There are people on this planet who are less than enthusiastic about J.K. Rowling’s world. Apparently they think that Harry Potter fans are a bit daft, or they fear us, or they do not understand us. But being a Harry Potter superfan is a marvelous thing. Like most superfans, we love sharing our obsession with fellow enthusiasts. I always get excited when someone tells me he/she is a Harry Potter fan. There is so much to discuss! My mind races as I ponder the first question: where do you stand on Snape? Do you have any theories as to the title of Book Seven? Who’s your favorite character?
However, most of the time when I meet a self-proclaimed Harry Potter “fan,” I am disappointed. “I love Harry Potter!” they say.
“Really?” I ask hopefully.
“Oh, yes, I’ve seen all of the movies!”
Equally appalling is, “Oh, yes, I’ve read all of the books… except this last one. I’m waiting for it to come out in paperback.”
My smile fades; I mumble and change the subject.
What I want to do, of course, is go Caps Lock on them. “YOU DO NOT LOVE HARRY POTTER!” Do these people not understand the difference between love and like? If you’ve only read the books once, you don’t “love” Harry Potter, and if you’ve only seen the movies, you don’t even “know” Harry Potter. And what’s wrong with these people anyway? How is it possible to read Harry Potter only once? How can you not read the books repeatedly (and constantly have one of the audio books going so you can listen when you do other things)? If you’re an American, how can you not need both the British and American versions of each book (because reading about the differences on the Lexicon just isn’t enough)? How can you not be excited about sitting for your Level II WOMBAT (Wizards’ Ordinary Magic and Basic Aptitude Test given by J.K. Rowling on her website)? How can you not wonder about theories even as unlikely as a conspiracy involving Dobby in Dumbledore’s death? (The sock connection makes this theory plausible, of course.)
Occasionally, however, someone answers the opening Harry Potter question correctly (in my completely subjective opinion). Occasionally, the answer is, “Oh, yes! I’m quite mad about Harry Potter. In fact, many of my friends and family worry about me.” (This is always an excellent sign.)
I take the next conversational step cautiously. “So,” I begin, “What did you think about HBP?” (Dual-purpose question, of course. If he/she truly loves Harry Potter, calling the book “HBP” will be second nature. Secondly, if he/she is a superfan, he’ll have read it multiple times and will know it – well, will know it like a book.)
“I loved it! But I don’t see how Snape can be truly evil! He must be a double agent!”
And we’re off to a good start! However, there are still a few things to sort out in order to gauge whether this person is truly a Harry Potter kindred spirit. “Tell me,” I ask, a glimmer of hope in my eyes, “do you think we'll see Gladys Gudgeon in Book Seven?”
“Well,” he begins (as I wait on tenterhooks), “I think not ... unless, of course, someone finds a cure for Obliviate. However, Gladys may make an appearance and turn out to be the key to a Horcrux location! One never knows with Jo!”
RESULT!!! I have found another obsessive superfan!
I do wonder about us, sometimes. Are superfans obsessive types in general? Because we’re obsessed with Harry Potter, does this mean that without J. K. Rowling, we’d be obsessing about other things? Other books, other movies, or music groups? In my experience, Harry Potter fans are a disparate lot. Some of us love The Lord of the Rings, some of us love Jane Austen, some of us love Shakespeare, some of us love Roald Dahl, and some of us love all of the above. It doesn’t appear to be a genre of fiction that we share, but the love of a good story. We like to read and we like to be challenged. Figuring out the ending of a book halfway through is no more satisfying than discovering brand-spanking-new -plot-resolution-information in the last thirty pages! We don’t have that problem with Harry Potter, for the woman who shares Harry’s life with us plants her clues so carefully that they appear careless. Many times it takes years for us to discover that a person, place or thing is important.
