Not every piece of media, no matter how magic-filled or fantastical or wizardly, is meant for kids. J.K. Rowling meant for the Harry Potter series to grow up along with the kids who read the books in chronological order, meaning that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone would be a great read for ten or eleven-year-olds, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows works best for the teens reading it high school – the ones who came of age alongside Harry, not the fourth graders who are plowing through the series at the rate of a book a week. Savor the Potter, people.
Does that mean that no kids can read the later books in the series before they get prom dates? Of course not. Children mature at different ages and what works for some kids and tweens won’t for others. That said, fairy tales where stepsisters cut off their toes to fit into glass slippers are pretty much reserved for adults today.
Whether or not you support that, if you don’t want your kids to witness some pretty dark themes, pace out your Potter to avoid these 15 Times Harry Potter Was Too Dark for Kids.
15. Snape Bullies His Students
Teachers get away with bullying kids every day, so the fact that Hogwarts professors like Severus Snape verbally abuse their students is no surprise. Rowling has a very adept hand at conjuring real world scenarios and complicated issues in the series, which is one of the reasons why people love it so much. Even so, watching Snape tear down kids like Neville Longbottom is very painful and may not be suitable for younger readers.
During Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire he even reads the article that Rita Skeeter wrote about Hermione aloud, adding fuel to the fire already burning against the humiliated witch. Not only would a teacher as astute as Snape realize that the article was pure drivel, but he should have protected his student from it.
While older students have already likely and unfortunately experienced this kind of cruelty in school, younger ones will not understand it. The continuous employment of mean teachers only demonstrates that “bad guys win,” particularly in the eyes of kids who don’t even have the skills to comprehend what an antihero is yet.
14. The Deathly Hallows “Nude Scene”
Plenty of parents threw a fit over this scene that was completely appropriate for the level of teen for which it was written. One of Ron’s worst fears, that Harry and Hermione would be together as lovers, came to life before his eyes as he battled the effects of the Horcrux he destroyed. While the scene only happened in Ron’s mind, it was still graphic enough to cause parents to clutch their pearls and the eyes of their kids, complaining that it was “too adult” for them to see.
Had these parents taken the time to read the book, they might have noticed that the entire Deathly Hallows wasn’t small child appropriate, so the film might not be something they’d want their kids to see, either. Perhaps these are the same parents who took their kids to see Deadpool, leaving after being “shocked” by the first 60 seconds of the movie.
13. Dangerous Punishments
Some teachers may say that the punishment should fit the crime, but “romping about in deadly creature-filled woods at night” doesn’t seem to truly fit “breaking curfew.” The fact that detention can include time in the Forbidden Forest, which is forbidden for a reason, is one of the many hypocritical things about Hogwarts.
Parents may be able to demand that a werewolf teacher get fired, but they seem to be perfectly fine with their kids doing random, dangerous chores in the forest at night with giant spiders, centaurs and other beasts roaming around.
Dolores Umbridge’s punishments were especially foul as she forced Harry to write “I must not tell lies” in his own blood. The darkness of this punishment alone makes it pretty grisly for young children.
It’s one of those funny moments that makes you laugh… until you start to think about it.
During Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Moaning Myrtle peeks in on both Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory as they take baths and attempt to learn the secrets of the Triwizard Cup dragon eggs, it dawns awns on the reader that this teen is watching boys get naked without their permission. She even naughtily admits that the bubbles popped when she watched Cedric and she could see much more of him.
What if this had been a male wizard spying on Hermione in the tub? It would be just as inappropriate and worthy of a discussion about consent and privacy as the current situation stands for all young readers. The fact that a 37-year-old actress plays the teen only adds another degree of weirdness to the entire situation.
They are among the creepiest, most dreadful monsters ever written, and while we can’t help but congratulate J.K. Rowling for creating the Dementors, we just don’t think they’re great for the smallest of children to watch or read about.
The soul-sucking monsters feed on happy memories and joy, eating the best parts of you and then leaving you to decay and despair. Prisoners in Azkaban routinely die, as Sirius Black reminds us, out of complete desolation caused by the Dementors. Just as in the muggle world, the wizarding world is also full of prisoners who are innocent of their crimes, as Black was, and these wizards are simply wasting away while the Dementors prey upon them.
