Eager fans are revved up for the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In preparation for the film, Plant writer Dahlia Belinsky discusses the Harry Potter phenomenon and just how awesome it really is.
Everyone enters the room at once. People are sweating, pushing, and screaming. There’s a whirlwind of red, gold, green, silver, yellow, black, blue, and bronze.
The sharpie ink I used to write quotes on my arm starts to leak onto my coat. My friends and I place ourselves between a six-year-old child and a group of nine teenagers. The lights go down and the crowd lets out a soft gasp, before a heavy silence sets in. The movie begins, but still no sounds is emitting from the speakers or the audience. I grab my friend’s hand and squeeze it for dear life as the camera pushes through the clouds. Finally there it is, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, appears on screen.
The scene I described was that of the Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince movie premiere last summer at the Scotia Bank Theatre. Some people came in their normal clothes, others adorned themselves with a simple Hogwarts patch or quote across their forearms, but others (mostly those at the very front of the line) came dressed as the characters. There was your simple Hogwart’s student dressed in robes with a tie, but also a few dressed in more elaborate costume like Rubeus Hadgrid, where fans adorned themselves with long and bushy beards and ‘moleskin’ trench coats. With the seventh movie coming out tonight we can expect the same kind of atmosphere, only multiplied by a thousand.
For those who have been living under a rock for over a decade, Harry Potter is the story of a young boy whose parents were murdered by the world’s most infamous dark wizard, Lord Voldemort. Voldemort tried to kill Harry when he was a baby, but failed, giving Harry the nickname ‘The Boy Who Lived.’ Without his parents, he was raised by his muggle (non-magic folk) aunt and uncle who have tried to erase his magical birth. On his 11th birthday, he was rescued from his guardians and sent to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The series is composed of seven books describing Harry’s seven years at Hogwarts and his constant battle against Voldemort. Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard are three separate books from the series, yet still related to Harry Potter, written by J.K. Rowling.
Almost every year since 1997, when J.K. Rowling published the very first instalment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, people have lined up in mass amounts to get their dose of magic. Harry Potter has taken over the world. It’s impossible to find anyone in this day in age who hasn’t heard of the boy who lived.
“I think it resonates best with me now for the nostalgia of how much it meant all throughout the better part of my childhood,” Catherine Lafontaine fifth semester Graphic Design student said. “It’s a nice reminder of that sense of euphoria and excitement, the kind that made you squeal as you turned the page and witnessed Harry kissing Cho in the Room of Requirement, and blink back a tear as Sirius fell through the veil.”
Four hundred million copies of the books have been sold worldwide and it is also the fastest selling book in the United Kingdom and the United States. The night the Deathly Hallows was released, 8.3 million copies were sold in the first 24 hours. That’s 96 copies per second.
The movies worldwide have made over 5.4 billion dollars. That’s almost 900 million dollars per movie.
“I was at my cottage when the book was released so my family and I had to drive to Ontario to get the seventh book. I refused to spend one more day without reading it,” Alyssa Smith, a third semester Literature student said.
The Harry Potter phenomenon is not restricted to the books and films. In June, Warner Brothers opened the Harry Potter Wizarding World Theme Park in Orlando, Florida. The theme park is composed of Harry Potter landmarks such as Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and the Forbidden Forest. The fans are able to enjoy the wizarding culture that they believed was exclusive to JK Rowling’s imagination. Visitors are able to visit the shops featured in the books and even stop for a butterbeer in the ‘Three Broomsticks.’ Like all theme parks, they have a variety of roller coasters such as the ‘Dragon’s Challenge’ and ‘The Forbidden Journey’ which uses 3D images and motion simulation.
The creation Harry Potter has made more than just J.K. Rowling famous. Neil Cicierega, YouTube sensation and the creator of Potter Puppet Pals, won the Best Comedy category in the YouTube Award in 2008 for his video, The Mysterious Ticking Noise, which currently has over 90 million views. The video involves six main characters from Harry Potter in hand puppet form singing a completely made up song centred around the beat of a mysterious ticking noise.
Even in Montreal, Harry Potter has made a huge impact. McGill University has their very own Quidditch team. It follows the same rules with the exception of there’s no flying and the snitch isn’t a small gold ball, but rather a really fast runner dressed in gold. “I think it’s gonna be a magical time. I love Harry Potter, and I love sports, so why not combine the two,” Clara Thaisson, one of the first members of the McGill Quidditch team said, reported The McGill Daily.
While the Harry Potter fan base is one of the largest in the world, it is not without its critics.
“Harry Potter is a petty representative of good versus evil and I think it’s more directed towards children. Also, the fact that he continuously uses one spell after six years of magical education is ridiculous,” Laura Bernier, a third semester Literature student said.
There are not only personal issues with the plot, but when Harry Potter hit its first peak of popularity there were multiple religious debates against the series. People have gone as far to have Harry Potter bonfires. “Harry Potter is the devil and he is destroying people,” Pastor Jack Brock said, the BBC reported.
One of the main issues is that people believe that the book will lead children to an occult. “Some Christian fundamentalist groups think [Harry Potter] glamorizes witch craft and paganism which threatened their values,” Religion professor Susan Palmer said. “It obviously didn’t really have much effect on the popularity. They’re great books. I read them to my kids.”
J.K. Rowling remained unaffected throughout the journey. “I have met thousands of children and not even [once] has a child come up to me and said, ‘Ms Rowling, I’m so glad I’ve read these books because now I want to be a witch,” Rowling told the BBC.
The majority of fans are unbothered by the claims that Harry Potter will turn them into a witch or wizard. “I re-read the series once a year, you discover new things and there’s so many layers to it that people of all ages can appreciate it. When JK Rowling wrote it I highly doubt she was trying to offend anyone,” Smith said.
It’ll be a long time until another series emerges in which a sixth grader and a senior citizen can enjoy a 766 page book.
“The book has its flaws, but more than anything It indulges in the magical inner child of muggle like us,” Marlena Legault Monton, a third semester Liberal Arts student said.
There are very few people in the entire world who haven’t heard of this wizard. While Harry Potter’s tale is over for now, there have been rumours that J.K. Rowling might continue the series. Until she makes up her mind, fans still have The Deathly Hallows part two to look forward to which comes out in July 2011.
The first part of The Deathly Hallows comes out tonight. Fans have had their tickets for days in advance, some even weeks. Movie theatres all around Montreal will be staying open extra late to accommodate the thousands of Harry Potter fans.