‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ is a teachable moment for making choices and questioning evil
By Kathryn Fannin
The newest installment of the Fantastic Beasts series, “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” left fans’ hearts racing and their minds filled with more questions than answers. Many favorite characters made difficult sacrifices, and the fates of our beloved cast members were held in question.
However, I want to make this article for those who have not watched the movie and those who are a casual fan of Rowling’s work (and cannot tell a Billywig from a Bowtruckle!). Good stories are teachers, and this story has many teachable moments. There is one, that I specifically want to touch on in this article, because it has a very important lesson especially for students. In this film, the characters are called to make a choice to go with Grindelwald, a notorious dark wizard who seeks to eliminate all those without magic. To go with him, you must cross his circle of blue flame, signing your soul away to the side of villainy permanently. Of course, they could choose not to do this, but the price for refusal is almost certain death. This act calls for undying faith – faith that Grindelwald will save your life and continue to help you if only you swear your allegiance and maintain your trust. After all, only those who are truly willing to remain with Grindelwald after he saved their lives will be allowed to cross, join him, and live.
It should be noted that Grindelwald makes this demand of his casual followers right after making a very persuasive and powerful speech that would make Hitler himself jealous. He promises peace. He promises magical prosperity and the prevention of the Second World War. And most importantly for Grindelwald and for the wizards in his audience, he promises a new world order that will favor wizards, who have been oppressed by non-magical people for too long.
One of the main characters of this series is trapped at this rally, forced to make this terrifying choice. They choose, to the horror of the audience, to join Grindelwald’s side, not just to save their life, but for the hopes of a better future. Why does this character believe that the answer to peace in the Wizarding World lies with Grindelwald? The answer is simple. Grindelwald was able to find them at their most vulnerable, learn their values, their desires, and then manipulate them with beautiful lies. All this character knew of Grindelwald was that he was a kind man who promised a utopia. With such a one-sided presentation, why wouldn’t they join?
Grindelwald was nice to this character, offering them tea, conversation, and never making a single threatening move toward them. They chose of their own free will. However, the fact that Grindelwald allowed them free will does not make up for the fact that this dark wizard and his followers are responsible for multiple murders, including innocent, non-magic families. And yet, this never appears to matter. What makes Grindelwald so terrifying is that he seems so reasonable, especially when you don’t know about the hundreds he personally slaughtered, and the hundreds more that have been killed for him under his orders. He does not care for life nor does he respect it.
‘He had a lonely upbringing! He was such a bright boy, but he lived such a hard life! He never learned how to be good!’ You and all the other characters can tell yourselves anything you want to hear, hoping to come up with some justification for these horrid actions. But empty words and hard situations can never make it okay to massacre people without care.
Who is asking you – or who is telling you that they can give you the one thing that you desire above all else, even though you know in your heart that they are bad or evil, and you don’t stand for half of their policies? Evil does not come in gigantic leaps and bounds. Evil comes in by little steps, in the very same way we break our diets. We tell ourselves that one cracker will not hurt. Then we tell ourselves that a bagel will not hurt. Then we tell ourselves that a slice of cake won’t hurt, and if the first slice didn’t hurt, then the second slice won’t, and neither will the third. No one on a diet wakes up and decides to eat a whole cake. In the same way, no one with a kind heart and rational mind wakes up one day and decides to be evil. No, evil spreads in this world through good people who let one thing slip and then another.
Never let your values slide because a bad person happened to do a good thing. Do not let your guard down because all you have seen of a notorious individual is that they were kind to you. If you do, then you will end up exactly like this character- a kind, selfless, innocent who ends up joining the side of a murderer. Evil exists, even thrives in this world and it doesn’t want you to know it. It preys on your ignorance. It consumes your every selfish desire, even if your desire is noble, and your reasons good. After all, the character who was swayed over the course of this film had pure intentions of their own. Evil is waiting, hoping that you want something so bad you will not see logic. It’s counting on it. It is out there, in this world, waiting to hurt and corrupt you. So what can you do?
You can be informed. You can learn all you can about your situation, and you can be careful not to take things from people without knowing the cost. This world is terrifying, and understandably, we start to get scared of it. That’s when we start to listen to the people that don’t make sense. That’s when we start to let our values slide. As Grindelwald says, a time is coming where everyone will have to make a choice. Will you join the side you know is wrong, or will you trust your allies to stand with you, look evil in the face, and keep it at bay? The circle of blue flame is closing in. Which side will you stand on?