The new Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald is darker, with themes more insidious than the first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film.
Warning: The analysis below includes spoilers.
Imagine this – you have found the love of your life, the person you want to spend your forever with. They love you, they treat you with love and endless wonder. You want to marry them and they want to marry you. There is only one problem – society does not allow you and your partner to marry because of your partner’s (insert your criteria here – gender, religion, ethnic background, etc.). Your family is not speaking to you because of your choice. The pressures of society’s outdated and unfair norms cause a rift between you and your partner.
Sounds devastating, right?
Well, if there were a person who promised you a revolution in which you would have the freedom to marry whomever you wanted, the freedom to be yourself, and ultimate acceptance, would you consider being a part of this movement?
Although Grindelwald makes false promises to Queenie, Credence, and countless other magical beings, he relies on psychology to manipulate people to come to his side. By playing on their emotions and promising his recruits exactly what they most desire, almost like a wicked Mirror of Erised, he twists the truth in such a way that followers naturally may consider joining him.
Grindelwald uses a similar technique to lure Credence to his side. He puts a hit on Irma Dugard, a servant in the Lestrange household, in order to prevent her from revealing his identity. He then uses his grief, anger, and desperation to lie to him, telling him that Albus Dumbledore is his enemy.
At his rally, Grindelwald refers to non-magical beings (Muggles or no-mages) as other. In doing so, he creates an ultimate shift in the magic community’s perspective. Specifically, by focusing on the differences between the magical and the non-magical communities, he reduces the perception of humanity between the two groups, increasing animosity between them. Many historical (e.g. Adolf Hitler) and current hate group leaders have used this technique to strengthen the belonging of their group and the hostility toward the other group. Such tactics often lead to increased violence toward the other.
In fact, following his speech, one of the witches at Grindelwald’s rally attacks an Auror, which results in her death. Grindelwald uses this occurrence to further manipulate the rally attendees to join his side by suggesting that the other side is more violent than his. In showing projections of violence (which looked to be videos from World War II), Grindelwald once again uses a scare tactic to play on the attendees' emotions, suggesting that Muggles are violent and wish harm to the magical community, and therefore need to be stopped.
By preying on people’s fears, Grindelwald made many of them believe that the only way to avoid an outbreak of catastrophic violence and to find peace was to join his side. When people, like many of the rally attendees, gather together, they are more likely to make extreme decisions, as opposed to when they are alone. This is known as group polarization effect. This means that people in a group fueled by fear and anger are likely to act in a more violent manner than when each of those people is on their own.
Psychology studies show us that when we fail to see people as similar to us, we may fail to see them as human. As a result, we may become less compassionate toward them, or even become aggressive toward them. However, a simple intervention can change this effect – the consideration of similarities (rather than differences) between the individuals. For example, considering that another person may enjoy the same kind of food, music, or fandom as we do may allow us to feel more connected, and as a result more compassionate, toward them.
Compassion can allow us to connect with people when they are struggling and support people who might have felt misunderstood by everyone else. For example, Albus Dumbledore is able to share a compassionate moment with Leta Lestrange when she shares her frustration and the belief that he hates her. Leta’s own guilt and self-hatred appear to possibly have made her assume that everyone else judges her as harshly as she judges herself. In fact, this happens to many people. When we are struggling, we might further add to our suffering by criticizing ourselves and putting ourselves down. Our inner self-critic can increase the feelings of anger and depression and lead to social isolation and/or lashing out. Dumbledore seems to realize that Leta is struggling, and in his kindness he is able to connect with her experience. Specifically, when Leta shares with him that she lost her brother, he shares that he lost his sister. In order for him to have had such a powerful and honest moment with Leta, Albus has to connect with his own pain and find the courage to share it with her.
Like Dumbledore, Newt Scamander is able to find something good in every creature. Leta even comments that Newt has never met a monster he could not love. It is Newt’s distinct ability to be curious about the different creatures he encounters that allows him to be compassionate toward them even as the world may want to hunt them.
It seems that in the darkest times, love can be the seed from which magic can be born. Compassionate love, such as one that Newt has toward creatures and Dumbledore has toward his pupils, is one that can help us be kinder to each other and, perhaps, even ourselves.