While Kingsley Shacklebolt disbanded the Dementor squad as Minister of Magic, we still don’t know what became of the creatures. Would Newt Scamander even offer them sanctuary? He likely would in their natural habitat, whatever foul place on Earth that might be, but it certainly wouldn’t be suitable for little kids.
10. Snuggling With Peter Pettigrew
Once kids realize that Peter Pettigrew was Scabbers, Ron Weasley’s pet rat, for Ron’s entire life (not to mention his brother’s), they can’t help but notice certain things.
They might come to realize that the Marauder’s Map must have read “Peter Pettigrew” next to Ron for years yet his twin brothers, Fred and George, never said a word about it. They might deduce that a grown man slept next to Ron all those years, which is creepy AF.
It’s bad enough to have a villain live on the back of your teacher’s head, but to have one in your bed for years n the form of a seemingly innocent pet is enough to make any young kid give up on guinea pigs and mice as pets.
9. So Many Drunken Moments
From Mundungus Fletcher to Winky the House Elf, characters in the Harry Potter series routinely get drunk enough to pass out and act stupid. Sirius Black’s a fan of the drink, as are Hagrid, Horace Slughorn, and most adults in the series. Some of these scenes are kind of cute, especially the festive ones during the holidays, but many are bleak and depressing. Sirius, for example, drinks because he still has no freedom, even after escaping Azkaban.
It’s not a big deal to mention that someone had a drink here or there, but for kids to read about Winky being on “six bottles a day” in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it’s no wonder they cut out her scenes from the film.
8. Rule Breakers Win
Every single time Harry Potter breaks the rules and gets rewarded for it, from being appointed on the Quidditch team to winning the House Cup, it only reinforces that rule breaking is for winners. Sure, Harry is punished once in a while for rule-breaking, but punishment isn’t a great way to help demonstrate why rule-following can be important, either. Natural consequences and modeling are the best ways to help kids learn appropriate behaviors and neither really works in Harry Potter.
This would be fine for the audience the books are intended for, since middle schoolers, tweens and teens have already learned the value of following important rules like looking before you cross the street, but for younger kids who don’t have the skills or capacity to understand grayer areas yet, it can help bolster their reluctance to follow the rules they find stupid or boring.
Is it true that rule breakers are heroes who win? Absolutely. Any successful movement is filled with them. But many five-year-olds don’t yet have the capacity to understand the difference between refusing to give up a bus seat and holding your grown-up’s hand while crossing the street.
7. TONS of Law-Breaking Without Consequences
Remember when Harry faced possible expulsion from Hogwarts from the Ministry of Magic for breaking wizarding laws by performing underage magic outside of school? How many of us laughed because not only would Harry Potter never truly face expulsion, but so many other wizards have broken laws without consequence that it doesn’t even seem to matter.
Hagrid breaks them in nearly every book (let’s all raise baby dragons!). Lucius Malfoy is known to break them all of the time. Arthur Weasley, who works for the freaking Ministry, modifies muggle artifacts for his own pleasure when his own department is supposed to control the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts!
This is a re portrays how people with money and power tend to get away with law-breaking in life, and how the poor (Hagrid, Remus Lupin) tend to have society’s standards forcefully upheld against them even when things happen through no fault of their own. Rowling’s works are eloquent in that light, but they’re not exactly a great way to get little kids to brush their teeth every night.
6. Harry’s Completely Rotten Childhood
After years of being malnourished, put down, bullied, and abused in almost every way a kid can be abused, it’s easy to understand Harry’s excitement about attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He lived in a cupboard under the stairs for perhaps a decade of his life, had only broken toys and torn, ill-fitting used clothes, and was often starved. His birthday went ignored and reminders of his status as an unimportant burden assaulted his ears daily. In short, his childhood was completely rotten, to say the least.
This alone is a lot for a child to read about, no matter his or her upbringing. Even if witnessing Harry rise to become a hero in the wizarding world helps less fortunate kids in similar experiences picture a brighter future, seeing that all the Dursleys experienced in karma was some silly candy effects and being bonked on the head with a couple of drinks is pretty disheartening. It’s not even just that they never received punishment for their actions, but the fact that Dumbledore didn’t even seem to address their cruelty until Harry’s final year with the family (which, to be fair, he likely did in order to assure Harry could remain with them for the familial protection magic to continue working) that seems so wrong here. Kids notice this and wonder why he doesn’t step in sooner to help Harry have a better home life.
