Well, well, well. This is a little thought-essay on Harry Potter, fandoms and growing up, in a sense.
Harry Potter has been a fandom of mine since at least 2003-ish. It was my second fandom, though first “prominent” one.
Today, it’s July 31st – celebrated by fans as Harry’s birthday. It also happens to be J. K. Rowling’s. As I mentioned earlier this week, in a way I sort of owe J. K. Rowling – and Harry Potter – a great deal, not just for being something I could escape into when others around me were being stupid, but for showing me what a writer could be.
The series has layers upon layers. Apparently, also a bunch of Britishisms which us outsiders need a little help picking up. It’s one of those books which you can keep rereading and finding new things about situations when you do. Which brings me to my next point: how perspective changes with different understanding and experience as we age.
When I first read Harry Potter, I hadn’t finished primary school yet. At the time, I barely scratched the surface in terms of what was there – things seemed a lot more black and white, good and bad. Rereading at a later date in high school, with a deeper understanding, brought to my attention the grey in-between black and white.
One of the things I think J. K. Rowling did really well with the series (at least, with a nuanced reading) was how the characters are all complex. There’s always more to a character than meets the eye; a lot of which we have to speculate on, even as she reveals more things on Pottermore etc. In short the characters are all real.
Though of course sometimes this is shown better than other times – in some ways, Slytherin got quite a raw deal at the end. On that….
The House system is a bit odd if you look at it. I mean, sorting people based on subjective, changeable character traits will of course lead to problems unless it’s carefully handled and at Hogwarts, it wasn’t at all.
That aside, each House has its own unique qualities. Slytherin with its emphasis on cunning, worthiness, drive and ambition just has the qualities and reputation which could build Dark wizards easily. But really, all Dark wizards (eg. Death Eaters) can’t have all come from Slytherin. Other people who emulate their House qualities too well, or for the wrong reasons, could just as easily go “Dark” or be total pricks. Remember Peter Pettigrew and Barty Crouch Jr.(?).
Of course, some Light wizards are not characters to emulate either, though it took me ages to properly realise that.
I’ve come to realise one of the HP’verse-emulating-life tragically but accurately is that J. K. Rowling shows how some characters (people) do stupid things when they’re younger, and they don’t always have the chance to make it up, or change fully. The tragedy is that certain characters are killed or imprisoned before they have that chance – properly, anyway. After all, 17 is more mature than 15; 21 is more mature than 17. But 21 is still very young. Real maturity comes with age, if one chooses to grow up and accept their mistakes, then change – and if they then get the chance to do so.
I could go on – and on – about this, using specific character examples (who knows, I may do that at a later date). I’ve posted stuff on a fanfic site about this very thing. Maybe it’s just the Hufflepuff in me, that I see so many sides – but I’d like to think it’s a good viewpoint to take.
Now, onto the other fandom side of things! 🙂
One of the things that make a fandom is the ability to have that shared experience, whether in-person or online, with a community of like-minded people. It can shape our attitudes, too. There are plenty of places online to hang out and find info, from facebook pages to the leaky cauldron to mugglenet to harry potter reddit to the HP Lexicon (an old but still somewhat useful site), to even the HP Companion to whitehound (scroll to the essays in particular) and other blogs. Not to mention real organisations like the HP Alliance, working for good in the name of fandom. It’s all there.
If I was an American, I’d have gone to LeakyCon (or GeekyCon). It sounds pretty awesome (http://www.buzzfeed.com/daniellehenderson/can-geekycons-founder-change-fandom-for-the-better?utm_term=.dh6N3pE1o#.umRdaDYW8).
As it is, I just listen, read and pay attention. We’re a pretty good bunch, us HP fans – there was a study a while back showing that those who read Harry Potter are more likely to be tolerant of others’ difference. That doesn’t mean we’re saints, though. The shipping wars alone demonstrate that! 😛 We’re real after all.
However, I’d advise outsiders (and insiders: don’t patronise us (<– that right there is one of my pet peeves; just don’t do it), or box us up. We’re louder and stronger than you think.
So, I say again, happy birthday to Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling, who created the story of the Boy Who Lived which we could breathe life into.