Monday was the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Since so many people have been sharing their Harry Potter stories, I figured today I would too because Harry Potter has been such a huge part of my life for most of those 20 years. I am almost positive I have discussed a great deal of this before, but I can never talk about Harry Potter enough, so here is it: Deanna and the Adventure with the Orphan Boy Under the Stairs.
I was introduced to the wonderful world of Harry Potter in six grade. As part of book day, which I think had something to do with Dr. Suess’s birthday we all brought in our favorite books and talked about them in a mini presentation. I brought in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, my friend Jess brought in a book about a magical bespectacled orphaned boy. I was interested. So I asked my parents for the book because I was eleven. This was the spring of 1998, shortly after the US release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
I remember sitting in my parent’s friend’s living room reading the last pages of the book, learning that Voldemort was back, the revelation of Quirrel and what he did. I remember thinking that this was the best book I had read in my whole 11 years. Before I knew that books could change lives, I knew that this one had permanently changed mine.
The Harry Potter books connected so much with me, maybe because I was eleven too. Maybe because I felt like I didn’t really belong where I was. Maybe because I was bullied for being different. There is something about discovering you really are different and being swept away to someplace where there are people like you, that you really are special that connected so deeply with me. Maybe there was a world outside that small town, maybe I should be a part of something bigger.
I got the next two books for Christmas that year from my Uncle. Escaping again into that magic, escaping my middle school life. Figuring out those mysteries, learning about the Chamber and the Marauder’s, these stories were becoming more and more important to me. Harry Potter was becoming more than a book.
My grandmother bought me the 4th book while she was visiting from Wisconsin. I remember thinking that it would take me a year to read it, it took probably a week. I wanted to devour every last bit of Harry Potter and his adventures. I knew that seven books would never be enough. There had to be something that kept this story, these characters alive after the stories were over.
I was in a cast when the 5th book came out, so that book gave me something to do as the summer went on while I could do nothing because I had fallen off the side of the road (I was totally pushed) and broke my ankle.
The sixth I bought at the grocery store I worked at and read part of it behind the register when I had a moment. It was through my friend Tracy’s LiveJournal that I learned what “Do not click this if you don’t want spoilers” meant. As I clicked and got *the spoiler.* I thought it was a funny joke– you know because people would make jokes about the Potions teacher murdering the Headmaster– and then it happened.
The seventh book, I bought it at the mall and read about half of it before I had to go to work. I remember reading about Fred’s death in parking lot of Kmart. I remember being so numb reading that passage, thinking that I was making it up, thinking it couldn’t be true. Fred wouldn’t die. But war, which is what those characters were fighting, doesn’t care.
When I was in the height of my Harry Potter reading, it wasn’t cool to read, let alone read Harry Potter. Now, maybe because I’m older or maybe because of Harry Potter, reading isn’t seen as something that only nerds do. I mean, I’m a nerd, but reading Harry Potter wasn’t the main piece of evidence. There are plenty of other things to make fun of me for, please don’t get stuck on the fact that I read. These books were like a secret, I mean, like, everyone read them, but the people who were outwardly Harry Potter fans were seen different than we are now. I remember finding out that someone else at my high school read the books and it felt like a secret club. I don’t know how to explain it, maybe you just had to be a high school kid in the early 2000’s.
Harry Potter Merch wasn’t everywhere then. As popular as it was and as much a people talking about it, you had to search for your stuff. Maybe only Hot Topic, but also, Google early 2000’s Hot Topic if you are unfamiliar with it. There was a time when I was in high school where I went to the mall with my friend Patty and we were going to go into Hot Topic, and we felt like we would be too out of place there because Patty’s flip flops matched her polo shirt. It wasn’t the store it is now. It’s still not cool to match your flip flops and your polo shirt, but you won’t get weird looks in that store anymore.
There was a part of me that was worried that when the last book or last movie came out that it would be over. Maybe if we didn’t live now it would have been, but we live in the time of the Internet.
Harry Potter became cool with the popularity of Youtube. Like, being a nerd became cool because of Youtube really. Remember early Youtube? Remember one of the super popular videos of 2007? It was released the Tuesday before Deathly Hallows came out. The video that launched the Vlogbrothers into super internet stardom: Accio Deathly Hallows. Hank’s song is far from the first wizard wrock song. I think Harry and the Potters celebrated their 15th anniversary recently. I was on the edge of Wrock, but Hank’s song propelled me into the different bands and the different youtube channels where people talked about Harry Potter.
I fell into the Harry Potter internet fandom through the Vlogbrothers, which I’ve talked about on this platform more than once. I joined the forums and started to read the fanfiction, become more involved. Discovering fandom, people who loved what I loved, read what I read, Harry Potter became something that will never no be important in my life.
Harry Potter is more than a book. Harry Potter is a movement. The books are about so much more than an orphan boy. It’s about overcoming, fighting, standing up for injustice. I’ve read so many articles about how reading this series teaches our generation empathy that the ones before us don’t have. We see the world around us and can point and something and relate it to something in Harry Potter. We are able to see things happening in real life and compare then to things that happened in those books and know what we have to do to change it. We know that maybe the Minister of Magic won’t listen, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t stand up and shout over and over again that it’s really happening, evil is really out there.
Because of what Ginny goes through in Chamber of Secrets, we learned to listen when people and don’t ignore what they are saying because they are a kid or a girl. We’re taught to look for signs that things aren’t right. Through Luna we learn not to take things at face value, just because it’s a little odd doesn’t mean it’s not worth getting to know or understand.
Through Goblet of Fire we learn creative problem solving, and for many of us, the death of Cedric Diggory was the first time some of us dealt with death. Cedric was an innocent victim, but someone that throughout that book we get to know and love.
The deaths in these books were hard to accept and deal with. Rowling did that on purpose. She built these characters, these people up for ten years, seven books and then in the horrors of war we lost important people. Remus and Tonks, Sirus, Dumbledore, Fred, Dobby (which as much as Fred is the character I loved the most, the death of Dobby is the one that hurts the most. Dobby was very brave, a true hero, and he died so so others could live) and so many other deaths. They hurt because we care about these characters. They’ve become part of our lives in ways that make them real.
I recently became a part of the Harry Potter Alliance, which I will talk more about in a different post at some point I’m sure, but basically, what The HPA does is takes the lessons that Harry Potter taught us and uses them in real life situations. We see the fictional plights of characters like Lupin and turn that into a way to fight for the rights of people who are seen as less than for something they cannot control. We use the name of Neville Longbottom to stand up when it seems difficult like Neville did time and time again. We give girls the tools to be just like Hermione and Ginny and Luna.
Harry Potter is more than a series of books. I doubt there will ever be anything else that has such an effect on culture the way that Harry Potter has. It’s a movement, it’s a feeling, it a way of life. There has never been anything like it before. Harry Potter sparked a revolution. Harry Potter changed a generation of people and will have an impact on the one coming up behind us– our children.
Nothing will ever be what Harry Potter is.
How has Harry Potter changed you?
Until next time Internet,