The Harry Potter series is full of creatures and storylines that parallel real-life adversities like depression, PTSD and grief in a heightened reality. Dr. Janina Scarlet says these stories are so powerful that she uses them to help people cope in real-life therapy sessions.
Dr. Janina Scarlet, a clinical therapist and author of Superhero Therapy: A Hero’s Journey through Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture–what’s new and old in entertainment.
Last month, JK Rowling’s Wizarding World saw its latest installment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald be met with a low score on Rotten Tomatoes and countless disappointed Harry Potter fans across the globe.
Count me among them. Not since 2009’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film totally bungled its source material has a Wizarding World installment felt so misguided. Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t quite as bad as Half-Blood Prince, but it is poorly paced and difficult to follow, even for those who have spent their entire childhoods learning the universe forward and backward.
Again, the keys to the kingdom were handed over to director David Yates, who has now made six installments of the Wizarding World’s film series. And again, Yates proved he isn’t really up to the task. Fantastic Beasts 2 is divided in too many directions, it introduces characters and then forgets them, fails to flesh out the details of the prison break scene, which is the film’s only great set piece, and lingers for too long on characters we struggle to understand fully acting in ways we can’t make sense of in scenes that are poorly staged. Yates seems uninterested in doing anything but filming the script, adding none of the flair or subtleties that Alfonso Cuaron brought to the Prisoner of Azkaban adaptation. In all, Crimes of Grindelwald manages to make a story about magic pretty boring. And that’s before I even get to the final twist in Crimes of Grindelwald, which I won’t spoil, but is either an outright lie, which would be a poor way to end a film, or a new detail that not only fails to pass a logic test, but retroactively diminishes the ending of the Harry Potter saga.
I get no joy out of disliking this movie. I went to the theater expecting to leave exhilarated and excited for more. After all, for over 11 years now, we fans have been clamoring for more of the Potter universe. I still dream of a new novel that covers the story of the original Order of the Phoenix. But we only want more because we expect stories of a similar high quality to the original series. Stories much, much better than the one we got in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Three more Fantastic Beasts movies are on their way, and us lifelong fans will surely be seeing them, despite our new hesitations. Hopefully, the filmmakers find a way to conjure up some new magic, and fast.
On June 26, 1997, one boy changed the world. That young boy was named Harry Potter, the famous protagonist of the seven-book series by JK Rowling. If you are unfamiliar with either of those names, there is a large chance you are living with the confundus charm. With 160 million copies sold in the U.S. alone and over 400 million copies sold worldwide, Harry Potter has truly taken the world by storm. This week marks the 10 year anniversary of the release of the final installment Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. To celebrate this triumphant anniversary, we spoke with two Harry Potter experts on the impact this series had and continues to have on the world.
You may be familiar with Professor Severus Snape, but did you know Harry Potter professors exist outside the mystical world of the books and novels? Swansea University’s John Granger has specifically dedicated his studies to the magic behind the Harry Potter series. Proclaimed the “Dean of Harry Potter Scholars”, Granger’s fascination with the series led him to dive into the symbolism behind Rowling’s works. Granger says that the entertainment factor of reading the books and watching the movies serves a religious function for everyone in this secular world. Additionally, these books hold a larger symbolism in the way they connect us with the world. Granger says the Potter series is now a shared text of the world, and of western civilization.
As fans who read the books when they were kids, grow up and then read them to their own children, it is easy to see how Harry Potter has become a favorite for multiple generations.
Elements of the Harry Potter series such as dementors and patronuses can be viewed symbolically as representative of the struggle of good versus evil. Many readers connect emotionally to Harry’s loss, struggle, and battle to fight his own demons. Clinical therapist Dr. Janina Scarlet builds on this connection by using superheroes, witches and wizards to help her patients cope with their depression or PTSD.
In her first book Superhero Therapy: A hero’s journey through acceptance and commitment therapy, Scarlet describes how she uses superheroes to help veterans deal with their PTSD. Dr. Scarlet’s patients select their favorite superhero, and then discuss how their own experience may relate. She says that the vulnerabilities of each superhero allows the patients to dive into their own flaws and overcome them.
Along with superhero therapy, Dr. Scarlet uses her personal favorite book series, Harry Potter. Scarlet says that the Harry Potter series truly demonstrates how to overcome traumatic experiences. When reading a story about a boy that deals with the loss of his parents, people can either relate and learn from him or sympathize for him. Although Harry may live in a fictional world, reading his story allows people to recognize he has similar experiences and feelings as all of us.
Dr. Scarlet talks about finding the patronus in all her patients to help them beat their depression. She says if we can all connect with happy memories as Harry did, then we can start to overcome any personal dementors in our lives. If you would like to know more about how Harry Potter can help you, keep an eye out for Dr. Scarlet’s Harry Potter therapy book coming soon.
Pottermania: What we love in the Harry Potter series
It has been over 20 years since the story of Harry Potter began and more than 10 since the book series concluded. Why, after all this time, do people still flock to the series for comfort and thrills?
Potter Therapy: How the Harry Potter series is being used to help treat PTSD and depression
Dr. Janina Scarlet is a clinical therapist who uses superheroes, and witches and wizards, to help patients struggling with depression and PTSD. She talks about what about the Potter series her patients latch on to and why she thinks this type of ‘pop culture therapy’ works so well.