In this day and age, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t heard the name Harry Potter. Author J.K. Rowling’s series about a boy wizard that goes on to save the (magical) world went from being a hidden gem to a pop culture phenomenon. The Harry Potter series is still prevalent today, and for those of you wondering when will the Potter madness end?
1) I am personally insulted
2) It won’t (not anytime soon, anyway)
Why? There are multiple reasons; the most obvious being that the series is not over.
In the literal sense, Harry Potter did end after the final movie adaptation—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2—was released in theatres back in 2011. However, the Harry Potter franchises encompasses more than just the seven novels and eight films. Besides the special content posted on Pottermore and the novelty books such as Harry Potter’s textbooks, illustrated copies of the series, and descriptive behind-the-scenes guides, fans can watch the theatre production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (the official sequel to the HP series) in multiple cities around the world. For those who can’t enjoy the play, you can easily pick up a copy of the script. Furthermore, it was revealed back in 2015 that Harry Potter was getting a five-part, cinematic prequel series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Parts 1 and 2 were released in 2016 and 2018 respectively, with versions of each screenplay printed and sold for fans to devour.
While Harry Potter’s targeted readers (today’s millennial generation) have now grown up, their love and support of the franchise remains. In fact, the series has garnered followers across multiple generations, making the fan base even larger and allowing for new content to be published. The new books and movies then create yet another generation of devoted fans. If this pattern of history repeating itself sounds familiar, that’s because it is. The strategy has been used by other popular franchises such as Star Wars and Spider-Man and has achieved groundbreaking results (as in, a killer amount of profit). Currently, Harry Potter is the third-highest grossing film franchise worldwide at $9,185,046,972.
Building off the success of the movies, Universal Studios has built two Harry Potter Worlds; one in Orlando, Florida and the other in Los Angeles, California. Prior to these additions, Universal Studios was already a hot tourist destination, but the Land of All Things Potter has set all-time high attendance records for Universal. You can say that Harry Potter has become the breadwinner for the studios. Across the Atlantic Ocean, the Warner Brothers Studios in London has earned $435.7 million in profit since opening in 2012.
It is very easy to believe that Harry Potter was always well-liked—based on the seemingly unlimited amount of Harry Potter-themed social media accounts, like @emilyscartoons, @swishandflickco, and @thewizardsdiary; as well as the number of name-drops and references in various TV shows, books, and movies—but, in reality, that could easily be the biggest assumption made about the series.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s Stone to readers outside the US) was published in 1997 and, a mere two years later, the book was named #1 on the American Library Association’s list of most challenged (a.k.a. banned) books. Today, the first Harry Potter book still holds the top spot. America is not the only country to discourage reading Rowling’s novels. The United Arab Emirates have a ban on Harry Potter in all schools and there are churches in Greece and Bulgaria that have petitioned against the series. It seems Harry Potter is hated as much as it is revered. The reason for this all boils down to religion. Almost all branches of Christianity have an issue with the lessons Rowling’s character supposedly teaches to children. In their view, Harry encourages kids to lie, be disobedient, and start practicing real-life witchcraft—all of which are biblical sins—or support occult religions, such as Wicca, which religious groups believe to be Satanic. The most vocal branch of Christians against Potter are the fundamentalist evangelicals, who take a literal view of the bible and hold conservative values. Other groups that disapprove of Harry Potter include Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, who believe the books are “un-Islamic.”
On the other hand, the majority of religious readers “interpret the characters’ tutelage in spells and potions as harmless fantasy or as metaphors for the development of wisdom and knowledge” (Tucker, Good Education). Furthermore, these readers believe the books present “opportunities for characters and readers alike to learn important lessons and begin to develop their own moral and ethical codes” (Tucker, Good Education).
None of this seems to bother J.K. Rowling. The woman is a queen when it comes to throwing shade at haters. She most recently made splashes across international headlines after firing back at ex-fans on Twitter who announced they were burning her books as a result of Rowling criticizing President Donald Trump.
Also in the free press department, Rowling’s name made it into the news after a 7-year old girl from Aleppo, Syria named Bana tweeted J.K. Rowling asking for copies of the Harry Potter books. Within days, the girl’s wish was fulfilled by the author and, as an unintentional result, the situation in Aleppo was pushed into the forefront of people’s minds around the world. Bana’s Twitter account, managed by her mother, reveals firsthand how the Syrian War was, and still is, affecting families.
With the abundance of free press coming from reputable media sites, social influencers, aforementioned fan accounts, and up-to-date fan sites like MuggleNet and The Leaky Cauldron, the Harry Potter franchise almost doesn’t need to pay for advertising!
Harry Potter has changed the lives of actors and actresses beyond those who starred in the films. For example, A Very Potter Musical, a parody of the movies, was popular amongst fans and became the jumping off point for actor Darren Criss, who is best known for his role on Glee.
All of these things allow Harry Potter to remain a frontrunner in a world of pop culture that is quickly being consumed by tattooed SoundCloud rappers who substitute drug use for personality and memes that have downgraded humour to a level so dumb that wittiness is almost extinct. Whether it’s a diehard fan who is willing to spend £1,000 per night to stay in the hotel room where J.K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or someone who has only seen a couple of the movies, Harry Potter has sentimental meaning to millions of people worldwide. No spell can replace that.
Cover image source: Science Fiction and Fantasy Stack Exchange