Harry Potter Phenomenon Blossoms into Perpetual Obsession

by Andi Hubbell ‘11

As children transition into their teenage years, their tastes change significantly, evolving in correspondence with their increasing maturity. Girls who once retained tomboyish tendencies begin to idolize feminine pop stars, while boys who previously played with action figures start to dismiss them in favor of video games. They eagerly shed their childhood preferences, fixated on growing up as quickly as possible.

 However, one pop culture phenomenon has proven to defy teens’ inherent desires to discard their past interests. Upon the release of its first book installment in the United States in 1998, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series spawned an obsession among millions of children and pre-teens that they have carried well into their teenage years. Twelve years later, many of the books’ original fans still remain captivated by the series. In fact, with the recent release of the second to last Harry Potter movie installment, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I,” some veteran fans consider their HP infatuations to be at their most extreme.

“My passion for Harry Potter is probably near its highest peak right now,” said diehard Potter fan senior Ilona Szeless a few days before the movie was released. “I’m re-reading the series before another movie comes out, something I do every time.”

Szeless estimates that she has read each book more than ten times since her initial discovery of the series in 2000. Similarly, junior Molly Kolb, who also first encountered the books in 2000, claims to have read the sixth installment 46 times and the seventh approximately 30 times.

Kolb said that she was originally attracted to the series because she “loved the concept of a whole different world” that it created.

“I mean, as a first grader I thought I was going to Hogwarts, so I loved the idea of it,” said Kolb, alluding to the school of witchcraft and wizardry that the books’ title character attends.

However, as the series progressed, Kolb noticed that its once-innocent premise became considerably darker, corresponding with its antagonist’s increasing prominence. “Obviously, the tone gets much more dark around the fourth book when Voldemort’s return comes into full volition,” she said.

Furthermore, Kolb contends that the “content [of the later books] is also dramatically different,” noting that, “the plot becomes a lot more connected with the last four books than the first three.”

Senior Emily Mills reasons that the Harry Potter series has managed to maintain its original fan base as a result of, not in spite of, the radical changes present in of its later installments, citing the books’ increased lengths as an especially welcome change.

“I think you can visibly see changes in the books by their size; as the series grew more and more popular, editors stopped, well, editing Rowling’s work,” said Mills. “Not that I’m complaining. I think this made the books richer and made the whole ‘world’ more real, which is why fans love it so much. The plot development that progresses throughout the whole series is just jaw-droppingly amazing.”

Another factor that has kept Mills and her fellow fans engaged for such a prolonged period of time is the series’ corresponding movie adaptations. Although the Harry Potter series officially concluded in 2007 with the release of its seventh and final book, the movies have kept its realm alive and its fans enraptured.

“I feel like there is no comparison to the books to the movies, so there’s no room for disappointment,” said Mills. Nonetheless, Mills admits that people who see the films but refrain from reading the books may have “an inexplicably different experience.”

“They miss so many characterizations, details, stories, and nuances about the wizarding world. People who only see the movies probably wonder why fans are so obsessed with the series, but they only scrape the surface of the deep, rich, intense HP experience,” she said.

The final movie installment, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II” is set for release in July of 2011, marking the end of an era for this unbelievably widespread childhood obsession. However, Mills has no plans to retire her love for Harry Potter any time soon.

“My passion probably will never falter,” she said. “I can see myself forcing my children to listen to the stories when they are like six-years-old.”

Szeless also resolves to remain a loyal Harry Potter fan for years to come, claiming that her full-fledged passion is hardly fleeting.

“I’m thoroughly obsessed, but this isn’t just some Twilight-teenage-girl-fantasy,” she said. “Readers young and old can fall in love with Harry Potter.”