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Rage against the Harry Potter machine

One film critic has had more than enough of everyone's favorite boy wizard. By Dave White
/ Source: contributor

Because I’m a film critic, between now and the end of the year I have something like 200 movies I have to see. Okay lie. It’s more like 50. But still, 50 movies is a lot. And I’m not here to complain about seeing movies for a living. I’m excited about some of them.

“Transamerica” sounds kind of cool and weird, what with “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman getting a sex-change in it and all. “The Chronicles of Narnia” has my favorite anti-star, Tilda Swinton, in it, so I’m down for whatever she does. Terrence Malick’s “The New World” should be really, really slow and pretty, the kind of movie that probably took months to shoot because he’s such a maniac for things to be gorgeous — taking a whole day to shoot wind blowing a perfectly composed color combination of dead leaves across a road. I mean, I’m not saying he did that. But he probably would. I want to see “The Ringer,” too, that one with Johnny Knoxville pretending to have Down’s Syndrome so he can compete in the Special Olympics. You thought I was kind of high-brow until just now, I bet.

Enough of the boy wizard
But “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire” is not what I’m about at this particular moment. And here’s why: I’m beat-down by all the mandatory wizardry. It’s been five years of this very special magic boy and his magic friends and their fantastical Hogwartsing and Quidditching and wand-stroking and muggle-whatevering. It’s been five years of seeing them all on the cover of Vanity Fair and Time and Entertainment Weekly and witnessing armored trucks delivering loads of each new book and watching people ripping into the boxes of them like they’re Wonka Bars with a golden ticket inside.

I’ve had to deal with friends who are freaked out that I just sort of gave up on the third book and didn’t bother to read the fourth one or the fifth one or the sixth one, hearing them go on and on about this particular series but never hearing them get that wound up about any other book or film. I’ve seen grown-ups in Gryffindor sweatshirts and had the disturbing awarenessof the existence of Harry Potter slash fiction (any kids reading this, you don’t need to know what slash fic is —just forget I mentioned it). I’ve seen the billboards in the air and the busses on the ground covered in giant bus-sized eye-level billboards and TV commercials and tie-in candies that taste like dirt and vomit and Christmas tree ornaments. I’ve watched Daniel Radcliffe go through puberty with Oprah and Conan and Regis and Total Request Live and the sheer existence-crushing cultural pressure to conform and like it all. And I’m done.

Here was the last straw. I just heard last week, from an “industry” pal who must remain nameless, a story about how many zits (what they’d call “spots” at Hogwarts) had to be digitally erased from the new movie. It’s not true, of course. Or what if it is? They’re all 16 years old or thereabouts. Kids get zits. And these kids are megastars, each probably equipped with their own personal dermatologist on 24-hour standby. But it was Hollywood Gossip and therefore actual important information I needed to know. And the craziest feature of this bit of fake-out complexion reportage was its delivery to me in super-secret-double-probation hushed tones, as though these kids had been discovered with track marks on their arms or nabbed by paparazzi hanging out with Kate Moss. There is someone out there, more than one someone, in fact, who can’t get enough of breaking news like this, fabricated or un. But it was the last crack in my I-can-endure-any-amount-of-showbiz-silliness-because-it’s-my-job armor. I was officially and formally Harry Potter-Fatigued.

Haters unite!
I found I wasn’t alone. I spoke to my friend who runs a cranky cult Web site for the culturally disgusted about my personal dilemma as a member of the media hype machine. I should be ashamed of myself for writing it, now that I think about it. She felt my pain. “I’m sick of that [stuff], too, especially if you helped make even a little bit of it happen” she said, “But my real problem is the kids. Not the kids in the movie. Not the actors. The kids in the movie theater. There’s like hella kids in those theaters. I can’t get down with that. I’d have to sedate myself so much I’d fall asleep, which is what happened when I went to see the first one. So I never went back to see the others. The whole thing is like being sold a big Diet Coke that never gets empty.”

This is true. Harry Potter is not simply a character in a kid’s book anymore. Harry Potter is a multinational corporation and he’s spying on you in order to market himself to you more effectively. You will have the Diet Coke with his face on the can and you will think about his magic. You’ll feel that magic with every sip and you’ll come back to that Diet Coke for more magical Harry feelings later, kind of like how actual Diet Coke makes you hungry and then thirsty for more Diet Coke. Soon you’re like a really dumb dog chasing its own tail until you pass out.

So it’s time to get off the ride. It’s time to resist the onslaught. I have no choice in the matter. I work for The Man. But you do. You can skip it all. Pretend there is no boy wizard for a while until you really feel the need to read about him or see his movie. That’s what all this fiction is supposed to have helped you do anyway, right? Help you pretend? So it’ll be easy. During your Harry vacation you can go discover other stories on your own without anyone’s help. And if you decide to revisit Pottersville some day when you’re ready again you can check one of the books out of the library and or borrow one of your neighbor’s DVDs and enjoy it a few autumns from now, under a blanket with a cup of cocoa, in silence, alone. It’ll be all magical.

Dave White has a blog called Dave White Knows at .