For the lucky few who have a stake in the franchise, there was much cause for joy and celebration as the armored cars drove off with the record-breaking box-office receipts from the first weekend of the eighth and final "Harry Potter" movie.
For many others, however, the excitement and anticipation preceding the release of this film were attenuated, once it finally came out, by tears, hand-wringing, and, for some, a sense of profound sadness.
There are lots of people out there who don’t remember there ever being a time in which you couldn’t anxiously anticipate the next installment in the "Harry Potter" universe. That time, alas, has now come again.
The good news is that "Harry Potter" is not going away. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to predict that the seven novels will join the works of A.A. Milne, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S Lewis on the shelf of classics that will continue to be read by children and adults for generations to come. And the eight movies will be bought or rented, streamed or downloaded, for the next couple of decades, at which point Hollywood will probably remake them with exciting new post-digital effects and technologies.
Nothing will quite match the last fourteen years, though, when childhood was framed for many by the reliable time-released progression of the "Potter" books and films.
Those who, at age fifteen, discovered "The Sorcerer’s Stone" when it was first published will be twenty-nine when they see "Deathly Hallows, Part 2" this week, perhaps with children of their own.
It has become commonplace to tell stories of kids who first learned the delicious joys of reading from the works of J.K. Rowling, but these books not only taught many to read for the sheer pleasure of it, they also taught patience. As fans stood in lines at bookstore parties waiting to buy the latest volume as it went on sale exactly at midnight, they had to decide whether to stay up all night and wolf it down in one sitting, or to savor it in the knowledge that it would be a long time before the next one came out.
Childhood and adolescence is often about waiting--your first kiss, your driver’s license--and "Harry Potter" books and movies were for a generation something you had to wait for.
Years from now, I imagine, people who grew up in the first decade of the 21st century will buy complete boxed sets of these books for their grandchildren and try to explain to them how, once upon a time, this story took years to be told. The grandchildren probably won’t be listening, though, having already been pulled into the seductive narrative vortex of the story of the boy who lived named Harry Potter.
Robert J. Thompson is the founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, where he is also a Trustee Professor of Television and Popular Culture at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He was a visiting professor for six summers at Cornell University and served for nine years as professor and director of the N.H.S.I. Television and Film Institute at Northwestern University.