‘Harry Potter and the Pint of Liquid Courage’

The Health writer at the New York Times this morning decided that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince sends the wrong message about alcohol use to teens. In an article titled Harry Potter and the Pint of Liquid Courage she details the dangerous example the terrible trio and friends give the youth of our planet.

As you might expect, said reporter has her head handed to her by a variety of readers in a flood of responses here. Refreshing and bracing, that.

Some of these are great — especially the one detailing the hundreds of scenes in Disney films of drunkenness that the reviewer conveniently forgot. But in all those responses, though, nowhere does a reader remark on two things that were my first thoughts:

(1) “I’m glad the author hadn’t read the book and been exposed to DDore getting information from the Orphanage head by plying her with gin (as perumbration as much as anything else for what Harry does later with Slughorn in Hagrid’s hut).” And —

(2) “How receptive do you think the reporter would be to an explanation of the fluids in Prince, from the alcohol to Harry’s baptism by fire-water in the Stygian Lake, being the lunar and ablutionary qualities of the white alchemical stage that book is all about?”

Not very receptive is my guess! Your thoughts?

(H/T to Kansas City Kitty!)


  1. An absurd article. I planned on writing about it at The Hog’s Head today, but the day’s gotten away from me.

    I’m thinking that examples of teens able to drink responsibly without getting drunk and crazy would be a good thing.

  2. And what about DDore’s beating the Dursleys over the head with booze in the Harry story opening at Privet Drive?

    How many other great drinking moments did the film-makers not include?

  3. Arabella Figg says

    The most laughable line to me was this, by Warner Bros.:

    “One of our main objectives in bringing the Harry Potter films to the screen has been to remain as faithful to their original source material as created by J. K Rowling.” Perhaps they’ve had too many butterbeers and meads?

    But I digress. Considering the bawdy, liquored films that are STANDARD for kids today, this is a silly complaint. And I’d be wiling to bet a knut that kids who blame their smoking/drinking on films are flimflamming the parental world.

  4. revgeorge says

    I agree with Travis that the article is clearly absurd…to a point. After all, it is a valid concern that people, especially children, are affected by a steady diet of what they see. Which is why children need parental guidance, & wasn’t this film rated PG? So, the real complaint shouldn’t be about any images of alcohol use in this film but about how parents should be watching the film with their children & putting things into perspective for them. Possibly also how parents shouldn’t be letting their children watch those films that are dripping with alcohol abuse, as Arabella points out.

  5. schmalchemy says

    A couple thoughts:

    When I first read the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, my thoughts were that this particular book was filled with many images of drinking (butterbeer, mead, firewhisky, etc.) and was being read by children and teens, but after further thought and discussion, I imagined that butterbeer might be similar to root beer or ginger beer which is hardly considered alcoholic or inappropriate for kids. Also except for a few rare instances, only the adults (Hagrid, Slughorn, the woman from the orphanage as examples) were drinking excessively; most of the teens were drinking only a modest amount, if any.

    Secondarily, many movies geared towards teens and young adults have many scenes of drunkenness and such. One from my era, Animal House, comes to mind, but every year film-makers put out the same or similar genre of movies with drunken scenes as comedies. In other words, it’s rather pervasive in the culture even if we may not agree with it.

    I agree with Ms. Figg…about the laughable line from Warner Brothers. They certainly play fast and loose with the books. In fact, as I left the theatre after watching most of the credits, I said, “LOOSELY based on the book by J.K. Rowling.”

    Lastly, perhaps it is just me, but I don’t see any liquid fire, etc as alchemical (your point no. 2)…I thinking you are stretching this pretty thinly here. This book, as well as all the others, are great novels PERIOD without all the other layers and meanings people went to overlay and put on them. Just my opinion…

  6. rev george, I fully agree with your point of view on this article.

    We may need to remind some of the movie people out there that have not read the books that the trio and their friends are NOT 11-12 years old like they were in book 1. The Hogwarts trio has grown up and are beginning to reveal the interests of their age group in the wizarding world, just like their counter-parts in the real world. Should parents discuss the issues of drinking and being respectful of the dangers of over-indulging, absolutely.

    What would they do with a movie about Noah after the Great Flood (Gen.9) where his Sons find him in his tent passed out from a little to much wine after planting his vineyard on Mount Ararat?? You don’t strike the story out of the text in the Bible because it’s in “bad taste”, No you teach from it an important moral lesson.

    Parents need to point out how and why the scenes were allowed within the story line to fulfill a literary and if you will, a visionary purpose to the text or the movie.

  7. One word: Over-reaction. It must be a slow week at the Times…

  8. In GOF Harry dismisses butterbeer as not that strong, but Dobby says tis strong for a house-elf and Winky’s getting drunk on it. That implies there’s a tiny bit of alcohol in it, but not much as 13 year olds are allowed to drink it. Stronger than root beer or Biden’s Buckler, but lighter than light beer. Maybe like that 1% alcohol “beer” they serve in Sweden.

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