Harry Potter, Gilmore Girls, & the Uncertainty of Unexpected Sequels

If your name is Kelsey Ryan, these last few weeks and months have been pretty thrilling in terms of your pop culture fixes.

JUST ANNOUNCED: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD WILL BE A CONTINUATION OF HARRY’S LIFE AFTER BOOK 7

THIS IS NOT A DRILL: GILMORE GIRLS IS COMING BACK ON NETFLIX FOR 4 MINI-MOVIES

Bam. Just like that, all within late October. And there’s a part of me that heard this news and broke out in “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

In so many ways, this is a return to childhood. Young Kelsey wept endlessly in the last chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Weeks and months were spent imagining within the Harry Potter universe. I practically went to Hogwarts—and I’ve still got the trivia knowledge to prove it.

It’s the same for Gilmore Girls. I remember my first episode of the show when I was in eighth grade. My middle sister had bought Season 3 for my oldest sister, and one day, during some day when I was sick at home with the flu, I figured why not give it a try? And I was hooked. Lorelai was who I aspired to be: independent, hilarious, and just the right amount of sassy. Mother and daughter quipping pop culture references nonstop like it’s some sort of new language. The show introduced me to binge-watching, and now that it’s on Netflix, it’s never far from my “Keep Watching” list.

These series are part of who I am, and they make me endlessly happy—still, to this day, I relive the series every so often when I’m down. But although a part of me celebrates this news that my childhood has NOT yet ended,  there’s a part of me that can’t yet join the party.

Why am I feeling like such a downer?

  1. I’ve already grieved for the end of these shows.

    I cried when Harry Potter ended. I felt the loss, knowing that Gilmore Girls was done when Rory showed up at her going-away party and the credits rolled. I’ve dealt with the feelings of emptiness and loss that comes with finishing something and knowing  that you can’t go back and experience it all again. And of course, there was a part of me that would have done quite a bit in order to get just ONE MORE PAGE or just ONE MORE MINUTE of these series, back at that time.

    But then I got over it. I know that post-series grief (pardon the expression), and I handled it by moving on, and reliving the beautiful moments we already had. Now that BOTH of these series are back in my life again, not with the friendly remembrances of familiar stories, but with NEW STORIES, I’m afraid I feel wronged. Why didn’t this happen years ago? Why couldn’t you have worked something out back then, back when I was crushed that the series was over? Where were you then, JK? Why didn’t you finish the series yourself, Amy Sherman-Palladino?

    I know these things couldn’t have been planned ahead. But some part of me feels like this is holding onto past events, rather than stepping ahead and making something new. Yes, I want these series to keep coming, but what will they even look like?

    Strangely enough, these series feel like long-lost friends, who disappeared for years but are now back and want to hug again and pretend like they never left. Are we that close still? I thought you had died. I’m not ready for hugs just yet.

  2. I don’t trust that these series were brought back for good reasons.

    This is pure speculation, I know, but it’s a thought that haunts me more than I’d like to admit. Why are these series being brought back now? Amy Sherman-Palladino has moved on. She’s done Bunheads (the critically acclaimed but short-lived series about little ballerinas that I could never get into). She’s supposed to have moved on, just like her audience was asked to.

    JK Rowling has done the same, and I’ve followed her to each of her other projects. She’s published  at least 4 unrelated books to Harry’s story, which has been satisfying and feels appropriate: I feel like I’m enjoying life after Harry, when I read these. I can see she’s doing well, and she CLEARLY doesn’t need the money. So why a play? (Why not something more accessible to the millions of fans Harry’s amassed over the years?) And why now? Why is this appropriate? Why try to turn this story into more money, when it feels like you’ve made  enough off this one story, this one character and world?

  3. I want these new versions to be done right.

    If we’re going back to Stars Hollow, you had best be bringing along Melissa McCarthy, because a Gilmore Girls without Sookie is absurd. And JK, if you expect us to all buy our tickets and shell out thousands and traipse along with you across continents to follow Harry, you are out of your mind.

    I know a remake/reboot/update of these series in this new form is exciting. (And theatre geek/daily Netflix watcher Kelsey is WILD about a new way to experience the magic.) But they’re also deeply concerning. Are we going to just have to trust that the series will do the old series justice? What about our headcanons? Whatever happened to “death of the author,” where you as the creator set down your creative control over these universes, offering it to your fans? These series had conclusions. They were finished. They are done, and they are now in the hands of us, the fans. Taking back creative control feels cheap, and I worry that our memories of “the good old days” of these series will be over.

    This is different from the transition from book to movie. This feels not like a retelling, but a reshuffling, a revision. And it will probably disappoint, even if these creators are as careful as can be. They are taking back control of the series from the fans, and that’s deeply concerning.

It’s given me a lot of heartburn, guys. More than a play and a Netflix series really should.

This makes me think there’s a problem in the way we deal with conclusions. We are a culture that can’t handle death, and one that’s obsessed with eternal youth. Why can’t we be happy with the endings that we’re given? Why must a story be told and retold until we’re finally able to move on? Because all we want is the happiest of endings, and media companies know they can eke out more money from the same story because of this. Why are we accepting a seventh Star Wars? Why are we cool with splitting up the Hunger Games into four daggum movies instead of 3, and why are we encouraging Stephenie Meyer to tell us more about the Twilight universe please please please?

There’s something in stories that keeps us coming back, whether we like it or not, even though we’ve grieved and tried to walk away. When we’re attached, we as people hold on for dear life, though it may have been 10+ years since we said goodbye.

Nostalgia is a powerful force. And I’m no exception: I know I’m waiting with bated breath for Netflix to announce even one more detail about the series update, and reading every article about The Cursed Child.

Sign me up for that sequel. But when we’re waiting around to see Harry Potter 30: Harry Reloaded, and we’re all a little discouraged with the person Harry is now, at age 52, just know that I totally called it.

 

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