Alumna conjures up a magical Harry Potter finale

Ashley Demma, AB'11, shows off her knowledge of the wizarding world that rivals Hermione's.

By Christina Pillsbury, '13

One night when I was 16, my older sister was on her first date with her current boyfriend, and I was at the midnight release of the sixth Harry Potter book. At the end of their date my mom asked them to pick me up from the bookstore. They waited in the parking lot until 2 a.m., when I finally got my hands on the book. I emerged giddily with a lightning-bolt tattoo on my forehead, a Gryffindor scarf around my neck, and round black frames around my eyes.

I thought I was the ultimate Harry Potter super-fan. That is, until I encountered Ashley Demma, AB’11. Deemed the biggest “Uberfan” in an Embassy Suites competition, her passion puts mine to shame. The victory landed Demma $10,000, an iPod 4G, and 20 free stays at any Embassy Suites hotel.

I had heard rumors around campus about her legendary devotion to the books: she came to the University in part because the campus looks like Hogwarts, she wrote her BA thesis about war themes in the series, she plans on getting a Harry Potter-related tattoo, and she worked in the Museum of Science and Industry’s Harry Potter exhibition. But talking to her, I realized the rumors didn't do justice to her adulation for and intricate knowledge of the books and movies.

For the midnight showing of the final movie Thursday night/Friday morning, Demma and her museum coworkers purchased VIP tickets in advance, and spent the evening drinking cocktails and dressed head to toe in Harry Potter gear.

QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat does the final movie's premiere mean in the grand scheme of your fandom?
QandA_ADrop.jpgIt’s kind of a slap in the face to my childhood. I just graduated in June, and now the last movie is coming out, and it’s like the world is saying, “Get your head out of the clouds and enter the real world.” But the books will still be alive for those who are reading them, and I can only hope the books will become classics.
QandA_QDrop.jpgIs there anything you were afraid would be overlooked in the translation from book to movie in this film?
QandA_ADrop.jpgI felt so good about the Deathly Hallows, Part I film that I think it will be great. The only thing I’m worried about is how they will work in Teddy Lupin in the epilogue. It would be so good to see a werewolf-metamorphmagus hybrid, but I’m afraid they’ll leave him out. He’s the orphan of Nymphadora Tonks [a metamorphmagus—a person who can change their appearance at will] and Remus Lupin [a werewolf], and he is kissing Bill and Fleur Weasley's daughter Victoire.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhich character do you most identify with?
QandA_ADrop.jpgTonks. She’s really the first strong teenager in a field of men—she has to keep up with all the greatest aurors like Mad Eye Moody. I really identified with her when I was a teenager. She was a spunky, clumsy, quirky girl in a man’s world. She was definitely capable of getting the job done, but she didn’t confine herself to ministry standards. She had pink hair and wore punk rock clothing. That’s exactly what I wanted to be like when I was 15.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhen did your fandom start to emerge?
QandA_ADrop.jpgI remember making my own T-shirts when I was a kid. I had a countdown T-shirt for when the Half Blood Prince [the sixth book] came out. I put a different number on it every day, starting with 100. I also dyed my hair pink in high school because I wanted to be like Tonks.
I was upset when my Hogwarts letter never came. I had a friend who worked at Scholastic who got to write back to all the kids who wrote in asking where their letters were. She had to write something like, “Unfortunately Hogwarts is full this year, but you can still do magic in your own life by being a good person.” There are a lot of disappointed kids out there.
QandA_QDrop.jpgTell me about your experience working as a tour guide at the museum exhibit.
QandA_ADrop.jpgI got to act, which is something I have never really done before. Throughout the whole exhibit I had to learn how to do a British accent. I kind of fibbed on the application and said that I could do an accent, so I had to watch a lot of videos of Kiera Knightly to get it.
It was amazing to work with all the original costumes and props. They were all actually used by the actors in the films, not their stunt doubles or anything. It was very tempting to touch everything, because of course you wanted to.
QandA_QDrop.jpgDid you ever touch anything?
QandA_ADrop.jpgYes—oh man they’re going to be so mad at me—but I touched Ron’s quilt. It just looked so soft. It actually wasn’t though.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhy was Harry Potter worth writing about for your BA thesis?
QandA_ADrop.jpgWell, what I say to people who are not Harry Potter fans, and who don’t think the books are worthwhile, I say the same thing that I do about the Beatles. You don’t have to like the Beatles, but you can’t deny that they changed the game forever.

Addendum: After the movie came out, we followed up with Demma.

QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat was your reaction to the epilogue?
QandA_ADrop.jpgIt was funny when it needed to be, serious, heartbreaking, all that. I think having David Yates on as director for the last few films has really maintained a nice cohesion for the series.
Teddy Lupin did not make it to the epilogue! Sadness. All I wanted was a punky little wolf-wizard hybrid. Is that so much to ask?

July 19, 2011