Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Everybody likes Michael Jordan. The guy won six titles, starred in “Space Jam” and became recognizable in every nation on Earth. The tongue, the dunks, the shoes … It’s impossible to not like someone that huge. Which is why it confuses me that there is a rash of haters dumping on my boy-who-lived, Harry Potter.
Allow me to break the fourth wall from a journalism perspective and openly attack arts editor Alex Antonetz, who is writing the column opposing mine, which will probably be full of misguided vitriol inspired by his bitterness at never having had a childhood and his immense jealousy that Harry gets Emma Watson. (Shh. Don’t tell him this isn’t actually what happens. He probably hasn’t read the book.) Now that I’m done trolling, I can tell you why Harry Potter deserves every bit of the attention it’s gotten.
Returning to my comparison to Michael Jordan, Harry Potter is at least his equal. He’s definitely the biggest human being on the planet right now. President Obama has seen a drop-off in popularity, Oprah is off the air, and Jordan is retired (good job city of Chicago, though). Some would argue Lady Gaga is a bigger name, but let me throw out some simple stats to disprove that theory: Billboard reports that Gaga’s new album “Born This Way” has sold more than 5 million copies, and I grant you five times platinum is impressive. The Harry Potter books have gone platinum 64 times. As in, the average Harry Potter title has sold more than 62 million copies, multiplied by seven books, for more than 450 million copies sold. Gaga’s a big deal, but it’s like a fight between St. Peter and Jesus. Not close.
Admittedly, I can’t just say Harry Potter is great because he’s popular. The whammy is that not only is the Harry Potter series the best-selling media series in, well, ever, but it started in book form. I’ve been told all my life that Americans are lazy and stupid, who would rather sit and watch football, or whatever sport is on, who loathe literature. Even if the series was meant for children, it got a lot of kids and adults alike into reading.
I remember Christmas ’98 when I got “Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone,” because my mom had heard an interview with a not-yet superstar J.K. Rowling on NPR. My mom’s not usually one to set trends but she did a damn good job that year. I was hooked. It wasn’t that the world created by Rowling was just spectacular and creative, she knew how to string a sentence together and weave a plot worth caring about.
I’ve read the other trendy juvenile literature. I read “The Hunger Games” earlier this year. I found the storyline to be intriguing but author Suzanne Collins writes like a kid with Lincoln Logs: blocky and awkward. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve read the first “Twilight” book as well. It ruined everything I ever enjoyed about vampirism, and left me with no desire to ruin my faith in werewolves by reading the next book. The Harry Potter series trumped both books in terms of literary skill and intriguing plotlines.
Most importantly, the reason why Harry Potter resonates with the youth of our generation is that we grew up with Harry. I was 11 when I first read “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” and so was Harry. I may have been 20 by the time Harry turned 18, but I grew up with him. It was easy to relate with him – studying for midterms, girl problems, having your parents killed by an evil wizard – it all rang home for me. The kids that came after me could still relate because for them Harry began at age 11 all over again.
That’s why people of a college age were camped out Thursday night waiting to see the final film. Yes, the costumes were slightly nerdy. The tears were slightly awkward, but it’s tough to blame them. Fans will be saying goodbye to character who had a significant impact on their youth. My cohort, Mr. Antonetz, will certainly cry at the conclusion of the next Batman movie after Bane has broken Christian Bale’s freakin’ back. (I anticipate that Batman will be referenced several times in his column, although not 28,000 times as on his Twitter account.) I love the Batman movies as well, but no matter what Antonetz tells you, it’s tough to relate to a guy with billionaire parents who dresses up like a bat.
I saw the movie last night at the midnight release. I enjoyed the movie, like I expected I would. But there is no denying the fact that I enjoyed it with some reserves. I already had to go through one set of goodbyes to the Harry Potter series with the conclusion of the books, and I’m not ashamed to admit that the second time was just as hard.