You know what I’ve discovered? Blogging is hard! I never thought blogging was hard before, but that might have had to do with the fact that I spent most of 2009 unemployed and my previous jobs were so dull I blogged about everything else instead.
I’m in a bit of a nostalgic mood. Another teaser trailer for the final Harry Potter movie was released yesterday and I found myself tearing up. (Why yes, I am a sentimental fool.) Not only is the series coming to an end, I feel a little bit as though my entire childhood is ending as well.
Now, of course, in the eyes of the law, I haven’t been a child for years, but HARRY POTTER was such an integral part of my formative years. While the book series ended when I was 22, the movie franchise allowed me to extend that feeling of adolescence into my mid-twenties. Counting the movies, HARRY POTTER would have been part of over half my life: from 12 to 25. That’s 13 years.
There is much to love about HARRY POTTER and there’s something to be said for a series of books that captured the interest of everyone, and I quite literally mean everyone. Having worked in publishing for a while now, the concept of an “all-ages, all genders” book is like the mythical unicorn. Nice, but doesn’t seem to exist. We all publish to shelf these days.
But what is it about HARRY POTTER that made it transcend all the limiting boundaries we place on our books?
Hard to say, really. At its heart, HARRY POTTER is a classic epic fantasy, with a Chosen One going through seven major trials in order to defeat the Ultimate Evil and restore order and goodness to the world. This story appears over and over again in our collective conscious, starting from the earliest myths of civilization. This story is timeless, in every sense of the word.
But I wasn’t conscious of that when I was reading the books, or at least, that wasn’t what prompted me to wait in line for hours the night before the next book was released. Even from the start I recognized J. K. Rowling’s cleverness and her fabulous worldbuilding, but in all honesty, what I remember most are the endless discussions about “what will happen next” or “who will end up with whom”. The very great joy of HARRY POTTER seemed to be its unpredictability, yet its twists managed to serve the greater story nonetheless.
In my opinion, what made HARRY POTTER such a phenomenon was that not only was it a timeless tale, but it also served up the best bits of genre fiction (mystery, fantasy, and even a little romance) while contemplating human nature, free will, and the darkness and light within every one of us. All this packaged within an amazing world with archetypal characters. I mean, everyone immediately recognized whether or not they were Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin–by the way, I’m RAVENCLAW ALL THE WAY. There’s something about this series that makes you want to crawl into the wizarding world and find your place in it. The only other time I ever felt I wanted to put myself into a created universe was in J. R. R. Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS saga. (Ultimately, someone once said I would be a Númenorean woman. Yes, I am that geeky.)
But those are my two cents. Why do you think HARRY POTTER hooked into the collective conscience as it did? What are the elements of a publishing phenomenon? Of note: I would consider TWILIGHT an outlier as it seems to be primarily female-driven (not all genders), with two particular age groups: 12-16 and 35-50.