It was the ultimate teenage dream when, in 2010, fourteen-year-old Jacob Kowalski bought a ticket to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in IMAX 3D. Little did he know that the next few hours would turn his dream into a reality as he watched J. K. Rowling’s most iconic characters come to life on the big screen. The Londoner would go on to become a full-blown Potterhead and now regularly attends Potter-related events. However, not everything in life can be measured by how much fun you had when you were younger, and Kowalski is now almost twenty and has started to realize that going to see Harry Potter once was enough. This summer, the actor decided to crush his former idol by crashing the premiere of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Kowalski had to hide in a wardrobe when the film premiered in London, which was quite the experience for the young man. “They had to make sure that I wasn’t in the audience during the screening. I was actually in a wardrobe the entire time, which was kind of surreal,” Kowalski told The Independent. “I’m a big fan of [fantastic beasts and Where to Find Them director] David Yates. I’ve always looked up to him because he did a lot of the Harry Potter films. Going to the premiere was quite an honour. Everyone wanted to see the movie and I got a bit of a star-studded roster. It was very cool.”
Walking a few steps behind Kowalski was none other than Robert Pattinson, the actor who plays a minor role in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts installment. The Twilight Saga star was in London promoting his latest movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Although they didn’t cross paths at the premiere, Pattinson and Kowalski will most likely meet face-to-face in the near future. The two have a lot in common, not the least of which is their love for Harry Potter.
Why Are You Into Harry Potter?
Before we answer that question, let’s establish some context. What is it that makes Harry Potter special?
There are many reasons why Harry Potter stands out from the rest. For one, the magic in the Harry Potter series is completely real, created by the author herself. It is a testament to her skill as a storyteller that she was able to convince her readers that magic exists and is a reliable source of power. In an interview with Vanity Fair, J. K. Rowling admitted that the reason why her work continues to resonate with readers is because they can identify with the characters: “I think there’s something magical about books that connect with audiences. There’s something incredibly moving about a book that you can spend time with, that brings joy or pain or laughter or tears, or sometimes all of those emotions mixed into a brilliant climax at the end. It’s like watching a great play or listening to a great album. You know when you walk away, that something is going to remain with you.”
Another reason why Harry Potter is so special is that it was one of the first modern-day fantasy series to prominently feature ethnic diversity. We often forget how heavily white most of the fantasy genre is. Sure, there are exceptions, but mostly we see people of European descent starring in these films. With the Harry Potter series, we have a Jewish wizard who is the main character, and not everyone will be whitewashing themselves for this one. It was a brave move, and one that paid off: over the years, Rowling has become a prominent voice in the fight for diversity in fiction, especially when it comes to LGBTQ equality and women’s rights. In addition to that, the young adult novels that form the backbone of the Harry Potter series have been credited with launching the “New Adult” genre. It is no coincidence that this genre emerged right after the Harry Potter books were published. The New Adult movement is all about welcoming a new generation of readers who might not have encountered characters like themselves in literature before.
It is important to note that although the Harry Potter series is considered modern-day fantasy, it is really a subgenre of children’s literature. As the author points out, the stories are aimed at a younger audience and contain themes and content that might be unsuitable for adults.
Is This the First Time You’ve Experienced This Degree Of Fanaticism?
When we think of Harry Potter fans, usually images of young boys and girls with glowing faces emerge. But, as we’ve established, it is really a series for young adults. Nevertheless, the devotion that these fans have for their idols is unquestionable. Walking a few steps behind Kowalski was none other than Pattinson, who you might remember is currently on a press tour for his latest movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting. During his visit to Vanity Fair, the Twilight Saga actor stated that he feels lucky to have witnessed the Harry Potter phenomenon first-hand. “I’m very, very fortunate to have been there first. I feel like I was able to see it all happen. It’s remarkable that something that I created as a story still resonates so strongly with readers all these years later,” he said. “I think it’s unique, what Joyce [Joyce McNulty, his publicist] calls the ‘Potter effect.’ It’s the fact that something that I wrote when I was nineteen years old has not gone out of style. I still hear from fans all the time, whether it’s been a year or twenty years since I’ve written the book. That in itself is pretty special.”
Pattinson isn’t the only famous person to have fallen under the spell of Harry Potter. The series has also influenced several musicians. One of the most prominent examples is Panic! At the Disco frontman Brendon Urie, who told Rolling Stone that, when he was fourteen years old, he “was obsessed” with the Harry Potter series and would reread them “all the time.” The music video for Panic! At the Disco’s hit “High Hopes” is heavily influenced by the series. Urie even recreated Dumbledore’s grave in the video, using flowers that he and his fans had sent the author. Similarly, there’s a whole Wiki of musical tributes to Harry Potter. In many cases, the lyrics reference the series and even spell out specific scenes from the books.
So, what makes a Harry Potter fan? Walking behind Kowalski and Pattinson, it’s clear that there’s more than one reason why fans are so devoted to this series. For one thing, it features characters they can relate to, people who are open about their sexuality and don’t fit the “binary” mold. Additionally, Rowling’s stories deal with timeless topics like prejudice and social justice that continue to be relevant today.
Is it any surprise that the Harry Potter series is one of the most popular children’s books of all time? The answer, perhaps, is no. When you consider all that we’ve discussed so far, it’s clear that this is a series aimed at something more than children. Indeed, it was originally published as a collection of short stories for adults who felt that children’s books were lacking in sophistication, featuring as they did, rather juvenile themes. While the books might be suitable for children, they were originally designed for an audience of adults who sought something more from their reading material. What is it that makes the Harry Potter series so special? It’s the fact that it transcends generations, connecting with readers across the world for more than a century.