I LOVE Harry Potter.
It's a weird thing. I didn't start watching the movies or reading the books until I was 16 or 17, and even then I mostly only thought it was "pretty cool." And afterward, I watched each film as it came out, read the first three books, but mostly kept HP off to the side. It wasn't really anything nearly as beloved to me as Star Wars, Star Trek, superheroes, Lord of the Rings, or anything else like that. But now that the final film's come out, I've been going back over the HP films and books, delving deep into all that lore and culture. And I've found that I really do love it.
It's not because of the magic, the imaginary creatures, or the epic plot. Those things make up the empty shell of Harry Potter; the lifeless body of it. What gives Harry Potter life, however, is the characters. It's those people that you grow to care about over the course of seven years. Their friendship is the stuff of epic legend, yet feels completely real. Furthermore, the world of Harry Potter is such that it encourages its young readers to imagine themselves and their friends in similar positions.
For those unfamiliar, the characters in Harry Potter attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and once there are sorted into one of four "houses," each with its own traits.
It's really remarkable just how much the idea of the four houses factors into Harry Potter fandom. Nearly every HP fan knows what house he or she would fit into, and friendships all over the world are given a sense of camaraderie (and friendly rivalry) through this fun element of the HP universe.
When I went to see the 7th film at the midnight theater showing, a huge portion of the teenagers in attendance were wearing the signature colored scarves showing their house allegiance.
That sense of identity might have been what I didn't quite connect to with Harry Potter initially. Every other fandom I've got comes with that identity.
I know who I would be in the Star Wars universe: a Jedi.
I know who I'd be in the Star Trek universe: a Starfleet officer; command division.
I know who I'd be in the Lord of the Rings universe: a knight of Gondor.
I know who I'd be in the DC Comics universe: Superman. (or so I'd hope)
But I was a good bit younger when I first discovered Harry Potter, and didn't really know myself as well then. Was I a Gryffindor? Possibly. I always admired the brave characters. Was I a Ravenclaw? Maybe. I value my intelligence quite a bit. Then again, I loved my friends more than most anything at the time, so maybe Hufflepuff?
In April of last year, I went through a church seminar focused on self-examination through group interaction. If that sounds vague, then yeah, it is. It's hard to explain. Anyhow, the point is that at the end of the seminar, each of the twenty-something people there were given new nametags to replace the ones they'd been wearing for the last two weekends. These new cards were simple descriptive words—titles, basically—that the staff felt defined someone's real inner strength. This was mine:
How cool is that?
I always sort of doubted my boldness, partially because I wasn't sure if I really was bold, but also because I didn't want to inadvertently become arrogant or prideful. But to actually have other people get to know me really well over a couple of weekends, and then give me that name? That was just amazing.
I also got knighted by the sword of Aragorn. Long story.
But after that, and after seeing the last two Potter films, I realized that Gryffindor really was where I'd fit. And somehow, that makes it all so much more personal. Those ideals—courage, bravery, chivalry—they're ideas that I can remind myself of when the need arises. Simple moral ideas that can stick with me.
In recognition of this realization (and because I wanted a new desktop wallpaper), I put this together:
Oh, also, by complete coincidence, today is Harry Potter's (and J.K. Rowling's) birthday.