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What’s significant about July 31st? If you answered National Avocado Day then you’re bang on the money, but to a sizeable chunk of the global population it’s the birthday of that most famous of four-eyes, Harry Potter. However, there’s some of us out there that don’t get all that excited about the Wizarding World.
And one of them happens to be yours truly. Seasoned followers of Roobla may recall the feature ‘You can’t force Star Wars on everyone’ a few years back. I wasn’t being hypercritical whilst writing it – Star Wars hasn’t been wildly successful for no good reason – and that’s certainly not the aim here.
But now seems as good a time as any for the Boy Wizard to receive similar treatment. The big difference here is that, unlike Star Wars, I have actually watched one of J.K. Rowling‘s stories unfold on-screen but as yet haven’t sampled the adventures of Luke Skywalker and company (maybe I never will, but that’s another story). I’ll admit, I kind of got it, but I still find the sheer magnitude of it all slightly mystifying. That’s not to say I’m not up for being convinced, although as someone who’d take the Indiana Jones movies any day of the week, the case for the defence needs to be damn good.
On that note, some quick stats. Harry Potter really has cast a far bigger spell at the box office, but we need to take into account inflated adjustment domestically, otherwise Avatar would be the greatest movie of all time, and we all know that’s not true. Indie scores over $2 billion as opposed to $3.75 billion, but there’s only been five instalments of Dr Jones compared to 13 with Master Potter – you do the maths. Christ, this case needs to be tighter than a Ravenclaw keeper.
We’ll start with Emma-Jayne Barlow, who runs the fledgling SKHPS (that’s the South Kesteven Harry Potter Society to you). I was curious to find out what the key to the oft-mentioned “Magic of Harry Potter” really is. “The whole new world it creates,” she says. “The creatures, the wizards; they all give you escapism.” That’s surely something we can all relate to, but what if you’re still doubtful? “Even if you don’t read the books, you need to see it,” Emma-Jayne insists. “You don’t know what’s waiting for you.”
All very persuasive, but even the head of SKHPS isn’t without some criticism: “I don’t think the stories translate that well to screen. A lot of things are missing and the entire fandom will agree, especially as Peeves the Poltergeist isn’t in the film at all.” The entire fandom? Sheesh! And I have to say, even to a novice like myself, Peeves the Poltergeist sounds far too cool a character to leave out. Still, I guess that’s where the likes of Indiana Jones, Rocky and The Terminator all had an advantage by not appearing in book form. From a more cynical perspective, it shows that no one’s bulletproof, even HP.
But there’s his international appeal to take into account. Wizarding Worlds in Orlando, Florida, as well as Osaka, Japan, are proof of that, along with many other tourist traps on a scale that probably no other franchise can lay claim to. Thankfully, an American was on hand to weigh in on the debate. Student Dakota Gredby, who recently completed a spring term at Harlaxton College, Lincolnshire, as part of a study abroad programme, is a huge fan: “We’re really jealous of you guys for having all these Harry Potter movie locations and attractions on your doorstep,” she says.
“A lot of us at the college were more excited to be here for all of that than to study, seriously. A group of us have finally gotten around to things like the Tour for Muggles in London, which was awesome and so worth the wait.” As for converting non-believers, Dakota added: “I’m tempted to say ‘go jump off a bridge!’ Joking aside, it’s that you really can get lost in the stories, as if you become part of them. Just try it for yourself.”
The problem is I already have, and with no bridges to jump off within a half-mile radius it looks like I’ll have to put Harry Potter and friends in the same category as Star Wars. Having said that, happy birthday, and if this feature’s got any of you enthusiasts wondering about us heretics, feel free to make your point in the comments below.