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Monica Byrne

Why Fantasy Matters: A Personal Apologia

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2)I

I wore my new Ghanaian dress to the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. It wasn’t a costume, I admit; but it was a beautiful, show-offy, peacock sort of dress. You might call it my Sunday best, except that it was midnight on a Friday.

Afterwards, I drove home at 3am with a headache from crying, trying to blink my salted contacts back into place. The themes of death, absence, and longing had been so beautifully handled in the movie, and I was trying to articulate to myself why it had hit me so hard. The usual apologia for fantasy is this: that it reflects the real world. I understand that argument. But it doesn't sit well with me. “Seeing my own world in a new way” didn't account for what I was feeling. I realized that the reason I personally read, see, and write fantasy is not because it helps me understand the real world; rather, it’s because fantasy confirms my intuition that this world is not the real one.

If you have a brain, sirens should be going off. They might, for me, if I’d read the previous sentence and not known the author. (Hi, self.) But I seem sane in other areas. I pay taxes. I have lots of friends, who also pay taxes. I earned degrees in science from excellent schools.

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