Which is why we love talking about how pants-crappingly terrifying that whole universe is. For instance ...
#6. The People in Paintings Are Alive
In the Harry Potter universe, the people in photographs and paintings can move and talk. But its not like they're just video clips of the person -- hell, we could do that. You actually see characters interacting with the "people" in the pictures, particularly in the portraits that hang all over Hogwarts School -- several major plot points revolve around it. The people in the paintings are able to talk, think and even travel to other paintings. They relay information that no one else has.
And as such, some portrait subjects serve as security guards for locked rooms, while others are used as errand boys to deliver urgent messages (they can travel to any room that also has a painting). And, even weirder, these aren't entirely fictional creations dreamed up by some artist, like if somebody made a Mickey Mouse with computerized AI or something -- these are paintings of real people, long-dead former headmasters and such. They possess all of the personality and (presumably) memories of their living selves.
The Horrific Implications:
Apparently, in the wizard world, if you paint a picture of a dead person, presumably with some magic paint or the right enchantment, their memories and the essence of their personality will be on canvas. Forever. For example, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, former Slytherin headmaster Phineas Nigellus Black is forced to take orders from his philosophical enemy and student Hermione Granger -- and he is pissed off about it.
Who cares, right? Well, what's stopping that situation from being reversed -- if, after Hermione dies, she gets painted into a portrait and is forced to help some future generation of evil wizard Nazis?
Especially if getting attacked and slashed up is just considered property damage.
That brings us to our second point. Not every magical portrait is going to be of a Dumbledore or a comic-relief character like the Fat Lady at the entrance to Gryffindor Tower. What if some idiot paints a picture of Voldemort? Will it carry all of his evil genius and scheming? Is He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and also Has-an-Abortion-for-a-Soul going to be able to help plan the next Event-That-Would-Be-Awful? Somebody in Potterland didn't think this through. The guy has already proven he can carry out most of his plans without the benefit of a body -- Voldemort didn't even have one for the first half of the series.
It's not all that hard to create a magical portrait, after all. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Draco shits out a quick sketch of Harry getting hit in the head with a ball and then getting struck by lightning.
Maybe this sketch was infused with just enough magic to make it crudely animate, but we already know that more is possible. So what's to stop some Harry Potter enemy from making a painting version of that, just so he has a sentient Potter copy to torture? It'd be a two-dimensional Harry Potter who can think and feel, but who is painted into a situation where he's having angry dicks slapped on his face ... forever.
#5. Technology Is Frozen Forever
The first difference you notice between the wizard world and ours, other than the presence of wizards, is that their society seems to exist in a time warp.
When Harry discovers he's a wizard, he is whisked away from his big, mean "muggle" family and their modern suburban home into a world replete with bygone wonders from a quaint and magical yesteryear. Gone is the cold and impersonal culture of electronic gizmos and instant-gratification telecommunication; now he will be receiving his mail by "owl post" and writing his papers with quill and parchment. His school is a medieval castle.
That's part of the fun, of course. There's enough charm and quaintness to give quaint-and-charming poisoning to some of this world's larger elephants.
The Horrific Implications:
The world isn't kind to people who don't keep up with the times. Film and camera maker Kodak just went bankrupt because they couldn't adapt to a world of digital cameras. The American South crumpled after the Civil War because it wasn't prepared for a slave-free economy. Swarms of charging soldiers were mowed down in World War I because they weren't ready for the machine gun. And we'll stop there, as the examples only get uglier (no reason to start using the word "genocide" in a Harry Potter article, really).
Now think of the disadvantages wizards have thanks to their adorably backward ways. Like the thing with owls carrying their mail -- it's an obviously slow, impractical and not-secure method of correspondence. What's stopping them from adopting the telephone? You know, in the way that at some point they adopted the use of eyeglasses to correct their vision.
Non-wizards have had phones for 136 years! Fax machines have existed for more than a century. Yet wizards don't just reject the use of technology -- they're literally unaware that it exists. Arthur Weasley, a wizard who devotes his career to the study of non-wizard technology, is still trying to get his head around "the purpose of the rubber duck."
