TMW muses on 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'

By Tatiana Craine

Harry Potter. The name brings to mind a million things. Boy wizard.
Screaming fans. Midnight release parties. Magic. Conservative librarians and parents that like to ban books. Passionate young (and old!) readers who see beyond the veil. Alohomora! Lumos! Accio! Okay, okay. The list really can just go on and on. In case you’ve been hiding in the Forbidden Forest and haven’t heard of Harry Potter, here’s a quick refresher. (Novices beware, there might be spoilers.) The seven book saga follows The-Boy-Who-Lived, Harry Potter, through the trials and tribulations of wizarding school, dealing with teenage drama and battling against the darkest wizard ever. We’ve now gotten through the first six books in film form, and fans are fervently awaiting the first installment of the seventh book’s film. Yes, you heard “installment” all right-the last book is so epic that it needs two freaking movies to cover the colossal magnitude of how much is at stake in the wizarding world.

Sweeter than any confections from Honeydukes and potentially more intoxicating than a pint of butterbeer or a shot of firewhiskey is the giddy, dorky rush that fans get when waiting in line before midnight for the latest installment of Harry Potter-both the books and the recent series of films.

The few times I’ve attended Harry Potter book or film releases provided me with a breadth of people-watching unlike any other. These release events never fail to bring out the craziest of Harry Potter fans; they let their freak flags fly high as Buckbeak during a sunset. Donning intricate costumes, chanting spells galore (Riddickulus!) and getting into wizarding duels suddenly become normal in a place where just hours before, such behavior might have been grounds for a mass grouping of straightjackets and padded rooms.

I’ve seen girls dressed up as silver-cloaked Fleur Delacour and boys dressed up as various versions of Potter, Weasley, Malfoy and Dumbledore. But the best costume I’ve ever seen was at the opening of the last film. One young lady got gussied up as the recurring secondary character, Moaning Myrtle-wet hair, ghostly (ghastly!) makeup and a hand-made toilet to match. How in Hogsmeade she was going to sit in that theater seat, I have no idea, but mad props to her. However insane (cough, awesome, cough) these fans are, they’ve got mad amounts of confidence-which is admirable. (If only socially allowable at midnight release events.)

Now, Harry Potter’s reach doesn’t extend to merely the literary and cinematic world. This is one fandom that stretches far and wide across the globe through the Muggle brand of magic-the Internet.

Potter Puppet Pals hit the Internet and became an instant hit-as well as one of the most annoying and ridiculous catchy series of videos that parodies the events in the Harry Potter series. At first just a few Flash software videos with caricatures of Potter characters made into hand puppets, the series grew into a sensation that involved actual hand puppets and props on video. Fans (and haters) have Neil Cicierega to thank for this series that started in 2003.

No Harry Potter discussion regarding the Internet-related goings-on of ardent fans would be complete without discussing fan fiction. A brand of story telling that involves fans reimagining different characters’ plotlines, writing about them and posting them on the Internet for other crazy fanatics to read and comment upon. Often, these stories almost invariably involve the incorporation of angst-ridden song lyrics or alternate universes. Also popular are the fan fiction entries that allow readers to insert themselves into the story through the second-person perspective provided by the writers. “How does that work?” you ask. Here goes, “You and Harry press deeper into the dank hallway until you come to the strange, rusty backdoor.” This leads to the next imperative characteristic of fan fiction-blatant sexual tension and relationships (fondly called “ships” amongst the fan fiction writers) between completely random characters, often between characters that would normally never associate with each other normally, let alone romantically. Whatever floats your boat, er-ship.

The books have also inspired musical groups like Harry and the Potters and later, Draco and the Malfoys. “Are you petrified of being petrified?” Harry and the Potters croon in their soft garage rock song “Save Ginny Weasley.”

Let’s also not forget the infamous viral video of a rather sneaky (and ballsy) fan that ruined the end of the sixth book for all the people standing in line at the bookstore as he drove off. To which an outraged fan shrieked louder than a banshee, “NOOOO! YOU BTCH! YOU BTCH!” It’s so funny you’ll laugh until you cry because Snape actually did kill Dumbledore.

Back in the real world, Harry Potter’s got his fingers in a little of everything from jellybeans inspired by the book’s sometimes nauseating confection to endless amounts of Potter paraphernalia to tourism. Thousands of fans flock to London’s Kings Cross Station every year to take a picture with the trolley caught three-quarters of the way between Platform Nine and Platform Ten. (Though due to construction, the destination has been moved temporarily.) Additionally, the Millennium Bridge, a walking path spanning the length of the Thames River has become a type of Mecca for those who saw the structure snapped into bits during “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

There’s a lot of hype surrounding this infamous franchise, but people of the generation that matured or graduated around the same time that the last Harry Potter book emerged most often feel the biggest and closest affinity for the magical series. Identifying with the characters and story they grew up with during adolescence, this generation has spent years getting to know the heroic trio and their buds, going on adventures and dates with them while battling the emotional drama and triumphs of teenage life. The release of part one of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” marks one of this group of young people’s last steps before truly branching out into adulthood. With a message that transcends that of other best-selling young adult books out there (come on, we all know “Twilight” only promotes a dramatic and clingy girl’s love triangle between a controlling undead-guy and a hot-headed hairy-guy), Harry Potter has cast a spell on nearly everyone in his path. And that’s a good thing.