Harry Potter: Why it matters.

A confession: Before this, I’d never dressed up for a movie.

Last Tuesday night, I was decked out in full Ravenclaw regalia, complete with house crest, wand, and certified Luna Lovegood Raddish Earrings. (The blonde wasn’t part of the costume – I’m pleased to say that that’s a permanent feature.)

I know, I know. You’re all jealous of my stylin’ self.

Anyway, so there I was, standing on the upper level of my local cinema just before midnight and looking down on the crowds of pointy-hatted fans waiting to collect their tickets or standing around in groups with large buckets of popcorn. There were Harrys and Ginnys and Lunas and a phoenix and a hippogriff and Death Eaters and a couple of Voldemorts. And when it was time to go in and the barrier to the cinemas was removed, the crowd rushed forward with a roar worthy of any Gryffindor lion.

This was not just a movie – not even just THE EPIC FINALE OF THE WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON, as the trailers proclaimed.

This was An Event.

I’m a sentimental lass and endings have always meant a lot to me. Of course, I count myself as lucky to be a part of the generation that grew up with Harry Potter, which adds a great deal to the sentimentality of the occasion. This was a very different moment to when I finished reading book 7 for the first time (2:30 in the morning, in my grandmother’s house, clock ticking quietly, the book falling shut with a soft, reverent sort of thump into the silence).

The atmosphere inside the cinema as we were all waiting for the 12:01am session to begin was fizzing.

Overheard:

  • Two teenage boys sitting next to us, pouring cups from the bottle of vodka that they’d smuggled in, spoken matter-of-factly: “I seriously think I’m going to cry when this movie finishes.”
  • Girl (slightly worried): “No one’s minding my bag and wallet at the moment, do you think these people are trustworthy?”
    Guy: “Of course they are, they’re Harry Potter fans!”
  •  Boy 1 runs up to Boy 2, who is dressed as a house elf. Boy 1 throws a sock at him, yells “DOBBY! YOU’RE FREE!” and runs away again.

That got the first round of applause for the night, and not the last. I’ve never heard a cinema audience clap and cheer so enthusiastically – not just at the rolling of the credits, but at every significant event throughout the movie. (It didn’t take much to set us off.)

We sounded more like the crowd at a game of football than at the cinema, and I thought that was delightful. Let’s face it, no matter how much you love sport, kicking a ball through a couple of goal posts is never going to measure up to vanquishing the Forces of Evil Once And For All.

And this is why Harry Potter matters. From the robed group in the front row who stood in unison at the end of the credits to wave their wands and declare ‘Mischief Managed!’ with superb satisfaction, to the hysterically crying teenagers when it was over – the costumes, the anticipation, the excitement, the in-jokes, the palpable sense of solidarity. It was people brought together over a story. A simple story about good overcoming evil, about heroism and sacrifice and friendship. We weave our lives around stories and we always have done.

As a writer and a lover of stories myself, to see this fact demonstrated with such clarity gave me a great sense of hope. I thought it was bloody excellent.

Mischief managed, indeed.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jess Simmonds
    Jul 17, 2011 @ 09:13:06

    Great Ref! I also saw Deathly Hallows part 2 at a 12:01 session, but on the other side of the world so you definitely got there first. You took the words right out of my mouth about the reasoning behind wanting to go to the first session on opening night. It’s full of all the people who love it and appreciate it the most.

    There were people dressing up at ours too. It was fun trying to identify the characters amongst the generic girls in school uniforms of one persuasion or another. There was one girl there with a beard though (fake, in case you were wondering) and we weren’t entirely sure what character she was. I hazarded a guess of Hagrid because it seemed to be black but not everyone agreed with me.

    I’m unashamed to say that I did shed a couple of tears under my 3D glasses. I swatted them away in as subtle a way as possible. I’m glad I went and I’m sure any other session that I may see it at now will not be anywhere near as amazing.

    Reply

  2. Alicia Ralph
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 18:15:14

    Hey Jen, I’m pretty sure I saw a comment of yours on Blag Hag on an article about Harry Potter and skeptical thinking. Was that you?
    Also, when I first started reading this article I actually thought I was reading blaghag and wondered why it sounded so much like you. Oops

    Reply

  3. Jen
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 19:07:19

    Haha!!! Wow, thanks for the compliment. 😀 Other-Jen is the greatest.

    And yeah, that comment was me. Apparently I’m a very obvious commenter, because you’re the second person to spot me on Blaghag!

    @ Jess – forgot to say before: Girl dressing up as Hagrid is awesome!

    Reply

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