We recent graduates of the Class of 2011 are the Potter generation: the series bookended our young adulthood and after growing up with it for ten years, we took it to college with us, throwing Potter-themed parties, reading the books for comfort when we were angsty over collegey things, and decorating our houses with cardboard cutouts of the characters. (Okay, that last one might just have been SoCo 3, but we are obviously trendsetters.) Though I hate the movies like any good Potter fan should, I’ll be dragging my tired-grandma butt to the midnight premiere on Thursday, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to analyze where exactly we were in the course of our young lives when each book was released. And I guess the movies too. Even though they’re stupid.
1997: First book released. I read a review in Newsweek that compared JKR to Roald Dahl and immediately dismissed it as a ripoff. (Yes, I read Newsweek when I was eight. Why do you think I didn’t have any friends?)
1999: I’m gonna say this is when I started reading them. I caved in and ordered Sorcerer’s Stone from the Scholastic book order — remember book orders? Highlight of elementary school. Second only to that most glorious of events, the book fair — and read the whole thing in one sitting. Then I made my mom buy me Chamber of Secrets, which I also read in one sitting.
Christmas 1999: Prisoner of Azkaban is in my Christmas stocking. SANTA WIN. I am ten years old and have a couple friends. I make my grandma, who used to work in publishing, read Harry Potter. She likes it. (For real. Patrice Witherspoon Cass was not the type of woman to lie about her opinion on a book to make her grandchild feel better. This is the woman who had strict rules for playing Scrabble with her grandkids — when we got to high school age, we lost “dictionary privileges.” Casses are hardcore when it comes to the literary world.)
July 8, 2000: Goblet of Fire is released. The night before, my fifth grade class had stayed overnight at school for “Midnight Madness,” an event that I still can’t quite believe a teacher would willingly commit themselves to hosting, but it was SUPAFUN. We all stayed up all night and ran around the school and dipped our hands in tempera paint and made T-shirts with the whole class’s handprints and signatures. (I still have mine.) I got home at about seven in the morning and slept for two hours, then when I woke up, the book was in a box on my doorstep. I read the whole thing that day, much of it at my dad’s office, where I used to go on weekends. I would bring a book and read or draw on my dad’s boxes and boxes of green scratch paper, and he would buy me a Dr. Pepper out of the vending machine. I imagine I had a satisfying night’s sleep after that.
2001: I have a vague memory of reading Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in the fitting room of Macy’s while my mom tried on bras. Later this year, the first movie is released. Little do I know that some years later, an embarrassing number of LVA students will go through the Quidditch scene frame by frame trying to find our new classmate Julianne Hough clapping when Harry scores. (True story. And yes, I totally did it too.)
2002: The second movie is released, but we probably shouldn’t talk about it because it’s an insult not only to JKR but to the entire filmmaking industry in general. Actually, probably the whole storytelling industry. And children. 2002 is about prime-time for my active Harry Potter fangirling on the Internet. Like, I posted on message boards. I was SUPER INTO IT. In my defense, I never participated in role-playing games. I had SOME standards. But like, at this point in my life, I was kind of more comfortable with my “Internet friends” than my real friends. I continue to maintain that middle school should take place in isolation because NOBODY IS NICE WHEN THEY’RE TWELVE. I never really made that connection before… we now pause while I psychoanalyze the possibility that I spent all my spare time online in middle school because strangers from Australia who also thought Harry should totally get with Ginny were preferable to the real-life company of, you know, bitches. (Not that I wasn’t one. I totally was.)
2003: Order of the Phoenix is released! This was the first midnight release party I attended. I want to say I was at the Borders on Charleston with Lauren — does that sound right? I remember waiting in line around the stationery area and reading all the greeting cards. I didn’t go straight home and read the book; I slept instead and read it all the next day. This is probably my least favorite book and I can explain it in the terms that we Harry Potter Internet freaks used to use: it was the book of Angsty!Harry. Like, I get it, life’s rough when errybody in the club thinks you’re full of shit, but can we please move on? I just got frustrated all the time. Although, in its defense, the “Mistletoe.” “It’s probably full of Nargles” exchange is probably the greatest intro to a first kiss in all of literature.
2004: Prisoner of Azkaban movie. I liked this one because it was confusing for all the fake fans who had never read the books.
2005: Half-Blood Prince! This was the summer that we were slowly starting to get our driver’s licenses. I had my first job working at Tropical Smoothie with Taylor, where I would often see the very kids that made fun of me in middle school, and it made me feel great to watch them process the fact that the bespectacled midget had “swanned.” I went to the release party with Vinny and Jessica, who had just gotten her driver’s license and freaked out because she ran into the gate on her way into the neighborhood. We saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and went to the Barnes and Noble across the street from where I work now and spent the whole waiting period making fun of all the freaks in their costumes. It’s funny to think that this was the second-to-last book and 2007 seemed so distant at that point. The only college I imagined myself at was NYU and I rarely thought past the next day.
2005 was the year that I started to feel like the things I wanted were within my reach. I went on my first date, I was in an LVA show with all the theatre majors, I got moved up to 2B, I got my first job, I got my driver’s license, I got called back for a lead in the next musical, I went to Sun Youth Forum and, for the first time, had someone pay attention to me because I was a smart panda. It was all in the present but I was starting to feel like a force of nature.
The Goblet of Fire movie also came out in 2005. I don’t remember seeing this one. I know I saw it in theatres… maybe on Christmas with the fam or something?
2007: Order of the Phoenix movie comes out. I go to the midnight showing with Lexie and Jessica and maybe Gwen, I don’t quite remember, and I get a stomachache and am thoroughly disillusioned with the whole film franchise.
I graduate from high school and star in a musical and then the seventh book comes out. It is obviously awesome and I am one of the six people on the planet who love the cheesy epilogue, because I’m a sucker for cheesy epilogues and I like to imagine that my own life will turn out that way. A couple months later, I go to college and discover that contrary to popular belief, we have NOT put away childish things.
2010: Michaela and Amanda throw a Harry Potter party for their birthdays and my house prepares by dressing up and taking pictures with our Harry Potter cardboard cutout. Because we have that. We are 21 years old. Harry Potter has given us the gift of eternal youth.
Conclusion: I’ve grown a good eight inches since this book came out. My bangs haven’t changed much, though. Oh, yeah, and I have a degree in English and am fully qualified to analyze this book series through whatever critical lens I so desire. I won’t, though.
But believe you me, I will still hate this last movie. Even if Neville got hot. (Google him. Seriously.)