An Open Letter to “Potter” Fans: It’s Not Over
Dear Potter fans:
Yesterday at midnight, quite fittingly on Harry’s birthday, the scriptbook Harry Potter and the Cursed Child erupted onto bookstores’ bookshelves. Potter fans haven’t witnessed (or participated in) this much anticipation and flurry since the last entries of JKR’s series, in both book – July 21, 2007 – and film form – July 15, 2011.
2016 seems like the year of Potter fandom reinvigoration. After all: Harry’s story picked up 19 years later in the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which premiered in London earlier this summer, and the spin-off film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which will premiere in theaters on November 18, 2016, explores the American world of magic and zoology, as well as the more tense relations between Muggles and wizards.
But any Potter fan can tell you that their interest, loyalty, and devotion to the series didn’t wane in 2011. We didn’t close the chapter on this decade-plus era just because the last tangible installments had been signed and delivered. Nope; ever since JKR introduced her characters to us in 1997, Potterheads have kept stoking the flame. We’ve created head canons and backstories for even the smallest character; we’ve written our own what-ifs and fix-it endings; we’ve parsed through the wizarding world’s rich history; we’ve nitpicked every single detail of all eight films; we’ve participated in Potter-themed barcrawls, parties, celebrations, movie marathons, and trivia nights; we’ve literally stamped our bodies with nostalgia and Potter-specific symbols; we’ve made possible the ownership of broomsticks, wands, Time-Turners, and Potter regalia; and we’ve created communities of Potter-loving people, because anyone and everyone who’s slipped in and out of the Potter fandom has found meaning and hope within JKR’s world.
However, Eryn Carlson of the Boston Globe asks “Why?” Why did JKR okay the existence of the play, which, for one, isn’t even written by her, and for two, discusses the aftermath of a post-Voldemort world, Generation 2.0? Why is the American school, Ilvermorny, and an Americanized term for non-magic folk, necessary? Why are details like Dumbledore’s homosexuality and Newt Scamander’s exploration of New York important? Why did Warner Bros. create the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and keep on adding to its goodies? Why does JKR keep fleshing out the world of Potter, embellishing beyond her initial writings?
These are all valid questions. I myself cautiously and tremulously wade through each new nugget of information JKR bestows upon us. (I still haven’t quite forgiven her for implying that the Ron/Hermione relationship was wish fulfillment, at best, and that, realistically, Hermione would’ve ended up with Harry.) Yes, with each update, JKR narrows the mystery and the unknown – with both good and upsetting results. But we must remember, Harry and his world exists because JKR was able to take hold of this enchanted universe’s tendrils – which previously existed as mere whispers and dreams – and bring all of its glory and wonder to life. She laid the foundation for an entire generation’s love affair with the written word and all the elements that are infused within her pages: Magic, friendship, community, politics, mythology, and character development (to name a few).
But what keeps us coming back to Potter, after all these years? The entire cast has grown up and moved on to other projects. Even talk of rebooting the entire film series keeps winding its way across my periphery.
A lot of it has to do with nostalgia for one’s childhood. Just like with any other series, any other fandom, any other experience, there’s no way to recreate the innocence, the wonder, the amazement of reading Harry Potter for the first time. However, there’s a special quality that comes with rereading the books or rewatching the movies as an adult. You get to experience the story through a different lens – whether that be the lens of academia, woke-ness, politics, or post-puberty. You also have the freedom to slow down and savor every detail, every flashback, every throwaway reference, piecing together JKR’s vision.
Another big part of Potter‘s enduring appeal is the series’s ability to create relationships among fans (this is not something unique to the Potter fandom; just look at Game of Thrones and Star Wars, for example). Fantastic writers, graphic designers, GIF-makers, and storytellers have created their own wizarding world, nested within JKR’s, to make space for their own opinions and experiences, wonderfully expanding upon the existing canon. Countless conventions, podcasts, websites, fan fic, etc., celebrate the story and the myth and go much further than superficial fan service. Fans of Harry Potter have grown up alongside the titular character, and that’s huge.
Just as Harry experienced a place of wonder, warmth, adventure, sacrifices, and heroism, so did we. Sure, there’s (good-natured) ribbing between fans about which Houses they’re Sorted into – the Slytherin vs. Gryffindor rivalry is indeed alive and kicking – but overall, we stand as a whole. There’s nothing more exciting than stumbling upon similarly minded fans and watching our meet-cute blossom into a full-fledged friendship.
So to everyone who still has a dog-eared copy of Prisoner of Azkaban tucked into their nightstand or all of their Harry Potter DVDs neatly organized next to their TVs or all 52 sets of Potter Legos and assorted Funko Pop! dolls proudly displayed in their bedroom: I raise a glass to you. May our fandom devotion never cease. May our grown-up, discerning eye that can critically analyze continue to pick apart the problematic areas of the series so that our enjoyment of the series can grow and adapt to our ever-changing reality. May the enthusiasm and euphoria that comes with every Potter-related purchase and visit to Universal Studios’s Wizarding World never wane. And may the relationships and friendships built upon a mutual fondness for Potter never quiet.
A Fervent Potterhead