Today I watched the third Harry Potter movie with my family. I’ve seen all six of the Harry Potter movies now. These Harry Potter movies offer outstanding entertainment. Their characters are endearing and the special effects are seamlessly woven into the enchanting stories.
As entertaining as these Harry Potter movies are, it has become abundantly clear to me that Harry is extremely lucky. Yes, Harry is also brave and smart and he has a pure heart, but there is no reason for expect that he should have survived most of the life-threatening challenges he faces. You see, dark powerful magic abounds, so much so that Harry should have died several times in each of his movies, but doesn’t die because he is extremely lucky.
Harry usually survives only because of something that has nothing to do with planning. Instead, a good powerful magic person shows up to save him (or a magic animal), or the evil attacker inexplicably allows him to survive, or a solution that involves a magic object becomes apparent at the last possible moment. This tendency violates one of the rules traditional screenplay writing: the solution to the major conflict should have been made available to the audience throughout the movie (in the form of clues sprinkled about). Magic animals are fun, of course, but plots shouldn’t depend so heavily on them.
Harry is only one in a long line of heroes who survives a long roller-coaster of adventures without ever sitting down to map out any sort of detailed plan of action. There might be a few times when our heroes pause to think of what to do next, but it’s only for a minute or two, and then someone yells “Let’s go,” and our heroes are off again.
I wrote about our dearth of “planning heroes” several years ago. In America, we love adventure without planning. We simply expect to survive without planning; we’ll figure out the details later, if ever. Now it’s time for action/movement/adventure. We don’t have time for planning; we scoff at planning. It’s undignified.
It’s interesting, though, that many of our movie villains often do lots of planning while laying their insidious traps. But our heroes never die, even when they brashly stumble into a long series of those traps. Our heroes escape . . . because they come armed with luck.
I’m sitting here tonight, wondering whether Hollywood’s conception of “hero” has been corrupting our ability to recognize our real life need to plan and practice. In the past, there were television shows where planning and practicing was front and center. Consider the television version of “Mission Impossible” or the movies “The Dirty Dozen” or “The Great Escape.”
I’m wondering whether so many of us are so unwilling to plan in modern times because planning is not something done by modern heroes. Planning is not heroic. We are proud Americans, and we get by with hubris and grit sprinkled with violence.
Therefore, we don’t plan well for much of anything (“swine flu” being a notable exception), whether it be New Orleans levees, the need to stop ubiquitous sub-prime fraud, the approaching energy crisis, or developing exit strategies for our ill-advised wars. We just carry on or we jump in without thinking things through. We depend on our favorite ally, “The Free Market,” to take care of everything. Or we rely on “God.” Or we rely on the “fact” that we Americans live “in the worlds greatest country.”
In modern times, we rely on things taking care of themselves. Why bother planning and practicing when we are such lucky people? That’s a powerful and dangerous lesson that Hollywood has been teaching us.