Archive for July, 2011

It Is Our Choices Harry

“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”

-Albus Dumbledore

I sat in front of the computer for about 15 minutes trying to come up with some sort of opening line or thought that would jump start my final goodbye to the Harry Potter series. How did it make me feel? That would probably be too corny. A review of the books or the movies? A little bland. And I’m too lazy to try and write some big thesis on the books/movies anyways. I even discussed with a couple buddies a few weeks ago about going through a mock economy of the Wizarding World and seeing how it would have reacted to Lord Voldemort’s rises and falls. Maybe an interesting concept to be addressed sometime in the future. But again, I’m too lazy. And that’s not the kind of crap the 16 of you who come here want to read anyways.  

What can really be said about a journey that has had such a profound affect on a new generation full of people ready to believe in good?* The answer is…not too much. These aren’t exactly books that will be read in english classes throughout schools for the next 50 years. But maybe that’s why they are so beloved by so many people. Unlike The Lord of the Rings (far too difficult/slow of a read for many people), The Chronicles of Narnia (probably a little dated), or Star Wars (unfortunately maybe a little “geeky” for some), these are books that put into the utmost simplicity the triumph of love over evil, of courage over base fear.

*Had to stick a Bruce Wayne/Batman quote in here somewhere

You don’t have to do too much work to get to the core of what these books are trying to say. The themes and the symbols jump out at us. The characters are flawed enough, human enough, that we can relate to them and believe their struggles. The words of Albus Dumbledore and countless others touch us at such a visceral level, that we can understand exactly what is going on, even if we can’t put our feelings completely into words.

These are books for the masses. And I mean that in the best way possible. What other kind of series have we ever seen before where it is literally uncool, no matter what you’re interested in or the hobbies you have or what background you’re from, to have not read even a page? You feel like those people are missing out on a truly essential part of childhood; of something that can help ease the inevitable pain that comes with growing up.

But for all the things that these books and movies do, I don’t think, even then, it is what sets them apart from other stories we’ve heard before. And I don’t think it is their innate simplicity either. We’ve heard different versions of the battle of good vs. evil since the day we were born. Harry Potter isn’t the only story to promote its biggest themes. We have already before seen the courage of the Jedi overcoming the fear at the very core of the Sith (shocker here folks…I don’t have a girlfriend). We have already before seen the indomitable human (elf, hobbit etc.) will fail to ever give up, and in doing so surpass even the most insurmountable of odds (see: everything ever written by J.R.R. Tolkien). In all of the stories and tales we can most easily recall, themes like the bonds of friendship and the beauty of self-sacrifice for others are ever present.

So what then, can explain why we connect so much with the story of Harry above almost all others? In the paragraph above, it is made clear that the messages we get from Harry’s quest to vanquish Voldemort are ones we have heard over and over again, and will continue to hear for a long time after. If I stopped right here, then you would have to ask yourself, “Then why the hell have I been reading all of this stuff if I could just get it from somewhere else?” And the answer of course is that with the Harry Potter books, J. K. Rowling brought something new to the table. Something was in her books that made readers feel different.

You can get the same messages and motifs from a lot of different stories and adventures. But only by turning the pages of Harry Potter’s saga are you made, if for only a few moments, young again. While the book is open, the hands in your internal clock seem to be suspended. With Harry’s greatest adventures, a part of ourselves recalls some of our very own favorite moments in the innocence of our childhood. When I would have to ride my bike everywhere, and beg my parents to let me stay with my friends by the pool for just a few more hours, and when I needed only fireworks to have a good time on the 4th of July.

Now, by no means am I trying to come off as some old hag that the world has passed by. That would be a little melodramatic. I am still very young in the grand scheme of things. But I am also old enough that I can now bring to mind what it was like to be a kid. I can think with wonder how light and carefree it was, but also with a feeling of bittersweet, knowing how those moments have passed me by.  

And the same can be applied to the world we could escape into with these books and movies. I will always look upon them fondly…for all the lessons I learned from them, the ordinary characters I got to see develop into heroes, and the end of the story where all of the struggle and pain and sacrifice is fulfilled with a final and absolute victory. I will go into tonight’s movie with that same kind of lightheartedness I think. For over 2 hours, I will be taken back to an old, familiar place and get to be a clueless little kid one more time. But when the end credits roll, there will also be pangs of sadness, knowing that, for the time being at least, those spellbinding moments have now passed me by.

Editors Note: Well…good thing I didn’t end up writing “some big thesis” on the books or how the series made me feel, right?