Friday, July 20, 2007

Caution: Spoilers Ahead!

Harry Potter dies! (Note to Potter's voracious fans and Scholastic's lawyers: This is a joke; I do not have and have not read any of the Harry Potter books, let alone Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.) I'm just trying to one-up the New York Times and Baltimore Sun with that first line. J. K. Rowling and fans were "staggered" (Rowling's word) that the New York Times and Baltimore Sun published early reviews containing "purported spoilers." The New York Times' Michiko Kakutami posted a review online Wednesday night and it was published Thursday and the Sun's review followed the same timeline. In both cases they denied printing any kind of plot spoilers. I do feel really really bad for anyone who was forced to read either one of these reviews, just like all the people who have been forced to rabidly search the internet for information and theories on the last Harry Potter book. To everyone else, all I have to say is, calm down.

I'm just guessing that Harry dies, and that seems to be the overwhelming opinion of Harry pundits. Of course the real question is the circumstances leading to his probable death. Half of the English speaking world will have read the book by tomorrow, so lets talk about spoilers after that. As someone who has yet to crack the cover on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I have no doubt that I will learn what happens to Harry before I even start the series. But that is the world we live in, and I'm content to having those avenues of information open, be it the internet or radio or newspaper, even if it means it might destroy some sort of pure experience that I think exists either in film or literature.

Most of my spoiler experience is in watching movies, and I have many times when I felt I knew too much going into a film. Although I had read very little on the French/Georgian film 13 Tzameti, the screen shot I had seen from the film gave away much of the mystery. I enjoyed the film and loved it in many ways, but I was nonetheless left wondering how my experience would have been if I had not known what kind of competition the lead character was mysteriously heading off to. The mystery of the first half of the film lead to a shocking reality that I don't think anyone could have guessed. This is an example of a film fanatic seeking out obscure films. On the flip side, Children of Men, a film in wide release, was a film full of discovery for me, despite reading reviews and interviews prior to seeing the film. And then there is William Friedkin's most recent film, Bug, that was marketed like a horror film instead of the social commentary thriller that it was. Whatever the case may be, whenever I watch a trailer or read an article prior to seeing a film, I am fully aware that there will probably be plot spoilers. Unless you wait outside the theater until the previews are over (and, yes, I know people who do that) you really do not have too many choices: you will see previews and they will give away the story. There is, however, a choice when it come to reading an review.

Spoilers for films mostly come in the form of dumbed down marketing; a push to get as many people possible interested in the film, which often times translates to revealing everything about the film. With Harry Potter, the phenomenon was way beyond the marketing. No amount of marketing could overcome the shear popular demand at this point. Kids and adults alike will be lining up at 12:01am to get their new copy, with or without marketing, press or reviews. The saddest thing about the whole thing is that independent booksellers will make hardly anything on Deathly Hallows. Most independent bookstores, without the huge buying power of big box stores and massive e-tailers, are paying more for Deathly Hallows at cost than what it will be selling for retail at places like Walmart and Amazon.

My point? Don't read the friggin' review if you don't want to. Enjoy the book. Find out how Harry dies. Buy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from a local independent bookstore, even if it cost a little more. If you live in the Twin Cities, go to the best bookstore in town with the nicest people: Micawbers.

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