Jennifer Lawrence: Loved Then “Outgrew” Harry Potter

Why do we care about the life histories of actors and actresses? This would have been an embarrassing conversation for all involved if you overheard it at a High School reunion or singles bar. That the audience laughs hysterically and applauds her most demeaning stories is common fare, I know, but it’s still eerily reminiscent of Caesar Flickerman’s annual Q&A with tributes morituri before the Capitol crowds, no?

File this, though, under “Shared Text.” The ‘face of Katniss Everdeen forever and ever’ talks about having read Harry Potter “three times” and, though she “outgrew” the series, about “screaming” when she first met “Harry Potter,” meaning, I assume, Daniel Radcliffe, the ‘face forever and ever of The Boy Who Lived.’

I’m guessing Mr Radcliffe, for all his failings, would not refer to Miss Lawrence as “Katniss Everdeen.” Like Peeta, he’s better than Katniss/JLawr at this kind of exchange. Life imitating art, again?


  1. You KNOW I’m interested in the way people become fascinated with actors because of the characters they play. But this evidence that even the actors who play iconic characters can fall prey to it when they meet a different actor/iconic character is sort of mind boggling. But then, so is the fact that Jennifer Lawrence is now too mature for Harry Potter. 🙂

  2. Chris Calderon says


    You mention how people an become fascinated (maybe even fixated?) by actors based on the characters they have played.

    That’s a slightly troubling phenomena, from I’ve seen of it. For on thing, they seem to be confusing a person with the character, and I wonder if, without the performance this infatuation would ever attach to the actor.

    What’s more troubling for me is how this all seems to point to a disturbing trends fans of various books and films have of almost deliberately seeming to confuse fiction with real life.

    That may sound like an exaggeration, but I have spent time listening in on conversations and reviews of various films, books, and comics. Trust me, it has tended to get weird. It’s similar to a quote Radcliff made when he identified himself AS Harry Potter. What’s also distressing is how very little thought seems to be put into this strange confusion. Like people will confuse what happens in a story with everyday reality, and then they will complain that this or that element is unrealistic when (1) one for one realism between fiction and real life, in the strictest possible sense, is ultimately beyond fiction, except in a symbolic sense. And (2) in making these confusions, people also display their lack of knowledge about, say, literary history, or the various tropes of folklore, such as the symbolic importance of wood or water.

    It also puts me in mind of Tolkien’s definition of escapism in On Fairy Stories. I wonder if this confusion of fiction with real life, and over-identification of actors with characters might not be a part of a cultural trend of escapism.

    As for Ms. Lawrence interview, I don’t set much stock by it, really. I don’t see how growing up has to mean, by definition, out growing the things you liked as a kid. Especially if those things gave actual meaning to your life. I mean I’m still as big a fan of Bug Bunny as I was at four (and I’m also smart enough not to confuse the character with the voice actor).

    Also, the interview doesn’t take sight of the fact that sometimes what we see first in childhood might be a seed that needs time to grow into a full enthusiasm. For instance, I first discovered Tolkien in childhood, but I didn’t become a full-fledged fan until I was in high-school. So there’s no call for appealing to adult behavior. Besides which, if you want real insightful interviews, people will have to track down a Neil Gaiman, Steve King, or Ms. Rowling for that.

  3. Wow, Chris, your comment is loaded with so many interesting ideas!

    First, I was very privileged to be interviewed by Hogwarts Professor John on April 29 about my book Summer’s Winter, which is basically a novel dealing with a lot of these issues of fixation on actors who play beloved characters. As I mentioned at that time, though, this is a condition I suffered from–or enjoyed, at least at the time–very much in my childhood and adolescence, and this book grew out of that time. So as I confessed to John, it’s more starry-eyed and not as cynical as it would be if I had just come up with the idea now, as a jaded adult. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that when I enjoy a film version of a story I love, it’s probably best to keep as much distance as possible from the actors involved. Learning about their personal lives and views usually ruins the whole thing for me.

    I think, though, that one of the reasons these obsessions happen is that people truly yearn to become a part of the fantasy world they love, and they at least believe the actors to be closer to that world than they are. They think that by interacting with that flesh-and-blood person (even if they’re thinking this subconsciously), they’re coming closer to physically touching that world they love. That’s one theory, anyway.

    I’ve just read Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories” for a Mythgard class I’m taking (on Harry Potter, called Taking Harry Seriously, oddly enough). I think Tolkien’s view of escaping through literature is seen as a good side effect of literature, though. He argues with people who criticize stories for providing “escapism” as using the wrong term. Prisoners, he argues, have good reason to escape and try to go home–and we who are made for eternity are in a prison of sorts while we’re in this world. But soldiers should not desert their posts, and that’s when our involvement with story becomes problematic–if instead of escaping from prison through a longing for home, we’re deserting our duties for it.

