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Grief counseling for Muggles mourning final ‘Harry Potter’ film
The lessons learned from ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Star Wars’ survivors
Question of the Day
Fear not, Hogwarts junkies.
Yes, the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2” marks the end of a cinematic era — eight films, 10 years, $6 billion and counting in worldwide ticket sales.
But that doesn’t mean your fantasy fix is about to vanish like an invisibility cloak.
Take it from the Trekkies and the ‘Star Wars’ nerds; they’ve been there.
“The effect of ‘Harry Potter’ will be felt long after the movies are over,” said Daryl Frazetti, a California-based university lecturer and expert on the cultural anthropology of “Star Trek” fandom. “The franchise will be alive. It’s too large a culture. You don’t just deconstruct it easily.”
A wise man — probably William Faulkner; possibly the people who keep making “Saw” movies — once said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The same holds true for beloved movie and book franchises. If the examples of “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” are any guide, the greater Potterverse figures to live long and prosper, well after the last film boards Charon’s ferry to its Blu-ray afterlife.
Herewith, some advice for coping with loss and tending the flame of memory — grief counseling for mourning muggles:
Come together: Mourners have wakes. Nerds — we mean that in a nice way — have conventions, where fanboys and girls can make friends, swap stories, debate canon, play dress-up — and enrich franchise actors’ IRAs via paid autograph signings.
The first “Star Trek” conventions took place in the early 1970s, a byproduct of a letter-writing campaign to keep the original ratings-challenged television series on the air. The crusade failed. But the meet-ups themselves were a huge success, spawning a global cottage industry that today encompasses dozens of annual events — a Las Vegas “Trek” soiree regularly draws 15,000 — and countless eye-popping costumes, including Vulcan fire dancers (red cape, matching bikini) and green-body-painted Orion slave girls.
Eric Geller, a “Star Wars” fanatic and 20-year-old college student from Bethesda, advises “Potter” fans to follow suit. Maybe not literally.
“Personally, I would never wear a costume,” said Mr. Geller, who manages social media for a popular “Star Wars” fan website. “But people at conventions do some amazing things. The best example is the 501st Legion, a group of guys in stormtrooper costumes. They do charity events. They do droid hunts.”
“You play a droid, and if they catch you, you’re entered into a lottery for cool prizes,” Mr. Geller explained. “Conventions aren’t just sitting around talking about your favorite scene and looking back. You’re in the moment, finding new ways to enjoy the movies.”
Do it yourself: Author J.K. Rowling has claimed she’s finished writing “Potter” novels. Not to worry — fans already are picking up the slack, creating “fanfic” (short for fan fiction) about Harry and company. Typically published online — the popular site FanFiction.net hosts more than half a million original “Potter” stories — the tales owe a small debt to “Trek,” which inspired some of the earliest fanfic.
(Also bequeathed by “Trek” is “Slash” fanfic, which features pop culture characters in, ahem, same-sex situations. But moving on.)
As for the less literary-minded? Improvements in video effects and editing technology have turned fan-made films into a genre so hot that George Lucas himself has taken notice. The “Star Wars” creator is sponsoring a contest to recognize the likes of “Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager,” a humorous spoof that chronicles the pedestrian adventures of Darth Vader’s little brother, a down-on-his-luck grocery store middle manager.
Wish Dumbledore still was alive? Then get typing.
Spinoff … and off … and off: The original “Star Trek” spawned six television series over four decades. The expanded “Star Wars” canon includes novels, comic books, an animated children’s show and one epochally awful cash-in variety show, “The Star Wars Holiday Special,” broadcast once in 1978 and never, ever again.
Similarly, Ms. Rowling last month announced the upcoming launch of Pottermore.com, a website featuring additional illustrations and 18,000 new words. Given market demand for all things “Potter” — a sign-up page for the site crashed almost immediately following the announcement — it’s a safe bet that the milking of the Potterverse has only just begun.
Stimulate the economy: Video games, trading cards, Dixie cups, not one but two branded versions of the venerable board game “Risk” — you name the item, and chances are “Star Wars” fans can buy it. Or ride it, thanks to the “Star Tours” attraction at Disneyland.
“Potter” followers, of course, already have flocked to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an Orlando theme park that sports roller-coasters and restaurants that serve strawberry-peanut butter ice cream. Plus butterbeer. Which hopefully tastes better than it sounds.
Life imitates … Hogwarts: Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative — the Cold War plan to develop space weaponry capable of shooting down incoming Russian nuclear warheads — earned the nickname “Star Wars.” “Star Trek” has been referenced in everything from Beastie Boys lyrics to “The Simpsons.” In the manner of classic myths, entertainment sagas like “Potter” have a way of permeating their surrounding culture, to the point of blurring or even erasing the line between fantasy and reality.
Case in point? In “Potter,” the fictional students of the fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry play a fictional game called quidditch, in which wizards fly around on broomsticks and toss balls through hoops. On actual American college campuses, actual students play a version of the game in which they toss balls through hoops and run around with broomsticks between their legs. Alas, nobody flies. All of which would seem stranger if “Star Wars” hadn’t already inspired a real-life Jedi religion, the way the Klingons of “Star Trek,” a race of warrior aliens, have inspired the creation of a viable language.
“They spoke Klingon on the show ‘Frasier,’” Mr. Frazetti said. “Shakespeare and the Bible have been translated into it. There’s an actual Klingon language institute in Pennsylvania.”
Keep hope alive: The promotional poster tagline for “Deathly Hallows — Part 2” reads, “It all ends.” Maybe so. Hollywood’s historical weakness for sequels suggests otherwise.
Mr. Lucas wrapped up his original “Star Wars” trilogy in 1983. After years of hemming and hawing, he produced three additional movies. Were Homer alive today, “The Iliad II: Troy’s Revenge” would likely be in preproduction.
There’s simply too much fan interest and too much money to be made to think “Potter” will be any different. Ms. Rowling has already coyly hinted at the possibility of new “Potter” adventures someday. “It is my baby and if I want to bring it out to play again, I will,” she said before the recent London premiere of “Deathly Hallows — Part 2.” Even if she declines to revive the franchise, there’s always the possibility of a series reboot, akin to director J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reimagining of the original “Star Trek.”
“Stories like ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Potter’ are the new mythology for our times,” said Mr. Frazetti, who has taught a course on the anthropology of “Harry Potter.” “It’s almost along the lines of a religious text. How many ways can you reinterpret it? That’s what keeps the myth alive.”
In other words: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” In 4-D. Starring Harper Seven Beckham. Release date 2021.
Be patient, muggles. Keep the faith.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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