Tuesday’s reviews – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Tuesday’s reviews – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

So, the Sunday that has just gone happened to be 31st July, which is a big day for Harry Potter fans. It is JK Rowling’s birthday and, subsequently, the fictional birthday of the boy wizard, Harry Potter, himself. As I’m sure there is no need to mention, the final day of July 2016 also happened to be the release date of the rehearsal edition script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This is the critically acclaimed theatrical tale that has become the supposed 8th ‘book’ in the series. I wasn’t sure if I would buy the script but, having such a small amount of self-control when it comes to books, I bought one on Monday and proceeded to read the majority of it that night. I started work at 7am this morning so I fucking regretted that decision as I was waking up today. Still, I finished it with just enough time to get my review out for today’s Tuesday Reviews. As we’ve already established on this blog, I’m a pretty shitty Potterhead and can’t promise I’ll be positive as most about this book. Still, I doubt anyone is actually coming here for sound advice when they could have my mindless rants instead… with added spoilers of course.

It’s not as if I’ve been hiding my negative feelings towards any future stories that JR Rowling may write concerning the Harry Potter series. I’ve always thought the idea of writing sequels, follow-ups and spin-offs as a move almost as desperate and cringey as the fucking epilogue. The story was finished and we didn’t need to delve back into Harry’s post-Hogwarts life. Still, as I always knew would happen, JK Rowling proves once again that she just doesn’t know where to stop. So we have the so-called 8th book: a story overseen and co-created by Rowling but written by Jack Thorne. We were promised by Rowling that the new tale would be a completely knew story and not a rehash of previous material. What we were given is a time-travel rehash of old plots with a bunch of new characters. Oops.

Since Prisoner of Azkaban JK Rowling has had to deal with the issue of time travel in her wizarding world. What gave a super dramatic and magical plot in the third book opened up a bunch of plotholes that Rowling just didn’t want to let herself fall into. I mean if Hermione could utilise time travel to attend a fuckload of classes then why couldn’t someone go back in time and just give Voldy a hug once in a while? It was an issue that she resolved as quickly as she could by destroying all of the time turners in the Department of Mysteries in Book 5. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? Well apparently not. As not all the time turners were destroyed. Which is lucky because without the one remaining device Rowling might not have been able to charge loyal fans the considerable ticket price for her new sell-out production.

Basically, The Cursed Child is the Back to the Future 2 of the Harry Potter world. BTTF 2 revisited the timeline of the first film after a brief stop in the future and The Cursed Child, after reintroducing us to the kid with the most vomit-inducing name in the history of English literature, revisits some of the most major events in Potter history. Albus Severus and his best friend, Scorpius Malfoy, go back in time to prevent Cedric Diggory from dying during the Triwizard Tournament. Of course, as cliche dictates, their benevolent act ends up royally fucking everything up. Scorpius enters a hellish world in which Voldermort lived, Harry Potter died and, most joyful of all, never ended up having the power to name any offspring. The Cursed Child tells the story of how the boys can return the magical world to it’s non-Voldermorty ways before it’s too late.

Way back in 2012 I suggested that the film War Horse suffered in comparison to the critically acclaimed theatrical production because it lacked the interest of the puppetry. It’s true that the staging of the play had a lot to do with the fact that War Horse became such a popular story. That’s how I feel about this play. After The Cursed Child came to the stage people were raving about it and, with any play, you lose a lot of the magic when you don’t see it performed as it was intended. Without the special effects the staging directions add very little and without hearing them spoken out-loud the words just seem stilted and not very natural. Although, I can’t really complain about that if I’m the fucking idiot who insists on reading a script instead of a book.

However, I can and will complain about the story that sits within those pages. The Cursed Child is basically a terrible example of fanfiction that has someone become super famous. I know I’ve comapred it to about three different things already but I’m going to say it’s Fifty Shades of Grey with less BDSM and more time travel. The story itself is very weak and, frankly quite dull. We don’t really get to grips with the modern day Harry Potter world anymore than we did in the epilogue and spend more time in the past we already know. This isn’t about moving Harry Potter’s story but is all about revisiting his glittering past. This isn’t JK and co trying to write a new and great story. This is them cashing in on the old tales that everybody loved.

