I was born in 1988. Thus, I was a Nineties kid, the late Nineties in particular. The second generation to have been brought up on an almost-pure media focussed diet. Among all the cartoons, the Saturday morning TV, the technicolour jumpsuits and Will Smith, there were two undoubted, unassailable phenomenons.
One of these was Pokémon. I was proud to have been only the second kid (to my knowledge) in my primary school to own a Pokémon game. Blue, to be precise, imported from America. I was beaten to the punch only by Barnaby Dean, who had a Japanese copy. My best friend Ross was not far behind me with his imported copy of Red. A couple of months later, the game was launched in Europe and that shit exploded. My love affair with Pokémon would probably make an interesting (or, at least, fun for me to write) blog post. But I want to talk tonight about the other phenomenon of my generation. One that has had arguably more sticking power than Pokémon. One that will, hopefully, continue for many generations to come. It’s not that hard to work out what I’m talking about.
The Boy Who Lived, obviously.
It wasn’t until the other day that I really came to terms with how important Harry Potter has been to my development. The Philosopher’s Stone came out in 1997, when I was 8 (a couple of months before my 9th birthday – thanks Wikipedia!), but I didn’t get into it straight away. Contrary to what most people seem to think, Harry Potter wasn’t really an overnight phenomenon. After all, back in those days, the Internet wasn’t really freely available, and these kind of things mostly still spread by word of mouth. It hit Winton Primary School big time in late 1999. The Prisoner of Askaban was the most recent release, and the one that had gotten the critics, and playgrounds, talking. I vividly remember reading the Halloween chapter of The Philosopher’s Stone at around Halloween in the real world. Quite a few of my classmates were doing the same.
It’s only now that I realise that reading that book in that year, my final year at primary school, helped me come to terms with being a big boy. That sounds stupid, I expect. But let me put it into context: I was terrified of going to ‘big school’. I did not want to go. It was big, after all, with big boys who would push you around and give you wedgies and stick your head down the toilet. Harry’s first year in Hogwarts showed me that going to a big school aged 11 was something to relish, not something to be scared of. Sure, there might be a couple of bullies, but if you can make some great friends, everything would be just fine.
And, y’know what, it was.
The Potter series grew up with me. Whenever a new book came out, I was always roughly the same age as Harry, Ron and Hermione. I could relate to them. Obviously not the whole ‘magic’ thing, but that’s by the by, really. The same thing happened with the films. All of the principal actors are around my age – we genuinely have grown together. It still terrifies my parents.
Much more importantly, it sparked my imagination. I’ve always had a pretty vivid imagination, and always loved reading, but it wasn’t until Harry Potter came along that I started to manifest my thoughts more clearly and work out the kind of things I liked from the things I didn’t. Basically, it introduced me to fantasy. I dread to think what my life would be like right now if I hadn’t had that push.
I’m not an avid fan by any means, though, don’t get me wrong there. I’m not obsessed. I can’t reel off quotes from the top of my head, or name every incidental character. I didn’t even try to get into the beta of Pottermore. But at the same time, I and most of my friends can still relate plot points, major characters, story arcs, artifacts – all the major things, really – to each other. That’s hopefully a knowledge that will never go away.
The series has always provided talking points among people of my generation. I feel that many of us are linked by it in a way that can’t be overstated, as weird as that might seem. In the same way as a generation of kids was brought together by Star Wars, my generation was brought together by Harry Potter. For example, almost every week during my English coursework class at college, myself and a few others always managed to turn our conversation to Harry Potter – specifically, our theories on the plot of The Deathly Hallows, which was going to be released in just a few weeks. I’m not sure anything else could have done that except Harry Potter.
The day that the last book was released was a sad day for me. It took me about a week to get through (previous books had taken me mere days but, alas, I was very busy – even my mum managed to finish it before me!), and I was pretty upset when it was done. Especially after the ending. I’m still rather bitter about that. The last sentence, in particular, I was cursing about for days. It’s dreadful. Admittedly, though, it worked much better in the film. Which is the whole reason I’m gushing right here into your eyeballs.
You see, although the series might have officially finished with the release of the seventh book, it wasn’t until the final film was released that, for me, I started to realise the end was nigh. For myself and my friends, who went as a group to see every single Harry Potter film on the big screen, it was an emotional day. We didn’t cry or anything – or at least, none of us have admitted to it – but it was still sad. All those years – where had they gone? The story had finished both in print and on the screen. It was over. Well, sort of. There was one more milestone to go.
This weekend, I took delivery of a boxset of all eight Harry Potter films. It contains 19 discs – all the films on DVD and Blu-ray, plus more extras than even I will be bothered to watch. It was about £70, but it’s worth every penny. The same weekend, I decided to watch with my family the last two films – the two parts of The Deathly Hallows, on consecutive nights. By the end of it, I was mentally wrecked. That now was it. Although there will undoubtedly be re-releases, and possibly (but hopefully not) remakes somewhere down the line, but as far as the originals go, it’s all over. There won’t be another new book. There won’t be another new film. There won’t be another new DVD. Twelve years of my life have been building up to this point and…that’s it. As the film wound on, as Harry sacrificed himself for his friends, as his family gathered around him, as Neville killed Nagini, as Voldemort was finally vanquished, I realised I was shaking. It was completely subconcious. I feel stupid owning up to it, in fact, but it’s 100% true.
And then, after the credits had rolled and the box was finally back on my DVD shelf, I started to think. I thought about all the times that the series had brought me joy. All the conversations it had provoked. All the fires it had set off in my mind. Then I realised why I had been shaking. The series is linked to me like nothing else can ever be. And then I realised that, although the series might be ‘properly’ over for us now, it will never die. It’s such a cliché, but I can’t really put it any other way. The more I think about it, the more I think that no other generation will ever had what mine had. It was something special that can never be taken.
So goodbye, Harry Potter. But thanks. That’s so much less than you deserve – just thanks. Thanks for being with me, with us, for all this time. I will never forget you, and hopefully, if I ever have children, you will be there for them too. I’m almost jealous of them.