Monday, February 6, 2017

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, 2016

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The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
(328 pages)

I was going to be so cool about this book.

I wasn't going to plunk down twenty dollars to buy it on release day.

I was completely prepared to wait three months for the library's single copy of the play to make its way down the list to me.

But then we went to Barnes & Noble, and I made the mistake of picking up the pretty gold-toned book and reading the first few pages. And my mom, a closet Potterhead herself, did what any amazing mother would do: she ran back into the store at the last possible minute, came back out with The Cursed Child, and then immediately handed it over to me.

Like I said. Amazing.

I wish that word could be applied to the play itself, though. I tried, I really tried, but I simply couldn't find the magic in The Cursed Child; it just wasn't there. The entire thing reads like clever fanfiction - it's not it's own story, not really. It's just a piece of sentimental junk designed to spend as much time as possible making clunky throwbacks to the original series. I lost all respect for the play right around the time Harry started having a big emotional conversation with Dumbledore's painting–about stuff that had happened about twenty years ago at this point. And don't even get me started on the relationships. Harry and Albus' strained one is absolutely cringe-worthy, and the whole "resolving issues between Harry and Draco" rang really false after the twenty years (!!) they'd spent not getting along (despite the fact that I'd gotten the impression they had reached a sort of respectful but still-not-amiable understanding at the end of the original series).

Basically, it's really, really obvious that JK Rowling didn't write this herself. And it may be considered official canon now, up there with the original books, but I am never going to be able to see this as a legitimate installment into the Harry Potter franchise. One possible interpretation of the future? Yes. A piece of rather strange fan-fiction? Yes. But not canon, never canon. Please. I can't stand to think of the characters being officially reduced to such clumsy caricatures of themselves.

Also, can we talk about the nonexistance of Lily and Rose? I spent literally years of my childhood playing Rose to one of my best friend's Lily. We created a whole elaborate future around those two characters, spinning our tale from one year to the next–until I had to move away sometime in the middle of the Triwizard Tournament. We declared I'd gone off to boarding school in Beauxbatons with my cousin Victoire (Bill and Fleur's daughter), and kept the story going over the phone and email for a few more years.

I know, it was so much fun. But anyway, my point is that I was really sad to see those two characters relegated to such small roles. Albus had siblings. Where were they when things got hard for him? And Rose, the only one of the Potter-Weasley cousins I can remember having any lines besides Albus, only talks like twice in the entire play (and is only mentioned a few other times because Scorpius has a crush on her). I mean, seriously. Why are they relegated to such a small spot in the tale? I'm not usually one of those feminists who reads too far into everything, but this time I'm a little upset that all of the main characters but one are male–and the only female character is a new one, whose backstory is so laughable I thought for sure it was going to turn out as a red herring in the end. My beloved version of Rose, with whip-sharp brains and a kind heart (pulled straight from her mother, of course), simply doesn't exist in the narrative of The Cursed Child. Instead we get a girl whose sole role in the play is to make a few random remarks and act as a romantic object for one of the male characters. As for Lily, well, she might as well not even exist. I doubt either Hermione or Ginny–both strong, kick-butt witches in their own rights–would be very happy with their daughters being delegated to the sidelines like this.

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