What Grinds My Gears: Milking the Harry Potter Franchise

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I moved to a new school in fifth grade, and for a solid month, nobody knew that my name was “Megan” I was just “Harry Potter girl.” Every day, I carried my stack of dog-eared books to class and stayed behind every recess to read them for the thousandth time. I would rattle off page-long Potter quotes to anyone who would listen, the walls of my middle school room were plastered with Daniel Radcliffe’s face and I remained a general embarrassment to my friends and family until I finally realized that wearing a full-length wizard robe to school is questionable at best. Still, my Pottermania became central to my childhood identity. Harry Potter was my everything.

I thought I had left this dark past behind me when I went off to college, but it all came back last week when JK Rowling announced that she would be releasing the “eighth installment” of the Potter saga as a stage play written by Jack Thorne. Soon, I was inundated with a hundred Facebook messages from long-lost middle school friends: “I saw the news and thought of you! Aren’t you just dying over ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?’”

I have to admit, the initial wave of crippling nostalgia had me sold on the idea at first, but the more I thought about the fated eighth installment, the more it seemed like a gimmick to milk the series for all it’s worth instead of a genuine continuation of the story.

For starters, it’s not entirely Rowling’s creation the play was written by Jack Thorne, based on a story he, Rowling and director John Tiffany created together. It’s scheduled for release next summer, nine years after the “final” Harry Potter book was released just long enough to let the finality of “Deathly Hallows” set in, only to resurrect the series once fans were sure it was ready to go down in history as it already was. Releasing “the Cursed Child” a decade after the “last” chapter seems like an attempt to extend the hype for just a little bit longer, even after Rowling told the entire story.

The new story itself doesn’t particularly follow Harry, either; according to the synopsis, a good portion of the play revolves around Harry’s youngest son, Albus, who is struggling to maintain his father’s legacy 19 years after the last book left off. Calling “the Cursed Child” the canonized eighth installment in the series seems like a ploy to draw in audiences when it’s really only tangentially related to the plot and timeline of the original series.

All in all, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” seems like a bit of a reach, especially as the original seven-part series has already secured legendary status.  There’s no need to risk its quality by adding superfluous chapters to what is already the world’s most perfect story about a bespectacled boy wizard to ever exist.

As much as I would love for Harry Potter to live forever, I am wary of Rowling adding unnecessary installments to something that seems like a closed case. The seven-book series remains a pristine part of my childhood that I don’t want to dredge up, alter and tarnish with a new installment that might not live up to its predecessors.

As the play’s synopsis explains, “Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs,” and after hearing the news of the new installment of my childhood obsession, I think I’m grappling with the same thing. However, the play will debut in London next July whether my cynical self approves or not, and I certainly hope “the Cursed Child” will prove me wrong and be the best Harry Potter story yet. I just hope it would make 10-year-old, wannabe-wizard Megan proud.

 

Megan Cole is a second-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at coleme@uci.edu.

 

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