The Evolution of Slytherin House
While far from the oldest fandom out there, the Harry Potter fandom has still been around for a while. As such, it has evolved over the years. And one of the biggest changes, in my opinion, is the way Slytherin House is viewed by the fandom. I will add the disclaimer that I, myself, am not a Slytherin. Therefore, all of these observations come from an outside viewpoint.
In the first days of the fandom, Slytherin was just pure evil. Sure, there were still fans of Slytherin characters, but the House as a whole was not viewed in a great light, and it was rare to see someone openly sorting themselves into Slytherin. This was definitely helped along by the fact that things were more black and white in the early books. As Harry got older, his view of the world matured with him, and so in later books, we got to see that things weren’t as clear cut as he once thought. However, before that, Harry thought Slytherin was the worst, and so did most of the fandom.
Then, with the rising popularity of goth/emo subculture, we saw the next iteration of Slytherin arise: the edgy House. Whereas before pretty much everyone wanted to be a Gryffindor, there was now a pushback with a lot of people wanting to come across as edgy, rebellious, and cool. They didn’t want to be part of some goody-two-shoes House. (Side note: I find it hilarious Gryffindor got that reputation, considering how many laws we see Gryffindor characters, such as Hermione, break.) This is the era where a lot of people liked to claim that they weren’t like all the others; they had a secret darkness in their soul, and that’s why their one true House was Slytherin. You also saw a weird trend of having Slytherin characters enjoy and listen to bands such as My Chemical Romance in fan fiction despite the fact that most of those characters wouldn’t be caught dead listening to a Muggle band.
At this point, Slytherin merch was also getting pretty popular, becoming about equal with Gryffindor merch. As for the other Houses, there was sometimes some Ravenclaw stuff, and once in a blue moon, there was something for Hufflepuff. I’m not sure if the rise of available Slytherin merch got more people interested in identifying as a member of that House or if the rise of people sorting themselves there caused more merch to be made. I suspect that both fed into each other to create a sort of feedback loop. Regardless of how it happened though, Slytherin was now both prominent and mainstream with the fandom.
Then, we started seeing the rise of what I’m going to call House analysis. People didn’t just want to sort themselves into the House of their favorite character anymore. Well, not all of them did anyway. People wanted to actually analyze the Houses and their traits, to try and find out what actually made someone a Slytherin, Ravenclaw, etc. Online Sorting quizzes became very popular during this time. The analysis that came out of this for Slytherin was interesting. No longer was Slytherin considered the automatically evil House or the edgy goth House.
Instead, one of the main qualities people seemed to assign to it was a sense of personal loyalty. Slytherins tend to pick a few people they consider theirs and defend them to the death. Other qualities included determination and the desire and drive to see their goals accomplished. This analysis comes largely from the Sorting Hat, which says that Slytherin is where “you’ll make your real friends” and that they use “any means to achieve their ends.” If you’re thinking that there are definitely some Slytherin characters who don’t seem to fit this mold, you’re not alone. Many members of the fandom have dealt with that exact same struggle, but it usually ends up being explained away by the fact that the Sorting Hat does take personal choice into account.
This is roughly where we are today in regards to how Slytherin is viewed. At this point, it’s just one of the four Houses, just as valued and valid as any other. It’s a far cry from the evil reputation they started out with. I think that’s a good thing though. I also think that the Sorting Hat would be proud of our fandom. After all, the Hat is the one that preached about unity and all of the Houses working together. And with the modern-day fandom, I think we’ve achieved just that.