Preface: Greetings, wizards and witches! I don’t know about you, but I cannot believe that 2012 is over. It has been quite a year for the fandom and for me as well. Among other things (like meeting Jo Rowling! Squee!), I have experienced my first full year as a columnist here, and it’s been fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed all our discussion about the books we all love and look forward to a lot more of it. I must apologize for being mostly absent the last few months – I had to attend to other fandoms (oh, BBC’s Merlin, I’m still drying my tears!) and my pesky real life.
However, to make it up to you, I will now write an essay that has long been requested. I frequently write about characters I dislike, because I’ve a lot to say on the subject. And just as frequently, I get told that I should write something positive instead, about how much I love one of the characters. So that is just what I’ll do! I hope you enjoy it – thanks for a great 2012, and I look forward to drinking a lot more butterbeer with you in 2013!
At one of the premieres for the last movie, Jo Rowling mentioned her “Main Seven” young characters – Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Luna, and Draco. We all nodded along, sobbed a little (“Hogwarts will always be here to welcome you home”), and thought nothing more of it. After all, those seven are the main characters. However, if you look carefully at those seven, you’ll see that one is not like the others. Six of them have been in all the books. One appears in less than half the books, yet enjoys main character status with the rest of them.
Luna Lovegood is such an indispensable part of the Potterverse, that we can scarcely remember a time before her. Yet she is not present in the first four books, and the fandom thrived for six years before they knew of her.
Looking at the fandom now, you’d swear it ain’t so. EVERY wizard rocker, from the most well-known (Remus Lupins, Whomping Willows, Ministry of Magic) to the most obscure (Snidget, PotterInk), have songs about Luna Lovegood. (And very good songs, too!) It seems like every other female fan has cosplayed her – in the Group That Shall Not Be Named’s group photo at the last movie, you can count no less than five Lunas. And so on.
One of the top five questions I want to ask Jo is whether Luna was supposed to be in the series all along and just had to enter at the right time or if she was a later idea that turned out great. On her original class list, there is a girl with the surname “Moon,” who some have speculated was originally intended to be Luna. We don’t really know one way or the other.
But anyway, what is it about this girl that has so captured our imaginations?
I make no secret of the fact that Luna is my absolute favorite character and the one I identify with most. Yet I’m sometimes surprised by how many people in the fandom share this sentiment. So I will attempt to explain why we all love her so much. Please understand I’m using “we” as a generalization for the fandom, not as “every single HP fan ever.”
When we meet Luna, she is the ultimate outcast. She is mocked by the nickname “Loony Lovegood.” She is usually alone. Worse, she is usually bullied by her classmates, who nick her things and hide them, punishing her for being different.
Naturally, this resonated with the Potter fandom; more specifically, with the Potter generation – those who were young and growing up along with the books. I am fortunate enough to count myself among that number. Most young people can identify with being an outcast on some level or other. That is why, before Luna came along, many fans’ favorite characters were Hermione and Neville. Hermione was for the smart kids who were picked on for being nerds. Neville was for the ones who were not brilliant, or athletic, or popular. Everyone loves an underdog and outcast.
But Luna was an outcast made specifically for the hardcore fans. By the time she came around, the series was popular enough to have superfans. And those who outwardly expressed their extreme love for Harry Potter were picked on because of it. We were the geeks, the wierdos, the ones who loved fantasy books instead of sports or popular music. It was worse for the older kids, where Harry Potter was no longer “cool” or even derided as a children’s book that they shouldn’t be interested in.
We live in a culture where it’s okay to like something but not to love it – unless it’s broomless sports that you love. This extended to Harry Potter – it was okay to read the books or watch the movies, but it was not okay to love them. Just look at Shane Dawson’s “Advice for High School” YouTube video, advising kids not to join a Harry Potter club lest they get picked on. Or YouTuber Jenna Marbles saying she would never date a guy who liked Quidditch. Or even that dreadful rom-com Friends with Benefits, which makes a punchline out of the male lead’s former “gay Harry Potter obsession.”
And now here was Luna, similarly ostracized for being different and weird. She’s into things that the normal students are not into (Snorkacks, etc.). She dresses strangely (butterbeer cork necklace, radish earrings). She does things that are unconventional, like tucking her wand behind her ear. For this, and nothing else, she is bullied and picked on. She was the perfect character for the big HP fans to identify with, and that is what we did.
But that’s not enough to explain the burgeoning affection that fans feel for Luna Lovegood. We identify with her because she’s weird and an outcast. We love her, however, for what she does with it.
Rather ironically, Luna is perhaps the most self-actualized character in the series. She may be one of the loneliest characters, but she is also one of the happiest. She is completely unapologetic about her oddness, not caring what others think of her. She rises above the petty name-calling and the mean pranks.
“Oh … well …” She shrugged. “I think they think I’m a bit odd, you know. Some people call me ‘Loony’ Lovegood, actually.”
[…] “No, I think I’ll just go down and have some pudding and wait for [all my stuff] to turn up…. It always does in the end.” (OotP 862-864)
Luna does not contain bitterness toward her tormenters. She does not let anything – not the mean nickname, nor the cruel deeds – actually get to her. By not letting this stuff bring her down, she wins the ultimate victory in the end.
This is what the Harry Potter geeks all strive for. We dream of the day when bullying just won’t affect us anymore. I know that as I went through high school, I consciously began trying to be more like Luna. I came out of the broom closet in school. I wore my wizard rock shirts with pride. I talked freely about my obsession and all my activities within the fandom. In the end, upon meeting with my college counselor, he looked down at what he heard about me from teachers and said, “Oh, you’re the Harry Potter kid!” I never felt prouder. Luna’s happiness regardless of what people thought was what we all wanted to achieve, and I am so grateful to her for making me realize that.
