Hello readers. If you follow my Facebook page, you know that not too long ago Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released to packed bookstores of people everywhere in the USA on 7/30, and I got myself a copy.
This may surprise you, readers, but I was not always a Harry Potter fan. Yes, I admit my shame. It was an error of judgement on my part. At the time HP was so popular, it seemed almost annoying to me to fall in with the crowd and give it a chance in high school, so I ignored the series for a long time. One day, after a particularly rough moment in my life, I wanted an escape from the real world, and happened upon Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I read the whole book in a day–impressive for me, since I am not a fast reader–and I didn’t stop there. After the books came the movies, and I was hooked at long last; with many of my long exasperated friends who had begged me to give the series a chance saying “told you so” at me ad nauseam.
And now is your obligatory spoiler warning.
Spoilers, there will be a bunch of them.
Let’s get down to this.
I was initially very excited by this Harry Potter revival with the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie and the theater production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I honestly wanted to like the book.
Really, I did.
But there are too many glaring problems for me to fully praise this play.
The biggest and most pervasive issue is the general tone of the work. While reading I felt like despite J.K. Rowling’s name was on the cover, it was quite clear that this work as not something she wrote. The women in particular were reduced to minor supporting roles and it was done in such a glaring way that one could take offense to it. I have read multiple articles regarding Hermoine’s portrayal, but make no mistake—she’s not the only one. Her daughter Rose is a completely undeveloped character and the most we know about her is she is Ron and Hermoine’s daughter, Albus’s cousin, and for some reason Scorpius has a big crush on her. Ginny exists only as a comforting shoulder to Harry when he is upset and seems to have no real role in parenting their children. Professor McGonagall— who was a badass and should still be considered as such— is bullied and bossed around by Harry and disrespected. It became very clear very quickly that this story was written by a man simply from the lack of development given to the women.
Hermoine, the one everyone is really outraged about, is initially the Minister of Magic. Despite having such a high position of power, she is still cast aside and other male characters even interrupt her and talk over her in meetings of importance. In one of the alternate timelines created when Albus and Scorpius first try to save Cedric, she is a bitter, nasty lonely person who is meaner than Snape was in the original series— ALL BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T MARRY RON. I, like many others, feel this timeline was the most offensive creation in terms of character. Hermoine may love Ron, but him loving her wasn’t the one thing that defined her. The idea that she became a bitter shrew without him really irked me and I couldn’t believe JKR signed off on this.
While I’m on the same subject—–wtf happened to Ron? Ron’s character was reduced to that of a sidekick jester similar to that of Mr. Weasley in the original series. We never really see anything of the dynamic between Harry and Ron, and his role is nearly non existent except to give Hermoine purpose and provide occasional dialogue.
The strongest female in the story- and I say that lightly- is probably Delphi, who we discover is the daughter of Voldemort. I personally would have liked to have learned more about her. She didn’t go to Hogwarts, so how did she learn magic? Who taught her? Her mother was revealed as Bellatrix; what was that relationship like? Bellatrix was married but fathered Delphi with Voldemort and her husband had no qualms about it? Were the Death Eaters polyamorous? Her whole existence had so many questions and not enough answers.
More questions….When Albus and Scorpius succeed in saving Cedric, we also find out later that Cedric is the one who killed Neville and prevented the defeat of Voldemort. But why would Cedric do that? Fear? Did he think Neville had something to do with the humiliation from the Tri-Wizard tournament? Was it revenge? This portion of the story did not make logical sense to me. Why is Umbrige head mistress of Hogwarts? After the events of The Half Blood Prince, Snape takes control of the school. Why isn’t he in charge?
As for Albus…. Albus is the main character and we are supposed to identify with and empathize with him, yet I felt more annoyed than anything when I read his portions of the story. I felt like Albus whined a lot and had a very “woe as me” attitude while on the other hand; Harry, in the original series, was the complete opposite. This is where I really saw the schism in the writing. With Harry and the original series, we were shown reasons why we should empathize with Harry, not told how to feel. He didn’t routinely complain about his life, even though he lived under a staircase with a family who did not care for him and saw him as a monster. He didn’t curse his life for his parents being dead, but we saw how pained he was by having never known them when he was entranced by the mirror of Erised. We watched Harry struggle and feel pain, that is what made us feel for him. Albus just cries out his feelings to the audience, and in turn we are supposed to feel how he feels based on his exclamatory dialogue. True, this could be due to the difference in medium; a play is very different from a novel. However, it all comes off as very annoying to me personally, and I just liked him less and less for complaining about Harry and how “bad” his life was….when it really wasn’t.
The most brutal destruction of character happened to our beloved Harry…..the humble boy who we grew to love is turned into an angry adult man in this story and he seems to have lost the empathy he had as a boy, and in turn the audience begins to lose the empathy we had built for him. One of the worst moments in the story by far was when Harry tells Albus that he sometimes wished he wasn’t his son. This is so EXTREMELY out of character that I cannot even begin…..Harry came from an extremely abusive household. The thought that he would say something so hurtful to his own child feels just so wrong. I know we all say things we regret and don’t really mean in the heat of the moment, and maybe that’s what the authors were going for, but I just highly disagree with the whole thing.
The story had a few moments that felt good, but then even those felt like pandering to the audience. The conversation Harry has with Dumbledore’s portrait was a big one to me, as well as Snape being able to learn about Harry naming his son after him and Dumbledore and feeling honored by it.
The best thing in this entire story was the character of Scorpius. Finally, a Slytherin we can all root for. He was the character I identified with and felt for, I wanted him to win, prove he was a good guy, that Slytherins could be good guys, and was so happy when he succeeded. He even made me feel a bit sorry for Draco and helped develop him more. Scorpius was the real hero here.
It is unfortunate I could not find more that I enjoyed, hopefully Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will recharge my interest.