That’s what they said while we waited in line for near four hours and then another two and a half in the theatre. They wore costumes and did their hair. They came into our theatre and pretended to fight each other–putting on a battle of dodging and weaving that was fairly worth the watching. They shouted it as they sat down and scattered about and munched on popcorn and hummed the ever present theme music.
“this is the end of my childhood.”
Starting at 12.01 on July 14th for 2 and a half hours.
Our mutual and cultural childhoods ended.
Or, as Daniel pointed out: our childhoods ended when the book came out several years ago and we all read the hard and beautiful end of Harry Potter’s battle with evil that threatened even the non-magical world of Muggles.
Yeah, that’s right. I was at the midnight showing of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows pt 2, where ended a long saga that has dragged out since fifth grade when my mum told me I wasn’t allowed to read anything that suggested of witchcraft and almost wrote the teacher who had introduced them to our class.
And with the battle of Hogwarts, with the dream at Kings Cross Station, with the final horcrux, and with the dead lying on the floor of the Great Hall where they had been sorted so many years before…my childhood supposedly died.
I don’t think that’s entirely true. It’s a bit melodramatic. It’s a bit of a pathetic view on our joint (and separate) childhoods. But let’s be honest. Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon. You may like him or dislike him, but when I say his name you see Daniel Radcliffe and those taped glasses and you know your opinion on the matter before I’ve even finished his name.
I was talking with a friend about this recently. We both had seen the movie and we were analyzing not only the film itself but also the experience. I went to the midnight showing. There literally was a battle staged by teenie boppers dressed up and scurrying around the front of the theatre shouting “Crucio!” “Expelliarmus!” and “Engorgio!” (I’m not sure what use an engorgement spell would be in battle, but I heard it). Finally, the evil side filled with Death Eaters and a man who had painted his face to look like He Who Must Not Be Named fell to the ground and we cheered for the victors.
Seriously. I clapped. I clapped excitedly.
Kyle went to a showing where no one but he clapped during the movie–not even when Mrs. Weasley screams at Bellatrix LeStrange “not my daughter you bitch!” and then battles the murdering witch until Bellatrix falls to the ground, dead.
How could they not cheer at that moment? It’s brilliant!
I clapped at some stupid teenagers wearing black robes probably borrowed from an older sibling’s high school graduation. Kyle’s audience didn’t respond at all.
And then, as we talked about it, we came to the point of discussing why people in my audience cheered. Why we waited in line from 530 on that night. Why we were willing to go to work the next morning despite not getting home until near 3am. Why people dressed up and ran from theatre to theatre putting on battles.
Harry Potter is a brilliant series. I love them. I read them for the first time last fall and blew through them in barely two weeks. That’s about 4000 pages, or 1,084,170 words. And I’ve re-read several of them since then. But I don’t think it’s just Harry Potter that is like this. I think there’s more to it than that.
Stories like this teach us. They remind us of who we were supposed to be. They remind us of things we were supposed to do: standing up against adversity. Being willing to die for what we know is right. Recognizing that sacrifices must sometimes be made (and yet–acknowledging the pain of those sacrifices!). And also just remembering that sometimes we simply have to fight. People aren’t drawn to movies like Harry Potter for the special effects, they aren’t drawn to Braveheart so that we can relive that time period, and they’re not drawn to Star Trek just so we can see bizarre looking creatures out of someone’s imagination. They’re drawn to it because deep inside of us we are longing for a story where there is a battle to be fought and we want to know, deep down, that good will win.
I think we all knew what was going to happen to Harry in the end. I think somehow we knew he had to die to defeat Voldemort. And I think we knew that Dumbledore wouldn’t make it. We were suspicious of Snape but we knew, we knew he had to be good. He’d had so long and he’d done no wrong! And we resonated with Malfoy because he was caught. How can you not become a Death Eater with parents like that? But how can you remain a Death Eater when it means killing the boy at school who saved your life? Good will out.
We cried when we read about Harry dying.
But we were proud.
He met his death with honour and bravery.
He met his death willingly.
He was like Aslan who was willing to die for the people he loved though he had done no wrong.
And that is what we both loved and mourned.
No one should die for that, because no one that good should have to die at all!
There’s something in us that longs for such things.
In America there is a longing for meaning–and meaning is found in such things.
We like stories of bravery because we want the chance to be brave ourselves.
We like stories of sacrifice because we want to remember that something is worth sacrificing for.
We like stories of danger because we want to know that this placid life isn’t all there is.
We like stories of love and heroism because deep down we long to be rescued from this hellish world.
Because deep down we are all longing for the story that has been told and known since before time.
Don’t you think? I cried for Harry dying in a similar way to how I cried on Good Friday. Your heart breaks in the book as he looks in the Great Hall and says to himself that no one else will die. No one else will be sacrificed for him, or more aptly said: no one else will be sacrificed for the great evil that has overtaken the world.
For you and for me, that great evil is no Voldemort.
That evil is you.
That evil is me.
My sin yelled crucify louder than the mob
Maybe even louder than your sin (for I’m a noisy, petulant child).
And Jesus died.
And he came to life.
And he rescued us.
His blood, like the blood of Lily Potter covered us from the curse of sin.
His blood, like the blood of Lily Potter was a covering that could not be broken.
His blood, like the mark on Harry’s forehead was a seal and sign.
His blood, like the mark on Harry’s forehead said that we were bought and paid for.
It was juvenile, perhaps, to sit for 7 hours at a movie theatre and to cheer for children fighting a battle that probably began before they were born or old enough to read the books which tell of it.
But, more than juvenile, it was human.
Because each human longs for the glory and heroism of God.