Harry Potter and The End
We’ve all seen the news (and Facebook News Feeds) obsessing over the release of the last film in the Harry Potter series (Friday! Eeeek! Or late Thursday night, depending on how much of a life you have, ahem, how devoted a fan you are). And sure, everyone involved (fandom, cast and crew included) is emotional and it’s all totally lame. Right?
Eager to shed her identity and be a legitimate actor, Emma Watson enrolled in college– first Brown, then NYU, home to many child stars hoping to have real careers after age 20. She even chopped off her hair to look like a hip Brooklyn chick… or just not like Hermione Granger as she had for at least the past ten years. That’s understandable. Imagine being contractually obligated to have the same hairstyle for that long? The public has known about this haircut for long enough that it is not newsworthy, but she is showing it off on the cover of July’s Vogue. And look at Daniel Radcliffe on Broadway in How to Succeed…, even battling an alcohol addiction (and tabloid coverage of it) like a real Hollywood celebrity.
The adults in the films, of course, were respected actors prior to their roles in the franchise. If you grew up on Potter and not British film and TV like many American children did (and will continue to do), it’s a little hard to take them seriously now. For instance, why were Bellatrix Lestrange and Wormtail among the rulers of England in The King’s Speech? Why was Rita Skeeter Queen of the same country in season 2 of Blackadder? I imagine that it might be jarring to be a child and see these villains in positions of power in television and movies, although it is unlikely that many preteens make a habit of watching The King’s Speech or Blackadder… but they might catch some clips of the Potter adults while hanging out with nerdy parents or siblings. “Daddy, why is Nearly Headless Nick complaining about a dead parrot?” Not to mention why mommy gets all giggly when watching movies starring Professor Snape.
And maybe the generation that grew up Potter is trying to shed the identities of their childhoods, too. And it’s going to be just as difficult.
Imagine that in 5th grade, well before the movies were even a glimmer in anyone’s mind, three of your teachers dressed up as Professor McGonagall for Halloween. Of course, none of them could come close to Maggie Smith’s tightly pursed lips, just as you imagined when you read the books for the first time. Nobody could pronounce Hermione Granger’s name when they made fun of that girl with the crazy hair while meanwhile, your teacher who dressed up as Harry Potter for the same Halloween fretted that she couldn’t get her hair to be as messy as Harry’s was described in the books. She’d wish she had this problem while losing all of it to chemo.
We all were forced to play the theme to the movies in middle school band, sandwiched between Mambo No. 5 and a lot of John Philip Sousa. And to the midnight movies and book releases I added a cloak to my catholic school uniform to create the perfect Hogwarts uniform for at least one year; it seemed to change drastically in every movie before almost completely disappearing, unlike real uniforms. I met my best friend at Barnes and Noble while celebrating the release of Half-Blood Prince. Stores in Princeton, NJ even transformed the cobblestone streets of Palmer Square into Diagon Alley. And no movie magic could compare to the chill felt in the theatres when that big WB logo would fly through the stormy skies, marking the end of the previews and the beginning of another adventure.
There were crushes on Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Tom Felton, merchandise in Hot Topic, fanfiction jokes and many discussions of what was and was not canon in the films. What was going to happen in the next book? I even wrote a fake book seven for a friend (and fellow nerd) for Christmas one year, complete with the appropriate font choices, ghetto binding and a hand-painted cover. Sixty-something Microsoft Word pages of inside jokes and mystery-solving, I called it Harry Potter and The End.
These are memories tied to childhood innocence, days when fear of being yelled at by my evil stepmother could be quelled by her regret when I finally got my Hogwarts letter. I could escape by locking my door and reading for ten straight hours or watching all of the movies on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas marathons (even though it bothered me that they showed them in their Christmas programming when they had nothing to do with the holiday except for that one scene in the first movie). Yes, it’s all totally lame, but it’s what I and many other children—sorry, college graduates—my age have. Memories and emotional attachments. When they announced the title and release date of the seventh book in 2007, I remember feeling touched by the countless blogs and New York Times articles kvetching and kvelling about the effect the end of the series would have on my generation. My god, what would we do with ourselves? But we still had more movies. A week from today, we won’t.
We can be cynical about war, the state of the economy, or at the very least, grumble about how today’s youth only has Twilight characters for role models. So watch your YouTube clips, your fan trailers and nostalgia pieces, morning show interviews and entertainment networks. This is it. And even if the death of Bin Laden seems to echo Harry’s triumph over Voldemort, all of the evil ends there for him. Unfortunately, we still have a generous supply of it here in the real world. On Friday, we cut the umbilical cord of youth and optimism to fight the real evils.
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