Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Calm down, Francis--Pottermania Up Close and Personal

I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 at the midnight premiere. Now, don't get me wrong...I LOVE Harry Potter. Okay, let me clarify: I love all seven of the books dearly. The movies? Well, I like them. I've seen them all. I know I've seen at least four of them at the midnight premiere. But somehow, for me, the movies never managed to catch the...well...magic of the books.

That's a personal opinion. I know lots of people--and I mean the kinds of people in whose opinions I generally put great stock--who adore the movies. But let's have a little perspective, people. I'm pretty sure that the bulk of the other people at the theater with me that night had LOST THEIR MARBLES. At the very least, they all seemed to be involved in some mass-hysteria. And I mean the kind of pervasive, simultaneous mass-hysteria that leads to things like the Salem Witch Trials. And I'm not talking about dressing up. 'Cause that's kind of cute. And while I've never personally done it for a movie, I've been to see movies where the audiences consisted of stormtroopers, Jedi, Starfleet officers, Klingons, elves, hobbits, and vampires of the non-sparkling variety (I'm not gonna touch the sparkly vampire movie crowd, because that bunch displayed a kind of fanatacicsm that verged on the terrifying and I consider them to be the Hezbollah wing of fandom). Hell, I attended the second Fantastic Four movie with a ten-year old in full Thing costume. Even the other HP movies didn't seem to elicit this kind of nutbar response.

So again...perspective is key here. Especially for the two girls in line behind me at the snack counter who were almost in tears due to the MOST EXCITING THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED IN THE WORLD OF FILM. No, really. The line was long. I was with these girls for a while and their entire conversation consisted of reassuring each other that NOTHING THIS IMPORTANT HAS EVER HAPPENED IN A MOVIE THEATER BEFORE AND NO ONE HAS EVER LOOKED FORWARD TO A MOVIE AS MUCH AS EVERY PERSON IN THE WORLD HAS LOOKED FORWARD TO THIS.

Look, ladies, I know it's exciting to think that you are part of something unique. And in a way, for Harry Potter, that's true. You are a generation who entirely WITHIN your generation followed the entire story of Mr. Potter from the first book to the last movie. And it IS exciting. It's fun. And it's sad that it's over. But you didn't invent crazy fandom.

Says the yo-yos who camped out in line at Mann's Chinese for THREE MONTHS in the spring of 1999 to make sure they got tickets:

(And I can't judge them, really, since I waited in line for twelve hours on the day it was released to make sure I got tickets to the first showing. I also schooled people at Trivial Pursuit: Star Wars Edition while I waited.)

Or speaking of Star Wars...please observe the mob scene at Mann's Chinese in May of '77 when the ORIGINAL Star Wars movie was released. And remember that this bunch had never even seen a Star Wars movie. They were this excited over something they knew only from trailers and nerd rumors:


But really, the fans who are scoffing at the whole lot of you--Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry and the sparkly vampire brigade--are these:


This picture was taken outside the Loew's Grand in Atlanta the night of December 15, 1939 at the premiere of Gone With the Wind. Hundreds of thousands of people--some estimates say half a million--lined the streets. Tickets sales were such that for four solid months after the premiere, every showing of the movie in Atlanta was standing room only. In London, where it premiered during the Blitz, it ran for four solid YEARS. And adjusted for inflation, it is still (and probably always will be) the top-grossing film of all time.

So, be a fan. Be a crazy fan. But don't think you youngsters invented it. Old people have been crazy like, FOREVER.