Friday, August 5, 2016

Breaking the Curse

I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

I didn’t like it.

It actually breaks my heart to say that. I think J.K. Rowling is a master storyteller. I just think no one needed to tell this particular story.

Before I monologue about the current book, let me touch upon the series as a whole. Mistakes were made; the biggest mistake being the final chapter of the final book. Albus Severus is a dumb name. Does Ginny not have any dead family member she could have memorialized (cough Fred cough)? Couldn’t they have given them middle names that were family-based and allowed them the freedom to be their own people with original first names? I always felt that Harry should have understood that. I also think killing Fred was an enormous mistake. A far better story arc would have been killing Percy, newly returned to the family. His sacrifice, for the brothers who distrusted him the most, would have absolved him of all his sins. Instead, he comes back in the nick of time to watch Fred die in the most unflattering way possible. It is the most unnecessary death in the series. I’d even sub in Arthur Weasley – at least he would have died protecting his family and Molly had proven that she was more than strong enough to carry on without him, even though his loss would have broken her heart. Her sons, including the newly returned Percy, would have rallied around her admirably.

But, here we are, 17 years later once again and I’m still not happy.

The play reads like fan fiction. There, I said it. 






The big bad is Voldemort’s daughter? Really? REALLY? What is this, a Spanish telenova? Did Voldemort seem like he was the type to take lovers? Even with Bellatrix basically throwing herself on his wand, I’m pretty sure his phoenix feather was not rising to the occasion.

The problem with having children grow up is that all the wonders of childhood have to fade away in the face of cold, hard reality. I like to believe that after the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry hid away in 12 Grimmauld Place with Kreacher to come to grips with all that he had survived. I’ll stipulate that he did eventually become an Auror, but only after trying a few other paths first. I believe that Hermione would have gotten hired into the Ministry of Magic version of the mailroom and feverishly worked her way up to the top. And I agree with the fact that Harry and Ginny would have gotten married. But Ron and Hermione? Not so much. Sure, they would have dated, but her insane drive to succeed would have been at odds with his working at Weasley Wizard Wheezes, helping to fill the Fred-shaped hole in George’s life (which should be a Percy-shaped hole, but I digress.) I think they would have eventually broken up, had an awkward patch, and then returned to being good friends.

Basically, they would have become adults in a world that was peaceful and quiet. No bad guys to fight. While Dark Magic still existed, it would have been the type that Harry could hunt down during work hours and still be home in time for evening tea. In short, they would grew up to be boring. And that’s okay. They lived happily ever after. After seven books, eight movies, and countless pages on Pottermore, I think they earned that much.  

But now, I have to live in a world where the delicate father/son relationship enjoyed by Harry and Dumbledore becomes overbaked, overdone, and overly dramatic. We had hundreds of pages to mourn Cedric Diggory. We did not need another story based around a character that was best memorialized as being “the spare.” He really wasn’t that interesting the first time around and proves to be even less so as a MacGuffin. All these years, all the ideas she could have turned into stories and this is the one Rowling chose? Dumbledore wept. (Oh yes, in this book Dumbledore is so akin to a god that his name is used as one. Kill me now.)

By far the largest disappointment is that this is a play and not a book. What made the entire series so wonderful were all the details. The books were rich bowls of cream that needed to be savored because there were so many small ingredients that added to the story. The play is soy milk. It will substitute in a pinch, but no one ever really craves it. They just drink it because it’s the only thing left in the fridge.  

Details that are missing include, say, the rest of the goddamn Potter children! This is Hogwarts! Any fan can name a handful of minor characters off the top of their heads. Superfans, like my nutter of a daughter, can name dozens and show you how their minor actions, reactions, and behaviors added to the overall story in some way. In the play, we get mention of James and Lily Potter with a few throwaway lines, but little more. And where are all the cousins? Friends of the family, such as Teddy and Victoire? I realize I sound ridiculous here, but a man they refer to as Uncle Neville is a professor at the school and he doesn’t even get a line. NOT ONE LINE!

May I be super nitpicky for a moment? Why is there still even a Slytherin house? Every single bad wizard or witch came out of Slytherin. During the Battle of Hogwarts, the entire house was sent away because they couldn’t be trusted. Voldemort was the heir of Slytherin! Just sort people in three houses and be done with it. Get rid of the common room and turn it into a pool. Or rename it and try to give it a new reputation. But the whole concept of the (stupidly named) Potter child being put into the (stupidly) still existing Slythering is, let’s be crystal clear, stupid.

Also, my daughter wanted to know if Albus and Scorpius were gay. Um, maybe? Or not? There was definitely subtext, but not any plain text, so I said I wasn’t sure, but for now they are just really good friends.  

I hope now that Rowling has gotten the Potter universe out of her system for good and can move on to make good art that focuses on different mediums. While her Robert Galbraith books aren’t perfect, I am looking forward to the next one and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them looks like a lot of fun. Until then, I hope that she leaves well enough alone.