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A Harry Situation: Has the J.K. Rowling Backlash Begun?

July 9, 2014

Does J.K. Rowling still own Harry Potter? If the reaction to her new short story is any indication, don’t expect to see a new novel or film adaption popping up anytime soon.

For any creative visionary, there’s a major downside to creating a classic character or franchise. At some point, the diehard fans that elevated the material to iconic status will claim virtual ownership of those same beloved storylines.

 Every good Star Wars fan knows that “Han shot first.” Likewise, many serious Harry Potter fans insist that their hero’s adventures ended with the epilogue of Deathly Hallows.

Of course, Rowling still technically owns the business and creative rights to the world of Harry Potter. But based on the response to her new Harry Potter short story posted to the Pottermore.com website, Rowling may have to tread carefully in any future dispatches from Daily Prophet gossip columnist Rita Skeeter.

 While many fans are just happy for any new Harry Potter, not everyone was thrilled. Grantland.com pulled out the knives, asking if Rowling is “becoming this generation’s George Lucas?”

 The mixed critical and fan reaction stems from a few issues. First of all, Rowling has previously claimed that she has “no plans” to publish any additional stories chronicling Potter’s adventures following the epilogue of Deathly Hallows.

But in the new 1,500-word story, readers are brought up to speed on a now 34-year-old Harry, his wife (Ginny) and two young sons (James and Albus) – and, of course, lifelong pals Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.

Potter and friends are attending the “Quidditch World Cup” and the story is framed as a newspaper gossip column, rather than a sweeping new epic tale with villains and adventures.

An excerpt from Skeeter’s dispatch reads:

“About to turn 34, there are a couple of threads of silver in the famous Auror’s black hair, but he continues to wear the distinctive round glasses that some might say are better suited to a style-deficient twelve-year-old. The famous lightning scar has company: Potter is sporting a nasty cut over his right cheekbone. Requests for information as to its provenance merely produced the usual response from the Ministry of Magic: ‘We do not comment on the top secret work of the Auror department, as we have told you no less than 514 times, Ms. Skeeter.’”

Fans also might be sensitive to the tone of the piece. Written from the perspective of Skeeter, the analysis of Harry and friends is mostly negative, with snarky comments about Harry’s graying hair and speculation over whether his wife is benefitting from her husband’s professional connections.

 Wired magazine linked to the story flatly stating, “Please let this new Harry Potter short story be the last.”

Regardless of the reasons, fan outrage over iconic storylines is nothing new. Just ask George Lucas about his Star Wars prequels, Peter Jackson about his Hobbit trilogy or JJ Abrams about just about anything he touches, from Lost, to resurrecting Khan in the latest Star Trek film.

 For now, fans of the film series can rest assured knowing that the future adventures of a graying Harry will remain confined to the Internet. In an interview with the Television Critics Association, actor Daniel Radcliffe said it is unlikely that he’ll ever suit up to play Potter again. Still, he technically refused to rule anything out.

 “He’s at least sorta 12 years older in it than I am now, so I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that for a long time, I’m hoping,” Radcliffe said.

Photos: AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, Twitter