This is the 20th anniversary of the November 4, 2001 release of the film “Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone.” That movie launched the fan-avalanche that just kept growing and growing for ten big years and eight blockbuster movies. At the same time, of course, the books were topping bestseller lists and making book history after the launch in 1997.
It looked like the phenomenon was unstoppable, somewhat like the La Palma volcano in the Spanish Canary Islands that just keeps gushing and overwhelming everything in its path.
One thing led to another for the Harry Potter franchise: books led to films which led to theme parks and on to “The Cursed Child” in London and on Broadway and then to a prequel movie series (maybe). It made people rich and got a generation of young readers hooked on books. It opened up fantasy children’s literature again, and broke the ice for scores of fantasy/sci-fi books and (if the books were successful enough) movies. The NY Times even had to subdivide its bestseller lists to include children and young adult fiction in a separate category because Harry dominated the lists so much of the decade.
As the anniversary parties are winding down there seems to be agreement that the furor is decidedly cooling from the 2011 peak. The list of signs and reasons for this are being talked about. They include:
· Nothing after Harry Potter vanquished Voldemort has caught the same level of attention.
· Theater productions and theme parks are expensive and attendance is limited, so they are not going to perpetuate the fan-base.
· The Fantastic Beasts / Grindelwald movies 1 and 2 were disappointing.
· J.K. Rowling’s subsequent writing has “filled in” the time between Harry and now, but fans have either moved on to other interests or stayed resolutely stuck with Harry. We’ve lost hope that Rowling can do it again for us.
· A lot of us don’t care if she tries or not because we don’t care for her after her diatribe about Trans-women, and her refusal to admit she cares what damage she’s inflicting. Even if she wrote something better than Hamlet we’d ignore it.
So, how’s Harry doing?
The books are still selling and the movies are generating viewers as they become available this way and that. Harry is fine. Harry’s a survivor – but we knew that.
Will the Harry Potter books become classics? The best definition of a classic book, as Charles Van Doren put it, is “one that stays in print.” On that score, so far – so good.
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Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.