Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

The Boy Who Lived.

You had to know it was coming.  The email about everybody’s favorite wizard.  That’s right, this weeks topic is Harry Potter….cue John Williams music. 

It’s funny because I didn’t really get into Harry Potter until the fourth book came out.  I was going through that sophomoric phase of college where you think you’re awesome and that you, as a student of english lliterature, would never and could never deign to read a childrens book.  But then, you find yourself holed up at home, bored out of your freaking mind because it’s summer, and you don’t really know a lot of people in town, and the one’s you do know, you don’t really want to see, and the ones you do want to see are working normal hours instead of at 3am as I was, and sooner or later, an easy book starts to sound appealing as you lay in bed watching reruns of cheers for the fifth hour of the day.  So you pick up this ‘Harry Potter’ and stare at it thoughtfully for another hour or so before you finally decide that it wouldn’t hurt to crack open the book…after all, your mom reads them, your professors read them, perhaps they’re not that bad.  And with that, you read the first four books in the span of a few weeks.  OH shit, you think to yourself…..you’re hooked.

And that’s how addiction begins folks.  It’s that first puff from the pipe of Ms. Rowling and you’ll never go back.  Well, as you may know we’re in the thick of Potter-mania.  It’s twice as intense this time out because of the near-simultaneous release of the fifth movie and the seventh (and final) book of the series.  That’s right, it’s an exciting time for us all.  Come next friday at midnight, we’ll finally know what the connection between Harry and Voldemort is, we’ll finally see which one has to die in order for the other to live, we’ll finally see the truth about Snape.  Yes, come next weekend all the secrets will unfold…hopefully.  It’s bittersweet in a way, I mean, it’s been years of waiting and waiting to know what exactly is going on in these books and come saturday it will all be over. 

Alas, I guess all good things must come to an end. 

But I’m not here to wax poetic about how much I love our boy wizard.  I’m here to talk about the phenomenon of Harry Potter.  And what a phenomenon it is.  Let me throw out a couple of statistics for you.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (the movie that came out on wednesday) made $12 Million in midnight screenings alone.  It made $44.1 Million on its opening day (which was a wendesday).  Amazon.com, as of A WEEK AGO, reported that pre-orders for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the seventh and final book) reached the One Million mark in the U.S. alone.  That doesn’t include Borders and Barnes and Noble orders or independent bookstore pre-orders.  I mean come on, that’s americans reading books by the millions.  And those are books that don’t have an Oprah sticker on them.  It makes my heart sing a little bit just thinking that. 

Just think about this for a second though.  Never, in the history of the book business, has there ever been anything as big as this (well, maybe the bible, but it has a thousand years on Harry Potter).  I mean sure we have the media fuel to add to the Harry Potter fire, but still, this is an unprecedented event, and I, for one, feel blessed to be a part of it. 

So I did just see the fifth movie.  It was hard for me because the fifth book is my favorite of the series so far.  I love love love it.  And I have to say, for all the bad press it’s getting, I really liked the fifth movie.  Here’s the thing with these movies: the books are so dense, there’s no way you’re going to get everything into them…I just like seeing a director and screenwriters takes on what they thought the most important parts of any particular book were.  Though I must say, there is one scene in the fifth movie that I would have spent more time on.  It comes at the end, and it’s not too happy, but I won’t give it away.  Though, going along with that I have to say, the casting in the Harry Potter movies is some of the best in Hollywood (or England, or anywhere really).  I mean, Alan Rickman as Snape is just amazing, Dame Maggie Parks (Professor McGonagall),  Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Emma Thompson (Professor Trewlany), my favorite actor of all time Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), and in this one we get the pleasure of Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) and the gem of the whole film Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge).  Plus, we Americans do love Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint (though I know you brits hate them), and all the supporting students.  Yes, I even love Draco….in the way that I absolutely hate him.

The movies are always exciting, but really, I feel they’re just visually supplemental to the books.  I think the people that have real problems with the movies are the people who don’t read the books.  I mean sure, they’re not the best movies when you look at them from a movie-making perspective (with the exception of the Prisioner of Azkaban) but that’s not really the point, is it?  The point is bringing these folks that we love so much to the big screen where we can watch the action that we’ve already read about and imagined play out in front of our eyes.  That’s the purpose of a Harry Potter movie…it’s not Citizen Kane, it’s not Sicko, they’re not about making you think, they’re about letting you escape. 

The books, on the other hand, are all about making you think.  I would, in fact, love to take a class on Harry Potter and the themes in it because it’s such rich text.  Sure, it’s not the best writing there is out there, but the layers to the story are so rich and the themes are so universal, yet somehow fresh.  That’s what Harry Potter is all about.  Universal themes coming out in new ways; in fact, that’s what all great literature is all about, universal themes realized on a personal level.

Now, I just have one last bone to pick with some ‘fans’ of Harry Potter.  I’ve heard this complaint a few times now.  Basically, it goes something like this  ‘Harry Potter is getting too dark…Isn’t it a kids book?’  To this I say, why the hell are we teaching our kids that there isn’t darkness in the world?  It’s a book about witches and wizards and yes there’s darkness, and yes there’s light, and you know what?  That’s how the freakin’ world works.  I mean, I’m not saying, let’s start showing kids Pulp Fiction because they need to see that there’s darkness and light in the world.  I’m saying, what the hell is wrong with people that suddenly Harry Potter is ‘too dark.’   I’m sorry, is it because people die?  Well here’s a newsflash, people die.  It happens.  It’s gonna happen to you.  Get over it.  Is it because there’s a battle between good and evil?  That’s practically every single disney movie there is.  Why does it matter with Harry Potter?  I mean, yeah, Voldemort is scary, but do what my parents did, cover your kids eyes if they’re scared.  But I also think it’s important to explain that ‘THIS ISN’T REAL,’  some uber-powerful wizard is not going to come attack your kids by trying to break into their thoughts.  That’s just not going to happen.  So this is a good forum to explain the difference between fact and fiction.  If your kid is scared during Harry Potter, wait a year before they watch it, but don’t give me that shit that it’s getting too dark.  Or you know, don’t.  Say it’s too dark.  Let’s take all the substance out of everything so that we no longer have to think about anything dark.  Ray Bradbury and George Orwell will be so proud of our society.

But I digress into pettiness, the whole point of this email is a celebration.  So for the next two weeks I think we should all celebrate, who knows what will happen in the end, but what I do know is that we should be thankful for the boy who lived for finally sparking an unprecedented fervor over a fictional character.  Thank you Harry Potter.

Well, I’m off on the floo network to go get some butterbeer in Hogsmead, I’ll see you all on Privet Drive in Little Winging.

Peace, Love, and  Bertie Botts Every Flavored Beans,

Julia

July 13, 2007 Posted by | Books, Brits, Education, Harry Potter, Movie Reviews, Movies | 1 Comment