Harry Potter: A Love Letter and a Takedown

Personal / Thursday, July 20th, 2017

One of the things I most appreciate about the Harry Potter series (and by extension, JK Rowling’s writing style)  is the equal attention paid to the sacred and the profane, the big questions and the mundane. Harry Potter was the first book I read that had me questioning ideas like mortality, morality, and tolerance, but boy she did not skimp on the details when describing a dinner at the Great Hall, or how squishy and wonderful the armchairs in the Gryffindor common room must be. She didn’t miss opportunities for small character moments, whether it was Neville being attacked by a plant in the background, or enormous arcs like Neville’s defeat of a Horcrux.

It’s amazing how a story so, so universal has affected so many so personally (which of course is the massive achievement of the series). It’s your classic Hero’s Journey straight out of Campbell’s playbook, but it’s so much more, it’s so full and alive and thriving.

Maybe thriving a little too much, says the bitter 20-something-year-old.

Harry Potter is 20 years old, and it’s been 10 years since the final book (Deathly Hallows) came out. Granted, Harry Potter didn’t come state-side for a little longer, but the sentiment remains. I attended the midnight release party for Cursed Child last year, more because I just wanted the book then and there to avoid spoilers on the Internet. I knew it wouldn’t feel the same as it did for me back then, but I hoped it meant something to all of the kids that ran around.

I’m incredibly grateful and humbled that I got to live through Harry Potter’s initial blitz on the world at the age that I was at. I was just that perfect age. I don’t care if it sounds smug. That feeling will never be replicated again, and that phenomenon will never be as special as anything that comes after it will be stacked against the first and the best. That being said, one book I highly recommend reading if you haven’t already is Harry, A History, by Melissa Anelli of HP fansite The Leaky Cauldron and fan event LeakyCon. For me, it was like rediscovering a part of history that I was a part of but so blissfully unaware of as a child. “It’s our history,” I dramatically said to one of my obsessed best friends when I lent it to her.

But they won’t let it go, they won’t just set it free into the world. I get that Warner Bros. and Universal and Scholastic and Bloomsberry will NEVER let it go, that they will constantly find an anniversary to celebrate or a new spin on something. But I just wish it could spread its roots deeper instead of wider. I guess nothing is stopping that from happening. It’s not like a reboot of X, Y, and Z films tarnishes your enjoyment and love of the original, Ghostbusters fans. But I selfishly feel that I can never become nostalgic about Harry Potter because the media blitz will never let me. I’m nostalgic for a simpler time, for sure, and nostalgic for those earlier HP days when it was dorky to like it, but I am more thrilled at all of the good it has done by being universally shared and cherished.

Maybe I’m just bitter because the only part of Fantastic Beasts that got me emotional was literally the first few notes of Hedwig’s Theme playing before it transitioned into the new series’ theme. Despite the emotion I was cynical, knowing that I totally fell for their bait in that moment–that moment of weakness. Shit, I thought, they got me. But even then I knew that Fantastic Beasts would be a shell of a film, comparatively and it was, and that this attempt at comforting the doubters (~*~this is familiar to you~*~*~welcome home~*~*~etc.) would be dashed by a lackluster story.

I’ve appreciated some of the bits of extra detail Rowling has shared with us about characters and plotlines, even if at times I feel that she needs to let the book go. That the work belongs to its readers. I cannot deny how much I love the theme parks and so many things that sprung up as a result of this continued support. But it all feels very corporate now, very Hollywood. They are trying to bottle that thunder and you just can’t do that. Not in today’s reboot and nostalgia culture. Everyone is looking for evergreen IP, and I can’t deny that the Wizarding World is perfect. Just not when Rowling is causing faux pas claiming Native American myths as part of her own mythology or when a controversial (and non-British) actor is cast in these new films. Not when Cursed Child feels at times more like fanfiction than some fanfiction (or even Half Blood Prince) does. And again with Fantastic Beasts underwhelming-ness that will now Hobbit itself into a five part series. (Yes, Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2 did it first, but it was the only one that actually had enough plot to split it’s story up. Looking at you Twilight, Hunger GamesMCU, and The Hobbit, still).

I’m so grateful for the Wizarding World that I grew up with, and I hope that kids today are as well. I hope I can continue to find enjoyment in a world that’s expanding just a little too fast for me, but that’s on me to sort out anyway.

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