Thursday, July 19, 2007

Of Endings And Beginning

In this post, my friend Racheline strikes many nerves.

This is an essay I've been pondering for over a month now, but her words helped it all coalesce.

In this season of life and growth, the death of three pop culture phenomena occur:

On June 7th, the final issue of Strangers in Paradise came out.

On June 10th, the final episode of The Sopranos aired.

And this Saturday, July 21st, the final Harry Potter novel will be released.

The ripple effects of these three series have been felt around the world. While The Sopranos doesn't hold the emotional impact for me that the other two do, its ending informed me how it can be done well.

Much like the rest of the world at 11pm that evening, I voiced a loud and frustrated noise and proceeded to call everyone I knew. (My parents received about four phone calls in a ten minute period.)

I was outraged. I did not yet know true fannish outrage.

You see, I procrastinated on buying Strangers in Paradise #90. I wasn't quite ready for it to end. I attended the CBLDF wrap party, and that was quite emotionally difficult.

The CBLDF hired a band to play the songs Terry Moore wrote for the series over the years. The most poignant of these, I Dream of You, is the title of the second collected edition. Ten years ago, I photocopied the sheet music from the back of the book. I sat at the piano in my parents' house with it and taught myself to play the song. I recorded myself. I put it on a mix tape for a boy.

As Racheline stated so eloquently, it was a mile-marker of my life. And when the band played that song, I cried. I felt all ten years flood past me. I remembered each moment of the emotional journeys, both of the book, and the situations I attached them to. It was a rough three minutes, I'll tell you.

So you can imagine my fierce exasperation when I finally purchased Strangers in Paradise #90 and the ending was totally lame. Don MacPherson put it best in his review:

"My biggest gripe about the story is how Moore, after so many years, continues to beat around the bush about the connection between Katchoo and Francine. It’s clear here that they’re a couple, deeply in love and committed to one another. The problem is that Moore limits the physicality of that love to hugging. They talk about marriage. They have pet names for one another. I’m not saying I need to see them in bed naked together, but how about a kiss? In the midst of such joy, delayed after so long, I just don’t buy the restraint we see here. There’s no need to show us panting, humping or fornicating, but I don’t see why Moore avoids a certain level of physical intimacy between the two characters."

Ten years (fourteen for the whole series), and we never get so much as a damn kiss.

Katchoo's passion is reiterated over and over, and in the end, we never get to see it fully directed at the object of her desire since the age of fifteen. This makes no sense.

Having seen the neat little Bowdlerized package that was the last hurrah of Strangers in Paradise, I finally understood the end of the Sopranos. It ended that way, because it had to end that way. Anything else would have been too clean. We needed the messiness of ambiguity. The closure we got was that no matter what happened, it was what Tony "deserved"-- be that death, or having to deal with AJ's manipulativeness, or having to witness Meadow emotionally struggle with the law and the money that paid for her degree. Ambiguity was nothing new to The Sopranos, it was just pushed to the extreme in its last moments.

Which brings us, finally, to Harry Potter.

I started the series right after graduating high school in 2000. I did so because I realized most adults I saw on the subway were reading the books, and I was curious what they knew that I did not. I was hooked.

However, I didn't step my toes into Harry Potter fandom until the summer of 2003, when the fifth book came out. The first of the books, by the way, I had to wait for. That summer I delved into the fan fiction. I started making friends because of it. I cared on new levels.

Harry's been with me for seven years. I care deeply about the story, the characters, and their destinies. So please understand when I say...

I hope JK Rowling is a bigger Sopranos fan than she ever was a Strangers in Paradise fan.

I know my heart will be broken over the next few days. The question that remains is how.

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