I feel a bit like Charlie Brown around Christmastime. Not feeling the same Christmas spirit that everyone else is feeling. I open Facebook and every post is “Cursed Child” this and “Cursed Child” that, and my reaction isn’t to open each article to devour the latest news. My reaction is a very Charlie Brown-ish reaction: that it’s all just such a “commercial racket”.
For one, producing the story as a staged play is much less accessible (and much more expensive) to the general public, especially when you consider that most of the world would have to fly to London to see it. Every year around “con time”, whether it be Leaky or GeekyCon, I have to remember to “check my privilege” before I go around trying to invite everyone to come to this awesome convention that I sometimes like to call home. Flying to Florida and paying the ticket for a convention simply is not feasible for every person, and if I didn’t work for them, I must admit that I probably would not have been able to justify expending the resources to continue going year after year. Even now, I am trying to justify the plane ticket, hotel cost, theatre ticket, etc, for a trip to London next year, and I simply can’t. And I’m honestly not that upset.
It’s not fair to say that the purpose of “Cursed Child” is simply to get people to spend money (and it’s worth noting that a certain portion of ticket sales will go to support Lumos, Jo’s charity). When J.K. Rowling says that the stage is the best medium for the story that she wants to tell, I believe her. Or at least, I want to believe her. Gone are the days of my Jo-can-do-no-wrong naivety, especially when I consider that the Cursed Child in question is about Albus Severus Potter, who was named after two headmasters: the former used him and the latter abused him. Sure, they were brave in their own right and they are fascinating characters, but I have come to believe, through discussions with those who are less naive than I was, that Dumbledore and Snape are not always great people to Harry throughout the story.
Let’s say, though, for the sake of argument, that the story is best suited for the theatre. However, let’s take another step backwards from there and ask this question: why is this story being told at all? Whatever happened to “All was well”? Those three wonderful words wrapped up the story so well in 2007, and now we want to wrench it open again and say, “Whoops! I was wrong! I meant to say that all was cursed!”? Not everyone was a fan of the “19 Years Later” epilogue, but for me, I liked the “happily ever after” ending. I liked that Rowling tied the story up in a bow when she finished it.
Back in 2007, a documentary-of-sorts was released about what was, without a doubt, the biggest year in J.K. Rowling’s life—the year that she wrote and published Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Within that video, she talks to the interviewer about the epilogue and the family trees of the next generation. Thankfully (whether illegally or not), this video is on YouTube. The relevant three-minute segment starts at 30:17 and ends when she starts baking at 33:33.
Did you catch that? Yes, Jo does say, “[Harry and Ginny] have Albus Severus. He’s the one I’m most interested in.” But later, the interviewer responds with a leading statement, “So all of that could be another book.” At first, Jo thinks for a moment, responds with a half-hearted, “Yeah”, before she very clearly says, “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. I know it can’t—it can’t be… I think it’s definitely time to stop [now].” She finishes by saying, “I don’t want to write any more books about Hogwarts.”
So what happened? When I first saw this video, I admired her finality. I appreciated that she had written “The End” and was “sticking to her wand”, as it were. But then Pottermore happened. And then Fantastic Beasts happened. And then “Cursed Child” happened. I admit, I was one of Pottermore’s biggest fans in its original format. I didn’t duel or brew many potions, but I was a beta tester, and I devoured every new word that J.K. Rowling had to write, and I reported back here whenever a new article was released. Pottermore kept the story going for me at a time when I didn’t want it to end.
But Pottermore was different than this. With the exception of the Quidditch World Cup story, the new information was either concurrent to the existing story or encyclopedic in nature. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is continuing the story beyond the originally-written ending. Don’t get me wrong: I do want to see a post-Voldemort Wizarding World (especially Hogwarts), but what kind of a story does that make? We know that a story, by its very definition, must have conflict. Harry versus Voldemort was the classic true good versus true evil formula and it worked well for that story. But Voldemort has been destroyed. What conflict will take his place? The released synopsis provides very little insight:
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
Whatever the conflict is, it supposedly is coming from an unexpected place. (You can read more from the official press release statement regarding Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Pottermore.com.)
In order for Charlie Brown to find the true meaning of Christmas, he had to go back to its roots, to the first Christmas, to where the story first started. He had to take away the layers and layers of commercialism and materialism and frivolity that the intervening 2000 years had added to the story. Is that what Harry Potter will be like 10 years from now? 100 years from now? Will more and more be added to the story until the Harry Potter that we met in Sorcerer’s Stone is no longer recognizable? Until the magic is faded and spent, like a commercially available sub-par invisibility cloak?
I don’t know. For me, less is more. Rather than take a trip to England, I think I’m going to stay home and re-read the series. Relive the magic in its original-and-best form. Who’s with me?
What do you think? Is “Cursed Child” a story we don’t need added to the canon? Or are you one of many who is excited to see it? Please feel free to share your opinion in the comments below!