Harry Potter taught us not to ignore bullying and hope the situation would take care of itself, but to stand up to bullies and defend ourselves.
As part of the celebration for the 20th anniversary of the beginning of Harry Potter, Pottermore recently ran a piece of the impact of bullying in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on readers.
For most children, acceptance is everything. As teenagers, becoming a member of the popular crowd is a big deal that is only emphasized by numerous teen dramas. Often, the acceptance received earlier in life has an impact on one’s mentality as an adult.
So when someone is excluded and bullied, it hurts all the more.
According to DoSomething.org, 17 percent of American students have reported instances of bullying at least two or three times a month, or over the course of a semester. And you’re hard-pressed to find an adult who did not experience some form of bullying in school and pushed the traumatic memories to the back of their minds.
Unfortunately, in cases of bullying, the most common response is for parents to tell their kids to “ignore the bully, and he’ll go away.” J.K. Rowling, on the other hand, had a different mentality in the “Harry Potter” series, showing that it’s not always that easy.
Malfoys and bullying
Draco Malfoy, the childhood bully of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom, is a constant presence throughout the series. Severus Snape, who bullied Harry, Hermione and Neville, is declared a hero at the end. Lucius Malfoy taunts Arthur Weasley and his family. Even James Potter was shown as a bully before he matured. Dolores Umbridge, the biggest bully of them all besides Voldemort, causes Harry to draw his own blood by marking his sins.
These are only some of the many instances of bullying highlighted in the series. Luna Lovegood is also the victim of bullying. Particularly when her shoes are stolen simply because people think she is “weird”. Instead of wanting to admit to herself that her classmates have stolen her shoes, an earring, a pair of stripey socks, a school cloak, a purple quill, a pair of school shoes, a ‘Bubble Bow Booster’ kit still in the wrapper, two books and a bottle of ink, she pretends it is the work of mischievous Nargles.
Ron Weasley is bullied not only by Draco and Lucius, but also by a handful of others because of his family’s poor means. Remus Lupin, having been a werewolf since he was five, is also not immune to peoples’ cruelty.
DoSomething states that 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4 percent of the time. Or, if your name is Severus Snape, engage in it.
The occurrence of bullying
Although bullying is a constant, dreaded occurrence in most children’s lives, it doesn’t have to define them. Pottermore points out the main reason bullying happens is because the people doing the bullying are jealous. Particularly in the example of the Dursleys and their lifelong abuse of Harry.
Pottermore says that Neville’s bullying experiences tell readers to not to stand by as someone is bullied. Which is all too often the first instinct. “Maybe if I ignore the situation, it will go away”, is the mentality. “It’s not my problem”, we tell ourselves.
"“Reaching out to someone who’s being bullied won’t make their problems disappear, but it can help undo the damage to their confidence. A few words of support and a Chocolate Frog go a long way.”"
Although it is doubtful that Luna’s confidence suffered any damage when her items were stolen. It can be inferred that she was nonetheless appreciative that Harry reached out to her and became her friend.
Most importantly, as Neville showed:
"“Compassion is all too often misunderstood as weakness. It takes real strength and courage to stay true to yourself and to support those in need. Real cowards are the ones who group together to pick on others.”"
As the Rugrats gang taught us by standing up to vicious Angelica Pickles, bullying doesn’t have to win. Thank you, Harry Potter, for driving that home.
"“The Dursleys do whatever they can to suppress Harry’s spirit, but they can’t break him. Harry has a bright future ahead and won’t be stopped by horrible, petty people. Besides, if the Dursleys were ‘normal’, who’d want to be normal anyway?”"
After all, ‘normal’ is overrated.