Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. It’s easy to know and understand the mistakes we’ve made after we’ve made them and, much like the effects of the Mirror of Erised, ruminating on how great or simple life used to be is a short journey to madness.
I feel as though nostalgia has, in some ways, taken our collective culture hostage. We can see this most clearly in a certain Republican presidential nominee. Without nostalgia, a slogan like “Make America Great Again,” could never work. Nor could the recasting/gender-bending of a cult 80s movie cause so much despair among nerd boys who still live in their mother’s basements. We like our things, our shows, sometimes our whole existence to stay the same, to stay comfortable.
I feel like this discussion especially rings true given we’ve just witnessed the publication of a new Harry Potter book. Granted it’s not really a book, but the story is continuing in a real, substantive way and that brings back a lot of different emotions for a lot of people.
I will admit I haven’t read Cursed Child yet. It’s currently sitting in front of me as I write this blog post. This weekend I spent much of my time reading everyone’s reactions to the book and seeing social media posts about release parties. As I scrolled, everything about growing up with this series came flooding back; the exhilaration of a new book released, the anticipation of waiting and wondering what was going to happen next. I felt excited for something in way that I haven’t experienced in a long time. And this is a powerful feeling.
There are a lot of reasons why Harry Potter was so successful, and you will find better papers about that on the internet. But I personally think that everything surrounding the series was just very pure. The books, and to some extent the movies, were all well received and there were no major scandals around anyone involved with the projects. Really, it’s hard to put a finger on any bad feelings one may have about the boy who lived. This is important to note because if those good feelings we have are ever jeopardized, it can change everything we think about Harry Potter.
And because of this nostalgia, in a sense, becomes a drug. We want to feel those good feelings over and over again. We want to feel new and inspired. We want every time to be like the first. And just like a drug in order to keep the high going, we need more, more, more. We need things to be what they were before and god help anyone who dares to imagine the very thing you love in a different way. If only things were the way they used to be, everything would be okay. If only, if only, if only…
Sadly or fortunately, however you look at it, nothing will ever be what it was before. It is the inevitable ebb and flow of time and space. I think nostalgia can be important and good; it reminds us who we are and what we stand for. And history allows us to look into our past to inform our future. But if we keep looking back then we will never move forward.
So to all the Cursed Child haters out there – remember it’s 19 years later and know that the Harry that exists in your heart will always be there to welcome you home.