So here we are.
Some of us have been here since the beginning, and some of you are joining us for the first time. Either way, we’re all in this together now.
At the time of writing this, I am 22 years old. When Harry Potter and the Sorcerors Stone came out 9 ¾ years ago (gee, isn’t 9 ¾ that platform at King’s Cross where we begin and end our journey with Harry?) I was twelve years old, just a year older than Mr. Potter himself.
I remember sitting in my cushy red theater seat and watching the shiny golden Warner Brothers logo pass me by for the very first time. I remember that I had to wait until my mom got off work so that she could drive me to the theater and that my cousin Matt had somehow persuaded me to put mustard on my popcorn. Very vividly, I remember the feeling I got deep in the recesses of my childhood when the first frame of the entire series was projected on the screen.
It was an owl, illuminated by the moonlight, perched on a sign that read “Privet Drive”.
I inhaled sharply with all the fervent expectation that a twelve year old boy could possibly muster, fully knowing that I was about to watch the film that I had been waiting for ever since I read the last sentence of Sorceror’s Stone.
I remember laughing every time that Hagrid muttered “I shouldn’t have told yeh that”, and I remember being terrified when Harry, Ron and Hermione encountered Fluffy, the vicious three-headed dog. More than anything though, I remember what I was thinking.
This was made for me.
Being a clueless (and admittedly weird) twelve year old boy, this was a particularly powerful notion. I knew nothing of marketing, films, or the four quadrants of audiences.
All I knew was that for years, the Harry Potter books had been a source of escape for me. I would get lost for hours at a time in Harry’s world, wishing that Hogwarts had existed and telling myself over and over again that my letter had simply gotten lost in the mail.
When I was pulled from grade school and moved to an unfamiliar junior high school, (in hindsight, this is a very cruel practice that is still happening in some parts of the world today) Hogwarts was the place where I sought stability. While other kids made new friends, started going to parties and began their rebellion against their parents, I made friends with the librarian and spent my lunches with Harry.
How funny was it then that as Harry grew, met horrible teachers, had his first kiss, and got average grades, there I was alongside him doing the same. Harry’s last year at Hogwarts coincided with my graduation from high school, and although I did not defeat a Dark Lord, I did manage a 3.3 grade point average.
That’s the thing though. I absorbed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as an adult with the same ferocity with which I absorbed Harry Potter and the Sorcerors Stone as a child. In retrospect, the tones of both novels appear to be meant for different people.
I realize only now that it was because they are meant for different people.
The kid inside me that finds troll bogies to be uproariously funny is not the same adult that was able to appreciate Harry’s psychological victory over Voldemort. The boy that delighted in the bright tones and golden atmosphere of the Chris Columbus films isn’t the same man that is moved by the darker tones and adult subject matter that has slowly encompassed Harry’s life.
When I was a kid, I thought that Sorceror’s Stone was made for me, and that’s because it was. It was made for the kid who read books in the library all day, the kid who was the youngest in his family, and the kid who felt like he didn’t fit into this world and had to commandeer another. I found pieces of myself in Hermione, Ron and Harry, so to me, their journey was real.
I am older now and they are still so real to me. They aren’t like my other obsessions which have slowly faded in and out of attention. Harry Potter has stayed with me until the very end and I intend to do the same.
Even in this world of fiction that Harry lives in, moments sometimes ring so harshly true and I have to remind myself that these aren’t my real childhood buddies, they are Jo’s imaginary friends.
A particularly striking scene for me is the moment in Half Blood Prince when Harry hits Draco with the Sectumsempra curse. You may remember from Chamber of Secrets that this is not Harry’s first duel with Malfoy. In the book, they spring tickling charms and slightly more violent (but still relatively un-lethal) spells at each-other. In Half Blood Prince when Harry sends his mysterious Sectumsempra curse at Malfoy, it slashes him across the chest, splattering blood on the floor. If not for moaning Myrtle, Harry would have murdered Malfoy.
I still remember reading that part of the book and having to physically set it down at that point. The characters were so real to me, and until this point Malfoy was one of the main antagonists whom Harry (and by association, me) hated with a fervor. Why then was his almost death so striking to me? Why was it more shocking than say, Sirius or Cedric’s death? It was because like Harry, I grew up with Draco. He was real to me.
For those following along with my own personal and less thrilling story, the sixth book came out when I was sixteen. I was the same age as Harry when he accidentally mortally wounded the fellow teenager that his childhood had naively labeled as his enemy.
Now, as I buy my advance tickets to a midnight showing of Harry Potter for the last time, I mourn the end of the masterful series of films that I unfairly once labeled as my enemy.
I know what you are about to say. “The film series is GARBAGE compared to the books!” “Daniel Radcliffe can’t act and he ruined it!” “The film-makers should be JAILED for not including [insert favorite moment from the book here]!” In some ways you’re right, but to me the Harry Potter films have been about more than just satisfying me. The beautiful thing about these movies is that just like the books, I grew up with them and they grew up with me.
I remain convinced that fifty years from now, students studying film will learn about the Harry Potter series as a work of art. You might disagree with me, but you must admit that no series of films have grown up with an audience the way this one has. For years, people will look at those films and envy the generation that got to grow up with Harry Potter.
For the rest of my life, I will watch those films and remember my childhood. I will remember growing up with Harry as no generation has ever grown up with a fictional character before.
As Harry discovered his world, I slowly discovered mine. As Harry learned about cruelty, racism, greed and corruption, so did I. As Harry gained friends that he would readily give his life for, so did I. As Harry eventually discovered that the world isn’t conveniently labeled or separated by good and evil, so did I.
To steal a line from a random Tumblr user, when my grandchildren see me compulsively re-reading the books and re-watching the movies, they might ask “Really? After all this time?” to which I will smile and respond with “Always.”
The phrase ‘end of an era’ has been tossed around plenty lately, but no one will understand what that means more than our generation. We got to live the magic. We got to watch as our childhood friends made their way to the big screen, and we have watched them laugh, play, kiss, dance and die. No other generation can say this. It was us. We were the chosen ones.
Now we have the task of saying goodbye. The series that was made for us is coming to a close, and for many of us, this also means saying goodbye to our childhoods. Before you start tearing up, let me remind you of some words said by the wisest man any of us had the privilege of growing up with.
“It isn’t really goodbye after all.”
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