Pinky Pie

Harry Potter, semiotics & Me

Posted on: November 27, 2010

The actors in the first Harry Potter movie in 1997.

Harry Potter and company all grown up.

For those who have unanswered questions about Harry Potter, you will be pleased to learn at least one was answered by the latest movie – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

That important Harry Potter question, of course, was boxers or briefs?

At one point in the movie, the not-so-young Harry has to do some cold water diving and he strips down to his undies. However, some in the family were still not sure just what those dainties were.

Boxers? Briefs? Or a hybrid undergarment – the boxer-brief, which apparently are trendy?

So all your questions may not be answered seeing the seventh movie. That’s good because the seventh and last book in the series is split into two films, with the last arriving in theaters next summer. That’s two movies for the price of two movie tickets.

I am a big fan of the Harry Potter books for many reasons, including the semiotics of the story. And I had no idea that that was what it was until we had this big discussion about what the heck Michael is studying in his Ph.D. program at Emery University. The boy has tried to explain what semiotics is to me multiple times and I still am a tad confused.

I will steal a definition of semiotics from Wikipedia: Semiotics is the study of cultural sign processes (semiosis), analogy, metaphor, signification and communication, signs and symbols. Semiotics is closely related to the field of linguistics, which in its part, studies the structure and meaning of language more specifically. Semiotics is usually divided into three branches, which include:

  • Semantics: Relation between signs and the things to which they refer; their denotata
  • Syntactics: Relations among signs in formal structures
  • Pragmatics: Relation between signs and their effects on the people who use the


I have been impressed with the Harry Potter books for a number of reasons since the second book. I see the muggles – the non-magical folks – as a symbol of any group who are discriminated against. In Harry Potter books and movies, the evil wizards sneer and discriminate against the muggles, even torturing and killing them.

One interrogation of suspected muggles in the latest movie gave me the feeling of the Gestapo, the secret police of the Nazis who had the power to do anything they wanted without legal restraints.

Harry Potter is a classic battle between good and evil. And, we will have to wait until the final, final film to find out whether good conquers the bad wizards, especially the one who is so evil, he is referred to in the books as “he who shall not be named.”

One other thought about the books and movies: While I have read all seven; the last of the HP movie I had seen was the second one. That means the actors have done a whole lot of growing up since the first movie came out in 1997.

Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry, Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley, and Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger, are not kids any longer. Perhaps, they haven’t been since the second movie.

Harry Potter is one hunky guy, whether he wears boxers, briefs or that hybrid.


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