All of this would be fine if these were just quirky differences, the wizards embracing the old ways at the cost of some inconvenience and the inability to enjoy videos of cats wrestling their shadows. But it's not. What if the next He-Who-Is-Evil-and-Shit gets hold of some muggle weapons of mass destruction? The best wizards couldn't hold his badness back when it was just a magic-on-magic duel -- think about how awful things could have gotten if Voldemort ever found out that muggles are capable of wiping out half a city with non-magic so awful it will deform your descendents for generations to come.
While wizards just have disfiguring furry fantasies.
And no, they won't just use magic to stop it, because they won't know what they're looking at. Wizards are shown not knowing what a cappuccino is; they're not going to understand what they need to do against a suitcase nuke. And don't say that non-magical weapons wouldn't work on wizards -- they have normal, human bodies that sustain injuries just like anybody else's. You could bash a wizard's head in with a rock if she didn't get her rock-stopping spell cast in time. What works with rocks would work better with bullets, or bombs.
And we're guessing no one, not even Dumbledore, has invented a don't-nuclear-bomb-us spell, much less a keep-cancer-off-our-babies spell. The entire wizard world is a sitting duck, and they can't even warn the higher-ups of the danger without a damned owl.
#4. A Magical Education Is Hardly an Education
Students at Hogwarts are offered a huge variety of classes. We've seen them taking Charms, Transfiguration, Potions ... for some reason Divination and Astrology are two different classes ... there's even some mention of "Arithmancy," which, as a cursory Google search reveals, is some kind of numbers-based divination.
Of every class mentioned in Harry Potter, the only ones of strictly academic value appear to be History of Magic and an optional class called Muggle Studies. At no point do we get the sense that wizardly high school graduates can perform long division, find Vietnam on a map or discuss themes of coming of age in The Catcher in the Rye. What are they learning? They're learning how to turn rats into teacups.
At the end of the day, Hogwarts is a magic school, and the kids who go there are learning magic ... and that's about it.
The Horrific Implications:
Don't get us wrong, magic eliminates the need for a lot of classes -- if Hogwarts students have the ability to instantly teleport, they don't need to learn to drive a car any more than our students need to know how to ride horses. But what about math, or grammar, or freaking sex education? Or any form of biology? This is a world where nobody seems to learn the scientific method -- every problem is either solved by a spell or not solved at all, because problem solving is not a skill that is valued enough to be taught.
We do know they have hospitals -- but only for the magically infirm, which makes us think that Harry Potter's world is one where no one understands the human body or how it functions, because they've never had to learn. No one knows the mathematics behind building houses, because math isn't a thing.
You could argue that the wizard world gets along just fine without this knowledge base, since they seem to live comfortably and magic clearly picks up the slack for whatever they don't know. But that's actually shown to not be true, because as we've seen ...
#3. There Are No Career Options
In the books and movies, every job in the wizard world looks like fun. There are the Aurors (the awesome wizard police who track down dark wizards), the teachers at the school, the owners of the wacky shops in Diagon Alley and the people who work for the Ministry of Magic.
And, um ...
The Horrific Implications:
Yeah, there appear to only be like five careers in the wizard world. When questioned about his aspirations after graduation, Harry's response amounts to a big shrug and contains the word "maybe": "'Well, I thought of, maybe, being an Auror,' Harry mumbled." You can understand his reaction -- the career options available to wizard graduates aren't exactly giving them the world on a silver platter.
Remember, you have to get a magic-related job -- you can't just take a job at some muggle business, since the school system hasn't even taught you enough to work fast food or operate a photocopier in an office. So every career that Harry knew from non-wizard society is pretty much out of the question: engineer, architect, doctor, data processor, plumber, telemarketer, etc. And no, there are no equivalent jobs in the wizard world. Why would they need them?
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, muggle-born Hermione explains that her parents are dentists to a room full of people who have no idea what dentists are (because wizards magic their teeth into perfection every day). Likewise, their world needs no carpenters or painters -- in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, some wizards accidentally destroy a wall in a muggle's home and repair it with a flick of the wand -- brick, plaster, paint, all in an instant. Hell, even the reporter in the series has a magical quill that automatically creates prose for her articles. You can't even get a job working in wizard finance -- a race of goblins owns the entire banking system.
It's probably a horrible racist metaphor.
So, yeah, we hope they like teaching or working in civil service, or can get a job working in one of the magic stores that exist in the only two all-wizard neighborhoods in England.