We get to know Albus and Scorpius a little but much of the tale set in modern times basically concerns how shit a dad Harry is. It’s basically a hyperbolic melodrama that belongs in a daytime drama and not on the stage. Then we just go back to the three trails of the Triwizard Tournament and the moment that Harry’s parents die. We don’t learn anything new or interesting… except one thing of course. Now I was serious about those spoilers so if you don’t know turn back now. You gone? Good. Voldermort’d fucking daughter is the most ridiculous and fanfiction-esque plot I could have imagined. It doesn’t even make sense. It doesn’t fit into the timeline. Plus, the idea that Voldermort would have had a moment of clarity within the haze of narcissm to say “hmm I might die one day better pass on my genes” just doesn’t fit with the character. He never expected to lose so the idea that he needed to reproduce would never have occured to him. It’s fucking stupid.

This isn’t an exercise in literary genius but a shameless attempt to speak to people’s nostalgia. The play knows people want to meet of these characters again and happily rolls them all out one after the other. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Draco, Minerva, Hagrid, Dumbledore, Cedric, James, Lilly, Snape, Voldermort, Umbridge, even the fucking Centaur comes back. Except they aren’t really back because it’s not actually JR writing it. Now I know I’ve not always been complimentary about her writing style over the years but there is one thing Jo knows and it’s her characters. The characters in The Cursed Child are just pale imitations very obviously written by someone else. Nobody sounds right. The Severus Snape we see here is just the disgusting image that Tumblr has of him being a tragic Romantic hero. Dumbledore and Harry keep having moments where they express their love for each other, which just feels wrong.

The Cursed Child is both warmly familiar yet so disturbingly different that I couldn’t get on board with it. If it weren’t the stuff of time travel stories like the play itself, I’d happily say that Freud wrote his theory about the uncanny around it. However, that’s taking things a bit too far. Freud told us that the uncanny would bring about cognitive dissonance due to its paradoxical nature. We are simultaneously drawn to something yet wary of it and so we reject it completely. If Freud hadn’t been utterly refuted over the years I would say this sums up the negative feelings that a lot of fans have experienced since reading the book. I know that I, for one, want nothing more to do with it. It was a thing that never needed to happen and the fact that it’s now canon could have potentially destroyed the good work that Rowling had already done. I hope she eventually goes back on this and, like the epilogue, we can all pretend it never happened.

Because you know I’m all about that Snape. ‘Bout that Snape… no I’m just kidding that guys a fucking creep.

Because you know I’m all about that Snape. ‘Bout that Snape… no I’m just kidding that guys a fucking creep.

For those of you out there paying attention, I’ve recently taken an impromptu month-long break from blogging. To be honest, I’d become a little jaded and incredibly fucking lazy regarding the writing of posts. I was out of good ideas and work was stressing me the fuck out so I just wasn’t getting anything written in time. I’m hopeful that whilst I’ve been away I’ve managed to come up with a few subjects and have, in my usual big-headed way, got some grand ideas about adding more to my schedule. So, if nothing else, the past few weeks have seen me grow even more deluded than I was before. Yay! It’s going to be fun seeing how long this ‘can do’ attitude lasts for. As I’m currently taking a holiday from work I’m guessing it’ll be the second I get back to the daily grind. Adulthood is super fun, y’all.

Speaking of adulthood, I was perusing Instagram the other day (you may not be aware but I’m an Instagrammer now… and I’m such a fucking dick about it too) and I saw something troubling on a photo posted by a member of today’s youth.

For those not wanting to enlarge that picture I’ll retype it, negating any real need to include the screenshot in the first place. “It’s September!!! Snape is waiting for you! He is and will ALWAYS be my top favourite male character. Who doesn’t want a love like Severus had for Lily? After all this time…” Hopefully, some of you out there can understand why I was so concerned. Now I may be someone who is firmly situated in her late 20s and unflinchingly cynical but it unnerves me that young women are actually hopeful that someone as fucking creepy and stalkerish as Severus Snape will fall in love with them one day. For fuck’s sake, this is the craziest literary-based romantic goal I’ve heard since I realised people still lust after Mr. Rochester!

I understand that people praise the character of Severus Snape because, as anti-heroes go, he’s fucking intriguing. JK Rowling created a complex and fairly delicious character for us all to get our teeth into. He’s angry, vicious and brilliantly sarcastic: the worst teacher in the whole of history but the sort of person you want making sassy comments about the unfolding madness at Hogwarts. Of course, there was never any doubt that he was working for Dumbledore all along, no matter how fucking desperately our author tried to convince us otherwise. So I don’t begrudge people suggesting that Snape was one of their favourite characters in the series. After all, he was incredibly important to the events of the Second Wizarding War. What I take umbrage with is people turning him into this romantic hero who’s love for Lily Potter was something to celebrate. Fucking “Always” has become a catchphrase for idiots who think Twilight is the ideal we should all be aspiring to. Whatever Severus Snape felt for Lily Potter, it shouldn’t be described as love. It was nothing more than an obsession. Snape shouldn’t be lorded as a symbol of undying adoration. He’s a child who lost his favourite toy to a tougher, richer and more popular kid and spent the rest of his life never getting past that moment. He’s no better than Miss Havisham. Actually, he’s fucking worse because at least Miss Havisham was engaged to the object of her affection.

