No, the world doesn’t need Harry Potter to survive book 7. I’m hoping he doesn’t. Happy endings are a dime a dozen. Escapist fantasy and action movies and romanic comedies are everywhere, and like all junk food, leave you feeling hungrier than when you started.
I have always hypothesized that the reason that these books are wildly popular is that the heroes suffer in ingenious and extremely satisfying ways.
Case in point. Terri and I just watched the movie version of Book 4 the other night, and while I think they did an impressive job of condensing an 18,000-odd page book into a pretty good movie, the one scene they botched was the Yule Ball. And it only seemed botched because it’s so perfect in the book: it’s as good a depiction of a junior high dance as I’ve seen in anything, ever. It brilliantly captures the volatile mix of innocence, hormones, and hideously inflated romantic expectations. It captures the terror of actually asking someone to go with you. Nobody ends up going with who they should be going with. Everyone is miserable the whole way through, and it ends in tears, with nobody speaking to each other. And it has that “Oh, my god, my life is over!” feeling.
It’s awful, it resonates, it’s true. Compare and contrast with, say, Sixteen Candles, where after medium-intensity pouting for two hours, Molly Ringwald is swept off her feet by her Ferrari driving bo-hunk. Escapism just doesn’t give you the entertainment bang for the buck that misery does. Admit it!