Bewitched came in second place behind Batman Begins ("Why was Batman so scary?" I heard a child ask after watching) in its opening weekend, proof positive that men in pointy headgear always beat out an emaciated Aussie and her hopelessly mugging sidekick. But it still came in second place, and not a far second at that.
For those of you who don't know me too well, I have worked at the same movie theater (minus 370 days) for 5 years. I'm by no means overly proud of this accomplishment, in fact I'm downright shamed by it (watching the years tick by), but I've become so integrated in its operations that I've noted interesting things that the outside world does when it comes to see movies. I've seen picketers outside of the Harry Potter movies (opening weekend only), I've seen hordes of children being led in by their pastor to see The Passion of the Christ, and I've seen husbands and wives take their entire families (children and grandparents included) to see cinematic masterpieces such as House of 1,000 Corpses, Dawn of the Dead (the remake), and Hannibal. I wish I could apologize to them, if anything, for how bad Hannibal was. But let's focus on Harry Potter.
The debate by Christian fundamentalists around the world has been well documented by now, and I'll try not to go too far into it. The problem is that I can see their point, and would agree with it if it weren't totally unfounded. They fear the "ever-imminent" domination of pagan religions (witchcraft or wicca, in this case) over the once all-powerful Judeo-Christian denomination of worldly religions.
I find a couple problems with their offensive strategy--first, I had no idea that witchcraft on the level of explosive spells and reality-bending theatrics presented as wizardry in the J.K. Rowling's books was on the rise around the world. I would have thought that we would have heard more instances on the news about people being ballooned and found floating above their neighborhoods after being cited as UFOs, or whiny fat kids suddenly being found with curly pig's tails coming out of their rear ends. I also haven't heard of a recent flooding of flightpaths above major cities with gangs of kids on airbound brooms delighting in the fact that they're halting the transitory needs of "muggles" through their insolence. I wasn't aware that this was even a burgeoning problem much less the rampant threat that many consider it to be.
Secondly, that the opposition to the Boy Who Survived is openly acknowledging witchcraft to be a threat to traditional Christian values cheapens the very values they're defending. Why? Up until the whole Harry Potter controversy I don't think there were very many people (and there probably still aren't many) who thought of Wicca as a viable and valid religion. The Christian tirade against pagan beliefs only strengthens pagan practices in the eyes of everybody looking on who never gave them a second glance before.
Christians believe (as it may very well be true, I'm not here to make this assertion) that their god is the one and only god, all others are false and not real, being merely constructs of the imagination (insert biblical notation). If that's true, and for the moment let's assume that it is, then why do they fear Harry Potter and Wicca if we are positive and confident in the existence of the one and only God? I guess it has to do with that "worshipping of false idols"-thing (insert biblical notation here). Why do they fear Wicca? If they know that any other religion is not real, and therefore is no threat, the worst that can happen is that (hopefully) people will recognize their folly and go, "Woah, I hope nobody saw me doing that!"and go back to the "true" religion. It shouldn't be that difficult to show those who've strayed from the narrow path the true way. No harm, no foul, right? Is this wiccan offensive just an empty threat, then? Or is it some bizarre paradox of the fundamentalist war on everything?
Keep your children away from Harry Potter, for he is a tousle-haired Devil-worshipper.
It's kind of a "Don't respond to Billy's tantrums, you'll just encourage him" mentality that the Christian militia seems to be missing.
Anyway, with the wild success of Bewitched this weekend I was surprised to see absolutely no throngs of people surrounding our box office with tall signs with scribbled stick figures of Samantha being burned at the stake. Where were the concerned housewives that cared deeply about their children's souls? I believe I saw a good chunk of them taking their kids to see the film, that's where.
The fate of Wicca-Christian relations lies in the hands of nostalgia, I think, for that is why we see no opposition to Bewitched. If these parents had been raised with Harry Potter they would be first in line to buy tickets for the upcoming movie (the rhymingly titled Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). How much difference is there between the two, anyway? Both must hide their powers from the greater non-magical world, only letting those very close to them in on how much pull they have on the forces of the natural world. I might be reaching, but I think the parallel could be made.
So, there you go. Harry Potter, a boy who's life is chronicled with strong storytelling and compelling characterization, living in a world full of literary innuendo that would indubitably drive the most curious young reader to the classics of Ancient cultures and learn not only about the history and mythology that made the cultures of the world, but also about modern society and its downfalls and successes, will lead all of today's youth from the path of Christianity to the world of witchcraft. But Bewitched's Samantha, whose open and ready manipulation of the people and objects around her, with no remorse shown for its consequences, provides nothing but comfort for the viewer who looks forward to seeing Darrin falling down again because of her wiles. Good times, good times. Just wholesome, family entertainment.