“We’ve kept him alive so that he
can die at the proper moment.”
And ye shall know them by their
enemies. In the final rip-roaring -- I’ve always wanted to invoke that
crackerjack box hype from my youth -- installment of his screen adventures,
Harry Potter, boy wizard, confronts Death Eaters, Horcruxes and the demise of
dear friends; battles foes with delicious vowel hogging names: Draco Malfoy, Bellatrix
LeStrange, Professor Severus Snape and, of course, he who previously must not
be named: Lord Voldemort; and in the far nastier off-screen world provokes the
wrath of grumpy old guys: Professor Harold Bloom and the Pope. Oh, you kid!
As my web buddy Claude and I
settled in for what proved to be a remarkably taut final chapter, some lovely
folks in our row at San Francisco’s Metreon Mall excused themselves repeatedly
for having to disturb our knees passing back and forth for refreshments – the
Harry Potter fan base has got to be among the friendliest and most polite crowd
in the American pop kingdom, most definitely these are the folks you’d want to
share that proverbial desert island with.
Long before Mistress J.K. Rowling
dropped the bombshell that Professor Albus Dumbledore was gay – probably as
much to bug the Pope as to please the likes of us – queers instinctively
grasped that this might be the most welcoming of the super pop franchises for
our kind. Throughout the seven book, eight movie marathon there were repeated
lessons, analogies, allegories to the plight of disenfranchised outsiders. From
Harry’s battle for respect with his Muggle biological clan, to the Counting
Hat’s decision to place the most sensitive of the aspiring young wizards into
the Gryffindor House at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to the painful
rites of puberty – and that marvelous British term “snoggling” – to life and
death lessons on fields of Quidditch, to the zombie like creepiness of
Hogwarts’ chamber of secrets, the Potter series has allowed plenty of room for
queer kids to insert themselves into the adventures without denying or
falsifying their true nature.
And the question arises –
particularly after the Sunday punch of Part Two’s good over evil conclusion --
as to whether Harry Potter has been unfairly seated at American pop culture’s
kids’ table. Pop is America’s ultimate non-sectarian faith of choice: it’s here
where believers and non-believers can freely mingle without fear or prejudice.
And it is over this question in part – whether Harry Potter is merely a
profitable brand that must be tolerated for the sake of the business it
generates that has probably prompted its most notorious critics to take most
Professor Harold Bloom has
dismissed Rowling’s authorial prowess in part out of snobbery and also out of
fear that American Pop culture might finally be developing its own alternative
Great Books series to overthrow his beloved Shakespeare. As for the Pope, as a
New York Times’ headline “Priests Challenge Vatican on Ordaining Women
indicates, his domain is coming under fire for all sorts of sins of the flesh.
Maggie Smith’s awesome turn as Professor Minerva McGonagall is inspiration for
many gender busting changes among the clergy.
Ultimately the series’ claim to
full adult status lies as much with the movie franchise’s brilliant team of
adaptors: from directors Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell and
finally, and most magnificently, the severely underrated David Yates, to the
miraculous screenplays by Steve Kloves and the army of visual magicians the
Potter creative team has earned the right to insert overtones from Dickensian
to Orwellian that has allowed each successive episode to full grasp the dark
themes of the age of terror. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts One
and Two have been especially marvelous at suggesting mischievous analogies:
between say the Potter World’s at times evil and absurdly bureaucratic Ministry
of Magic and the Murdoch empire’s attempt to infiltrate and corrupt the British
police institution Scotland Yard.
Finally the Potter series allowed a
world public to appreciate the staggering talents of the series’ adult support
cast: particularly Ralph Fiennes gloriously nasty Voldemort -- the villain whose
evil costs him his nose before it claims his soul.
But for most of us it’s the
magnificent Potter trio: Daniel Radcliffe overcoming the inherent passivity in
his character’s plight to create a plucky protagonist: the first time the
archetypal English school boy has been raised to god like status. The elastic
faced Rupert Grint has come into his own as a comic character genius and the
lovely Emma Watson allowed herself to risk coming off as an annoying little
wench in the good cause of bailing out her men time after time.