"Luna had decorated her bedroom ceiling with five beautifully painted faces: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Neville. They were not moving as the portraits at Hogwarts moved, but there was a certain magic about them all the same: Harry thought they breathed. What appeared to be fine golden chains wove around the pictures, linking them together, but after examining them for a minute or so, Harry realized that the chains were actually one word, repeated a thousand times in golden ink: friends . . . friends . . . friends . . ."
-Excerpt from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
Today's post will deal mainly with the Harry Potter series. If you haven't read it, this shouldn't spoil anything that you wouldn't learn early on in the first book (and you probably already know that much by the simple fact that you're on the internet). I'll attempt to explain what you need to know from the books. This post will be dealing more with the series, characters, and fans than it will be with magic, so if you're opposed to the magical nature of the series, don't worry, as that shouldn't be a focus today.
In the Harry Potter series, the school that he and his friends attend is called Hogwarts. Hogwarts is a sort of boarding school with four "houses." At the beginning of your first year in Hogwarts, you are assigned to one of these four houses according to your personality, strengths, and abilities. That house will be kind of like your "team" for the next seven years that you attend the school.
Gryffindor, with a banner of red and gold, values courage, honor, and strength, and bravery. Ravenclaw, with a banner of blue and bronze, values learning, wisdom, intelligence, knowledge, and understanding. Hufflepuff, with a banner of yellow and black, values loyalty, friendship, and hard work. (This is the house that is most open and accepting towards outsiders and people who don't fit in exactly.) Slytherin, with a banner of green and silver, values cunning, ambition, and great achievements.
Each house has its own strengths, and its own benefits for those who are sorted there. However, each house also has weaknesses, and a reputation. Within the series, the houses are supposed to be designed so that you can learn and study with others who are similar; they're not meant to divide people or keep people in differing houses from being friends. But that's often what people use them for.
In the series, Gryffindor is a popular house. But the Gryffindors tend to hate Slytherins, who they see as evil, conniving, treacherous, and cowardly.
Slytherins, likewise, hate Gryffindors, seeing them as stupid, rash, headstrong, and arrogant.
They agree on one thing, though: Hufflepuff is a useless and pathetic house made up of wimps who can't do anything right.
Ravenclaw isn't hated strongly by any of the houses. Why not? Because they're socially awkward bookworms who would rather not make contact with people in general. They're just kind of neutral. They're not your house, so they're not awesome, but you don't hate them either. They just balance out the four houses so you have someone to just be there and not do anything.
Within the series, this type of hatred is, obviously, a problem. But outside of the series, you'd expect it to lessen. Unfortunately, this isn't what I've seen. Some people look at things the same way the books often did, which is that Slytherins are evil, Hufflepuffs are pathetic, Gryffindors are awesome, and Ravenclaws are just there.
Others say, rightly, that not all Slytherins are evil and manipulative. However, they use that to justify the whole house, and turn against Gryffindors, treating them as terrible people, still treating Hufflepuffs as worthless. Some people recognize that Hufflepuff is actually a really great house, and just isn't as competitive as the others. But those people tend to turn against Gryffindors and Slytherins both, seeing only the worst in both houses.
I have many hats, but none of them has the magical ability to read my mind and tell me which Hogwarts house I belong in. However, based on what I know of my personality, I classify myself as a Ravenclaw with a Hufflepuff lean. And I recognize the attitudes that people have towards the other houses as a double standard. People who have read the series often will sort themselves into a house based on their personality, and thus, the rivalries begin again. Each person, in real life, is choosing to classify someone based on either their strengths or their weaknesses, but not both. Many people hate Gryffindors, because they were popular in the books. They make fun of them and treat them poorly as a group; they judge Slytherin by their strengths (and ignore their weaknesses), and judge Gryffindor by their weaknesses (and ignore their strengths). The quotation from above is one that I like for many reasons. The reason I put it in this post is because Luna is a Ravenclaw. The others are Gryffindors. They have a friendship across houses, which rarely happens in the series.
I chose to analyze this topic today not because I think that the book series will affect our lives directly in any significant way, but because this blog is about habitual analysis. The way we look at things causes us to look at them in the same way more easily. If we often look at things incorrectly, it becomes difficult to look at them rightly. In this case, people are teaching themselves the habit of judging things you like by their strengths, and things that you don't like by their weaknesses. This ought not to be. If you can't even judge rightly in a fictional world, how can you expect to judge rightly in the real world? If we can't look past our differences in a game, how can we expect to do so with real people?
"I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university."