Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hoards for Harry

Last night, once again demonstrating just how vulnerable I am to peer pressure, (yes, at 33 years old. What's your point?) I was convinced to go to the midnight madness that was the Harry Potter Book 7 release party. I'm a Harry Potter fan. I'd intended to pick up the book (from my doorstep, where I imagined Amazon would deliver it) on the 21st with the rest of the excited but reasonable Harry Potter fans. But instead, I fought for air space with hundreds (hundreds!) of other crazy people at one of several Borders bookstores in my city.

It was INSANE. Insane. My friend Z. and I arrived to find that we couldn't park in the rather large parking lot in front of the store. We couldn't park in the rather large parking lot in front of the grocery next to it or the restaurant next to that. Nor could we legally park at the huge bank parking lot down the road. We did park illegally there because we figured the chance of an official bank vehicle showing up to its reserved spot at 12am on a Friday was slim.

We met up with two other friends and stood and watched the absolutely insane hoards arrive in various costumes. (Have I mentioned the inane?) We thought, at first, that the aim was to dress as characters from the books, and many adorable children (up much too late) were dressed as Harry or Hermione. Some of the costumes were a little harder to decipher. (Me: "Why does that man have stuffed animals stapled to his t-shirt?" Friend: "He's Hagrid. You know, the guy who takes care of the creatures." Clearly.) But then we found ourselves face-to-face with a very odd phenomenon indeed: many, many people were there dressed up just to dress up. We found ourselves talking with a woman wearing her high school prom gown. Why? We were afraid to ask. Either it was obvious and we should have known, or she was unbalanced and it would have been unwise to ask. There were teenagers dressed as gypsys, as ghosts, as owls. There was a surprisingly large number in all black goth wear. There were quite a few older women there by themselves, wearing witches hats and turning the pages of a magazine while they waited to purchase their books. Apparently, there's something in Harry Potter for the freak in each of us.

Perhaps the most amusing trend in all this costuming was the teenage girl in naughty Potter wear. The historian of sexuality in me finds this particularly interesting, given that one of my few criticisms of the books is that is portrays teenagers as completely sexually innocent. Not here. There were any number of micro-mini Hogwarts uniform skirts (where do they get these?) and tight button-down shirts, unbuttoned about six buttons below comfortable. My greatest disappointment of the evening was not seeing two girls in t-shirts, one inviting Harry to "grab my golden snitch" and the other suggesting she "ride Harry's Firebolt." Thank goodness I have friends to keep an eye out for these things.

When the first book was purchased at 12:01, the store erupted in a Beatles-on-Ed-Sullivan-style orgy of teenaged screams that went on for some time. My friends and I were stunned. Seriously, I haven't heard screaming like that since I heard INXS in concert in 1988. Each of us who had pre-ordered books wore armbands, and people were called up to get their books by armband color. As people would return to tables and corners and aisles with a purchased book, the group they were with would, too, erupt in screams. At a certain point, we started to snicker. We were above it all. Just a book. And then, around 1 in the morning, our armband color was called. And the four of us, adults, uncostumed, grad students all, erupted in a completely surprised "WOOOHOOO!" We couldn't help it. Maybe it was in the air. Maybe we were tired and wanted to go home. Or maybe this book is just good enough, has just enough to offer, that we, along with the crying toddlers and earnest little girls and hormonal teenagers, couldn't wait to get our hands on it.


Blogger wwwmama said...

great description! Enjoy your read.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Meg Kribble said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Meg Kribble said...

The evening was fun to read about. I thought about going to join some knitty librarian friends at one of the local bookstores, but then I thought about the usual parking situation at these stores and changed my mind.

Enjoy your reading! I stupidly ordered the UK version because I wanted the extra flavor of untranslated Britishisms. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but my book won't arrive till at least Friday.

"The historian of sexuality in me finds this particularly interesting, given that one of my few criticisms of the books is that is portrays teenagers as completely sexually innocent."

Have you had a look into the world of HP fanfic? There are some very specific subgenres there that will make you run for the innocence of the books.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Acre said...

Ha, Meg, yes, I'm plenty aware of the scary nature of the world of Harry fanfic. And my friends and I had jaws dropping at the naughty Potter wear. So I'm not advocating an all-out sexualization of the Potter stories or anything. I just have spent enough time working in sex education to feel like one of the real downsides of a lot of literature teens read is its tendency to downplay the role that sex has in an adolescent's life (And actually, I think the seventh book did a much better job of that.) As a result, I find the over-the-top costumes and t-shirts very interesting statements on just what a teenager will do with a story that leaves the sex out.

2:41 PM  

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