The main thing that brings us back to read the same pages time and again, however, is our love for the characters. Yes, the wizarding world thrills and excites us and we long to be part of it, and yes, everything British is cool – I’m an American; please humor (without the second “u”) me. But our loyalty to everything Harry is because of Harry. We see the Wizarding World through Harry’s eyes; we are Harry and Harry is us. But many of us also relate to a particular character in a very personal way. Perhaps we see something of him/her in ourselves, or perhaps we would like to emulate his actions. For example, some of us may be a bit awkward like Tonks (“Who d’you know who’s lost a buttock?” 2), while some of us may aspire to be like Dumbledore, who knows the problems of his students but allows them to work out the answers for themselves – because that is what a good teacher does. Dumbledore is brilliant!
Or was brilliant, until that git, Snape, murdered him. Sorry to the Snape defenders out there; I bear you no ill will. Why, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met is a Snape Lady! And though there are many theories about Snape’s conduct and motives, people on both sides of the Snape fence know that only Book Seven holds the truth. We also know that we will be surprised when all of the pieces are finally in place and we know the entire Snape story. Until then, the Snape defenders will defend, and the Snape haters will declare the defenders delusional, and each side will continue to scour the canon for evidence favorable to its cause.
Evidence hunts are a part of life for us and our favorite theories. In fact, we really must contact those in charge of the Oxford English Dictionary because the word “minutiae” does not begin to describe the level of detail we discuss. We spend hours searching our books for confirmation that, for example, something tragic happens every time Ron eats Shepherd’s Pie. We become human search engines, and when talking to each other we say things like, “It’s in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and I’m fairly certain it’s in ‘Draco’s Detour’… I know it’s on the top of a page on the left side…” We discuss theories and possible release dates and Wizards and Witches of the Month and actors and scripts and sets and dragons and – most of all – how Harry will defeat Voldemort. We write our own endings to the stories, develop our own plots, create our own mini-dramas, and make our own videos. We create numerous versions of “Harry Potter: The Musical” by filking our favorite songs. We attend conventions to discuss everything from physics to Parseltongue.
And we dress in costume to attend book release parties. Those of us who are no longer teenagers (and therefore unaccustomed to waiting until 10 PM to leave the house) find ourselves drinking massive quantities of caffeine to stay awake. As we mingle with other fans at the bookstore, we find kindred spirits everywhere we turn. We find that the word “camaraderie” doesn’t begin to describe our shared experience (somebody please contact Oxford!). After we finally get our hands on the latest installment, we stay up all night reading. This is no easy feat for many adults, as there are other people in our lives who tend to want things from us, and house-elves are scarce. Elaborate preparations must be made prior to the release of the book so that everyday responsibilities can be ignored or at least pared down for the duration.
And while waiting for the next book, we correspond with others who share our Potter Passion, and we discuss, discuss, discuss! We discuss our ships (sailed or sunk), and we discuss our “snips” (the opposite of ships; a term Leaky Lounge Moderator ErinRae coined to refer to couples we’d like to break up). We discuss our common desires: to own a pair of Spectrespecs; to hear a Stubby Boardman concert; to wonder what Bill and Fleur’s wedding will be like. “Do you, Bill, agree to be bonded to Fleur, to love her without a Love Potion, to use the Shield Charm to protect her, the Summoning Charm to get her a drink when she's thirsty, Scourgify to regularly perform household chores, Alohomora to open doors for her, the Cheering Charm when she is disheartened, and Orchideous to give her flowers on your anniversary?”
If you are not a Harry Potter superfan but for some reason you are reading this, please be aware that we’re fine with the way you feel about us. Weird is a good word in the Harry Potter world. We’re having the time of our lives! We’re part of something as great and powerful as Harry’s Patronus by the lake in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Happy feelings protect Harry, and they protect us as well. So, fear us, misunderstand us, or think we are insane. But while you’re at it, pick up a book! You may just find that you become one of us.
1. Elizabeth18, comment on The Leaky Cauldron. (Quoted with permission.)
2. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 48.
Elizabeth18. Comment on The Leaky Cauldron, June 27, 2006. The Leaky Cauldron. Member of the Floo Network. /comments.php?entry_id=8797&pg=4#473336.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.