Hey, remember two years ago when I said J.K. Rowling was becoming George Lucas and then everyone else started saying it? I'm happy to report that not all of that came to pass. We didn't get prequels, for one thing. No, we got something much worse. Last month, sad Americans finally got their grubby Muggle hands on the script for the new play Harry Potter And The Cursed Child. It purports to be Hogwarts: The Next Generation but mostly involves a middle-aged, surly Harry fighting Voldemort's secret daughter, who wants to fuck everything up with time travel because she's got completely understandable daddy issues.
Sure, this asks us to believe that an all-powerful being made of evil with no use for an heir on account of his immortality and not just complete contempt for the human follies of love and sex but indeed no understanding of them would deign to prostitute himself to an underling as a reward for her loyal service (no, seriously, that's the prevailing explanation). It also introduces a bunch of new plot holes to the original series and robs Harry of the fate he earns with those legendary last words: "All was well." But ... there is no "but"; that all happens, and it's painful for everyone who invested way too much of their emotional security in the belief that nothing bad happens to Harry ever again and he gets to live the rest of his days in peace until he dies a happy old man.
It has to be most painful for Rowling: That last chapter was one of the first she ever wrote. She knew right from the beginning that's where she wanted to leave Harry, but what she wants kind of doesn't matter anymore. Remember, Rowling didn't write Cursed Child -- it was written by some dude named Jack Thorne, which is probably why it reads like bad fan fiction. For real, not only is Snape resurrected just for the cheap drama of graphically killing him all over again, but at one point Harry literally explains that he's regained an ability he logically shouldn't have anymore just because the story requires it.
Arthur A. Levine Books
It's said to be based on a Rowling story, but damned if I can find it, and I want you to look me in the eye and tell me Joanne ever wrote so much as a grocery list she didn't immediately post on Pottermore. I'm not saying they did this against her wishes, because she's clearly had more than a few hands in it, I just think she's resigned herself to taking a backseat in the $15 billion brand she created. That's because Rowling hasn't become George Lucas -- she's become Walt Disney.
For one thing, she's already got the theme parks, and yes, that's plural. We're not in Orlando anymore, Toto: They opened one in Japan two years ago and one in California this year, just a hop and a skip from Mouse Town, all with hundreds of Hogwarts Princess products available in their overpriced gift shops. But more than that, there's the infinite army of people it takes to sustain a global franchise like Disney or Harry Potter. Both are composed of dozens of movies, books, and video games at this point, and whatever Rowling might lack in variety she's more than made up for with an online portal of enough words of world-building to make George R.R. Martin puke. One person simply cannot keep all that going. At some point, you have to delegate. You hire artists, producers, and yes, even writers.
Did you think everything on Pottermore came straight from the fingers of Rowling? Nope, at least some of it is written by her staff. They're releasing a series of books with their stuff right alongside hers, but you can bet only her name will be on it. How long will it be until they put her name on something she never intended? The answer is they already did, and even though she insists that Harry is for realsies done this time, it took them only nine years to break her once; how much could it take to do it again?
What if, God forbid, she dies someday? Do you really think Potter Corps will leave Harry alone just because it's what she would have wanted? How do you think Disney would feel, sexist shithead that he was, about his most successful film to date being about sisters doing it for themselves? Wizards live to be like 150 -- Harry's got a good hundred years left for us to make him dance like a single mother with an eviction notice. That's the future we're looking at: an entire world of Harry Potter fan fiction, at the mercy of whoever's been assigned to it. You think turning loyal, gold-hearted Cedric Diggory into a Death Eater just because people laughed at him once was bad? Wait until someone wants to resurrect Dumbledore. Fuck it. Nothing matters.
Eventually, it won't even be about Harry anymore. With the upcoming Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them trilogy, which Rowling actually did write, she gave us permission to explore an entire world and history in our terrible fan fiction. There will be movies that have nothing to do with Harry Potter but will be labeled as a J.K. Rowling movie, just like Disney does now. (When was the last time you saw Mickey on a screen instead of on a sweaty, underpaid teenager?) We'll soon have children and grandchildren who live in a world where J.K. Rowling will be every bit as huge as Walt Disney and every bit as responsible. She'll just be the face behind a massive, worldwide industry.
And it'll happen because we will demand it. Look, I'm going to Harry Potterland. I will be in line every Thanksgiving for the next three years to see the fantastic fucking beasts. I bought Cursed Child even though I already knew I was going to hate it, because I have this weird disease where I don't care about spoilers, and I'll buy the stupid Pottermore books that she didn't even write and everything else they put her name on until they finally let Harry or me die. I have a problem. A lot of us do.
I hope we're happy.
Manna can scream about Cursed Child for quite a long time if you ask her on Twitter.
See Rowling's incredible ascension in 4 Signs J.K. Rowling Is The Next George Lucas, and learn how some parts of the story are overplayed in 6 Inspiring Rags-To-Riches Stories (That Are Bullshit).
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