    Tolkien, in that same essay, of course, had a lot to say about relegating true fairy stories as only fit to be read in childhood, by the immature. I think Jennifer Lawrence is making that same fallacy. It makes me sort of sad, but as you say, I’m not terribly concerned with what she thinks either. Certainly doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the Potter series, which just grows deeper the more I know.

  4. Chris Calderon says


    I noted what you said about Tolkien’s discussion of Escape in On Fairy Stories, so I decided to go back and reread that whole passage where he discusses it. I came away with a more complex picture. For one thing, it’s clear enough Tolkien is talking about more than just simple make believe. Ultimately, OFS is concerned with lit. crit. as it relates to questions of theology. For another thing, the fingerprints of S.T. Coleridge are all over the essay. That makes a clear reading especially tricky, as Tolkien chooses his words with care towards a specific context, and its rash to say what he means when he uses such words as Escape in a sentence. This is a trait Tolkien seems to share with writers like T.S. Eliot or James Joyce, who seemed to have similar creative goals as the Middle Earth Architect. One of the similarities they all seemed to have in common was the ability to imply more than they say in their sentences and choice of words. For example, Eliot spent a great deal of his life being wined and dined as the darling of anti-establishment modernists such as Virginia Woolf who never once suspected that his much touted essays and poems were secretly smuggling in Christian ideas under what have to be some of the most clever veils I’ve ever read. I think a case can be made that Tolkien does a bit of the same in OFS.

    To be fair though, that just begs the question why would anyone want to be indirect? I mean why can’t Tolkien just say what he means to say and get done with it? If you want to proclaim the gospel, why don’t you? I’d guess part of the answer stems from the fact that, say, if you’re accosted by a street preacher out of the blue, the first thought that emerges in most people’s minds is the solemn wish that such a person would just “GO AWAY”. However, it’s not something people will say out loud, usually. In most cases, we just try to ignore that sort of thing, and to be fair, it is very easy to do so (especially if we can verify the speaker is full of it). However, another reason I think Tolkien, Eliot and Joyce decided to veil their hidden Christian messages was a matter of the climate of the culture they lived in. Early English 20th century thinking was, and in many ways still continues to be, hostile not just to Christianity, but any form of thought that smacks of “Spirituality.” Even in a largely religious nation like America, the use Christianity is put to by the media is, by and large, not what one could call spiritual.

    The simple truth seems to be that religion is an idea that has always stirred the public, but not the cultural arbiters who exert an influence on the public. This seems to have existed even during the events of the Bible, and although there has been perhaps some kind of improvement, the fact remains that people who have any kind of legitimate spiritual belief still have an uphill battle when it comes to making their voices heard. For that reason, writers like Tolkien don’t just go all out and say “LITERATURE HAS A RELIGIOUS ASPECT”, because then you’ve given a lot of people a handle by which they can ignore everything he says. Also, if you have a lot of learning under your belt, you can’t just expect the average man on the street to be as conversant in theology or lit. crit. to the same degree as you. Heck, you can’t even tell whether or not a person reads just by looking at them. So, instead, Tolkien and his contemporaries find ways of smuggling Christianity “Past Watchful Dragons” by carefully chosen words that obscure as much as they reveal. It’s an interesting literary technique, a kind of Critical Misdirection, and I kind of wonder if it’ll ever have to make some kind of comeback.

    The other reason I think Tolkien doesn’t mean Escapism in its popular form, or like the one I talk about above is because, this is just my reading understand, is that Tolkien uses the phrase Escape as in “escape from delusion of various types INTO real life”. This is not Imagination as a refuge from the world, this is using the faculty as means of helping to understand the real world around you in such a way that it is easier to navigate. I don’t know if all that helped or even if I made anything very clear; another thing Tolkien always tried to guard against. Another sort of disagreement is (correct me if I’m wrong here) whether or not you’re pairing some of Tolkien’s words with those of C.S. Lewis, who often would refer to this life as “not our home” in some of his writings. I’ll admit that for me, Lewis’s statements on this subject are also not as clear cut as they’re usually taken for, however the point I’d stress is that on this particular subject, I can’t find anything in Tolkien that leans one way or the other.

    Finally, the kind of escapism I had in mind above is also discussed by Tolkien as follows, right before his discussion of the word Escape:

    Tolkien: Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make. If men were ever in a state in which they did not want to know or could not perceive truth (facts or evidence), then Fantasy would languish until they were cured. If they ever get into that state (it would not seem at all impossible), Fantasy will perish, and become Morbid Delusion.

    It’s that state of Morbid Delusion that I worry about when I see the way pop culture can sometimes misuse work like Tolkien’s that really has me worried. Although, when I can say to myself that something’s been done right in either book or film, I’ll admit it’s nice to know someone’s been paying attention. Er, sorry for the ramble.

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