By Amy Finn
There’s nothing more magical to me than the world that J.K. Rowling created with her Harry Potter books. I loved Hogwarts and Hogsmeade and Quidditch and all those strange words that mean nothing to people who have not read the books or seen the movies. I’ve gone to midnight book releases and midnight premieres. There’s no other series of books that holds the same power over me, even now as an adult. I can track the timeline of my childhood with those volumes.
After the final movie, I said goodbye to those characters, to that world, coming to terms with the fact that all good things must come to the end. I mourned. Really and truly, I mourned the loss of that the Wizarding World and those characters. I wasn’t happy or at peace that Harry, Ron and Hermione would never go on another adventure, but I moved on, holding on to the fact that Hogwarts would be waiting for me whenever I wanted to return; those books are still as magical in their rereads as they were the first time through.
Rowling has come out with tidbits of information about the Wizarding World since the final installment of the book series. I like hearing these little facts and short stories about what’s happened since the final book; it’s like she’s a reporter keeping us informed of developments. It was reassuring to know that she was still thinking about the characters, about that world that she so deftly created.
But then things started growing bigger. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them stopped being a cute little companion book and morphed into a three-part movie event. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that this was happening, that this was a way for Rowling to show us what the Wizarding World is like in America and not just a way to make more money. But I'm excited to see how the movies turn out. (My only hope is that they are better than The Hobbit.)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. A play. An eighth book. A new story about the trio. Something she promised she would never do.
I had to pause. Rowling had set up Pottermore, a website used to expand on the books and explore life after the books. Why come up with a new play, an eighth story, if not just to cash in, again, on the name Harry Potter? What is the point of this play? Why is this the only way the story can be told? As I’m living in Los Angeles, there’s a very small chance that I will ever see it. What I always loved about Harry Potter was the inclusiveness of the story. And now, it’s a very exclusive thing. There will be millions of Potterheads who will never see the play.
So, of course, they printed and bound the script and sold it for $29.99.
I bought it and read it the day it came out. (No, I didn’t go to the midnight release party. This did not feel worthy of that.)
When I finished the script, I sat back and went, “huh.” My friend asked me what I thought when I saw her at dinner that same evening. My response: “Let me digest it for a few days, and I’ll get back to you.” All the other Harry Potter books left me in a state of awe and wonder by the end of the reading. I knew how I felt the second I finished them.
But this. This was much different. It wasn’t a book, but a script. Just dialogue. (Some of it bad, in my opinion.) It was Rowling’s story, but not her writing. There were none of her descriptions to transport us into her world. No real stage directions or even pictures of the set designs to help us get a foothold in the physical world. Even now, having read it, I still don’t feel like I know or understand the play. And it just felt...off.
(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.)
To begin with, it felt to me that it was just written to parade some of most beloved, deceased characters around one last time. Snape is in this play. The real Snape. It felt jarring to me that Rowling would resurrect him, especially since the man we all know as Snape—Alan Rickman—is dead now as well. We even have to watch Snape die again and that felt especially irreverent.
Dumbledore, or a painting of him, makes an appearance at one point. They have a heart-wrenching conversation in which Dumbledore tells Harry he loved him. It felt exhibitionist and like Rowling was reassuring us of something we never needed be reassured of. It was obvious to us all that Dumbledore and Harry saw each other and loved each other as father and son. There was no need for this interaction in the play.
Cedric Diggory plays a major role in the whole play, too. “The spare” is not spared anything in this script. He’s made to look like a fool, and he becomes evil and angry at one point as well. Was this really the only plot that the Rowling could think up? Cedric, for me and for many other Harry Potter fans, was the first shocking and jarring literary death that we had to endure as readers. To use him as a device in this half-assed work of fan fiction seemed, again, irreverent to me.
And despite being able to put three dead people in the script, we never see Teddy Lupin. One of the things I loved best about the seventh book was that Harry was Teddy Lupin’s godfather. I loved the idea of Harry being someone’s Sirius, and yet, there was not one mention of that relationship in the whole play. No mention of him by Albus or Ginny or even Ron. Teddy’s absence was palpable to me.
Scoripus and Albus’s relationship was tender and sweet, and probably the best part about the whole story. But why was there a question about them hugging? Why was that brought up not just once but three times? I liked that Draco and Harry’s sons were best friends and that Albus ended up in Slytherin. It added some great dynamics to an otherwise very flat story, but the whole “Do we hug?” bit read as forced and even a tad homophobic to me. Guys hug. It’s really okay.
Also, I hated Harry in this play. I know a few people that don’t like Harry in the books, but I always did. I liked his somewhat stupid mistakes, his dumb luck, and the fact that he never took Hermione Granger for granted. His humanity jumped off the page. In Cursed Child, though, I couldn’t stand him, and he didn’t read like the Harry I knew. No one who has gone through what Harry has, who has lost as many people as Harry has, would ever tell their child that he wishes he’d never been born. There’s no way Harry would ever say that to Albus, no matter how mad he got. That rang so false to me, and since it was the inciting incident for the events of the play, I really couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to dig in and “believe” the story.
Finally, I really hated the ending when Harry is forced to witness to his parents murder (again). That just read as obscene and unnecessary. Harry is transfigured into Voldemort, stops Voldemort’s progeny and then has to watch Voldemort himself kill his parents. Why? Why was it necessary to put Harry, Albus, Hermione, Ron and Ginny through a hellish ordeal like that? What was revealed to us that we didn’t already know about the characters? In my opinion, nothing. There was definitely another way that Rowling could have shared the details of this play; she could have revealed Delphi a thousand other ways.
I won’t say don’t read it. I won’t say, even, that I hated it. This whole script and play felt really self-indulgent to me. Like Rowling was doing some mental masturbation and wanted to show us what her notebook has been filled with since she finished the final book. It was like Rowling was saying, “Look, look! Look what I can do.” Like she read some threads on a fan fic forum and decided that she could do it bigger and better, and since it’s her, we’d all have to accept it as canon.
The magic of Harry Potter is that it never really ended. The epilogue at the end of the seventh book gave us a glimpse into a future where Harry, Ron and Hermione were still together, still alive, and still being their badass selves. Our imagination allowed us to see the rest. What irks me the most about Cursed Child was how unnecessary it was. We already knew that those three would rise to whatever challenge came their way and defeat it, together.
I stayed with Harry until the very end. And now, I hope Rowling will let him rest.
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