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Harry Potter: Please, may I have some more?

Ritika Bhatia | Updated on August 31, 2018 Published on August 31, 2018

Potterspeak: Since the Harry Potter series began in 1998, it has spawned a vibrant sub-culture and a multi-billion dollar empire   -  Smriti Sant

Fan fiction, alternative endings, memes and merchandise ensure that there is always something new in JK Rowling’s magical world of Harry Potter

You know who we are. We are the superfans who turn up our noses at Twihards (followers of El James’ Twilight series) and Beliebers (Justin Beiber’s devotees) but flash our “Potterhead” moniker as a legit badge of honour. We’re the millennials, the entire generation who grew up waiting for their acceptance letter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And we are the ones who have nurtured the Harry Potter books into a globalised multi-billion-dollar empire.

Since it first came into our lives in 1998, the phenomenon of The Boy Who Lived has spawned seven books, 10 blockbuster movies, one Tony award-winning play, aisles of merchandise, real-life Quidditch teams, cafés and bars, and multiple theme parks.

Fans have congregated over Harry Potter in every nook and corner of the Internet, since before Internet was even a thing. Be it Tumblr, reddit, Facebook groups or Yahoo chatrooms, there are dedicated forums for fans. And from these annals of the world wide web, a whole subculture of fan fiction and fan art has emerged since the early 2000s.

Fans have been writing their own Fan fiction or fanfic — sequels, prequels and footnotes to the Potter books. There are almost 8,00,000 Potter stories on fanfiction.net alone. This is one of the biggest fan fiction sites — but still only one of hundreds.

Richa Kaul Padte, in her debut book, Cyber Sexy: Rethinking Pornography, mentions how Potter fans seek out more about their favourite characters’ love and sex lives than the books originally offered.

Rashmee, a reader Padte interviewed, said she hoped for a relationship between Harry Potter and his arch-rival in school, Draco Malfoy. “I wanted long chapters of Draco and Harry discovering they were, in fact, gay and in love with one another, or the slow, skin-tingling process of confessing that to one another, and then the eventual first kiss, first touch, and so forth.”

One of my favourite alternative endings is on the feminist blog Jezebel.com, where Hermione decides to break up with Ron to go to wizard college. “Hermione needs to end things. Ron wants to follow her to wizard college, but she wants something else. She looks to her friend Harry for advice, but can’t express herself the way she wants to. Will you love me the same if I no longer love Ron? That’s the question she wants to ask all of her loved ones, but the possible answers are just too scary... In the end, she chooses a wizard college that Ron can’t get into.”

On a lighter note, the spoof website The Toast.net has a fanfic story titled ‘A Harry Potter Where Hermione Doesn’t Do Anyone’s Homework For Them’.

“Okay, write that down,” Hermione said to Ron, pushing his essay and a sheet covered in her own writing back to Ron, “and then copy out this conclusion that I’ve written for you.”

“Hermione, you are honestly the most wonderful person I’ve ever met,” said Ron weakly, “and if I’m ever rude to you again —” He broke off suddenly. “This just says DO YOUR OWN GODDAMN WORK in fourteen languages.” “Fifteen,” said Hermione. “One of them’s invisible.”

Smriti Sant, operations lead at the podcast service Books on Toast and self-confessed Potterhead, was also drawn to fan fiction. Her fanfic favourites were stories about Potter’s father and his friends. “I wanted to read fan fiction that didn’t take away from the Harry Potter world, because you didn’t want to cheat on the books, but just to read something that filled in the gaps. The bigger characters came full circle for me in the books, but there was still a lot to explore within the secondary ones.”

 

Fanfic fun: On the 20th anniversary of the first book, Tanika Godbole created comics on Potter set in India

Fanfic fun: On the 20th anniversary of the first book, Tanika Godbole created comics on Potter set in India

 

Mumbai-based Tanika Godbole, 28, is the creator of Missfit Comics. She uses stick figures and biting social satire to deliver pithy epithets on society. For the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter last year, she created a series of comics on Harry Potter set in India. In this world, Hermione’s parents tell her that she needs to switch schools because they’ve heard she’s always hanging out with boys. Another comic throws up a nosey Indian Aunty/Uncle comment for Ginny Weasley: “Her brothers allow her to date so many boys?!”

The Potterverse abounds with millions of such widely shared comics, quizzes and memes. According to Time magazine, the Harry Potter brand is worth over $25 billion. The movies grossed $7.7 billion worldwide and the books have made just as much. Its creator Rowling also earned the tag of the world’s richest author, with a net worth of close to $1 billion in 2017 (and donated almost half of it, after which her net worth stands at $650 million). And this empire looks set to grow with the second instalment of the film series Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald, starring Eddie Redmayne and Johnny Depp, scheduled to be released in November.

Despite having read all the books and watched the films tens of times, owning a photograph autographed by Rowling, and getting matching Deathly Hallows ring tattoos with my childhood best friend, I am only 82 per cent Potterhead, according to a popular Buzzfeed quiz. “You goddamn love Harry Potter, but you’re not as totally obsessed as some people are.” Oh, well.

Ritika Bhatia is a freelance journalist and film consultant based in Mumbai

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Published on August 31, 2018
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