The Harry Potter fandom is one of the most noteworthy aspects of the Wizarding world. This isn’t always positive – one can only look at how some fans have treated J.K Rowling for voicing sensible views on women’s spaces. However, this is one aspect and not every ‘Potterhead’ is like this. Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve always linked myself with the Harry Potter fandom. I’ve also made a few YouTube videos about Harry Potter! The stories themselves are terrific. But there’s something alluring about the fandom on its own.
The Harry Potter fandom, unlike others, is deeply creative. This is expressed through fan art, whether ASMRs or illustrations, but also in fan theories and speculation. There’s also a thriving arts and crafts section of the Harry Potter fandom! I do not see this mirrored among Marvel Cinematic Universe fans or even among diehard Star Wars viewers. The only possible rival is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – where creators are excited to unleash their creativity in various ways.
This article explores the reasons why the Harry Potter fandom is so creative – and what this tells us about the Wizarding World and the fans themselves.
Reason One: Excellent Branding Choices From The Wizarding World
It is impossible to discuss the success of Harry Potter without noting key business decisions, whether it’s Bloomsbury agreeing to publish the novels or the establishment of Pottermore, where fans sort themselves into Hogwarts Houses. The Harry Potter brand – formerly known as “The Wizarding World” has branched out into theme parks, merchandise, recipe books and online games. I own two of these books for fans: “Feast and Festivities” and “A Magical Year,” both created by the Wizarding World. This offers many opportunities for fans to interact with the Harry Potter brand, whether through digital media or in tourism (I recall visiting a Harry Potter store in Gatwick airport.) The illustrations by Jim Kay are also incredible.
The YouTube channel for the Wizarding World also has special videos for fans alongside posting famous scenes. All of this encourages fans to incorporate Harry Potter aspects in their lives. Whilst branding and marketing are not the sole reason for the Harry Potter fandom’s creativity, it can help us understand it.
Reason Two: Hogwarts (The Dream School)
The success of Harry Potter is not the sole result of culture or politics. There’s a psychological element: where Harry Potter is food for the body, mind and soul of readers. Those familiar with Joseph Campbell’s A Hero With A Thousand Faces know the overbearing motif of certain storytelling structures and mythological images. Harry Potter is not shy about indulging in the Hero’s Journey or among the many fantastical archetypes. These are psychologically powerful: readers become invested, and imagine themselves, as heroes like Harry Potter.
Yet this doesn’t explain everything. Many stories use the Heroes Journey. The special aspect of Harry Potter is Hogwarts – the school for witchcraft and wizardry. J.K Rowling uses familiar imagery (school halls, the classroom, trains, books, dormitories) and makes them magical. Unfortunately, real school is not like that. All children desire a school like Hogwarts, which although flawed, is a place of friendship and is personally fulfilling. This ultimately leads to greater nostalgia and love for Harry Potter, which in turn, allows the creative aspects of the fandom to thrive with inspiration.
Hogwarts is clearly adventurous. This is a sharp contrast to modern schools, which if anything, are plagued by burdensome rules and regulations. Harry Potter meets the child’s desire for adventure, friendship, victory and heroism through incredible storytelling. There’s a great video by the Lotus Eaters called “Hogwarts Would Fail Its Ofsted Inspection” which is simply brilliant.
Reason Three: Capturing Magic
It’s a cliche to call Harry Potter ‘magical.’ But what other word is suitable? Much to J.K Rowling’s skill as a storyteller, she has turned our mundane realities into spellbinding magic. This was mentioned in the Hogwarts point, but it goes deeper than that. Harry Potter encourages fans to ‘create’ magic in their own lives. Magic is often used to solve problems in the Harry Potter universe. Although we cannot curse our enemies or heal a friend, fans can incorporate some of this magic, mainly through creative and imaginative means. I’m forever impressed by the ASMR’s relating to Harry Potter, as an example.
