Check out the rest of the Voices of the Year over at BlogHer! I know I’ll be making my way through them over the next few weeks and hope to highlight some of them here as well.
And with that, it’s time to talk about Harry Potter.
Severus Snape turns to Dumbledore and says, his voice laced with such profound love: “Always.”
That was the moment that just set me over the edge and there was no coming back. The tears flowed freely pretty much from that moment on during the film.
If you’re waiting to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, I would stop reading now. Spoilers abound. Although, to be fair, the whole Harry Potter shebang has been out for 14 years now folks - I feel like spoilers should be moot at this point.
I had been like a kid on Christmas Eve all day yesterday, despite how tired I already was, counting down the minutes until the midnight screening of Harry Potter. I was really and truly genuinely excited. It was that same excitement I felt as I sat in the darkness of the theatre for the first film, waiting for the opening sequence to begin. I had been at that midnight screening, too, and for all the films since.
Even though Harry Potter has been around since I was in high school, I didn’t start reading the books until my freshmen year of college as buzz around the first movie came out. And then, like millions of others around the world – I was hooked. I was invested in these intricately creative stories and characters. I grew into adulthood reading and watching Harry Potter, and that for all the mightiness of its themes, I still found them inspiring and relevant as a young adult in my early 20s.
Harry Potter shares a unique set of bookends with my particular generation. The first film was released the holiday season of the September 11th attacks, of which we are now approaching the tenth anniversary.
When life felt so dark and chaotic in those months after September 11th, Harry Potter was this whimsical, hopeful, escapist world. In those early films, Voldemort was this amorphous evil that was “out there somewhere” – much like America’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden. The parallels are chilling.
Cut to 10 years later. The generation who had just entered college is now approaching their 30s. The looming evil figure of our generation is suddenly found and killed in Pakistan and for just a few brief moments, there’s this strange sense of relief, of vindication: “We got’im.”
And here now arrives the final Harry Potter movie, where our Hero defeats the Most Evil Wizard of All Time. Osama bin Laden is killed. Voldemort is destroyed, once and for all. J.K. Rowling paints us a neat happy ending and we still live in a world forever transformed into a “post-9/11” landscape.
How can you not cheer as you watch the film? When Mrs. Weasley roars at Bellatrix LeStrange: “Not my daughter, you BITCH!” and ends her in a series of aggressive spell attacks.
How can you not feel that same strange sense of relief as Voldemort’s ashes float into the sky, the Hogwarts courtyard fallen silent: that hushed moment of “it’s over.”
How can you not nearly collapse into a heap of sobs as we learn Snape has only ever lived for Harry’s mother, the woman whose love he could never have? As Snape reveals his Patronus form, the silvery doe seen to Dumbledore once before, as the dying wizard remarks in genuine astonishment: “Lily?”
And Snape, with such conviction, pain, and longing says only:
Harry Potter is a defining set of films for my generation, whose themes echo and resonate so strongly within us when the world has become a very different place than from where we stood 10 years ago:
These are values that my generation has clung to as we watched the world rip apart on September 11th. We were the Class of 2000, the generation of the new millennium - and what a frightening, terrifying millennium dawn we had awoken to.
And despite all these things, woven throughout, within, and above all else in the Harry Potter stories, we are inspired by and reminded of, taught the most important value: