Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? You’ve surely taken up many of my sunny days and starry nights with your reel and written release dates (though, to be fair, there have been several wintry anticipations, as well).
Why such eagerness for a “kid’s” series of books and movies? Why such unwavering loyalty to fantasy fiction when there’s so much reality to be had? Who the fuck cares about this wizard shit, anyway, but weirdoes, wannabes and wearers of aluminum foil helmets?
Right here. –> This Chick <– Me.
I came to the Harry Potter universe kicking and screaming (as I do many things that end up good for me, like vegetables and exercise and shaving). I was NOT one of THOSE people into kid stuff and was waaay too cool for movies that didn’t involve Peter Jackson. I was a sophomore in college and the movie my friends and I wanted to see sold out (I don’t even remember which one) so one of our party suggested “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” Bah. Pish-posh. But the theatre in Durango, Colo., which played host to Fort Lewis College, ye olde alma mater, had limited screens, so off to Hogwarts we went, sniggering and sneering like a Malfoy hopped up on weed. The theatre was PACKED with snot-nosed runts and their obliging parents. Few people older than 8 were there by choice. We ended up sitting in separate rows and the lights went dim.
I can’t say it was magic at first sight; in fact, I’m pretty sure I left confused — the story and mythology go deep — but I guarantee I felt a surge of “this is for me” afterwards. As a kid, I was a big fan of movies like “Legend,” “Worst Witch,” and “Labyrinth” (who am I kidding, I’m still a fan!). So I invested a smidgeon of time to ABC Family and caught up on “Sorcerer’s Stone.” It was fine. A sparkly kid’s movie (not unlike a certain vampire series we all love), so I forgot about HP until the third film, “Prisoner of Azkaban” came out in 2004.
Talk about a well-directed film; whereas the first two flicks sought so hard to include the fine little details with candy and glitter, the third film, with its dark edges and fade-to-blacks, proved a film for minds. Helmed by the gloriously capable Alfonso Cuarón, the third HP tale took Harry & Friends to the underworld of life (adolescence) and never looked back. That it had Gary Oldman in the spectacularly gruzzy role of Sirius Black, as well as Alan Rickman picking up the pace as is-he-or-isn’t-he Professor Snape, were total bonuses. I had to have more.
Thus began my foray into J.K. Rowling’s napkin epic. I’m glad I saw the first three movies prior to reading, because I probably wouldn’t have finished half of “Sorcerer’s Stone” on my own… Luckily for me, I had five whole books to dig into before Half-Blood Prince came out in 2005, and you betcha I had those bad boys memorized lickity-split. I admit to skimming the first two books; given the age of Harry in Year 1 and 2, I don’t agonize over Rowling’s limited storytelling in those books. They were hooks for millions of kiddy fish to continue reading – brilliant! I did, however, purchase the audiobooks read by the truly fantastic Jim Dale and his many talents. And so I became…
… a Potterhead.
I was addicted. I bought the films, watched the extras, bought used copies of paperbacks, and collected hardcover special editions. Later, an editor and dear friend would ask her sister to buy me the UK versions *sigh* For a different experience, I listened to all the books on CD – seriously, Jim Dale will put a whole new spin on storytelling (and driving back and forth through the Midwest prairie). I wish he could narrate my life.
I went to the midnight release party of “Half-Blood Prince” at Barnes & Noble in Lincoln, Neb., where I worked for the local paper. I didn’t have much of a social life (um, no correlation to being an HP-loving adult), so I felt a little out of place in my Hogwart’s knock-off robes and faux glasses. But I got that damned book and read it through the night, emerging bleary-eyed and Dumbledore-deprived. Waaaahhhh! Being known at work as the Potterhead had its perks – when “Goblet of Fire” came out on film, our movie reviewer, L. Kent Wolgamott, gave me advance screening tickets to help him critique the film from a “fan’s” perspective (whilst he viewed from an outsider’s POV). It wouldn’t surprise anyone to know I framed not only the tickets, but a copy of the reviews, as well. In eight+ years as a journalist I wrote about murders and meteorites and inventions — this is the only piece on a wall. *shrugs* The addiction was solidified.
There comes a moment in retelling this tale to friends (simplified, of course, to “I love Harry Potter”) where someone always asks: “Yeah, but WHY do you love Harry Potter?” That’s a tough question, since for me the answer is complex and a bit too psychologically-depthed to give in shorthand. The story of an abused but determined boy instantly clicked with me; I generally find myself gravitating toward abused children (hence the social work job), having been one myself. Too weak or broken to defend, but willful and defiant all the same. I see myself in the Dursley cabinet, an unwanted slave. That Harry was given extraordinary gifts to combat his foes is where I piggyback on the storyline. Who, as a used soul, wouldn’t want a magic wand to swipe away the bad people of our lives? Who doesn’t crave a way out – something better? Of course, I came to the series much later in life than the age Harry begins his journeys, but it was easy – so easy – to place myself alongside him. Besides that, Harry’s worst years are his most formidable – the aforementioned adolescence. A yucky stage in life – changes and growing up and life lessons. A time of blood and hate and abandonment for me; that Harry experiences those and then some made liking the books an easy wagon for me jump on. The Harry Potter Universe promised me stories of teenagers rescuing themselves from adults who sought to control and diminish them. That I couldn’t do the same in my own life made me seek out characters that could.
Blah, blah, blah, and here we are in 2011, waiting first for the final Harry Potter flick (.2) AND the end of the world in 2012 (coincidence?). It’s been a wild ride; the best part is my 2-year-old can sit through all of HP7.1 (quite honestly a bore of a movie in terms of toddler-esque action)! Midnight tickets are burning a hole in my wallet; costume is safe in a box, wand ready for a new set of Duracells. As a reader, I know the movie’s outcome, but I love not knowing the journey the film will take. While purists will bemoan a director taking liberties with text, I prefer seeing something unknown. New. I loved, for instance, the scene in HP7.1 when Harry takes the hand of a depressed Hermione and together the pair dance as only two friends can in desperate situations. Was it in the book? Nope. It’s a total visual element and one that deepened the friendship of HP and HG, in my eyes. So while I can’t help but peek at all 13,536 trailers released for the upcoming film, I try to close my eyes to keep some of what I see in the early morning hour of July 15 fresh. This is the last of the last. Forget that stupid Pottermore crap. The owls came and went with that train.
The last – FINAL – Harry Potter film is an end of an era, a literal closing of the book. Perhaps thinking of it like that is a catharsis for me, and maybe now with Lord Voldemort out of the way, I, too, can leave my demons in the past and move on to something bright and shiny and new.