This helps us understand the creativity of the Harry Potter fandom. By creating art, the fans are replicating the magic from the stories and bringing it into their own lives. Humanity hungers for magic. We want to be surprised, thrilled, embark on adventures, engage in our curiosities and find entertainment as well as joy.
The life of a man or woman doesn’t necessarily provide this all the time. One pleasant result of engaging with the Wizarding World is noticing ‘magic’ in my Muggle reality: whether it’s Rothenburg in Bavaria, Germany or the Shambles in York, England. This has resulted in greater enjoyment while travelling and the development of a keen interest in Scotland.
Another strength of the Harry Potter fandom is how this magic is expressed between each participant. A crucial aspect of any fandom, but especially the Harry Potter fandom, is sharing and discussing the stories. In many ways, this is how magic is created.
Reason Four: An Expansive World
Harry Potter is set in Great Britain, specifically the Scottish Highlands. Yet there’s a treasure chest of lore and worldbuilding outside of Hogwarts: from the magical academy Durmstrang to the mysteries of Nicholas Flamel, the Wizarding World is expansive. J.K Rowling and Pottermore have also released information about other Wizarding schools all across the world. This certainly conjures the imagination! Not once, while reading the Harry Potter books, did I develop the impression that the magic was restricted or limited. Rather, Harry Potter celebrates the possibilities of our own world. The result of this are ‘aesthetic’ videos and graphics which imagine locations such as Beauxbatons in Southern France. Another example is fan-fiction and speculation.
This engrossing nature was expanded upon in the Fantastic Beasts movies. The second one, The Crimes of Grindelwald, gives a terrific depiction of Paris. One result of this is encouraging the viewer to consider other places as existing within the magical ecosystem.
Reason Five: Mystery
Harry Potter is associated with fantasy and children’s literature. This makes sense and I do not object to this. But there’s also mystery. Harry Potter is brimming with secrets and mysteries: from the queries regarding Nicholas Flamel and the Philosopher’s Stone, to the final novel, where the locations of Horcruxes and the Deathly Hallows shape the narrative. One powerful example is in The Chamber of Secrets and the looming concern of who the Heir of Slytherin is. Not only does Harry Potter thrive on mystery, but this exceeds the usual concerns of plot points and ‘what will happen next?’
Harry Potter fans are encouraged by J.K Rowling to make connections. For example, I was watching The Half-Blood Prince a few days ago. There’s a scene where Severus Snape reveals to Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange of his knowledge concerning Draco’s task. This raised a curious thought: who told him? And more importantly… why? Without getting too off-topic, this turned into a labyrinth of speculation and thought, one that may involve talking to fellow fans about a newly formed theory.
Due to the mysterious aspects of Harry Potter, and the expansive worldbuilding, this offers a terrific outlet for fan speculation and theories. J.K Rowling doesn’t tell us everything about the Wizarding World and questions remain unanswered. This is a good thing for the Harry Potter fandom: it encourages our imagination and creativity about this magical world. Also, the untold and esoteric nature of the Wizarding World feels like a riddle or a quest in itself.
These are five reasons why the Harry Potter fandom is so creative. Although there are other reasons, it’s important to acknowledge the uniqueness of Harry Potter and well, the ‘magic’ embodied in each of the seven novels.
I wrote this article because I wanted to shine a positive light on the Harry Potter fandom. The artistic impulses of many are worth celebrating. There’s clear talent among the fans, and I have no trouble believing that a significant percentage will become great artists and thinkers. Harry Potter was a starting point for myself. I used the series as a way to explore literary criticism and to delve deep into mythology and folklore. Thanks to the Wizarding World and fandom, my skills of analyzing literature are superior than at the beginning. That’s a strength of a creative fandom: ideas and creativity are forever brewing, like bubbles in a cauldron.
What are your thoughts on the Harry Potter fandom? Do you engage with any creative aspects? Comment below and if you’d like, share this article on social media or via email.