Would you rather live in the Harry Potter universe or the Game of Thrones universe?
My brother asked me that question the other day when we were discussing season three of Game of Thrones, and I immediately said Harry Potter. I believe my exact words were "I wouldn't want to live in a universe where rape was a constant threat every time I walked down the street".
And then I heard what I'd said... Real life isn't actually that far off unfortunately.
But in my haste, and disproportionate love for Harry Potter (seriously, I have been reading those books since I was 9) I kind of glossed over the fact that the Harry Potter universe isn't that hot either, and if you really examine it, it's not actually a very feminist society.
Hear me out. While HP definitely has some VERY strong female characters (Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall and Molly Weasley anyone?), the wizarding world is VERY regressive. Or at least it was up until the time of the books. (J.K. Rowling has since said that between the three majors and Kingsley Shaklebolt they dismantled a lot of those systematic inequalities, so maybe things are better in present day Hogwarts land).
Think about it:
1. We see like, three different Ministers over the course of the series and there are NO ELECTIONS. The Wizarding world is not a democracy you guys. Who decides who's in charge? Clearly they aren't doing a very good job of picking them.
2. Also, wizards? Racist. That whole obsession with pureblood nonsense is almost a direct reference to Nazi Germany. It's a little different because you can't tell by looking at a witch or wizard what their ancestry is, but they do have magical records that say who is who, which allows toadface Umbridge to round up all the Half-bloods and muggle borns to imprison them and snap their wands.
3. I think after Fudge's reign, we can all agree that the Ministry of Magic is deeply flawed, corrupt and racist. But if you think about it, everyone works for the ministry. Unless like Fred and George, you start your own business, or go into entertainment (The Weird Sisters) or Quidditch, pretty much everyone works there. And this is the same Ministry that after years of tacit acceptance of half bloods and muggle borns, literally starts telling the wizarding world that half their population is evil.
4. The Muggle hate is ridiculous. Everyone looks down on muggles, and muggle borns are seen as an anomaly if they perform well in the wizarding world. And if you like them too much (Arthur Weasley) your livelihood is affected by it. Arthur is a running joke in the ministry because of his muggle fascination and his family is poor because he is never promoted or taken seriously.
5. No free press. The headlines of the Daily Prophet change according to whomever is in power, and what that person's agenda might be. It is clearly a propaganda arm of the ministry and not an actual newspaper.
6. Society still subsists on the slave labour of part human beings. Primarily house elves. Hermione is considered completely radical for thinking that creatures who can talk and reason, might have their own desires and should be treated with respect. I think Ron even says at one point that they like doing stuff for wizards because it's in their nature.
I mean, I guess, living in a place where people behead horses and murder each other at weddings isn't awesome either, but Harry Potter has its problems too.
I like to think about this stuff because I'm weird, but what other problems can you find in the practicalities and internal logic of the Wizarding world? (Not counting that magic doesn't exist.) TALK TO ME ABOUT HARRY POTTER!
[Amazing image and backstory from here.]