The Harry Potter franchise ended in 2007. Well, that’s when the final book was published, at least. The franchise also ended in 2011, when the final film hit screens. But that was just the films. In 2010, Rowling told Oprah Winfrey that she was maybe not done with the series. In 2011, Pottermore, a highly interactive website that recounts the Potter mythos in new ways, was launched. In 2013, Warner Bros. announced a new set of films, adapted from Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, which had in turn been adapted from a character and a textbook from her original series. In 2015 – this very year! – that new series of “event films” started to get off the ground, despite some mild protestations from Potter super fans (cough, cough).
Now there’s going to be a play. Harry Potter will not die, because J.K. Rowling will not let him.
One of the strangest things about interactions on social media – a really contemporary, mostly stupid problem, really – is that people often take umbrage with what others post on their own accounts. We’re not talking bad things, insensitive things, racist things, sexist things, not bad things, just stuff that ticks people off. If you’re on a social media network, you know what I’m talking about, and it’s insane.
Another baby picture? Another closeup of granola? Yet another Minions meme? What even? We’ve all done it. We’ve all scoffed and tsked over what someone else posted on their own account, then probably been annoyed with it in a way that’s not exactly suited to the situation at hand. This is that on a microcosmic level – people can post whatever they want on social media, and if it bothers you so much, just unfollow or unfriend or disconnect. You don’t need to watch or participate in any of these new Potter amendments, but damn if they don’t grate.
At a certain point, popular pieces of culture cease to “belong” (not, like, legally) to their original creator. Or, at least, it can feel that way. Harry Potter is so huge, so beloved, so essential, that it seems simply bigger than Rowling’s – extremely big – imagination. It’s taken on a life of its own, but Rowling still maintains a special kind of control over it, one that she’s continually used to expand the series’ universe. The results aren’t always great, and they’re definitely not necessary.
One of the reasons why Rowling’s dedication to puffing out Harry Potter long past its generally accepted end date is so bothersome is because she did a great job ending it – full stop – the first time around. Sure, some people didn’t totally take to the conclusion of the story (all those marriages, all those kids), but it was an unabashedly happy one that tied up a ton of loose ends and predicted a future for everyone (especially the next generation of Potters and Weasleys). It was a good, solid, neat ending. It made me happy, and it made me cry. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Still, these new additions to the Potter mythos don’t erase what’s happened before – we’ve talked about that before – but they do colorize old events in strange ways. Like this new play, called Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, a prequel that is also…not a prequel? Originally announced back in 2013, Variety now reports that the play will open in London next year, and “will explore the backstory leading up to Harry’s parents untimely death at the hands of Lord Voldemort,” including looks at young Harry’s pre-Hogwarts life and some exploration of the lives of his parents before they died. Yet Rowling promises it’s “not a prequel,” and it’s a story uniquely suited to being told on the stage.
First of all, what? Second of all, no. There are few things in this world that I, personally, have less interest in seeing than a performance that delves deeper into Harry’s heinous childhood. We already know it sucked, there’s no need to shell out to see that put on the stage (again, that reminder: no one has to see this play), but I have to give points to Rowling for trying to sell us on this “not a prequel” thing. (Listen, if Rowling can make something that sounds so clearly like a prequel into actually not a prequel, I will happily eat a shoe and then go see the damn thing.)
Should someone stop J.K. Rowling from her cannibalization of her own creation? Nah, but feel free to mute her (unless everyone says it’s good, and then…).