Happy 15th birthday to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix! As the fifth movie in the series, it marked the beginning of the second half of the franchise. It had a lot to live up to upon its release. The previous films saw fans sell-out screenings on opening night and count minutes and seconds to their releases. Order of the Phoenix definitely did its by job making nearly $940 million at the box office worldwide. But that is only part of the impact. This chapter of the story was the first time we felt the true urgency of fighting Voldemort since he regained some power. And, more frustratingly, we met Umbridge and the Educational Decrees that went up outside the Great Hall.
In case you need a quick reminder, here’s a rundown of the plot: After Harry’s run-in with Voldemort at the end of the Goblet of Fire (which no one except Dumbledore believes him about), Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge appoints Dolores Umbridge the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and later the interim headmaster of Hogwarts after deeming Dumbledore unfit. Umbridge’s time as headmaster was really a way for the Ministry to keep an intensely close eye on the students, namely Harry Potter. The Ministry and Umbridge spend the movie instituting near-dictatorial Educational Decrees that make it almost impossible to exist as students or teachers at Hogwarts. At the same time, Harry and his friends create Dumbledore’s Army and start training for a fight they know is coming.
Now, I understand this movie was pivotal in the series and incredibly important. However, as someone who simultaneously finds this to be one of the more frustrating movies in the franchise, I’d like to spend this year’s anniversary focusing on the Educational Decrees. These were the scrolls and tablets hung on the wall outside the Great Hall that imposed unbelievable rules on Hogwarts. I’ve gathered a few of the 38 known decrees that show just how ridiculous the Ministry of Magic was. (Fun fact: There were only 29 in the book but a whopping 136 decrees in the movie.)
Educational Decree 1
I started with this one because it’s extra pointless. All the decrees are shows of power, but this one, in particular, is annoying to me. I suppose younger kids might still do spelling tests and study vocabulary words, but no one at Hogwarts is younger than 11. They’ve presumably learned to read and write by then, so what’s the harm in a quill that double-checks the spelling of an author’s name or a specific potion ingredient? Especially when they’ve got authors with names like Bertrand de Pensées-Profondes.
Educational Decree 24
I personally focus better with music playing. It doesn’t have to blast through the library or the Great Hall, but a low-volume playlist surely isn’t that disruptive. This decree also demonstrates zero concern for accommodating different learning styles. Complete silence can be debilitating for some students. Umbridge definitely put this one up to spite people.
Educational Decrees 26 and 31
These could not exist without each other. The six-inch rule came first, but clearly, Umbridge thought it was still too scandalous and added a whole two inches to the decree. This is just funny – all students had to do was hide or go into a room and this was a non-issue.
Educational Decree 39
Taking their wands because they’re using them recreationally is like taking someone’s pencil because they’re using it to write something other than notes or school work. Decree 39 turned Hogwarts into more of a surveillance institution than a school.
Educational Decree 41
Imagine being told you have to pretend your trauma never happened. Wild. At this point, there’s no attempt at hiding behind doing “what’s best” for students. Umbridge and the Ministry attempted to silence them, and it broke my heart. Cedric deserved better.
Educational Decree 49
Quidditch is to Hogwarts as football is to American schools. I can only imagine the outrage when this decree went up. There was already no practical magic, no music, and now no sports? These poor wizarding students.
Educational Decree 68
Although I wasn’t in many organizations, the few I joined made school much more enjoyable. They provide a place for kids to find their friends and their niche. The goal here was obviously to stop Dumbledore’s Army meetings, but the other kids gave up their hobbies too. What a sad time at Hogwarts.
Keep in mind these are only seven of the 38 we know. The 98 we don’t know can only be even more unreasonable. I express my frustration, but in reality, it’s appreciation. The film’s creators succeeded in bringing Umbridge’s unlikeable character to life. As we celebrate the release date of the Order of the Phoenix film adaptation, let’s remember how important it was for the development of Dumbledore’s Army. I guess.
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