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Avada Whateva

July 13, 2011

I think I may be about to commit pop culture heresy.

I couldn’t care less about the final installment of the Harry Potter cinematic saga.

 Okay, so now that you, gentle muggle reader, have found another computer on which to read this article after destroying your previous monitor in a fit of outraged disbelief, please take a moment to let me explain why I have only a threadbare interest in the final (?) installment – and, despite my ambivalence, why I’ll still end up at the cinema, watching it unfold. 

The Boy Who Shrugged

So… yeah.  I couldn’t give two hoots about the fact that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is coming out.  Nor have I batted an eyelid about the fact that it’s the last film in the series, and signals the close of the curtains on what is arguably the most important piece of popular culture for my generation.  Or, at least, it would have been the end before all the hooplah stirred up by the announcement of Pottermore.  And I admit, I rolled my eyes when I discovered that the red carpet of the premiere a few days ago was being broadcast live on YouTube.

For me, the Harry Potter series has had little personal impact.  I steered away from the series when it first grew to prominence around the turn of the century, primarily because of the whole glamourisation-of-witchcraft deal.  In the years that followed, I maintained distance from the franchise, probably enjoying being different because I hadn’t read or seen the exploits of Harry, Ron, Hermione and the gang.  It wasn’t until 2005 that I finally buckled.

I went back and read through the saga so that I was up-to-date when Half-Blood Prince was released.  The sixth installment remains the only Harry Potter book that I have purchased.  I went to see the fourth film at the cinema with friends.  I had finally re-entered the pop cultural collective consciousness, and it certainly felt good.  To be able to be included in the conversations, to have a first-hand experience with what is arguably the most important piece of pop culture for my generation…  It was sweeter than even the Honey & Sugar Cheesecake Everyflavour Bean.

Following this burst of Harry Potter, however, I didn’t maintain an intense interest.  Sure, I had enjoyed the stories: they were well-told and engaging, and it was clear why they had managed to hook millions of readers.  I continued to see the films as they came out, but more out of duty than out of an intense desire to see what would inevitably be a decent, but forgettable film.  My apathy culminated in the fact that I didn’t bother reading the seventh and final book until at least six months after its release.

The Harry Potter series was fun and entertaining enough, but the story didn’t change my life, and the films… well…  They were pretty meh overall.  I experienced the phenomena, but I certainly didn’t experience it like everybody else on the planet seemed to.

So, why, then will I be shelling out for a ticket to see the final film?

I’m a Pop Culture Observer

In the television series Fringe, there are a series of characters known as “The Observers.”  Emotionless, hairless and dressed in 1940s suits and fedoras, they are are out-of-place to the eye, but they are always present.  Their purpose, quite simply, is to observe.  At every weird and wacky event, they are present, watching moments of utmost importance unfold.  They are never supposed to interact with what is happening – never supposed to get involved – only observe.

Even this moody brooding-leading-man scene is culturally significant.

In the realms of Pottermania, that’s me: I’m the creepy bald guy standing in the background, watching everything happen, but not involving myself.  The Harry Potter series is a significant event, and even though I don’t feel a strong emotional connection to it, I still feel drawn to watch it unfold; to understand it, because it is an important event.

It’s the same reason I read The Da Vinci Code back when it was the hot topic.  It’s the same reason I feel like I should watch The Wire – frequently touted as the best TV series ever made, if not one of the greastest works of fiction in recent memory – even though I’m not really into gritty Crime & Cops stories.  Heck, it’s even the reason why I feel compelled to read classic novels.  They’re all works that have affected the popular or world culture in some way, and as somebody who’s a part of that culture, shouldn’t I have first-hand experience?  I don’t have to get emotionally involved, but I should observe the phenomenon, participating so that I comprehend it, at the very least.

I’d venture to say that that is how most of culturally-significant pieces gain fandom in the first place – as something becomes popular, or acclaimed, or is deemed ‘important’, it draws those who are curious towards experiencing it (which ultimately contributes to the popularity, whether the curious cat ends up liking the work or not).  Of course, the other side of this approach is the desire to fit in, the notion that because everybody likes Harry Potter, I should get involved with it too.  But while there’s a component of peer pressure, it’s not the driving force.  I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m not that crazy about Rowling’s series, and I’m not just going to go and see it because all my friends are.  I’m going to see it because it’s an important cultural event – not just to my friends, but to my entire generation. 

It’s time for me to break out the fedora and go and… observe.

And who knows, it might turn out to be a good movie after all.

[[NB. :: I ended up seeing the movie before I could get around to posting this article.  The film was entertaining and certainly had its thrilling moments, but as I’d expected, it didn’t change my life.  Did it change yours?]]

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Bill Weasley permalink
    July 13, 2011 11:55 PM

    I was pretty rocked by the movie, I was expecting much much worse, as I have, overall, failed to be thrilled by the movies. So when this one turned out to be quite cool, I was made very glad.

    Unlike you, I really got into the books, maybe because I (unafraid for damages reading a book about witches would wreak on my mortal soul) actually got to read them as they came out, so as the books and characters progressed so did I. I, quite literally, grew up with them. And it was an amazing experience. One that I am sad to see end, because (as I am now an adult, and therefore unable to have another childhood/teenagerhood) I may never (and probably will never) get to have an experience like that again. And looking back, I may have difficulty even rereading the earlier books and them having the same effect, because they have lost that perfect relevance that they had to my feelings growing up.

    Lonelyness, friendship, adventure, these were all part of my progression through teenagerhood and when bad times turned good in the books, I felt like maybe things I was struggling with would be better too…
    Maybe that’s difficult to understand for someone who didn’t have the same experience as me, but I’m still glad I could share that with you… Even though I’ve managed to depress myself in writing this…

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