‘Harry Potter’ and the Death Penalty

6 04 2011

Audiences at CinemaCon this weekend got a sneak peek of the final Harry Potter installment, and it will definitely be as epic as you’re hoping.  The seventh and final book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” was so dense (US version is 759 pages long) it had to be sectioned into two screenplays.
The first half hit theaters in November and will be released on DVD April 15. 
Part two is due on 2-D and 3-D screens near you this summer, July 15.

Warner Brothers distribution

The story ends for beloved child-heroes Harry, Ron and Hermoine, as “Hallows” chronicles the definitive battle between good and evil.  And the wizarding world will be forever changed.

While the seven volumes of Potter have dealt significantly with the concepts of death, loss, oppression and courage; “Hallows” in particular, although it is said to be one of the shortest screen adaptations, is PG-13 material.  (Part 1 received such a rating because of “intense action violence and frightening images.”)
Unequivocally the most violent addition of the series, audiences will see good-guys like Remus Lupin, Fred Weasley and Nymphodora Tonks die for the cause. Harry too will be hit with the Killing Curse (explained below), but we rightly hold out hope for he who may be the greatest wizard of all time.

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All this anticipated violence and struggle and death… and the film is still expected to take in three to five times it’s production budget. (The lowest grossing Potter flick, “Prisoner of Azkaban,” made a mere $795 million globablly and had a $130 million budget.)
We eat this stuff up!!   It makes me wonder…   If executing prisoners was as easy as it is in the Harry Potter movies, would people be more apt to support it?

The ‘Potter’ saga has introduced audiences to two methods of magic by which a wizard may kill or be killed.

The first, one of three so-called Unforgivable Curses, kills the victim dead.  Avada Kedavra, the killing curse, manifests as a bolt of green light from the wand of the conjurer. Following a reform by the Ministry of Magic in 1717, the consequence of using Avada Kedavra is a life sentence in Azkaban prison– which happens to be guarded by the creatures who are paramount to the second method of execution.

The Killing Curse’s alternative, and arguably the more cruel practice, is the Dementor’s Kiss.  A process by which large, cold, bony, hooded creatures suck out one’s soul. The recipient does not die by Kiss alone, they are merely reduced to an empty shell.  At one point Headmaster Dumbledore refers to the act of having one’s soul sucked out as “a fate worse than death.”

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This is a silly conversation, maybe, but I can’t help but wonder whether people have a bigger problem with the ‘approved’ methods of execution, or the act of taking a life itself.

There are enough people who complain about violence in films, and the $15 billion franchise used in this discussion has not been devoid of controversy, but the so-called anti-Christian concepts and glorification of the occult are what parent groups focus on the most.

Just a few days ago the New York Times featured a story about yet another side to the constitutionality debate of capital punishment.  Something not often considered in the argument is how many people are involved with the prison system and execution process, specifically– people who will join the nation’s 8.8% unemployment rate if and when state’s overturn the ability for corporal sentences.

Many argue that capital punishment only perpetuates the violence so rampant in our culture, to which I must ask: How?  Execution gives us the opportunity to rid your streets of the rapists, murderers and drug-addled thieves who are committing crimes.

I feel as though those complaining about the volumes of human depravity have misplaced anger. People who should be locked up are allowed to get out to steal, rape and assault again.  Prison overcrowding and accelerated release negate any or all efforts at deterrence or rehabilitation.  Why do they get out? Because there are spaces being taken up by inmates who committed even more horrific acts and were told to sit in what is basically ‘time out’ for the rest of their lives.

I’m almost convinced that the ways in which prisoners are executed in the US is what gets people to the other side of the fence. The “Wishful Thinking” side, I call it.  The US has the highest crime rate of any country, and statistically we are fifth on a list comparing countries for volume of individuals executed (China is first).

I’m sure this all sounds very pragmatic and a little calous, but I know I’m not going to change my mind about capital punishment.   If someone raped and murdered my sister, my cousin or friend, there is not a chance in hell I would want the tax dollars of my family or anyone else going toward sustaining the offender’s life. 
You have to take the emotion out of it, right and wrong do not depend on a judge’s mood that day, laws are finite.   If someone gives themself the right to end a life, they’re giving the authorities even more right to take theirs.

What do you think?  Would you be more likely to support a statute for capital offenses and sentences if you knew that the inmate’s eventual demise would be as easy as a twist and flick of the wrist?  No chemicals, no electricity, no chamber, no bullets; Just a will and a wand.

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