i love the smell of quidditch in the morning: laurie penny in trafalgar square
Harry Potter is also a business, and like any business, it is protected by large men in uniform. In Trafalgar Square, private security guards in lurid orange high-vis jackets step through the crowd, clashing with the glowering green decorations Warner has laid on for the event. The security guards stand firm at the gates to make sure no undesirables get in, shooing around clusters of quiet young people in pyjamas and sleeping bags, as if professional heavies have been dispatched to ensure everyone gets to bed on time.
Tell me Penny’s not actually tonally and thematically blurring together the student demonstrations and, um, a fucking Harry Potter premier? Children’s Revolution indeed. “In a chimeric clash of cultural signifiers, one young man with dreadlocks has accessorised a grubby green Che Guevara hoodie with a Gryffindor scarf.” Um, right. Watch, it gets worse:
Harry Potter, however, was always about far more than trade-marked tat. As a light rain begins to fall, young people who were strangers a few days ago huddle together under umbrellas and makeshift canopies, sharing midnight snacks and curling with torches around chunky copies of The Deathly Hallows, like the last, best sleepover of adolescence. “It’s just so friendly here,” say two Belgian teenagers in matching raincoats. “When we arrived in London, we didn’t know where we were supposed to go, but then we spotted some people in Gryffindor scarves, and we followed them, and now we’re friends. People are brought together by Harry Potter.” There is an atmosphere of innocence here that is utterly bewitching. “It’s like the best parts of fandom come to life,” says my friend, and we find ourselves staying far longer than we planned. Nobody wants to go to bed. Nobody wants the magic to end.
It’s a veritable Tahir Square of adolescent friendliness! Tonight “we are beautiful. Nothing can stop us”… from writing yet another “generational” article that sprays a damned kid movie premier with tear gas, just as she’s already coated the demonstrations with a thick coat of made-for-tv romantic drama. The adjectives and adverbs begin to flow like the blood of overly-kettled schoolchildren through the streets:
The next morning, Trafalgar Square is completely shut down, with screaming fans lining every sun-drenched road. The noise is incredible. Schoolgirls cluster as politely as possible to catch a glimpse of their favourite characters, chanting the names ecstatically when the stars appear on the enormous screens.
As if things aren’t exciting enough, before too long it starts to get all Riefenstahl on Laurie:
Many of the fans have drawn wobbly spectacles and lightning scars onto their faces as they shout in chorus, and I am reminded of Christopher Hitchens’ observation that the lightning-bolt on the forehead was also the symbol of Oswald Mosley’s fascists. Fanaticism, however twee, is always disturbing.
Eventually, she ties the knot and brings the one and the other together. Good thing she’s definitely not making the most viable student movement in generations look absolutely ridiculous:
Over the past six months, several groups of students and schoolchildren who attempted to camp out in Trafalgar Square for less Potter-specific reasons were all evicted by police. On the 26 March, I was here when 200 young protesters, mostly school pupils who had gathered for a picnic after the TUC demonstration, were kettled for hours in the freezing cold. Nathan Akehurst, 18, was also there. “A riot cop pointed his baton at me, and I don’t know why, but I grabbed whatever was in my hand – a water bottle, I think it was – and I shouted: ‘Expelliarmus!’. The policeman just laughed.”
I’ll bet he did. Christ, I’ve spoken about how refreshing it was that the occupations weren’t stacked with beanbag chairs and incense sticks, but I think I’d actually take a Bertolucci inspired Parisian-redux to this. It’s called, you know, journalistic condescension, even if it’s posing as yet another bizarre Laurie’s-liberal-lifestyle piece:
Harry Potter is not just a corporate racket, or a cheesy public-school fantasy in clunky prose. It’s also about decency, and fairness, and courage. That’s why young anti-cuts protesters carried placards declaring themselves members of ‘Dumbledore’s Army’. This particular fairy tale is coming to an end just as young people are learning that sometimes good does not automatically triumph. Sometimes the stupidest, meanest adults wind up in charge, and they can’t be defeated simply by going on a quest to destroy Horcruxes, or finding an unbeatable wand.
Ah, so the kids really are as stupid as they’ve been made out to be, as you can see by the turn to free indirect, sub-normal babytalk in the last line.
Goddamn internet. No getting away from UK hackery, even if it’s now for the moment on its backfoot. Whatever there is to say about the NYT, and there’s a lot to be said to be sure, at least serious papers in America wouldn’t touch this crap with a pole the length of the north Atlantic.