The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who have read the Harry Potter books, and those who haven’t. The former consist mainly of children and women. And they resemble a very large secret society.
I belong to the latter, whose ranks are dominated by dads. Most of us have nothing against Harry but are made to feel insecure in the presence of the initiated.
So when my daughters asked if I wanted to come along for a screening of the last-ever Potter film — Deathly Hallows 2 — I was nervous. The two of them — one’s a rather immature twenty-something and the other’s in her mid-teens — had already seen the film. Not days, but barely 12 hours earlier. They had watched the opening night’s show in Potter costumes and then launched into a mystifying chatter at home. They were still at it in the north London cinema, with me trailing two steps behind.
Suddenly, both seemed about five years old. This, I realised, was a Disneyland moment, when you stood with your child for hours in the sun just to see Mickey Mouse in person. Then you were led into an air-conditioned room, where Mickey gave you a gentle hug. The cinema held about 300 children. And me. Many were turned out in Potter costumes — some carried scary witch’s brooms; others wore Hogwarts house ties. There were kids in capes too, but they looked just like normal London hoodies, so that was okay.The teenage daughter wore a Potter t-shirt and held a wand. The twenty-something showed rare good sense in leaving her large Dumbledore wizard’s hat at home, especially as she was coming from work. Both began whispering fiercely the moment the film began. I asked to be reacquainted with the story-trail. They obliged, taking the shortest possible time ("Remember the paper cutout animation thing in the last film? This comes next.") Midway through the film, just when the noseless chap starts to burn Hogwarts down, the teenager began to sob. Apparently, she had already done this the first time around, setting off a chain reaction among her classmates and distressing adults sitting nearby.
As the film went from carnage to famous evil laughter to Harry’s not-death scene, her sobs became increasingly louder. I shot a sideways glance. The twenty-something was in tears. But no one else seemed bothered — I was surrounded by 300 simpering, blubbering children.
Next, Harry waves his wand, and the tears evaporate. On the way home, feeling a bit left out, I asked the younger one what she thought of going to a Potter film with a novice like me. “Oh yeah,” she replied. “I hadn’t noticed.”