4 Signs J.K. Rowling Is the Next George Lucas
As the old saying goes, heavy is the hand that wields the lightsaber, and "heavy-handed" is certainly one of the more polite ways to describe the recent works of George Lucas. While plenty of artists have faded into obscurity after achieving acclaim, Lucas has taken the unusual Biblical approach to his career, giving birth to a golden calf before plunging it into the hellfire and forcing everyone to swallow the ashes.
Or maybe not that unusual: the head of another magical franchise appears to be in danger of following in Lucas' deranged footsteps. If J.K. Rowling isn't careful, she may also soon find herself with fans and evil media empires alike beating down her door begging her to hand off the series, because ...
She Makes Up Trivia When She Gets Bored
Lucas' greatest sin was exhuming the corpse of his beloved trilogy decades after it achieved perfection in the eyes of fans and adding a bunch of stupid bullshit no one wanted. You can no longer even get the original cuts in any kind of format you can play in your home if you haven't spent the last 30 years living in a bomb shelter.
Similarly, Rowling is the sole locus of information about the Harry Potter universe. It literally exists entirely in her head, so her word is law. She also knows she can always stay in the news by revealing some trivial bit of information about the characters or plot that wasn't in the books or films because fans will gobble it up like pumpkin pasties, but these revelations sometimes carry severe consequences for the story long after it has ended.
Her most significant retcon happened all the way back in 2007, when she announced that Dumbledore was gay. She certainly must have had noble intentions, making a beloved character part of a community that still faces a lot of discrimination, but it demonstrated her willingness to irrevocably alter the context of the story after the fact just for funsies. And when grilled by fans, Rowling will toss out tidbits on what everybody from the Dementors to the house elves are up to nowadays. More recently, Rowling decided that she'd made a grave mistake pairing Harry and Hermione with ginger members of the Weasley family instead of each other. It seems to be only a matter of time before we find ourselves in a "Snape shot first" situation, because ...
Nobody Will Tell Her She's Wrong
In behind-the-scenes footage from The Phantom Menace, Lucas can be seen scrawling wildly on storyboards and saying shit like, "Jar Jar is the key to all this." The most fascinating part, though, is all the people surrounding him, cast and crew and various assistants, smiling and nodding while glancing sideways at each other. No less than Steven Spielberg gives him the yes-man treatment when he visits the set. Nobody in a five-mile radius is brave enough to contradict the guy.
Anyway, there are enough plot problems in the later Harry Potter books ( as we have discussed at great length) as well as senseless, heartless deaths (Hedwig! Dobby! Why?!) that everyone around Rowling had clearly grown similarly terrified of questioning her process. Only her own eventual good sense stopped her from killing off one of her crucial main characters. She's gotten so overconfident that she can't even be bothered to remember basic details about her own universe when she's talking shit: When asked by a fan how many students were at Hogwarts, she shrugged and went, "Eh, 'bout a thousand, probs," even though there is tons of evidence that there's no way the school can handle that many students -- evidence that she herself wrote.
But as for Lucas, what she says goes, no matter how mouth-shittingly backwards it is, and it's bound to start fucking up the story. We might think we're safe, because the series is over, but even if she never pulls a special edition re-release on us, she's bound to keep returning again and again to the Potterverse, because ...
Things Go Badly When She Branches Out
Lucas' post-Jedi, pre-Phantom Menace output ranged from forgettable to Captain EO. Yeah, he struck trilogy gold again with Indiana Jones, and his resume lists hits like Labyrinth and The Land Before Time -- as a producer. As a writer, he's got Willow, Radioland Murders, and, uh, that's it. His directing credits equal zero, and even among his producer credits, let's not ignore the unholy elephant in the room that is Howard the Duck.
And since The Phantom Menace, he's barely touched a single project not affiliated with Star Wars or Indiana Jones for almost 20 years. Rowling may similarly be imprisoned by her own creation. After the record-setting sales of the Potter series, the decidedly mixed reviews and more modest sales that met her first stab at a novel for adults must have been a bitter potion to swallow. Hoping to escape the pressure, she released her next novel under a pseudonym, to even more dismaying results. During the first few months after its publication, before she was revealed to be the author, it sold only 1,500 copies. It was described by one reviewer as "good for a debut novel."
Maybe that's why ...
She Keeps Going Back, but It Will Never Be the Same
Once the credits on Return of the Jedi rolled, Star Wars fans wanted more adventures with Han and Chewie but instead got Ewok TV movies. Rowling is in a similar predicament. She spends most of her time filling up Pottermore, online home of the official extended universe, with stuff no one cares about, as if she thinks we're all clamoring for detailed profiles of wizard singers barely mentioned in the books. And a couple years back, when she was asked to write new Potter content for charity, she wrote Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was the Dungeons & Dragons monster manual, but British. That book is now now being adapted into a movie trilogy, despite being 42 pages long.
And even though she's rich enough to make all of England pretend they're centaurs for the rest of their lives, we empathize with Rowling. She's in a bind. People want to read Harry Potter books because they have rosy memories of them, but a new story couldn't possibly be as good as the originals. Voldemort is dead, and the kids have grown up and look unsettling.
Instead, she's working on a stage play that will "explore the previously untold story of Harry's early years as an orphan and outcast." Sit down, Potter fans: We're getting prequels.
Manna loves to argue about Harry Potter minutiae on Twitter.