This idea of Luna’s, of accepting your weirdness, and of it even being a good thing, is one of the fundamental ideas in the Potter fandom. In a way, the fandom is a place where it’s good to be wacky and weird. Perhaps this is best summed up by a quote from Melissa Anelli’s Harry, A History (it’s from her point of view, just to be clear).
‘Look at us,’ I told Emerson [Spartz], and he looked around. […] ‘Geeks! Pimply, schlubby’—I pointed to myself—’chubby nerds, and somehow [the MuggleCast/PotterCast fans] like us for it!’
‘I know,’ Emerson said and high-fived me, as a slow grin dawned on his face. ‘We win.’ (page 286)
And in the end, Luna does win. She is the one who becomes friends with Harry Potter. When the entire school is fawning over Harry at the beginning of Book 6, he chooses to sit with Luna and Neville. The significance of this isn’t lost on Luna.
‘People expect you to have cooler friends than us,’ said Luna, once again displaying her knack for embarrassing honesty.
‘You are cool,’ said Harry shortly. ‘None of them was at the Ministry. They didn’t fight with me.’
‘That’s a very nice thing to say,’ beamed Luna. (HBP 139)
She even gets to go to Slughorn’s party (as friends) with Harry Potter, who could have gone with any other girl, leading to her own Cinderella story… spangled silver robes and all. Also, her “knack for embarrassing honesty” mentioned above helps endear her further – I, for one, love a character who tells it like it is. It’s very refreshing to hear someone say truthfully that Ron can be unkind, that Hagrid is an awful teacher, that Harry is being rude, and so forth.
Luna has other things going for her as well. Her wise attitude toward death and the comfort she gives Harry is touching, both when she comforts him after Sirius’s death and when she speaks at Dobby’s funeral. She understands Harry very well and helps him get away from the staring crowd at the end of Book 7. It also doesn’t hurt that she is portrayed in the movies by Evanna Lynch, in the most perfect casting the movies have ever done. Seriously, have you ever heard anyone say they dislike Evanna’s portrayal of Luna? This way, not even movie fans can dislike Luna.
But perhaps the most endearing thing about Luna is her unwavering loyalty and devotion to her friends. Because she went through her first three years at Hogwarts without any friends, she cherishes her new friends more than anything, and will do absolutely anything for them. She volunteers to help in Harry’s hare-brained scheme to sneak into Umbridge’s office (Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 32), despite being yelled at by him and despite not knowing what on earth is going on, then insists on helping at the Department of Mysteries. (Where she acquitted herself admirably, and it’s just a stroke of bad luck that takes her out of the battle.)
It’s plain how important her friends are to her when Harry tells her in Half-Blood Prince that there will be no more DA meetings. Neville is disappointed because he “liked the D.A.! [He] learned loads with [Harry]!” (OotP 138) Luna, on the other hand, is not much concerned with what she learned. Rather, she laments the DA’s discontinuation because the DA “was like having friends.” If there is a single reader who did not want to hug her in that moment, he or she has no soul.
And her loyalty is evident when she answers the call at the end of Half-Blood Prince, having kept her DA Galleon handy in case her friends should want her. But we truly see how much her new friends mean to her in Deathly Hallows, in a scene that always brings a tear to my eye.
Luna had decorated her bedroom ceiling with five beautifully painted faces: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Neville. They were not moving as the portraits at Hogwarts moved, but there was a certain magic about them all the same: Harry thought they breathed. What appeared to be fine golden chains wove around the pictures, linking them together, but after examining them for a minute or so, Harry realized that the chains were actually one word, repeated a thousand times in golden ink: friends … friends … friends … (DH 417)
Is that not just the sweetest thing ever? The omission of this is one of my biggest complaints about the seventh movie. They teased us with it, too! They panned up, and I got all excited to see the ceiling, and then the whole place blew up. Unforgivable!
Luna is incredibly selfless. When she is captured in Malfoy Manor, she only ever thinks about other people. When she sees Harry and Ron in the cellar, she is horribly upset because “Oh no, I didn’t want you to be caught!” (DH 464) Upon being offered an escape, Luna says, “Harry, we want to help you!” (DH 468) She is only thinking of them, never of herself. Ollivander says that Luna was “an inexpressible comfort” during his incarceration, and I’ve no doubt that she would be a huge comfort to anyone in any bad situation.
But my very favorite scene with Luna, the one that always makes me cry, is during the final battle, when she rescues the trio from Dementors with her Patronus and encourages Harry to think of something happy. When he can’t bring anything to mind, “’We’re all still here,’ she whispered, ‘we’re still fighting'” (DH 649). This may be the most beautiful quote ever – it shows Luna’s bravery and resilience, her serene demeanor, and that what makes her happy is having her friends still here.
Luna is part of a trio that comes to rescue Harry, along with Seamus Finnigan and Ernie Macmillan. And ironically, it’s neither the Gryffindors’ nor the Hufflepuffs’ loyalty to Harry that has never wavered (the fifth and second books, respectively) but the Ravenclaws’ – Luna has always been unquestioningly loyal to Harry and her other friends.
So is it any wonder that I, like so many others in the fandom, love Luna so very much? She is, all at once, someone I identify with, someone I strive to be, and someone I desperately want to give a hug to and have as my best friend.
In parting, I shall leave you with some Whomping Willows lyrics.
You’ve got a voice, and it’s imperative you use it,
You’ve got the heart to know what’s right and choose it.
You were an all-star when you kicked it with the D.A.
No one will blame you fighting Death Eaters your own way.
You know you look good when you rock those radish earrings,
And it’s a crime to change yourself just to fit it.
Let’s face it, girl, there’s nothing cool about convention.
It’s more fun to make your life your own invention!
So I swear I do believe in Nargles!
So I swear I do believe in Nargles!