Harry Potter and the #cashcow

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Let me preface this article by saying how much I love the Harry Potter franchise. Having read the books in my early twenties, I expected to simply find them amusing as children’s books, but instead, fell head over heels in love with the story.

I wept when beloved characters died, and experienced one of the biggest book hangovers of my reading life upon completion of the series. While I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a walking Harry Potter encyclopedia, but it certainly wouldn’t be a stretch to call me a bit of a Harry Potter nerd.

With all that being said, one might think that I’d be over the moon with a follow-up story on the horizon. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a story set nineteen years after the end of the final Harry Potter book, is due for book release July 31, 2016.

More storyline about the characters we all craved endlessly after the books were finished?! “Yes, please!” the fandom seems to be shouting. However, I don’t know that I would count myself among this group of avid fans. I found myself questioning whether or not this new addition will end up being a disappointing sequel to a massively loved series, and if perhaps it might be time to give poor Harry some rest.

This upcoming book did not actually start as a book – it’s a two-part play to be premiered in London this summer (at the same time as the book release). Evidently too elaborate to be limited to a standard single play, it has been divided into two shows. According to Rowling and her co-creators audiences need to see both parts to get the full story.

This seems an odd move considering other literary masterpieces that have been translated to the stage in a solitary run-time. Gregory Maguire’s Wicked was a densely political read turned into a twistedly comic musical on Broadway; Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is a 1500 page book (format dependent) that the adaptors managed to turn into a 3-hour play.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been written specifically for the stage and, given the example above, seems that the story could’ve been condensed to a single evening’s worth of entertainment. It begs the question, is this truly about delivering more story to Harry Potter fans, or is it about making more money off of an already financially successful franchise? To be fair, it could be both.

If “the play’s the thing”, and that was where this new Harry endeavour ended, it might be easier to look past the potential overcharge for a new piece of the story. After all, this is not the first Harry Potter-based play to be written.

The clincher with this particular play is that it is also being released in book form and when news of the play was released, there was question as to why Rowling wasn’t simply writing another book.

Rowling stated that she was “confident that when audiences see the play, they will agree that it was the only proper medium for the story.” If this is true then why is the world waiting with baited breath for this next “book” release?

Plays get turned into book format all the time (cue Mr. Shakespeare). But as with most scripts, the intent is for the story to delivered as a performance, not a narrative.

This new book is beginning to look like extra money in the pocket of those running the Harry Potter franchise (sorry, Rowling). What was meant to be a play is now becoming “the next book in the series”. Hasn’t Harry been through enough? Shouldn’t the boy who lived be allowed to die (and rest in peace) at some point? At what point does the continuation of this narrative become overkill?

The simultaneous release of the play and the book are still months away, allowing for even more build up of anticipation before the world finally gets to dive into the trials of adult Harry Potter and his son, Albus Severus.

Perhaps in that time social media will have altered my perception, and I’ll be right there in line with everyone else outside the bookstore at midnight, wand in hand, shouting alohomora at the doors to get my copy.

But as it stands right now, I cannot say with any level of certainty that I will be exploring the new adventures that await in the world of Harry Potter.