Letting Go of the Boy Who Lived
So last month Harry Potter celebrated its 20th Anniversary, and my peers gave a collective groan, lamenting just how old we’re all getting. It’s true that myself and others grew up with The Boy Who Lived. It was the coming of age tale of our generation, held by many to be the greatest book series of our time. I started reading them in the middle of junior high, and when it came time for the final book’s release, I was an employee of the now-gone Borders Books and Music, working the midnight release party. It was a bittersweet time, and with the exception of the movies yet to come out, fans believed that to be the end of The Boy Who Lived.
Yet somehow, Harry kept on living. It was a slow trickle at first, small tidbits by author J.K. Rowling. Items such as a news story from the wizarding gazette, The Daily Prophet, about how Harry had taken his children to the Quidditch World Cup. Other reveals, such as that of Albus Dumbledore’s sexuality and the correct pronunciation of Voldemort (you’d think would have come up during the movies) came into play around the same time. One of the more celebrated tweets that I can currently recall is the timely sorting of James S. Potter into Gryffindor House, of which very few fans I’m sure were surprised.
As the years have waned however, Harry never really left us. With the inception of Pottermore, and now the commonly-argued as disastrous Cursed Child play, many – myself included – are asking, can’t Harry just go away already?
For what it’s worth, I get it. Harry Potter was Rowling’s cash crop. It most likely literally saved her and her children from starving on the streets. She also deserves the credit for creating a very vibrant and imaginative world for children over the course of seven books. Are there flaws? By all means, flaws abound throughout the novels. Yet for the most part, I find these are forgivable, because if there had been workarounds to these issues the plot would have suffered.
However, the fact that Rowling hasn’t grown as an author has become very poignant over the years. Her failed adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, as well as repetitive tropes featured in Pottermore stories, have revealed her lack of overall creativity. One might also feel the need to point out her theft of Native American mythologies to bolster her narrative during that time, and the fact that she has actually blocked people of indigenous background on Twitter who pointed this out to her bares some significance as well.
Rowling is less interested in doing what’s right, it seems. Instead, she is making sure that her stories are produced to her liking for a consumer base that is aging out of her world. Perhaps the renowned author has more in common with Rita Skeeter these days?
Regardless of how you feel about that (although you should care a great deal), things came to a headway with the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. As if cultural appropriation weren’t bad enough, fans must now apparently contend with a fecal matter load the size of a Hogwarts’ banquet of potentially-immortalized fanfiction to be approved by Rowling at her whim.
Here’s hoping Harry Potter doesn’t get his own 50 Shades of Grey.
This Plot was Riddikulus!
For those of you who haven’t read Cursed Child, may I start by saying how I envy you. I will follow that through with the statement that, from this point on, spoilers abound. Therefore, if you haven’t read the screenplay, or have been fortunate enough to have not seen the play, and desire to do one or both of these things, you may want to skip ahead.
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child spit in the face of everything we currently know in terms of Wizarding World lore. Whether it’s breaking the cemented laws of time travel, or the impossible fact that Voldemort (remember, the T is silent) actually had a daughter, it is more than an insult that this rubbish exists beyond the links of Fanfiction.net. Furthermore, to know that Rowling signed off on it is beyond the comprehension of the most diehard Potter fans (save for those who just want more no matter the cost).
Characters were bastardized from beginning to end. Ron was made out to be a blithering fool, and that’s when he was given any time at all. Harry, it turns out, is as two-dimensional as ever, and a horrible father to boot. We see next to nothing of James or Lily Potter, less still of Hugo and Rose Granger-Weasley, and nothing more than mere mentions of Teddy Lupin or the latest generation of Weasley offspring. Instead we are stuck with the two most dull characters we could have ever been offered: Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy 2.0.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know that the writing wasn’t Rowling’s doing. The question is, however, if she was okay with this being produced, could she have honestly done much better? Evidence left throughout Pottermore leaves one to speculate that no, she couldn’t.
Potternomore, Thank You Very Much!
For many of us Potterheads, we went to Pottermore at one point in time or another. If not to get sorted into our respective houses (both American and British, now), it was certainly to catch up on the expansions of the Harry Potter universe. For those who don’t know, you can also find your Patronus, as well as get be assigned a wand when you sign up. Pottermore is free (surprisingly) but taxing in terms of email spam, so join at your own risk.
Most of the offending historical attributes mentioned above can be found in the History of Magic in North American section. Misinformation about skinwalkers and medicine men are the first things highlighted. Later on in the magical creatures subsection, we’ll see the theft of the concept of the Thunderbird. Why Rowling felt compelled to not instead make up her own creatures is beyond me, or even if only slightly tweaking these elements to fit a more independently driven narrative. The former is preferable, but the latter might have been at least less offensive.
Going even further, the tale of the creation of the North American school of magic has some very familiar plot devices for anyone who has read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s Stone in the UK). Here we find a young woman, Isolt, living with her evil abusive aunt after the death of her parents. Tiring from her plight, she flees from the homestead of her evil aunt to the United States upon the Mayflower.
Later, when Isolt had wed and adopted two boys whose parents were murdered, the evil aunt returns for her. It is revealed that the aunt was the one responsible for the death of Isolt’s parents. A sacrifice of love, not much unlike the one Lily made for Harry, is nearly accomplished but thwarted at the last minute. The aunt is defeated, and the family goes on to create the American school of Ilvermorny.
Who cares? You might say. Big deal! Let there be more Harry Potter! We want it all!
Do you? Because at what point will Rowling completely run out of ideas? What happens when she completely rehashes the story as Harriett Potter, the descendant of Harry and Ginny some hundred years into the future? Or what if we get a story that goes back and changes the entirety of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? Oh wait, we already did. That was Cursed Child!
But I digress now. Let the onslaught continue. Remember, though, that there is such thing as too much of a “good” thing, if any of this can be called good any longer. With the recently announced upcoming release of three new ebooks, two of which being collections of short stories, and another being an unofficial history of Hogwarts, as well as the four other movies to be added to the Fantastic Beasts series, one might never get the answer to the question: When is enough, enough? When will we acknowledge that J.K. Rowling has reached the end of her painfully short creative rope?
It may be a good time to still be a Harry Potter fan, or it could be the worst time ever. I know I’m more than done with The Boy Who Lived. To be honest, I’m starting to wish that the battle of Hogwarts might have given us cause to revoke that name, and left Harry in his rightful place in history: the past.
But may hap I’m too cynical. I never really liked Harry, the character. All of my favorites died off throughout the course of the series. If Rowling wants to go back and write about the first wizarding war, I might be on board. Until then I’m remiss to want anything to do with Harry anymore.