The biggest “formative” franchise for my youth would have to be Harry Potter. The books were released as I was beginning to read, and the films overlapped until I was over the age of twenty. The morality, imagination, and characters of that world have an undeniable influence over me because I cared so much more about engaging socially through that fiction than I did through sports, beta club, parties, and whatever the rest of my peers were doing.
Can you fill in that blank for yourself? At one time or another, you may have developed an attachment to Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, or any Marvel character or group. As the culture of the world bent to put a spotlight on what you care about, for a time you must have lived with anger, fear, and anxiety.
When I first saw 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban I didn’t appreciate Gary Oldman, Alfonso Cuaron, David Thewlis, the art direction, or anything that makes that movie work as well as it does. I was thirteen. It felt rushed. Some of my favorite feelings from my favorite book flashed back at me in rushed performances and heated long takes in a completely different world than the one Chris Columbus made that felt so safe. See, I was ten and eleven when the first two films came out and made me excited that fantasy could feel so close to reality, so to me, Prisoner of Azkaban broke that reality and didn’t seem to care about what I had decided was important.
This relationship, the one that was mine with the material, felt scorched, and it wasn’t until recently, with so much traffic on social media, I’m starting to understand how many other geeks have had their fantasies forced into the spotlight to be shredded and make them feel judged without being seen. Every few months another character gives a few hundred people hope that their dreams will feel more real, and what follows tends to result in tossing the material back and forth and ripping at it for vindication. This is how we communicate.
We’re dorks, geeks, nerds, outcasts, and we don’t communicate the way our peers did. We snipe, we rank, we try to order things and die on the hill of the “right answer”. The comment section has flooded and drowned the content we may hope to create. So few make fan films and so many uses these ideas as a platform to fight. We earn the costumes of scum, asshole, bigot, and “blocked user” and dig our heels harder because when our favorite worlds became vulnerable we became unsafe.
Like animals sniping for the next piece of meat we claw at details for every pop-culture icon and feel a sick warmth of success when it brings us positive attention. And I couldn’t help but try and find words to nausea it brings me. So I guess I just want to say; fuck rejection, terminal opinions, and plot holes. The Prisoner of Azkaban is whatever you want it to be for yourself, and while I think that should mean more than an “out of ten”, a letter grade, or higher on a list, I think what we should be striving more to do is grieve those relationships and move on.
I struggle often, these days, to make up my mind. There is instinct, feeling, thought, and action… then the flood of others’ thoughts and feelings I regret not having taken into account. There is so much you can learn if you can weed out the hurt from the crocodiles. It’s hard to spend so long not feeling seen, then when the world shows it cares about your interests and still doesn’t see you, you may want to burn it to the ground. But you can’t have that back. We can spend a decade retreading the 1980s but we can’t relive them.
Find your closure. I’ll be looking for mine.