Harry Potter and the Excess of Butterbeer.
This stemmed from someone asking me about Hellblazer/Constantine, soon to have a TV show in the fall. They knew nothing about the character, and I was in a bit of a rush, so I defined him as a an “adult, meanspirited, drunk Harry Potter.” Not exactly true, but enough of a “short form” on the English mage created by Alan Moore as a sort of “blue collar Dr. Strange” to do the trick.
Still…it got me thinking about Harry Potter.
It has been seven years since the release of the last Harry Potter book. That is a long time. A quick news search on the term “Harry Potter” delivered an article on the growing International Quidditch Association, and the fact that is is growing by leaving Harry himself behind.
To be taken seriously, the quidditch players have been adapting the culture of more respected sports by certifying their coaches, standardising the rules and recruiting talented athletes. A recent conference, where some 40 players gathered to improve their coaching, refereeing and team-management skills before playing in a small tournament, was part of that effort.
But they’ve also been trying something else to gain respect: ditching Harry Potter. Though most still love the series, they have decided that the sport has outgrown its children’s-novel roots.
And they’re not alone. Four years after the last movie premiered, the fan base for the Boy Who Lived – on websites, at conferences and in this college-popular “sport” – is carrying on the Potter legacy by leaving Harry behind. It was once common for players on college campuses to wear capes, dress as characters from the books and talk about “bringing fantasy to real life”. Today, Harry Potter isn’t mentioned in the online history of the International Quidditch Association.
Recently, J.K. Rowling wrote and published via Pottermore a 1500 word story that gives us a glimpse into Harry’s future as an adult. To summarize…
Harry, about to turn 34, attends the final of the Quidditch World Cup with his family and old friends Ron and Hermione. Harry now has “threads of silver” in his hair and a mysterious cut on his cheekbone, related to his “top secret” work as an evil-battling Auror. The story is written in the style of a gossip column for the Daily Prophet by reporter Rita Skeeter, a minor character in the novels.
Meh. Skeeter observes that Harry and friends are “no longer the fresh-faced teenagers they were in their heyday” and speculates about the state of Harry’s marriage to Ginny Weasley. She says Ron Weasley’s red hair “appears to be thinning slightly,” and notes witheringly that Harry still wears “the distinctive round glasses that some might say are better suited to a style-deficient 12-year-old.” Although reminiscent of the tabloid that it mocks, it isn’t exactly a continuation that I’m looking for. It quite literally is, “hey, they seem to have peaked Senior year at Hogwarts.”
The story does change things for the license though…more than 15 years after the first Harry Potter book debuted, interest in the series appears to be on the rise, particularly with speculation that author J.K. Rowling may be reviving the franchise. A new story tends to do that.
Still…it got me thinking about Harry himself, as a guy that’s 34 or so now, and apparently peaked in High School. You beat the worst bad guy of your entire cultural group, hands down…there isn’t much to do after that. The series of books in fact often had Rita Skeeter portraying him as an over rated child star. What kind of person would he be like to sit down with as an adult? That’s pretty much what was in my head as I rendered that.
When I was a first year teacher in 1999, it was at a school in South Central, closed now, where I didn’t get a classroom, and I didn’t even get books. Seriously. The lowest performing Middle School in California, with a serious gang problem. I hadn’t met my co-teacher yet…the whole thing was a mess.
After I exhausted Edgar Allen Poe, I needed something for my students to read. I looked around for a young adult book, and eventually worked out a donation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The overwhelming majority of the students thoroughly enjoyed it, and it produced many meaningful discussions, writing assignments, and so forth. That was 16 years ago.
A few years later, a science teacher we knew tried to theme her classroom around the growing Harry Potter phenomenon, with competitive houses, excellent decor, and so forth. She was spoken to more than once about teaching “witchcraft,” and asked to desist. That was beyond puzzling as it unfolded, a scene more from deep in the Red States than one thinks about in Los Angeles.
Still…as a teacher, as well as a reader, I have some history with Harry as a character. Not my favorite character in the series, but seeing that the IQA is disowning him, and Rowling herself seems to suggest he has a rough job and marital problems…I feel for the guy.