Saturday, May 07, 2005

redemption (fictional)

ABC had an excruciatingly long presention of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on tonight -- I had meant to set the TiVO before we went out, but of course forgot, so I only go the last hour and three-quarters. (Major plot spoilers below, in case you care.)

I would say that my interest was primarily in the preview bits from the upcoming Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but that wouldn't be true, because I really love this movie. Sure, it's a kid movie, and the special effects are a bit laughable, but I just love how it ends, with Hagrid's redemption.

Here was a man (of sorts), unjustly accused of murder, and more or less drummed out of polite society. Kicked out of Hogwarts as a student, who knows what would've become of him had Dumbledore not advocated for him and got him the position as groundskeeper. Then, after fifty years, the whole business starts up again, and this time he gets sent to Azkaban, where his soul would be leeched away by the Dementors. Finally, Harry defeats the basilisk and Voldemort, and at last! Hagrid is shown to be innocent, to have always been innocent. He is washed clean.

It's practically like baptism.

And the really cool thing is, everyone at Hogwarts realizes it. Hagrid comes back from Azkaban to a different world, a world in which it's OK for him to do magic and have a proper wand, not one concealed in an umbrella. A world in which he can fully take part. It's something he never expected, even though he certainly deserved it, and it's just awesome to me that Harry (and Ron, and Hermione) were able to help the person who was always there to look after them, in such a profound way.

Coincidentally while channel surfing I caught the last few minutes of Return of the Jedi, and I have to give Mark Hamill props for his agonized, "Father! Please!" while the Emperor was Force-frying him. Vader's redemption is of a different sort, and it's annoying that after all the horrendous evil he perpetrated, he still gets to come back all glowy and translucent with Obi-Wan and Yoda. Is saving Luke enough to redeem him, after all he's done? So says George Lucas, so I guess we have to go with it. It's not that I didn't buy Vader's change of heart, because I do -- credit James Earl Jones for some terrific voice work there, and I still feel a faint echo of regret every time that helmet comes off and it's still not JEJ under there -- but still, I feel that Vader should be held accountable some way. Yes, he did sacrifice his life to save Luke, and he did kill the Emperor, which would surely lead to the fall of the Empire -- but there wouldn't have been an Empire (or at least not as horrific a one) if not for him, so... I'm not sure where that leaves me on this issue.

I do believe that redemption is possible for anyone who experiences a true conversion of the heart. What I especially like about Hagrid's story is that his heart was always pure, and all that was needed was to remove the veil that had fallen over it. There's nothing annoying about it (unless you think it's trite or corny or cheesy, and I can see a point there, but I still like it.) I guess for me it's a lot easier to accept redemption when it's so clearly deserved.

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