Forget baseball, wrestling and soccer: the name of the favorite wizarding game is Quidditch, and it gives players the opportunity to smack each other with painful bludgers as they zoom across the sky on broomsticks. It sounds like a terrible revenge plot to bestow upon an enemy, which is exactly what it is. JK Rowling admits that she invented them as a form of revenge to use on an ex boyfriend!
It’s a pretty cool scenario for an adult movie but in practice sounds more Hunger Games-esque than the lighthearted, friendly game than it’s made out to be.
4. Adult Innuendo
When Ron asked Lavender, “Can I look at Uranus?” during Astronomy, it was a bit much, but we’ve heard kids snicker over this sort of joke plenty of times in our lives. But when Reddit users were asked to describe the most NSFW moments of Harry Potter, they came up with so many scenarios (that many realized as children) that you have to really wonder what kids are taking from the series altogether.
We all recognize the positive messages, but what message do you take from the most charming and adored wizard at Hogwarts who is surrounded by young fans and is also particularly handy with memory charms? Some readers say this immediately brought sexual assault to mind. Would Gilderoy Lockhart do such a thing?
Other adult questions includethe mechanics how Hagrid’s parents (one a Giant woman, one a normal man) slept together, the fact that Polyjuice Potion wasn’t an Unforgivable potion (not to mention its more unsavory uses), and Tonks’ age, which implies that she was a result of teen pregnancy. There’s also that scene where the Marauder’s Map features a pair of shoes facing one direction wedged between another pair of, ahem, spread shoes. Who’s doing what in that corner?
3. Child Abuse Without Repercussion
Most adults who harm children in beloved children’s books receive their comeuppance at some point. Take James and the Giant Peach, where James’ abusive aunts are both destroyed by the peach itself.
Like most items on this list, it may work for some kids, some kids not, depending on their maturity level. From Snape’s continuous verbal abuse to Filch’s general meanness to the Dursleys‘ abuse of Harry himself, kids are constantly mistreated in the Potterverse, and their abusers often go without repercussion.
Seeing adults get away with abusing children without any consequences, however, is terrible for kids. Yes, it’s unfortunately realistic, but for young children, it can foster a sense of distrust and even paranoia, leading to a belief in a cruel world. Sure, it can be a cruel world, but that’s a terrible philosophy to foster in the formative years.
2. Mad-Eye’s Eye On Umbridge’s Door
Dolores Umbridge remains one of the most hated villains in the Harry Potter universe, with many fans admitting to loathing the pink-swathed toad more than Voldemort himself. She’s tortured students, as we have mentioned before, but she has also enacted some of the most racist, xenophobic and downright mean legislation in the history of the wizarding world – and she’s done it in modern times.
During the Second Wizarding War, the death of Mad-Eye Moody was one of the first losses readers experienced during a brutal attack where George Weasley lost his ear and Harry’s beloved owl, Hedwig, also perished.
As traumatic as all of these events were, encountering Mad-Eye’s magical eye perched on Umbridge’s office door was so much worse. You don’t attach the body parts of your enemies to your work space unless you are an absolute psychopath.
1. All that Death And Torture
Just as the Harry Potter books and films’ themes and subject matter get progressively more adult, they also become darker and more violent. Most people cite the death of Cedric Diggory as the turning point where the books become more adult-oriented and less kid-friendly, but the slow progression really begins with a two-headed professor in book one. Carrying a second face on the back of your head is pretty gruesome for a kids’ book.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets builds upon this with possession and petrification, which is really attempted murder, and Prisoner of Azkaban features the dreaded Dementors mentioned above.
In addition to Diggory’s callous, meaningless death, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire also features the torture of several Muggles and the introduction of the Unforgivable Curses, which are used in the next several books.
From the violent deaths of beloved characters like Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape to the violent abuse and torture of Hermione and Muggle studies instructor Charity Burbage, there is enough darkness to provide nightmares for weeks.
Are there other parts of Harry Potter that are too dark for kids? Let us know in the comments!
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