#2. Harry's Magical Map, and Magical Invasion of Privacy
The Marauder's Map is an enchanted map of Hogwarts, one that shows every inch of the castle and surrounding grounds. If that sounds just like a regular map, the "magical" part is that you can see where everyone is at all times, since all the people on campus are marked with black footprints with their name under them.
It's a hugely valuable object for a young hero who doesn't play by anyone's rules (the main purpose of the map was to let Harry run around on school grounds while avoiding teachers or bad guys). And some of the potential for abuse was mentioned in the movies -- a teacher does angrily ask Harry if he's considered what the villains could do with such a map, since it would tell them where all of the security is.
"Does it need to make a note every time he pops a boner? That seems ... terrible."
But that's just the beginning.
The Horrific Implications:
You already have thought of the invasion of privacy the map entails. It doesn't tell you what the people are doing, but you can pretty much guess. If the two feet are standing with their heels to the toilet, that person is probably taking a dump. There's even an Easter egg at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban where two students are clearly fucking in the corner:
At the beginning of the story, the owners of the map were Fred and George Weasley, the brothers of Harry's best friend, Ron. They had the thing for years, which means that they had to overlook some serious shit, such as their little brother's love affair with a middle-aged man.
In the third book, we discover that an evil wizard named Peter Pettigrew has been in disguise as Ron's rat, Scabbers, for 12 years. We discover this because Harry saw Pettigrew's name show up when he had the map in his possession, despite Pettigrew's disguise as a rodent. So even though Ron thought he was just sleeping with his pet rat, Fred and George saw Ron bedding some guy named Peter every single night.
Oh, and even better: Scabbers was once their older brother Percy's pet until he gave it to Ron. So from Fred and George's perspective, Ron inherited Percy's lover.
But really, all of this just leads us to a larger point ...
#1. In the Wizard World, Nothing Is Private; No One Is Safe
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, HP receives an ominous letter from someone at the Ministry of Magic:
"Dear Mr. Potter, We have received intelligence that a Hover Charm was used at your place of residence this evening at 12 minutes past nine."
Boom! Busted! Harry, as an underage wizard, is not supposed to be using magic outside of his school, and so the Ministry of Magic wanted to make damn sure he knew that they had their eye on him, thanks to their ability to invisibly monitor everything he does, 24 hours a day. Job done, Ministry of Magic. Job done.
Sure, it was all a misunderstanding that got cleared up later, but it's nice to know they're keeping such a close eye.
The Horrific Implications:
The magic that lets them spy on you, invisibly and completely undetected, is available to everyone, at all times. A read through the series reveals at least one new way to go undercover per book: invisibility cloaks, potions that will let a stranger perfectly imitate your friend or family (or your pet, or any passing animal), mind control that will take over your best friend and force him to relay back what he hears.
And all of these techniques are being used by children, and used with resounding success against the finest minds of the magical government. The Imperius Curse, for example, is the Jedi mind trick of wizard-land. It's illegal, sure, but by Deathly Hallows, a teenage Harry and the gang are using it to break into a bank. In other words, they have rules against using these spells, but no magical protection against them -- and the rules only matter if you get caught.
And technically there's no rules against using them on spiders, which is a ... comfort?
And you won't get caught, because a simple spell will wipe their memory of the event or, far more terrifying, create false memories. Hermione Granger uses one of these to convince her own parents that she never existed, instantly rewriting 17 years of memories in their minds with a squirt of wand magic.
Think about that. Imagine living in a world where anybody, from con artist to salesman to spiteful co-worker, can do that to you without your knowledge. It's amazing to consider that there may be a wizard in the Potterverse who is still capable of trusting another living creature.
You know how you just assume that 80 percent of your email is going to be spam, and as a result basically don't trust any offer that lands in your inbox? Now imagine a world where every conversation with your best friend could be a ploy -- it might not really be him, he might not be in his right mind, it might be a magically induced hallucination. Hell, the entire existence of your friend could be a falsely implanted memory.
Not even your own feelings or instincts can guide you -- at any moment, you can be manipulated to see or feel things against your will (see: the date rape love potions we discussed in this article, which are sold over the counter). You can trust absolutely no one, at any time. Not even yourself or your own perceptions.
We're not saying we wouldn't want to run off and live in the wizard world if given the chance. We're just saying that it would be a never-ending twisted hell of despair and madness.
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