Will Fandom Ultimately Beat Canon?

When it comes to Harry Potter, it’s easy to list all the reasons why we love it. J.K. Rowling has truly created an amazing world that’s captured the hearts and minds of thousands. And it’s because of that love that the fans have gone above and beyond the books and movies, creating thousands of fan fictions, drawings, podcasts, plays, etc. It’s a phenomenon like no other. However, with all of these amazing fan works being created, it does beg the question, will fandom ever beat canon?

There’s a saying that if you put a group of monkeys with typewriters in a room, they’ll eventually produce Shakespeare. Well, the Harry Potter fandom isn’t full of monkeys. It’s full of bright creative fans, so it should actually be easier for us to attain genius. With so many people constantly writing, drawing, and creating, statistically speaking, someone at some point will have produced a fan work that’s better than the original. And since fandom doesn’t stop for anything, there’s a good chance that will happen more than once.

So what do you do when there are these amazing works out there that outshine the original Harry Potter books? Does this make fanon better than canon? Or does the vast amount of works that aren’t better than the originals outweigh the masterpieces when making that comparison? It’s hard to say. There are definitely people out there who choose to immerse themselves in fanon, who prefer fan works and headcanons to what J.K Rowling has produced. But there are also those who stick to canon and never go further. Perhaps it just simply comes down to personal choice.

However, there’s another aspect to consider, and that’s diversity of experience. As talented as she is, J.K Rowling is one person with one lived experience. As such, there’s only so much she can bring to the table. But fandom is a place rich with diversity, fans of different races, genders, sexualities, etc. And each of these fans brings their own knowledge and experiences into their fan works.

Because of this, I’ve seen some truly fascinating headcanons about what it would be like for queer witches and wizards, with fans discussing acceptance among magical communities and how magic would change queer experiences. I’ve even seen the word “wixen” floating around as a gender-neutral alternative for those who do not identify as a witch or a wizard. Comparing these detailed thoughtful headcanons to the singular gay character of Dumbledore, does canon match up? Especially since that queer representation wasn’t even confirmed in the actual books?

Or as another example, J.K. Rowling was criticized for her depiction of magical America, particularly by Native Americans for using their religious traditions as magic. Many people felt that her description was unfair or insulting and failed to capture the true essence of America. However, fans more than rose to the occasion in her wake, working to produce hundreds of alternative ideas about what magical America might look like. And many of them took careful consideration of how magic would be reflected across their own races and cultures in more respectful ways. Did canon fail in this instance? Did fanon win over it?

There aren’t easy answers to these questions. I have to admit that while I love the original books, and always will, there’s also a lot in fanon that I love, and I’m certainly guilty of creating my own headcanons. So I truly don’t know. I suppose there’s just one last thing to consider when it comes to the question of fandom vs. canon. Someday, Harry Potter will end. Canon can’t go on forever. However, the fandom can keep on growing eternally, adapting and creating as it grows. So perhaps it’s inevitable that such an overwhelming force will eventually win out. Only time will tell.

Mikaela Renshaw

I picked up a Harry Potter book for the first time when I was six years old and promptly fell in love. However, it didn’t take long for my love of literature to go beyond just Harry Potter and I am now working towards my PhD in English. Outside literature, I love Irish-dancing, D and D, going to the beach, attending Comic-Con, and playing with my dog.