It All Ends Here. That is the completely overblown tagline for the last Harry Potter movie which, in case you did not know because you have been living for the last decade under a rock 40 miles beneath the sea in a cone of silence, comes out TODAY.
As regular readers and Twitter followers know, I am a giant Harry Potter nerd. Seriously, with all the time and energy I’ve spent reading and thinking about Harry Potter over the last decade, I could have learned at least three foreign languages. I love these books. I grew up with them – the first one came out when I was 11, and the last when I was 19 – so some of my most formative years were spent poring over the most recent book and awaiting the release of the next one. But I don’t find the movies nearly as compelling as the books, which is why I’ll be seeing the movie not at midnight tonight, but tomorrow morning (fear not; I will compensate for this lag by wearing a Gryffindor scarf).
It all ends today. It all ends, and as with all such endings, it is bittersweet. Except that for me, it’s not really over.
The last book came out in 2007, but in the intervening years, I haven’t stopped reading the series. I haven’t stopped listening to it on audiobook. I haven’t stopped admiring the plethora of admirable women characters Rowling created – nor the fact that she created just as many detestable women characters, demonstrating that women, like men, can be evil and power hungry and violent. As I wrote when the seventh movie came out last November,
One of the best things about it is that Rowling created a host of female characters who are smart, competent and courageous, women who defend themselves and others, and who defy gender stereotypes. In this sense, Rowling’s books are enormously important; recent studies have found that in entertainment created for children, women and girls are severely underrepresented, and when they do appear, they are less likely to speak than male characters and are often depicted in ways that reinforce gender stereotypes.
And I’m not the only reader who has found feminist inspiration in Rowling’s books. Yesterday at The Frisky, Krystie Yandoli wrote about how Molly Weasley taught her about feminism:
It was a form of magic to see the same qualities play out between this made-up mother character in my favorite books and my real mom. My views on modern motherhood were inherently affected by witnessing both mothers nurture all children who need them, not just their own blood; manage to hold their families together under any and all circumstances; have unconditional love and support, even in the most frustrating moments; and partake in empowering, female-friendly movements that positively influence their daughters and sons alike.
Then, there’s Emma Watson, who plays Hermione in the movies. A self-identified feminist, Watson recently told reporters that she saw a lot herself in Hermione, and vice versa.
“I’m a bit of a feminist in the same way that she is. I will speak my mind,” Watson said to a group of journalists, comparing herself to Hermione. “I’m very heady in the same way that she is; I’m constantly thinking three, four moves ahead. I try to intellectualize a lot, which she does as well, obviously. I’m very determined as well… I feel so much of me went into her and so much of her went into me. I can’t really differentiate too much anymore it’s all a bit of a blur.”
Watson also expressed her disdain for our culture’s obsession with imagining girls as pretty pink princesses (“it’s bullshit”), and said that if she had to be a princess, she would be “a warrior princess.” Damn straight, girl.
To me, the Harry Potter series is so valuable because of the various female role models it supplies. There are so many smart, strong, morally upright women in the series – Hermione, Ginny, Molly Weasley, Minerva McGonagall, Luna Lovegood. That’s not even a complete list, and it puts almost any other popular culture product out there to shame. And while the movies are exciting, they don’t explore those traits in those characters in nearly as much detail as the books do. For this reason, I’ll always be grateful to J. K. Rowling – who was told to use those initials because boys wouldn’t want to read a book by “Joanne” – for her creation. For this reason, the books will always mean a great deal more to me than the movies do. The movies, as time passes, will become dated, and soon the special effects will seem dinky and old-fashioned. That doesn’t happen with books. Books live forever.
So while the last film is now upon us, “it” doesn’t really end for me today. Which is not to say that I won’t cry when (spoiler alert!) a handful of beloved characters die in the final movie. And you know what I’ll say when those tears start flowing? Say it with me, nerds…