Over the past few months, I’ve become fond of many Harry Potter ASMRs on YouTube. Considering the high levels of engagement, they receive; others enjoy them as well. You can explore Diagon Alley, Hogwarts at Christmas, or listen to the sea at Bill & Fleur’s house. ASMR’s are wonderfully versatile and terrific. If you haven’t checked them out, I highly suggest you do. This article uses the channel ASMR Weekly as an example.
But what explains the popularity of Harry Potter ASMRs?
Because they immerse viewers into fictional and magical worlds. In previous videos and articles, I’ve discussed medievalism and medieval history. Harry Potter is the epitome of medievalism, as J.K Rowling uses common images, symbols and ideas associated with the Middle Ages in her fantasy series. ASMR’s, of course, will reflect this. ASMRs have enjoyed popularity over years mostly due to COVID-19. As more worked from home, ASMR’s offer a comforting distraction to immerse in. An article from Eliza Brooke in the New York Times discusses this, while listener Lindsay Elizabeth emphasizes the desire to break free from COVID related anxiety.
There are three crucial reasons Harry Potter ASMRs are popular: the first reason deals with their unique nature and style. The other reasons relate to fandom engagement, as well as our cultural understanding of the Middle Ages. But ultimately, Harry Potter ASMRs are beloved because they transform the ordinary into something magical. These aspects deserve further explanation and discussion. The latter reason, in particular, is crucial to understanding the popularity of any ASMR. It’s not just Harry Potter ASMR’s enjoying popularity. There are sound scapes depicting Victorian libraries, New York cafes and enchanted forests. None of these settings are completely foreign to the viewer, as they have enough familiarity for escapism.
This essay interrogates these reasons and offers a valuable investigation into why Harry Potter ASMR’s and ambience scenes are beloved.
Nature + Style
ASMR’s are, of course, quite aesthetically pleasing. They are created from beautiful illustrations, animations and sound recordings. There’s talent, too: the colours compliment each other, and rarely does the ASMR or ambiance scene feel cluttered. I associate ASMR’s with a feeling of peace and calm, which is needed in today’s hectic world. There are even studies linking ASMR’s with combating stress, fatigue and insomnia (see bibliography). One aspect I’ve noticed in ASMR Weekly’s channel is the soft visuals. The animations and visuals never feel imposing: rather, they are reminiscent of illustrations from children’s literature. This helps create a feeling of intimacy and closeness: two things yearned for in every human. Harry Potter ASMR’s are quite sensual, too: the most obvious being visuals and audio. However, the other three senses are frequently ignited. ASMR Weekly often features food, potions and perfumed objects that the listener can imagine touching. This is a particular strength of Harry Potter ASMR’s: engaging curiosity and immersion.
ASMRs and scenes depicting ambience are often relaxing, and this is made more remarkable when one considers Harry Potter. Creators of ASMRs are unafraid to depict Wizarding locations of peril and strife, such as Knockturn Alley. The reason why a creator can do this is because of the listener’s own curiosity and need for escapism.
When viewing ASMR’s, you’ll notice how slow paced they are. It’s not uncommon for an ASMR Harry Potter video to span hours. There’s a sense of time slowing down, which adds to the relaxing ambiance of the video. Harry Potter ASMR’s tend to follow a predictable structure. Klausen, a Doctoral student, commented to the New York Times about ASMR’s. She explained: “You know what’s going to happen, and it’s predictable in a very safe and soothing way.” From this, we can understand the popularity of Harry Potter ASMR’s.
If you look at the many comments on a Harry Potter ASMR video, you’ll observe an engaged fandom, brimming with ideas and creativity. This has always been a strength of the Harry Potter fandom, which is active with fan art and fiction. In particular, the Harry Potter fandom has earned a reputation for being tight-nit, millennial and active on social media. ASMR videos are a way for fans to communicate not just visuals with each other, but ideas, concepts and emotions. This is certainly a powerful example of media having a dual purpose. From one perspective, Harry Potter ASMR’s are shallow and childish expressions of fandom. However, I disagree – Harry Potter ASMR’s present the desires, ambitions and moods of their listeners.
One soundscape related to Tom Riddle’s house. Over the course of a fortnight, I listened to it several times. The reason wasn’t to pass the time or boredom, but because the setting intrigued me. Escapism is always at the heart of both ASMR’s and Harry Potter, and we should view the given video as evidence of dissatisfaction with the status quo.
The Middle Ages & Culture
A crucial aspect of Harry Potter has always been the Middle Ages. J.K Rowling uses many motifs from the medieval period, and practices “medievalism.” This is evident in Hogwarts, a school found in the Middle Ages. Other evidence for medievalism lies in the old town Hogsmeade, references to alchemy and Nicolas Flamel, spells using Aramaic and Latin vocabulary and more. Of course, the Middle Ages are not the only historical period that shaped the Wizarding World – you can see traces of Classical Greece and the Victorian era.
Harry Potter ASMR’s also practice medievalism: some of the most striking visuals are reminiscent of the Middle Ages, with Gothic libraries, the village Hogsmeade, various Hogwarts Houses, Diagon Alley and more. These visuals strike comparisons with real-world cities and towns, such as Rothenberg in Bavaria, Germany as well as York in England. Every year, old towns in Europe receive millions of tourists, and it’s easy to see why. They are highly romantic locations, reminiscent of a bygone era. In our modern, sterile world – the Romantic Road in southern Germany appears more attractive.
To go further, Harry Potter ASMR’s help us speculate and romanticise the past, and other historical settings, such as Scottish castles and medieval old towns. This is not a negative. Perhaps this romanticisation helps the viewer realise the importance of heritage, beauty and education: all emphasized in the Wizarding World.
Before someone watches a Harry Potter ASMR, they are in a particular mental state. They may feel daunted by study, struggle with anxiety or feel bored and uninspired. An ASMR is a terrific motivation for productivity, whether for academia or work. If you analyse the comments, you’ll see thank you notes and life stories about how Harry Potter ASMR’s helped them.
This article has stressed the importance of ‘ordinary lives’ for the ASMR listener. While daily lives are boring, an ASMR transforms a plain situation into something magical. This is a strength of Harry Potter in general, where well-known scenarios (school, bars, home) are made spectacular and mesmerising. A key feature of ASMR Weekly, the channel discussed, is how timely various videos are.
There are special videos for Christmas and Halloween – two days where the mundane transforms into the magical. Harry Potter ASMR’s also contribute to romanticising certain locations: forests and libraries being two great examples. Much of the demographic for YouTube, and ASMR’s, have childhood memories of Harry Potter. Who wouldn’t want to escape in something better than reality? Ambience videos are unlike much of viral content, where there is emphasis on social media and technology. Although listening to a Harry Potter ASMR requires internet access, a computer and headphones – there is a temporary escape from the burdens of technology. This is a strength of Harry Potter ASMR’s, and one reason why channels such as ASMR Weekly succeed.
Harry Potter ASMR’s are popular for several reasons, as listed earlier. They turn the ordinary into something magical, help us study and become productive, whilst also lifting our moods. Channels such as ASMR Weekly are positive examples of digital content that is meaningful and well-made. Whatever psychological benefits exist in ASMR’s; they are applied quite well to the Harry Potter universe.