This summer’s hottest party was not a beach bash or a drunk rager. Instead, it was a birthday celebration for Harry Potter, the world’s favorite wizard. My friend and I counted down until midnight, July 30 at the Mira Mesa Barnes & Noble, ringing in Harry’s birthday and the arrival of the long-awaited addition to the Harry Potter series.
Harry Potter fans like me celebrated across the world at libraries and bookstores as the different time zones struck midnight. People of all ages in Hogwarts robes with plastic wands came out in full force. At the event I went to, fans were dressed up as convincing Hagrids and Hermiones, complete with bushy beards and Time Turners.
I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the next day on a car ride to LA, still buzzing with the memory of a bookstore packed with HP fans. To be perfectly honest, it didn’t live up to the hype. Obviously its format as a play rather than a novel was unfamiliar and limited the intricate descriptions of characters and settings that J.K. Rowling gave in the original series. And the new generation of the Harry Potter universe had entirely new dynamics than the iconic Harry, Ron, and Hermione trio. But Cursed Child left me longing for the classic books that I fell in love with.
Of course, it was still a treat to witness the children of Hogwarts’ greatest heroes roaming the halls of their parents’ old school. Reading about potions classes, Hogsmeade trips, and the Sorting Hat ritual brought back treasured memories of the school we all dreamed of attending. And it was satisfying to learn the positions of Hermione as Minister of Magic, Harry and Draco as Ministry bureaucrats, and Ron as a prank shop owner (living out Fred and George’s dreams).
However, I had a few problems with characterization in the play. For starters, one of the major plot points is that Harry
and Draco’s sons tamper with time and save Cedric Diggory. But Cedric’s loss in the Triwizard Tournament turns him bitter and resentful of Harry, and eventually warps him into a Voldemort supporter and a murderer. This alternate reality Cedric seriously bothered me, mostly because––of all the moral gray areas in the series––Cedric was a spot of unwavering light. He helped Harry without any thought of personal gain and was always kind to others. His sacrifice was tragic because he was so honorable and good, so the concept that losing a competition could twist him into a bloodthirsty Death Eater was distressing.
Another key issue I had with Rowling’s rebooted characters was Harry’s tension with his son, Albus. While I was glad to see some good old-fashioned son-rejecting-father’s-legacy, Harry was downright cruel at one point in the play, saying he wished Albus wasn’t his son. This wounded and angered me. Of all the characters, Harry should best know the sting of rejection from parental figures after growing up under the abusive Dursleys. Adult Harry then refusing to accept his own son seems illogical and wrong.
Also, in a fanfiction-esque alternate timeline, Hogwarts loses the battle against Voldemort, Umbridge reclaims the role of Headmaster, and Snape manages to sacrifice himself again to further his Suffering Creep Hero thing.
Still, there was plenty to celebrate in Cursed Child, from the boyishly sweet friendship between Albus and Scorpius (Draco’s son) to the return of classic favorites from the old series to the reconciliations between family and friends at the end. And, because Cursed Child was written for the stage, it’s hard to rate it on a standard book scale. I’m sure acting, sets, and special effects on stage would bring the magic to life in a way written dialogue simply can’t. So until I make it to London to see the play myself, I figure I should cut Cursed Child some slack.
And for all my griping and complaining about J.K.R.’s refusal to let the series die nobly, I will still be first in line every time for just one more taste of Harry Potter’s world. Like Molly Weasley, I nag from a place of love. It would take far more than a few misfired characterization spells for me to turn my back on the magic of it all.