Harry Potter vocalizes kids’ fantasies

Standing in line for popcorn, I realized that I was uncool, unhip and in way over my head. If there had been a bouncer, there would be no way I’d have made it this far. To reflect the situation, though, the bouncer would have to be a six-year-old.

Yes, that’s right. The situation in which I found myself to be way out of my league was a screening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, on opening weekend.

Kids were everywhere. Quite frankly, the best form of birth control I have ever seen was watching those kids tear up and down the aisles and hearing them scream their concessionary demands at their hapless parents, all the while feeling relieved that, apart from the following two-and-a-half hours, I would never see these kids again.

These kids, despite their undeniable grossness, transformed when the movie started. The Muggle (magicless human) world faded away and these little tykes fell under the magical spell of a little boy named Harry Potter.

Or at least that’s what apparently happened at other movie theaters. At our showing, kids tended more towards the role of announcer. They shouted at the screen, hissed at Professor Snape, and cheered for Harry. Their sharp intake of breath at some of the scarier moments was similar to the sound of the hundreds and hundreds of owls seen on Privet Drive trying to deliver a message to Harry.

The funniest comment was made during the “sorting ceremony” segment of the movie. Just before the Sorting Hat chose the house to which Harry would belong, a kid in the front screamed, “Gryffindor!” It was great.

There were other humorous moments as well. Unfortunately, my notepad was covered with the delicious fake butter from the popcorn, so those observational gems are lost forever.

The movie itself consisted mainly of moments. That is, its fidelity to the book and the subsequent onus to abandon that ideal in order to keep the movie at two-and-a-half hours made it obvious when certain things were left out. In other adaptations, it would not have mattered so much. The Harry Potter books, however, are the equivalent to sacred texts. But, granted, when you switch media, something’s got to give.

Other highlights included the flight instructor, who can only be described as bad-ass, the incredibly sumptuous holiday feasts, the interior decoration and, though derided by some critics as a scene that took its cue from the last Star Wars movie, the Quidditch matches.

There were some more serious flaws in the movie as well. This movie resonates with kids so strongly that its impact on cultural visualization and memory has already been established. It’s difficult to legitimize a serious complaint with a movie about magic, but some of the representative elements were disturbing.

The most prominent of these elements was the fact that magic seems to be a talent that only white people have. There were two black children in the movie, only one of whom had lines (the Quidditch announcer). The troubling implication is that this movie posits itself as one that is universally beloved by all kids.

Well, that hypothesis runs into problems when you have a large segment of the 12-and-under population that is given marginal acknowledgement of their very existence. I’m a little wary of the fourth book, when Harry starts dating a girl with an Asian ethnic background. Token representation of multiculturalism isn’t the answer either.

Overall, it was a good movie, but one that was not targeted toward my usually powerful demographic of 18-34. Instead, the kids ruled the school and, like pre-magic Harry, yearned to find some way to break out of the typical 11-year-old disguise to show how special they really are. Here’s a hint for you, kids: when snakes start talking to you, you’re well on your way to uniqueness.

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