With the penultimate Harry Potter film looming just around the corner, I am yet again reminded of the degrees of fandom in our community. While I’d like to say that geeks are entirely welcoming to all stripes of fans, over the years I’ve detected certain fandom hierarchies within geekery.
And perhaps no fandom has stirred such mixed emotions among geeks as Harry Potter — the book and film phenomenon that is, in may ways, responsible for making fantasy literature mainstream. Not to mention the acceptance of being a geek in general.
While I resisted the whole Hogwarts nonsense for as long as I could, when I finally caved, I was perilously hooked. It’s not that Rowling is the most technically adept of writers, but the woman can certainly tell a story and write characters. Ever since that fateful visit to the library during midterms in 2001, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a proud member of House Gryffindor (or Ravenclaw, depending on which test I take… maybe I’m just one of those cuspers).
Well, if you’re still hiding your face like a Death Eater while in line for the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, here’s five good reasons you shouldn’t be ashamed to love Harry Potter. Maybe, after reading this list, you can ditch the hoodie and hold your head high.
- You are exercising geek solidarity. I’d go as far to say that the entire Harry Potter core crew–Hermione, Harry, and Ron–are all geeks. While they do achieve a certain level of popularity throughout the stories, it’s hard won. Most of the time, they’re outcasts; whether it’s Hermione for her smarts, Harry for his fame (and unending curiosity and penchant for tinkering in things he shouldn’t), or Ron for his less than stellar Quidditch skill. Considering many of us had experiences akin to theirs during our teen years (except for the whole saving the world from You Know Who), I think it’s important that we continue to support them, and be proud.
- It’s a lesson in English geography. Geeks love amassing information. And while the world of Harry Potter isn’t exactly like traveling to England, it certainly incorporates a distinctly British vibe. If you’re anything like me, just reading the books have sent you to GoogleMaps and beyond, learning about the towns and country in and around where the books take place. Sure, there is no real Hogwarts, but there is a whole, magnificent island to explore, however virtually. And extra points to you if you pronounce Little Whinging correctly and/or can tell if it’s a real town or not!
- It’s a gateway drug to medieval literature. J.K. Rowling has been criticized for taking bits and pieces of medieval lore and mythology, shaking them up, and re-purposing them for her own. Truly, this discussion is moot. Because you know what medieval writers (and most fantasy and sci-fi writers since the beginning of the genre) did when they wanted to tell stories? Precisely the same thing. If reading Rowling means that you’ve picked up a copy of Bullfinch’s mythology, or read a history of elves and gnomes, that’s a win in my book. She’s peppered the books with so much intriguing detail that it’s a perfect launch point, in my mind, for the budding medievalist! Not to mention the Latin influences.
- It’s a series that celebrates love, friendship, and loyalty. While I enjoy a good share of really weird speculative fiction, including dystopia (heck, I’ve even written some!), there is something to be said about truly triumphant literature. Did we ever worry that Harry Potter might not win in the end? Probably not. But did we celebrate any less when he did? Nope. While I do have a few issues with the ending (what literary geek wouldn’t have at least a beef or two?) overall, the Harry Potter series was one of the best book trips of my life. I feel like I grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione; I laughed along with Luna, and sobbed my eyes out at the end when I had to say goodbye to old friends. I can’t say that about many other books, YA or otherwise.
- It could be so much worse. I will not mention sparkly vampires, and I will not pass judgment! Let’s just say that Harry Potter is positive reading, a series that celebrates the strength of the individual, the importance of friendship, and the triumph of good–not just good role models for kids, but for grownups, too. It’s responsible for billions of people reading, a remarkable feat in and of itself. Sure, unlike the masses, a true Harry Potter geek might have memorized most of Professor Sprout’s botany catalog and know the rules of Quidditch off the top of their head. But that doesn’t exclude them from the fandom at large. It’s a fandom of children, adults, retirees, and teachers, many of whom started with Harry Potter and are now reading other fantasy books. That so many people have fallen in love with a geeky series of books about wizards and swords and heroes? That’s real magic.
How about you? Do you have any particular reasons you love Harry Potter, and hold your head high, wand at the ready?
[Image: Warner Bros.]