Exeposé Comment caught up with Laura-Jane Tiley, Vice President of Harry Potter Society to discuss JK Rowling’s recent comments about Ron and Hermione’s relationship and whether the books are better than the films.
Exeposé Comment: Why is there a need for a Harry Potter Society?
Laura-Jane Tiley: The Harry Potter books are a concrete feature of modern popular culture. JK Rowling’s empire – spanning films, books, games, and even an online world – is unavoidable and utterly brilliant. Three years after the release of the final film, Harry Potter fans are still going strong and the University of Exeter’s Harry Potter Society supports this ever-strengthening, constantly-adapting literary and filmic colossus. But fanfics and Potterheads aside, Harry Potter Society also prides itself on what it adds to student experience.
Our main aim as a society can be summed up in one word: variety. Socials, sport and music are just some of the things we’ve already explored, meaning it really is everybody’s cup of… Pumpkin Juice.
JK Rowling read French at the University of Exeter between 1983 and 1986, this means that she lived, breathed and was even inspired by the city as a student. In our eyes, there is no better way to pay homage to such a talented author than through celebrating her work as a society.
EC: Was JK Rowling right to come out and say why she was wrong to match up Ron and Hermione?
LJT: Harry and Hermione are certainly intellectually and emotionally well-suited. There is, however, something intensely heart-warming about Ron and Hermione’s eventual romance – opposites attract and all that. This is a debate which has divided HP Soc, but regardless of whether Ron’s bumbling awkwardness or Harry’s fiery sensitivity would have best suited Hermione, I personally feel that JK Rowling was wrong to make these comments.
Once a story has been published, it becomes a part of the public domain and the author relinquishes any kind of hold over it. It is still open to interpretation but cannot be revised, otherwise where would we draw the line? She has every right to add on information in a Pottermore-type format, but backtracking on elemental plot components means Rowling jeopardises the trademark cohesion which graces her entire series. For example, Ron’s sulky attitude towards Viktor Krum in the Goblet of Fire becomes impossible to justify. Memorable moments, then, are riddled with incongruity.
EC: Thom Yorke won the award “Exeter’s Favourite Alumnus” in a recent Exeposé poll. I guess you disagree with this result?
LJT: Isn’t it great that we have so many talented and influential figures whom we can attribute to the University? Artists like Thom Yorke and writers like JK can both inspire and motivate us to achieve. So although it would have been great for JK Rowling to receive this accolade, I think it’s important to celebrate all the talent the University of Exeter has fostered.
What is so exciting about our incredible array of alumni is that they can still be involved with the University and it’s students. One of our ultimate dreams as a Harry Potter Society is for JK Rowling to come and visit.
EC: Do you prefer the films or the books?
LJT: The books. Definitely the books. As an English student, I’m always going to be slightly biased, but the Harry Potter novels have – dare I say it – a ‘magical power’ that the films will never quite be able to achieve. Classic arguments of more plot content and the importance of reading aside, the books are far more exciting, nuanced and dynamic than the films.
This can seen to be true if we consider a specific character from both. Ginny Weasley is a character that shows incredible growth over the course of the novels. We experience and intensely empathise with her awkward adolescent hormones in Chamber of Secrets and by Book Six we’re left marvelling at her courage and determination. She’s fiery, well-developed and all in all a total babe. Compare this with the vacuously vanilla version of Ginny that Bonnie Wright is permitted to portray in the films and you see my problem. There are certainly stellar parts to the films – the BAFTA-adorned cast and otherworldly CGI effects being prime examples – but the books are both relatable and satisfying.
EC: If you could have one magical power what would it be?
LJT: A Time-Turner would certainly be handy. Imagine being able to go back in time when a essay deadline is looming, or skip forward through that mind-crushingly dull Friday afternoon lecture. Can’t decide between Cheesies and Cellar Door Tuesday? You could do both! There are a fair few debatable decisions I’ve made this term – spending one Saturday afternoon and far too much of my student loan in Boston Tea Party when I should have been in the library being one of them – that a Time-Turner could change.
Other committee members have spoke of the fun that could be had with an Invisibility Cloak in the Sanctuary or even the Aguamenti (water) Charm to refresh after a particularly heavy night out.
EC: What kinds of socials and events have you already done?
LJT: We’ve had a busy year so far, with lots more still to come. The beginning of this academic year saw the inception of Exeter’s Harry Potter Society and we started in true Hogwarts style with our Sorting Social. 150 people attended and were sorted into one of four houses. We have had regular House socials at Monday Timepiece, who have now created a Butterbeer recipe for us. Our major Christmas event was the Yule Ball which took place at Exeter Phoenix; guests enjoyed a sumptuous feast as well as a dress up photo booth.
EC: Do you have any socials/events coming up in the next few weeks?
LJT: Our next major venture is the production of a Harry Potter Musical. Currently submerged in the bottomless depths of scripts and catchy tunes are our eager scriptwriters, who are aiming to complete the first draft by March. We will be linking up with theatre and music societies to produce what we are sure will be a hilarious, farcical and polished production.
Quidditch is also chasing, beating and seeking its way onto the agenda this term. Equipment has been purchased (yes we genuinely have had to budget for broomsticks) and the rubber crumb pitch has been booked. We have also visited a local school with Quidditch League UK to teach primary school children how to play.
James Bennett and Dave Reynolds
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