Remember When We Said It Was the End of an Era?
As 2016 comes to a close, minds inevitably wander back to years past and forward to years ahead in a rosy (perhaps champagne-induced) haze. The Harry Potter fandom is another year older. It’s now a 19-year-old who grew up on the Internet and is not quite sure what it wants to do with its life but will hopefully figure it out by the time it graduates. (That metaphor sounded a lot better in my head…) Anyway, 2016 is almost over! So let’s grab some butterbeers and reminisce. Looking back at the fandom and how it has evolved over the years is actually a fun exercise. Like… remember when we said it was the “end of an era”?
Like, how dramatic were we? Remember back in 2007 when we all got our Deathly Hallows books at midnight and burst into tears as soon as the poor, frazzled Borders (RIP Borders) employee handed the final installment into our shaking hands? Then after finishing the book, we took to the Internet to collectively mourn. Articles were written about the end of an era. A new phrase, “Post-Potter Depression,” was coined. We sobbed while listening to the soppiest wizard rock song ever written, which is literally called “End of an Era.” Some of us (definitely not me; I definitely did not do this) made ten-minute-long videos of how Harry Potter affected our lives only to have them taken down from Facebook for copyright infringement.
But we still had the movies, right? Even though there was nothing left to speculate on, we looked forward to seeing it all play out on screen. Then we could really mourn. It was really over this time, guys. More tears were shed, more articles written; MuggleNet published a heart-wrenching note to readers as if someone had died, and frankly, that’s how it felt. While I am being tongue-in-cheek here, I also don’t want to devalue our suffering. The struggle was real.
But I LOL because of how wrong we were. How very, very wrong.
2016 may have been a dumpster fire as a whole, but you have to admit, it was a good year for the Potter fandom. We got a new theme park, a stage play that riled up the fandom and gave us something to gush in ecstasy and/or shout in rage over, and a film franchise with new material that lends itself to the type of speculation we used to get up to back in 2006. In short, it’s a great time to be a Potter fan.
For those of us who lived through the glory days, though, it doesn’t feel the same. Secret: It’s ‘cause it’s not. You can’t recreate the perfect storm made from the simultaneous rise of Internet participatory culture and the popularity of the Harry Potter books that gave way to the greatest fandom on Earth. But just because it’s not the same doesn’t mean it’s not awesome. The “era” is far from over. We’re making podcasts that speculate about the role of Grindelwald (and Sasquatch) in the Fantastic Beasts films. We have epic canon debates. We have a Facebook group in which fans can argue about characterization in Cursed Child and also share various Niffler memes.
And we are constantly fostering the next generation of Potter fans. We’re leaving notes in Potter books around the world about what Potter means to us, sharing the love and friendship we found in those pages. We’re rereading, relearning, and reimagining. And some of us are even getting to start the journey all over again with our children.
I’m pretty sure John Green put it best:
Now I’m off to read Harry Potter to my kids, which so far as I can tell is the actual meaning of life.
— John Green (@johngreen) November 8, 2016
So remember when we said it was “the end of an era”?