Friday, 30 June 2017

Harry Potter Week: I don't wish to be such a Raven-bore but

So we've reached the end of my Harry Potter themed week on my blog and the final ramblings about the series. I've offered you an overly emotional review of my history with the books on Monday, a rant about Harry himself on Tuesday, a rant about Dumbledore on Wednesday, and a hard-hitting investigation into the terrible conditions at Hogwarts yesterday. What do we have in store for today? Well I don't know. I could easily offer up another rant about how awful Snape is (really why do people respect him so much? Bravest wizard I know? For fuck's sake!) but this week has supposed to be about a celebration of the books that changed so many people's lives. These books have been so great in helping us all grow up and will continue to help youngsters for a long time yet. So I want to take another moment to look at the fandom as a whole. Just think back to just over 20 years ago; what was the world like? We didn't know what Quidditch was. We didn't have a handy way to divide ourselves up by random personality traits. We didn't know about the sheer badassery of Professor Minerva McGonagall. These books were a magical and changed literary history. Yes, JK Rowling may have been incredibly lucky to get published (let's be honest, these books shouldn't have been the hit they were) but that doesn't mean she doesn't deserve her success. I just wish she'd know when to stop.

Okay, before you start, I promise that this won't turn into another rant about the author but, it's got to be said, she's publicly changed her tune more than Theresa May at this point. Now, I think JK Rowling is a wonderful human being and has done a great deal of fantastic things in her life. She lived a difficult life and managed to turn her life around thanks to her idea for a series of children's books. She's done a great deal to help a lot of people and has given more than her fair share of money to help people in need. She's an absolute hero and I salute her. However, I stand by my continued assertion that she isn't a great writer. It's something I've seen more than ever recently in rereading the first novel. It's painful to read it now I'm 20 years older. I've always said it but I've also always said that she improved. If you don't count the epilogue anyway.

However, she is beginning to suffer from something I want to call "George Lucas syndrome". Rowling just doesn't know when to stop. Way back in 2012 I was ranting about Rowling's continued confirmations that she was done with the series. And now we find ourselves faced with a play that half the fans love and the rest hate. Then we have another series of 5 movies in the same universe but set decades before. This is all fine except for two reasons: number one, the majority of us had already said goodbye to the books; and number two, Rowling was so adamant it wasn't going to happen. For me, personally, I've never been able to forgive Rowling for being so shady when it comes to the continuation of the series. It's been painfully obvious from the start but she always said it would only happen if she had the right story. Then Pottermore comes along and every other week she's posting new information about characters or places in the wizarding world. It just feels as though any old shit is good enough for her these days. But what about the fans?

Now, I'm worried about sounding like a hypocrite here because in January 2016 I wrote a defence for George Lucas by saying the fans didn't own Star Wars so their feelings don't matter. I stand by that. Just as Star Wars was Lucas' child that he could adjust the films as he saw fit. Just because we are fans we can't dictate how things are. I understand that JK Rowling can add to her universe as much as she wants and that is okay. I wish she'd be honest about it but that's just me. However, I also think she has to understand that the Harry Potter fandom is a different thing altogether. It was the first major fandom that grew up with the internet. It was the fandom that changed fandoms as a whole. Star Wars fans made up their own stories and had their own conventions, yes, but Harry Potter fans had a convenient place to do it all: online. The Harry Potter fandom was a community in a much more immediate way: geography was no longer an obstacle.

The Harry Potter fandom is a fantastic thing to be a part of and has always been a celebration of something magical. It was a fandom that, when waiting for the stories to come out, came together to create our own universe. We finished the stories ourselves and created some very divisive ideas. There were major gaps in the original novels, particularly in terms of diversity, that many wanted to fill themselves. Yes, I might not be a Drarry shipper but I can see why it would fill a hole that is missing from the series. The only LGBTQ representative within the novels is Dumbledore but that was a half-arsed inclusion post-publication. I always felt this was a pathetic attempt by Rowling to show diversity and believe that if it's important that Dumbledore was gay it should have been addressed in the books. Of course, with the continuation of the Fantastic Beasts films it looks set to become a theme.

The great thing about Harry Potter fans is that they felt so comfortable to think outside of the written word. There was so much scope within the pages to see things you wanted to be true. It's the thing that means some people see the fact that Remus and Sirius "embraced like brothers" to mean they're good friends whilst others see them as mega hot lovers. When there is so little canon to work from it leaves room for these things to be true to every individual that wants them. If JK keeps releasing new material it limits this. Which would be fine if the new material was all of the same quality as the books but, it has to be said, that it isn't. I've ranted enough about The Cursed Child but it's a story that is mostly about its staging. It is also a story that places Bellatrix and Voldermort's child into the canon. I know people make cases for this based on flimsy Deathly Hallows evidence but I can't get on board with it. Not in that time frame, anyway.

Harry Potter is one of those things that is uniquely personal to everyone involved. JK Rowling, herself, has admitted to wishing she'd done things differently but felt she had to go with her original plan. That's what was so wonderful about the end as it was: everyone could see the future as they wanted. There were so many unanswered questions that you could answer as you wanted. Every additional piece of material released, film or book, takes the control away from the individual. It seems quite un-Potter like. Still, the other great thing about being a Potter fan is that it doesn't mean anything. We're a resilient bunch after all. We've spent 10 years pretending that the epilogue doesn't exist so I can go my whole life ignoring the fact that Voldermort has a child.

Okay, so this was a little more ranty than I'd intended but that's another thing about Harry Potter fans: we're all incredibly passionate and stubborn. It's been a great 20 years all in all.

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