November 5, 2018

The Magic of Harry Potter

I'm a decade late, but I recently finished all seven Harry Potter books, and since reading the epic conclusion, I've been thinking about why people obsess over the series. And I mean obsess. Fans play Quidditch in real life. Universal Orlando built a Harry Potter theme park. Students dream of attending Hogwarts (even though it doesn't exist).

The books were perfectly fine. The writing was pretty good. I found the stories entertaining. I'm not a huge fan, but I did enjoy reading them. Enough to finish all seven books in a year. It wasn't until I dug deeper that I began to understand why people obsess over Harry Potter. Here's my best guess:

1) People want to be special.
From the very beginning, Harry Potter is a regular boy stuck in an awful family. Then, Harry discovers he's actually a very special wizard who was meant to save the world. I wonder how many kids (or adults) dream of being swept away by Hagrid into a world where they're the chosen one. Especially Millennials and Generation Z. Those generations have been told they're special since birth, but when life feels mundane, they're left wondering where Platform 9 3/4 is hiding.

2) People want to live an adventure.
Speaking of mundane, watching Netflix gets slightly boring after eight hours. Movies, television, books, and video games all create counterfeit adventures for the adventureless. This isn't exclusive to Harry Potter, of course, but all seven books are filled with challenges much more exciting than school, work, or chores.

3) People want to believe in magic.
I have never understood why some religious folks loathe Harry Potter. After reading the series, I'm even more confused. If anything, the books encourage people to desire and pursue an unseen, mysterious, magical world. Doesn't religion tell us there's a hidden world that's bigger and more important than the one we're living in? Prayers are sorta like magic, aren't they? And Dumbledore is an old man with a long white beard living above his children advising the chosen one, who is destined to destroy the evil Voldemort. I mean, come on. My guess is that Harry Potter has led more people into the church than he's led away from it.

4) People want real community.
The more technologically advanced we become, the more we long for human contact. It's no coincidence that our favorite stories—even the ones written in the current decade—rarely include social media. In our imaginary worlds, people aren't text messaging, tweeting, or looking for one-night stands on Tinder. They're talking, exploring the world, and sharing life. A lack of technology leads to lots of in-person communication in Harry Potter's world. He, Hermione, and Ron shared a special kind of friendship because they made each other priorities. How often do we experience that level of community in real life? Americans think we want solitude, space, and privacy, but our hearts tell us otherwise.

5) People want a home base.
Who wouldn't want a place like Hogwarts waiting for them every fall? Even though bad stuff happened inside the castle, it always felt safe. Like a warm blanket. People move so much that it's hard to get that same sense of home anywhere. I've moved twenty-one times since I was twelve years old! We all need that place where we belong. A place we fit in. A place that always welcomes us.

I'm sure I missed a few reasons. Maybe you just really wanted a taste of Butterbeer or you're obsessed with redheaded twins. Regardless of why you love Harry Potter, perhaps we should all adjust our lives to make reality a bit more magical.