On this day 20 years ago, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets showing in theaters in the United States. After the overwhelming success of Miracle stone, fans can’t wait to see the next adventures of the hapless 12-year-old titular wizard and his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Chris Columbus’ second (and final) foray into the inside Wizarding World wasn’t as good as the first, but introduced many recurring themes that would later be expanded upon in subsequent films. In front of them all, the trouble that led to the return of Lord Voldemort.
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First and foremost, Secret room shows the wizarding world has a huge racism problem. Many wizards seem to despise those of non-magical families and other magical beings who are considered lesser. Hermione spends most of the story being bullied by Draco Malfoy because of his origins. “Mudblood” is a derogatory expression used to refer to Muggle-born Hermione. However, Draco is only the latest in a long history of racism passed from parent to child since the days of Salazar Slytherin, co-founder of Hogwarts. Slytherin’s solution to purifying his school of unfit was to feed them to his basilisk, a giant snake that could kill its prey with its gaze (in case you were wondering, the Slytherin basilisk was female). That racism formed the basis of Voldemort’s first ascent and subsequent return to power.
Muggle-born wizards are not the only victims of racism, which also affects magical creatures like Dobby. In fact, it turns out that the entire wizarding world survives thanks to unpaid workers who are treated like slaves (perhaps a metaphor for British colonialism?). Fans know Dobby, the house elf of the Malfoy family, when he tried to save Harry’s life by preventing him from returning to Hogwarts. The tragedy is that Dobby has to punish himself every time he disobeys a direct order from his master. Fans, rightfully so, disliked Malfoy for most of the story because of their behavior. Still, it should be noted that Sirius Black shares an unhealthy relationship with his house elf, Kreacher.
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The story also shows how manipulative and seductive Tom Riddle can be once he targets a victim. Poor Ginny Weasley felt what Voldemort felt like being possessed by her skin. Secret room also introduces Riddle’s diary, one of the seven magical items (aka Horcruxes) You-Know-Who pours his soul into his quest for immortality. In the end, Harry killed the Slytherin basilisk before saving Ginny and, later, the wizarding world by defeating Voldemort himself. However, one can wonder how the magical community changed on the subject of atavic racism.
Though Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets having a more mature tone, fans are not as fond of the film as the others. In terms of box office performance, the second installment is the penultimate Harry Potter film, only in front Azkaban prisoner. The story also feels too long, 161 minutes — the longest film in the series. However, its narrative contributions and setting up Voldemort’s return make it an important chapter worth revisiting from time to time.