Harry Potter: The Ultimate Fandom
I consider myself to be a nerd of many fandoms. I love books, television shows, movie franchises. I can often be found at the movie theater on opening weekend of an MCU movie, I have a Doctor Who tattoo, and I can get worked up about the tragedy that is Fox’s handling of Sleepy Hollow (and a myriad of other shows they have failed to do right by).
However, my ultimate fandom is and will always be Harry Potter. I talk about this often, and I’ve definitely written some about it (because almost all of my posts seem to come back to Harry Potter), but the story that kicked off my journey to identifying as a nerd was the Harry Potter series. Throughout my life I’ve loved it for many different reasons, and I feel like as I get older, there become even more reasons why it is still my favorite series of all time.
When I was a kid and reading the books for the first time, my favorite part was the magic aspect of it. I loved it on a literal level—I couldn’t wait until my letter came when I turned eleven (and was disappointed when it didn’t), I connected to Hermione on another level because while I like to think I wasn’t as obnoxious I was known for being very smart and was fairly socially awkward, and I was in love with the concept of magic. I loved the characters that spoke to me and hated the ones I was supposed to hate, and all the while I didn’t truly realize I was being shaped in a way that no other book has shaped me. These were formative years and the Potter series definitely left its mark on my life and identity.
In high school, I started writing. It wasn’t something I took seriously, but often I would find myself borrowing my mother’s laptop on weekends and writing pages and pages of stories (which will most likely never see the light of day) instead of reading them. I connected the most to science fiction and fantasy, and while a part of it could have stemmed from my dad introducing me to things like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter was definitely a huge part of that. Growing up, most of the fiction I consumed were told mainly by white characters and were predominantly white stories, and so I began writing stories with black female main characters. I was quite literally writing myself into the stories I had grown up with, sometimes daydreaming that I was Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s black friend (and not Hermione herself) who was just as smart as Hermione, but could also hang and didn’t nag Harry and Ron. And while that speaks to some other issues I’ve already written about, it still felt empowering to write stories—however bad in hindsight—that reflected the things that I was going through at the time and my own outlook on life.
I’ve only recently become a serious writer. It was only three years ago that I finally admitted to myself that what I want to do with my life is become a science fiction author. Part of this came from my declaring as an English major my sophomore year in college, another part was discovering Octavia Butler and immediately getting my entire life, but under the surface of all of this was still Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling inspired me to begin writing when I was 13, and I’ve had other influences since then that have resonated with me in similar ways, but I always come back to that base love of magic and the triumph of love over selfishness, greed, fear of death, etc.
One of my favorite things now about Harry Potter is that people are still talking about it. There was an entire generation of readers, thinkers, and leaders who were influenced by these books and would defend them to the grave, myself included. Harry Potter is quite literally my childhood, and some of my strongest memories growing up are connected to the story: going to see Sorcerer’s Stone in the movies for the first time, buying Order of the Phoenix on my way to my dad’s job when I was eleven, pestering my mom to pick up my copy of Deathly Hallows at thirteen because I was out of town and couldn’t do it.
At the same time, Harry Potter opens a lot of discussion, both about the books and how they affect the real world. Recently conversations about racial representations in the stories have come up, mainly due to a video that was created that isolated every speaking part of people of color in the Harry Potter movies (which was a depressing 6 minutes for all 8 movies combined). There have been people making fanart with race-bent characters in the series, my favorite of which (as I have written about) is black Hermione Granger. While the conflation of the books and movies becomes a problem in these discussions (and I am far more interested in discussing the books, though I completely understand the importance of the movies especially for those who haven’t read the books), these conversations are extremely important. They push back on preconceived notions of how the story is supposed to go and how the characters are supposed to look. They’ve even challenged my own thoughts that I didn’t even think of as potentially problematic and didn’t even begin to question until now.
There’s also a lot of room for discussion of the series within the story itself. Thinking about Remus Lupin and the things he had to go through, or the infinitely interesting debate about Severus Snape, or thinking about the brilliant humanization of Albus Dumbledore, are things that can take hours to hash out. Even with interruptions filled with rants about what should have happened in the movies, these conversations are always rich with dialogue and differing opinions, and never go the same way twice. Muggles (read: non-Potterheads) sometimes laugh at my ability to discuss Harry Potter for hours on end, but other Potterheads understand that this is the way we connect over the stories that we love and grew up with. As we get older, we start to see the different ways in which we read these stories, but our love for them never diminishes. Certainly for me, it increases. I love how Harry Potter has both stood the test of time while also continuing to evolve in the minds of the readers who picked up Sorcerer’s Stone at the age of six and has decided to reread it for the twentieth time at 21. Every time I read one of these books, I get more out of it than I did the last time, see things in a different light, and understand more about the characters and myself. Truly, I am a proud member of the Harry Potter Generation.
[This post is written as a part of our Harry Potter Week. Make sure to check out our new projects, including our #WizardTeam podcast and the Hogwarts BSU project]