Saturday, 28 July 2007

On the Britishness of Harry Potter

I was delighted to get a chance to see the latest Harry Potter film yesterday, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I was surprised to find myself thrilled with it. I hadn't read the book before going; it looked quite long and I have had only mixed success in trying to read earlier books in the series. I am tempted to try and read it now, though. I thought Imelda Staunton was wonderful -- laugh-out-loud wonderful. And I found that I enjoyed Daniel Radcliffe's performance much more than usual, perhaps because he was so good on View from the Boundary on his eighteenth birthday on Test Match Special the other day (still available under Harry Potter switches Quidditch for Cricket).

One of the things that really struck me about watching the film in America, though, was just how quintessentially British it seemed. It might seem odd, but it was not something I had thought about much before. I enjoyed all the shots of London, as well as the suburban life of the Dursleys, but noticed much more strongly than before how very British Hogwarts seemed to be. It's striking because Americans absolutely love Harry Potter. If anything, it seems to be bigger here than it is in the UK, and that is saying something. Viola and Emily went out on late night pilgrimage to the see the film at midnight on the day it came out, and the place was packed. A week later, they went out again, this time with Lauren, to a late night festival for the release of the latest and last book in the series, also packed. As a Brit living in America, it's quite heart-warming when you see Americans going crazy for something so very British.

3 comments:

Michael said...

I was thinking the same thing when I saw the movie yesterday. Its really funny knowing that almost no one else in the audience knows what snogging means, or that the characters going for "pudding" were going for dessert, or that the kids' outfits look like British school uniforms. I'm sure there was more that I missed due to my short time there.

Anonymous said...

Hogwarts under Umbrage was much more like Q's School than under the Dumbledore regime!

David Scott Lewis said...

To Americans, Harry Potter is VERY British -- and that's part of the reason we love it. After all, where do a lot of us come from way back when? Yes, we had to kick your butt to gain our freedom and then save your butt in WWII, but we still love you!! ;-)

BTW, Lord of the Rings has a slightly similar appeal, even though it was filmed in Kiwiland. (We love the Kiwis, too. One of my closest friends in China is a Kiwi. Yes, I have to talk slowly so he can understand me and I'm reluctant to use multisyllabic words, but I still love him and his fellow Kiwis.)