Disclaimer: This post contains minor spoilers for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Dear J.K. Rowling,
When I first read Harry Potter, I was a third grader who was just discovering the amazing places reading could take me. I read through the first four books and waited in agony for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to come out (two years felt like an eternity at 8 years old). I waited again for the sixth book to come out, and once more for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I was thirteen then, and stayed up all night reading the final chapter of the most beloved book series of my life, and the lives of so many others.
I realize calling the seventh book the “final chapter” is, well, wrong, because the final three movies had yet to be released, meaning the spirit of the Harry Potter franchise was far from over. When I attended that final movie premiere – which happened to coincide with the summer after my high school graduation – I left knowing that a part of my life, my childhood, was over.
And like many thoughts I had during that summer after high school, I could not have been more wrong.
You released many new details about the Harry Potter world post-publication, like how Dumbledore is gay and that Harry, Ron, and Hermione all work for the Ministry of Magic. Pottermore was announced in 2012, which rekindled some of the Harry Potter hype that had been missed since the last movie was released. Much like Pokemon Go, it was exciting and all-encompassing at first, but served as a small supplement to the Harry Potter we all knew and loved.
Then you said some other things, like how if you could do it again, Ron and Hermione wouldn’t have ended up together, and how there’s a wizarding school in North America called Ilvermorny, with a questionably magical past that widely ignores the indigenous people here. Not cool, Jo.
I am excited for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, so long as, unlike your most recent project, it doesn’t try to rewrite so much of the Wizarding World I fell in love with.
Yeah, I’m talking about you, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Or as I like to call it, Harry Potter and the Difficulties of Fatherhood.
I want to start with the positives: The “eighth story” is a whirlwind – it’s fun, fast-paced, and explores storylines that every HP fan is curious about but never knew the answers to. There are moments that are so well-written I wanted to cry, and that still make me want to go see the stage play in London if I ever get the chance.
That being said, Jo, I just really wish this story hadn’t been written.
There are so many problems with this play. The characterization of Harry, for one, is so terrible at times, I wonder if the two playwrights remember Harry’s childhood with the Dursleys at all. His relationship with Albus, his middle child, is so frustratingly awful while he has no issues with his other two children, because they are “easy” and Albus is “special.” In this play, Harry Potter is the magical version of a stereotypical TV dad who can only relate to the jock son he can toss a football around with and is completely lost when it comes to his sensitive son who likes showtunes.
The plot is entirely based around the trivialities of time travel, involving the discovery of multiple different time turners which “go beyond” what Hermione’s one-hour time turner could accomplish in the third book. I’ll admit this takes the audience to really cool alternate timelines that would be impossible to see otherwise – but that still doesn’t justify their now-permanent presence in the Harry Potter universe.
Part of what makes a fictional universe compelling is the unknown. No author can write or film the entire history of the world and characters they’ve created, simply from the statistical standpoint that there’s not enough time or energy to make it happen. It’s those cracks, those in between spaces of mystery that make readers dive in and imagine more, going beyond the narrative that lies on paper and creating their own fictions that explore so many nuances not originally conceived.
I’ve read fanfiction that I wish could be made into its own novel or movie, not from just Harry Potter, but from multiple fandoms I’ve been a part of throughout my life. Even for fans that haven’t indulged in reading or writing fanfiction, there are elements to stories like Harry Potter that we create and hold dear in our hearts, even though we have no written story to back up these ideas.
My friend and fellow Bottle writer Jacqui said that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was a “decent fanfiction.” I agree, which is why it’s so disappointing. I don’t want an official Harry Potter story to feel like decent fanfiction – I want it at the least to feel like amazing, mindblowing fanfiction when it should feel like canon in the HP universe itself.
I love you for this beautiful, complex, amazing world you’ve given me, J.K. Rowling. If I could go back to reading the series for the first time, with fresh eyes, I would. But we can’t go back, and at some point I think we should really stop trying.
A proud Hufflepuff
Mia is an aspiring cat lady and obsessed with books, beauty, and pop culture. By day she works in publishing in New York City, and by night she can be found in bed, drinking Moscato and binge-watching YouTube videos.