizard and destroy his magic shop. See, e.g., the recent terrorist bombing at the Marriott Hotel in Indonesia.
Harry, Ron and Hermione secretly spy on fellow student Draco Malfoy as he enters a wizard shop and see him take part in a mysterious Death Eaters’ ritual. See, e.g., domestic surveillance.
At Hogwarts, the students’ luggage is searched as part of tight security to prevent the Death Eaters from entering the school. See, e.g., TSA airport security.
Ron is a goalie on the Quidditch team and catches the eye of a female student whose affections he indulges, which creates jealously in Hermione. See, e.g., South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Nevada Sen. John Ensign.
Professor McGonagall encourages Harry and Ron to take potions class because the new teacher, Professor Horace Slughorn, has low standards. See, e.g., the efforts by some schools to help the students succeed so as not to get a low rating under the “No Child Left Behind” program.
Harry comes into the possession of a potions textbook with notes written in the margins and annotations that, when followed, give him an advantage in class. See, e.g., the Bush administration’s legal memos providing notes in the margins and annotations of the law allowing secret domestic surveillance and the use of torture.
Dumbledore urges Harry to “get close” to and confide in Professor Slughorn, as he may reveal some secret to Harry. As Harry gets close, it’s clear that Slughorn does, indeed, have a “special” secret — and an affinity for some students. See, e.g., the “special” attention that UNC drama Professor Vance Fulkerson showed to some of his students.
Ron eats some chocolates that contain a love potion and he becomes head-over-heels infatuated with an unseen female student. See, e.g., South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
Dumbledore shows Harry some memories of Slughorn and the young Lord Voldemont (Tom Riddle), but a critical memory has been tampered with. See, e.g., the Bush-Cheney administration’s legal memos.
The Tom Riddle memory also indicates that Lord Voldemont, in violation of the rules, entered a restricted area of the library and learned of some powerful, restricted magic. See, e.g., the powerfully mysterious magic of economic instruments restricted to the rich and powerful, such as “credit default swaps,” “collateralized debt obligations” and “derivatives.”
Professor Severus Snape enters into an “unbreakable vow” with Draco’s mother, assuring her that he will protect her son and complete a task assigned to Draco should Draco fail. See, e.g., the financial “pact” by Sen. John Ensign’s parents to help out his mistress and her husband. See also the GOP leadership’s promise to block health care reform and Cap and Trade climate change legislation.
A number of seemingly innocuous objects (a necklace, a bottle of wine) are used as weapons to try to kill Dumbledore. See, e.g., cell phones, BlackBerries, iPhones — seemingly innocuous objects that can kill and maim when used by people while driving.
Draco sneaks around Hogwarts and finds a mysterious cabinet in a storage room — a cabinet that is a “transporter” linked to other similar cabinets. See, e.g., the Cap-and-Trade concept for controlling global warming gasses whereby pollution credits can be traded on a “magical cabinet” like market.
Harry develops an infatuation with Ron’s sister, Ginny Weasley, but Ron finds ways to keep them apart. See, e.g., wives Jenny Sanford and Darlene Ensign.
Harry and his friends think Harry’s annotated potions textbook is a source of evil, so they urge him to get rid of it by hiding it in a storage room. See, e.g., Vice President Cheney’s efforts to conceal information about a covert counterterrorism program.
Harry uses a potion to extract Slughorn’s true memory involving Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemont. See, e.g., the techniques used to extract “truthful” information from Gitmo detainees. See, also, the GOP’s efforts to extract the “true” legal philosophy of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
The true memory reveals that Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemont learned about a process to secure immortality through devices (called Horcruxes) that store a portion of a person’s soul. The process involves killing people. See, e.g., Goldman Sachs’ ability to remain immortal and vibrant after every economic “death.”
Harry and Dumbledore go searching for the Horcruxes and find one in a cave near a seacoast. Dumbledore has to excavate rocks to get to the cave. See, e.g., Mining Law reform
Dumbledore must have Harry make him drink some mysterious liquid to uncover the Horcrux in the cave. See, e.g., the mysterious hydraulic “frac’ing” fluid that is used by drillers to uncover the riches of natural gas.
Dumbledore and Harry are swarmed by demonlike zombies while in the cave. See, e.g., the alleged swarms of Iranian voters who flooded ballot boxes to vote for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Draco attempts to kill Dumbledore, but finds that he cannot. See, e.g., the inability of the GOP to utter any “deadly” comments directed at Sarah Palin after she announced she was quitting as governor of Alaska.
Snape asserts that he is the Half-Blood Prince — the author of the annotated version of the potions textbook — and kills Dumbledore. See, e.g., Ward Churchill.
Harry discovers that the Horcux that he and Dumbledore took from the cave is fake as someone with the initials R.A.B. got there before them. Harry vows to find this person and track down all other Horcruxes. See, e.g., the recent cyberattacks and the difficulty of tracking down where they came from and how to stop them and eliminate their powerful ability to affect our world.


Doug Young is The Statesman’s outstanding film critic. He works for Sen. Mark Udall. In 2008, he won first prize for humorous writing in the Colorado Press Association’s annual contest, where he received a 100 percent score for his film reviews.