Contemplating fandom and Hogwarts' mortality rate at live scored Harry Potter performance 

Magic in the air

click to enlarge 'CP' writer Heath Ellison (left) felt "kind of like a dick" about hating Harry Potter after attending North Charleston PAC's screening of 'Chamber of Secrets.'


'CP' writer Heath Ellison (left) felt "kind of like a dick" about hating Harry Potter after attending North Charleston PAC's screening of 'Chamber of Secrets.'

Two things you'll probably never hear a Millennial say are "hold the avocado" and/or "I hate Harry Potter." But, I frickin' love avocado, so the only shocking thing I have to put out there is that I hate Harry Potter. My disdain for the wildly successful and lucrative house that J.K. Rowling built started relatively early (I dug the first film as a kid, but checked out pretty much right after), much to the confusion of everyone I knew growing up.

Oh, the arguments that have ensued over the years when I've told told people close in age that the Harry Potter franchise is only still loved because of the nostalgia industry, the story consistently sacrifices logic for whimsy (everyone would always be late to class if the staircases had a mind of their own), and the characters are just tropes with charming English accents. But, I can forgive all of that because I love plenty of stuff that banks on everything listed. What really irks me off into snarky blogger territory is the mega fans. You know the type — the ones who started using British words after watching Goblet of Fire, joined a Quidditch team, and are loading their handguns and hate mail because I thunk a negative thought about Hogwarts' practicality.

I wrote the above paragraphs before attending the North Charleston Performing Arts Center's screening of Chamber of Secrets, and, damn... I kind of feel like a dick. Don't get me wrong, I still can't stand the franchise and viewing this film as an adult has only strengthened my belief in the arguments against the series. But, I didn't meet a single mega fan that wanted to present the head and hands of this muggle to Daniel Radcliffe as a sacrifice for the harvest. It was in all honesty completely pleasant talking to them, and they all gave me great reasons to like the series. I still can't get into it, but they were good reasons, nonetheless.

Two young women in their mid-teens. When I asked them how old they were when the first film came out, they told me they didn't exist yet, which made me feel like an ass because I'm 25 and decided to spend my weekend heckling fans of a young adult series on the internet. "My friends started making me read the books because I wasn't much of a reader," says Emmy Fulmer. She explained to me that she liked the uniqueness of the series, and it clearly inspired her to read, which is always a noble effort. Fulmer then got her friend AnnaLee Avant into the series. When asked why she likes the franchise so much, Avant responded by describing the way it makes her feel. "I just realized, and I know that this is cliche, but how magical it is," says Avant. "It makes you as a person feel special."

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My girlfriend even threw her two cents into the mix. She told me to imagine that I was a bullied kid (she knows I was) who feels alienated (she knows I do), but that I can go into a world of magic where I'm accepted and loved by the people around me. To me it sounds like Jack Daniels' new ad campaign, but I get why people need something like that.

David Savard, dressed in a Gryffindor robe, glasses, and a lightning bolt scar on his forehead also told me about the pure escapism he finds in the series. "It's all about sharing and just enjoying and relaxing for a while, and letting your mind go someplace that's not day-to-day regular life," says Savard. "It's okay to have fantasy, especially in the world, as it is, today." Savard got into the series as an adult because all of his adult friends were reading the series at the time.

I was surprised to see how well Harry Potter seems to have crossed generational lines. There were many young kids and people who would have been adults at the time of the first books' premier in attendance, alongside plenty of 20-somethings. It was much more of a family atmosphere than I was expecting.

Both showings of the film feature the Charleston Symphony Orchestra playing the music alongside the movie, which is honestly a pretty dope idea because the soundtrack, I begrudgingly admit, is damn good — the NCPAC is already doing pre-sales for Prisoner of Azkaban. The men and women on stage performing the soundtrack added an extra dash of life to the film, even getting some goosebumps out of a naysayer like me during some of the more mysterious moments in the film.

Musical director Ken Lam asked the audience to participate also by showing "house pride," cheering, booing, or hissing at any time during the film. The audience was more than willing to participate. There was cheering when that bath salt addicted dwarf (I know he's a house elf or whatever, shut up) Dobby first appeared, rampant applause when Hans Gruber — I mean Snape showed up, and hissing when Slytherin was mentioned.

If you're a fan of Harry Potter, it's a surefire win. This clearly just wasn't for me, because I couldn't stop asking how the hell anyone at Hogwarts still has a job after they keep classes running, despite learning that a big-ass magical snake with the ability to turn kids into stone is slithering around the hallways of their quirky boarding school.

Maybe all the mega fans were just a product of the last bit of hype the Harry Potter franchise could cynically squeeze out of the public when Deathly Hallows part two hit theaters. In their defense, most of those Harry Potter über alles types literally grew up with these characters, often going through similar failures and triumphs, in a general sense. There's a reason the series got darker, after all. And having a piece of media that has lived with you for so long affects you in a visceral way that might look ridiculous to people outside of the club.

It's wish fulfillment, hope-inspiring, makes you feel like the world is magic and won't force your mental health to decline, it gets kids to read. All those, except the last one, are reasons I can't get enough of Dragon Ball Z, Star Trek, or kung-fu films. If a kid with a scar on his head and a well of problems that get fixed with magic plot devices can provide that for you, then who am I to take it away?

After the show, my girlfriend and I got a drink at a bar, and as we were sitting there in comfortable silence, I was thinking about the film and fandom. I thought about who the heroes and villains were in this argument I've been in since I was a child, who to make fun of. Is it the kids that dress up like wizards or the guy that just wrote over a thousand words about a franchise we'll all forget in a hundred years? I quietly decided that Harry Potter is a laughably bad series — but, that it was just my opinion. And I wouldn't think any less of people who indulge in the franchise. My girlfriend looked at me and proposed a toast. "To Dave," she said. We clinked glasses.


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