I understand the appeal: Snape loved Lily from their childhood and never met anyone as wonderful as her again. It’s the stuff of fucking Disney dreams. However, it’s all just bullshit. Anyone who gets rejected in such a final way as he did and still mopes about it, over twenty years later, is just a fucking creep. Lily straight up told him that he wasn’t the kind of person she wanted in her life and he had the choice to become a better man or a bitter one. Well, I admit, accepting bitterness into your life is a lot easier than trying to improve your entire personality. It’s no wonder the internet has rallied around Snape though. I mean aside from the fact that both Harry and JK forgive him with the simple statement “he was the bravest man I knew” (so many issues for another time), Snape has become a mascot for every pathetic, lonely person out there who is too afraid to approach someone and instead hides in the imaginary ‘friendzone’. For someone born in the wizarding world, Snape is just like every other single nerd on the internet. From Snape’s point of view, he and Lily were perfect for each other but she ended up picking his schoolyard bully who had all the advantages Snape lacked.

Except that’s not what happened at all. Let’s get back to basics for a second: friendship does not equal love. It shouldn’t be the kind of thing I have to point out but it seems as though some of you haven’t been paying attention. Just because someone likes you as a friend doesn’t mean they are under any obligation to fall in love with you. It’s tough but it’s something we all have to fucking deal with. There was never any hint that Lily ever reciprocated Snape’s feelings. They were friends, yes, but from what we can tell they’d been drifting apart ever since they arrived at Hogwarts. She was making more friends and he became more involved in the pursuit of the dark arts. To put it in the simplest terms I can imagine: they just weren’t right for each other. He was a future Death Eater and she was a future victim of the Death Eaters. This isn’t Romeo and Juliet people. It’s about as likely a romance as Adolf Hitler falling in love with a disabled, black, Jewish woman. It went against the very doctrine Severus and his friends were willing to live their lives by. Severus didn’t love Lily: he just selfishly wanted her for himself. She wasn’t a human being but an object that held sway over his potential to be happy. It wasn’t so much that he wanted to be with her but just that he didn’t want to be without her.

Let us look, if we may, at the relationship that Lily ended up having with James. We don’t know much but we do know that James was willing to die for her. He lay down his life in the hope that Lily and his son would survive. What was Severus willing to do to save Lily? Not sacrifice his own life, that’s for sure. He was, however, very happy to offer up her husband and only child to Voldemort so they could be murdered instead. Just let that sink in for a second: “Darling, I love you so much I sacrificed the two people you care most about in the world so we could be together forever.” That doesn’t sound like love to me. And nobody should be aspiring to experience the kind of ‘love’ that festers into a dangerous obsession. Any feeling that causes you to look into a seventeen-year-old boys eyes as you die so you can pretend it’s your childhood crush is something you want to avoid. I mean who knows what kind of disgusting thoughts entered his head every time he made eye contact with young Mr Potter? Blurgh! Anyone who thinks he makes an acceptable romantic partner really is just as fucking insane as Snape himself.

Just look at what became of him. He ended his life as an essentially friendless, loveless and very unhappy man just because he had pinned all of his future happiness on a girl who rejected him. It also destroys most of the reasons that made him such a wonderful character. One of the things that made Severus so fantastic was his inner struggle with morality. Dumbledore himself made a big deal about the “choice between what is right, and what is easy” and, up until the end of Book 7, Severus was the perfect symbol for that very decision. Until JK went all fucking fairy tale on us again and turned his story into a love story. For one thing, it is a massive cliche and a super lazy way for a writer to absolve a morally questionable character of his sins. I mean nobody discusses Severus’ years of muggle torture and murder; all they ever fucking talk about is fucking “always”. For another thing, when you accept creepy obsessive love as Severus’ only motivation then you remove any question of morality from the equation. He didn’t care about doing the right thing at all. He just let an old man manipulate his adoration for a dead woman to get him to change sides.

You know what, I used to be just like that person I referenced earlier. I always loved Snape as a character and couldn’t wait for his moment of redemption. What I got was an absurd and incredibly unsettling ‘love’ story that completely spoiled him for me. He deserved his moment of bravery that would show all the doubters just how fucking stupid they were. Instead, he was just Harry’s mother’s stalker who actually turned out to be quite useful. Seems like the perfect person to name your child after.