Lord Voldemort: the Dark Lord, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, You-Know-Who… That Guy. Everyone knows the story of Harry Potter (available in seven books or eight movies). Lord Voldemort is the evil villain and main antagonist of the books. He is a murderer, his most prominent victims being Harry’s parents. Many people have drawn comparisons between Voldemort and the likes of Hitler and Satan. At first glance it makes sense, I mean he did bring the wizarding world to its knees before being defeated by a conveniently resurrected teenage Messiah. Hold on one moment… teenage? Yes, J.K. Rowling may want Voldemort to come off as threatening but really – who is she kidding? Let’s take a good look at “the Dark Lord” of the Harry Potter universe as he is presented.
The Dark Mark
Here is the definition on the Harry Potter Wiki (of course there’s one): “The Dark Mark is the symbol of Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. It refers both to a magically induced brand that every Death Eater bears on his or her inner left forearm, and to the same symbol conjured in the air by the spell Morsmordre.”
Sounds pretty cool, like an evil-summoning rally cry. How does it actually look?
This does not look like an evil logo. This is trying too hard. It is the type of thing that someone named Devlin would get when he is sixteen to “express his dark and tortured soul.” Evil does need to try and be evil. It can look as simple as this:
The Death Eaters
“The Death Eaters… was the name given to followers of Lord Voldemort. The group primarily consisted of wizards and witches who were radical pure blood supremacists and who practised the Dark Arts with reckless abandon and without regard to or fear of wizarding law.”
Every villain needs followers and Voldemort is no exception. As a man obsessed with power and blood supremacy, it only makes sense that he would call his followers “death eaters”… except that it doesn’t. Where did that name come from? Were “Doom Bringers” and “Pain Makers” taken? Do they feed off the death they create – are they cannibals? I’m going to guess it just sounded better than “Evil Evildoers.”
At least they look cool right?
The Name “Voldemort”
God, how smug is the Tom Riddle when he explains this to Harry:
Ladies and gentlemen: Lord Voldemort has some daddy issues. Seriously, first the tattoo and now a new name? How much of this is screaming “you’re not the boss of me!” to anyone who will listen.
Tom Riddle Sr: “Tom, pick up your clothes. Did you clean your room like I told you?”
Tom Riddle Jr: “My name is Voldemort, dad! Voldemort! I am a great wizard!”
Tom Riddle Sr: “Sounds like one ‘great wizard’ isn’t getting any pizza this evening.”
Tom Riddle Jr.: “I hate you so much!”
Seriously, it would be like if Adolf Hitler renamed himself Nazi Maximus.
The Snake Thing
Every edgy teenager who wants to be taken seriously needs an edgy pet. Dogs and cats: only conformists have the loyalty of those creatures. Voldemort got into snakes in a big way. He has a pet snake (not an innuendo), he can speak to snakes, he even received body modification to make himself look more like a snake. Voldemort’s kind of a big deal in the snake world.
I get it, snakes are a symbol of evil in the Old Testament. J.K. Rowling was going biblical in her villains. It is just a little silly in this day and age. You know what else was evil in the Old Testament: women. Seriously, they were the source of a lot more problems than the snake. They were even closely involved in the whole snake debacle in the garden. So if Voldemort really wanted to be Old Testament evil, he should have lost his “snake” and gone for an operation.
He is Evil to Everyone
“Voldemort was a psychopath will all the classic traits: lack of empathy, incapacity for remorse, grandiosity, selfishness, and violence. He was highly intelligent, as evidenced by his top performance at Hogwarts and his tremendous magical achievements, but his interests were narrowly focused on the usefulness of people, objects, and powers to his goals. His inability to see the larger picture and inattention to events and powers that were not immediately useful to him was a serious flaw that led to most of his setbacks and ultimately his downfall.”
Yeah… people like that never gain a lot of power. In a world where people can be killed with a wand and a couple words (or a gun), fear is not enough to attain sublime power. Even if readers believe that Voldemort is the most powerful wizard who ever lived (and the next point speaks against that), he is still not immortal. Sure, he has the horcruxes so he will come back to life… eventually, but still – Voldemort is just one man. Every dictator in history has possessed the ability to manipulate. Voldemort is just too busy trying to be cool – I mean evil.
Last but not least, a villain can be defined by the protagonist he is opposing. Voldemort, supposedly the greatest wizard who ever lived, has a teenager for an arch-enemy. Sure, Harry is supposed to be gifted… but seriously. There is still a gap between strong student and greatest ever. It would be like if Stephen Hawking battled a college student with a strong G.P.A. Harry is not even the most intelligent person among his friends and yet: he is still able to outwit the Dark Lord on a regular basis.
Yeah, Voldemort is really terrifying. Remember that time he lost to an eleven year old?
Bottom line: J.K. Rowling tried too hard. Voldemort is a cartoon bad guy, complete with evil laugh and sidekick. It is simply not possible to take him seriously. Yes, he is a murderer, yes he hurts people… but seriously – he is kind of a dweeb. Maybe Voldemort will amount to something when he finally grows
On a more serious note, I uncovered an excerpt from an interview with J.K. Rowling that I would like to share:
“Ravleen: How much does the fact that voldemort was conceived under a love potion have to do with his nonability to understand love is it more symbolic
J.K. Rowling: It was a symbolic way of showing that he came from a loveless union – but of course, everything would have changed if Merope had survived and raised him herself and loved him. The enchantment under which Tom Riddle fathered Voldemort is important because it shows coercion, and there can’t be many more prejudicial ways to enter the world than as the result of such a union.”
Yes, it seems like sex matters to J.K. Rowling, and bad people only come from loveless unions… or single parents. I may be reading too much into this but I stand by that: every time J.K. Rowling opens her mouth, the magic of Harry Potter dies that much more.