So it's been more than a little while since I last posted about my favorite series in the entire world. But I read this interesting piece on Harry Potter. It's fairly short, so you should click through and read the whole thing, but the part that really made me think was this:
The biggest problem begins with that obnoxious Sorting Hat. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that every last one of the major heroic characters gets sorted into Gryffindor, the “brave” house. Nearly all of the villains get sorted into Slytherin, the “ambition” house.
Already you’ll notice that things are getting a little bit vague, as “ambition” is a substantially more nebulous concept than “hard work” or “cleverness.” Well, that or it simply comes packaged WITH all those other virtues. But the point is our heroes and villains all get lumped in together.
So, not only is bravery implied to be the best of all virtues, but it also apparently trumps intelligence or hard work. Fine, sure. We’ll just go with that. And we’ll also try to ignore the blatant violation of these sortings that occur over and over again through the series.
I get that this is just a way to make a “hero” house and a “villain” house. Normally I’d write this off as typical fantasy-movie simplicity. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and a host of others do the same thing; they create a group of cartoonish baddies to embody the opposition to our hero. We’re not meant to really question it. Evil is evil.
The problem with doing this in the Harry Potter universe is the books and movies are obsessively focused on tearing down the walls built by prejudice and groupthink.
So why, then, is it just like… totally cool to write off as bad every single person chosen to be in Slytherin House?
I mean, I know WHY. Slytherin students are constantly undermining their classmates, and adults who graduate from the house tend to go on to undermine the rest of the wizarding community. It’s stated as fact that no evil wizard ever walked the earth that WASN’T a member of the house at some point.
And there 'tis.
Assuming that the bolded part is correct—and I don't recall it ever being stated that baldly, although I'm not much of a HP scholar and, either way, it is the clear implication—it seems to me the real question here is one of cause-and-effect, or maybe chicken-and-egg: are these kids—and that's all they are, just little, little kids at the beginnging—inherently bad, or are they already lost causes...or does Slytherin itself cause them to all go over to the dark side? And if that's the case, how on earth could Dumbledore and all his predecessors possibly justify keeping the house around?