Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Review: The Cursed Fandom
The cheering charm that die-hard Potterheads expected turned out to be a curse amidst a predictable and unlikely plot full of holes and uncharacteristic behavior from characters they know and love. The new play based on characters created by JK Rowling might be a well acted play, but the plot disappoints fans who hardly recognize the beloved characters they grew up with.
In 2007, fans of the Harry Potter book series said their goodbyes at the close of the final novel in the series. Author JK Rowling, however provided a stream of information for fans suffering withdrawal from the wizarding world. Harry Potter became an auror, Dumbledore is gay, an American school of witchcraft and wizardry exists and the story of its founder is an exciting read reminiscent of her past work. Short stories were provided, approved works were released, and yet fans wanted more. Enter Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play that picks up where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows left off. It must be noted that while Rowling approved and contributed to this story, the script and story were written by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany.
This summer the play was released in printed form for readers unable to attend the performances in London. Once again fans rushed out to preorder copies and find out how the famed trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron were getting along in adulthood. While the beloved trio was a part of the story being told, the bulk of Cursed Child concentrates on Harry’s son Albus and his friend Scorpius Malfoy (yes, the son of that Malfoy). While certain themes from the original series shine through, the much anticipated story falls short and reads like a gathering of fan fiction meant to pander to readers. Perhaps most disappointingly of all, the story was not true to the beloved characters readers grew up with.
A quick glance online turns up several pieces of fan fiction that are put front and center in Cursed Child. Scorpius has a crush on Rose Weasley, type their names into your preferred search engine and dive into the abyss of fans who ship these two, often the same people who ship Draco and Hermione. Rowling even throws in a nod to those people as Draco claims to like being “bossed around” by Hermione as they all work together to reset the timeline. And the whopper of all fan fictions, a secret lovechild bent on bringing about the return of her father, Lord Voldemort. This is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the plot; it seems like an easy and cheap way to throw in some conflict for the protagonists. However, this weakens the poignancy of Rowling’s original work which taught us that love is the most powerful magic of all and that Voldemort’s inability to love is his greatest weakness. How does a man who is no longer fully human, having ripped his soul apart so many times, manage to father a child? Voldemort is at his core a selfish person consumed by his fear of death and desperation to avoid it. He has never been concerned with his own bloodline, and why should he be? He believes he has defeated death and his only threat comes from Harry Potter, the proverbial hero he believes will die at his hand.
In the future Harry becomes a father unable to connect with his youngest son and, at one point, a controlling, cold parent reminiscent of the Dursleys. The boy who readily befriended outcasts like Luna and Neville is suddenly unable to muster the same understanding and acceptance for his own son. The boy who had to fight for the adults in his life to listen to and trust him turns a deaf ear to his son who, much like him, is fiercely loyal to his best friend and trying to do the right thing. The boy who cast an unforgivable curse when someone disrespected eternal badass Professor McGonagall uncharacteristically threatens and disrespects her himself. Though Harry is still married to Ginny, she is no longer the feisty young woman who hexed those who insulted her friends with bat bogey hexes and stood up for others. Instead she is relegated to the quiet wife who sighs and offers her opinion only when asked. This Ginny lacks the depth of her younger self and suffers a similar fate to that of another beloved female role model, Hermione. As an adult, Hermione has become Prime Minister of Magic after years in wizarding law fighting for the rights of magical creatures. However, the girl who stood by her best friend against the secretive government of Cornelius Fudge and Dolores Umbridge becomes the very thing she fought against. She lies to the public about the time turner found amongst supporters of the dark arts and reveals the truth only when she has no choice. Hermione is consistently undermined by the men in her life, fighting to be heard at her own meeting despite her position as Minister of Magic. The alternate versions that Albus encounters after altering time are no better. Without a husband, Hermione becomes an unfortunate trope of a woman. She is an angry and bitter professor at Hogwarts in one timeline and a lonely martyr fighting for a lost cause in another one. This is a disappointing outcome for a girl who was more concerned with her O.W.L scores than finding a date and with fighting for the rights of house elves in a society that was content with this unfortunate form of servitude. Her husband Ron initially escapes such a fate, remaining his charismatic and funny self, until readers meet him in an alternate timeline. In this timeline he is a sadly broken husband and father who no longer jokes or laughs.
One of the few redeeming qualities of the novel is the friendship between Albus and Scorpius. Like Ron and Harry, these two complement each other and display an example of the power of love between friends and the importance of such a friendship. In the end it is their loyalty and love for one another that leads them to follow each other across time and risk their lives for each other’s happiness. In short, the story pulls on the nostalgia that readers undoubtedly feel when they read about Hogwarts, Platform 9 ¾, and Ron, Harry, and Hermione remaining close friends. My advice for the ever patient fandom is: those who miss the magic of the wizarding world are better off reading about Ilvermorny on Pottermore, or better yet returning to Hogwarts via the original books and avoiding the unfortunate fate of our much-loved heroes.