Categorized | Arts & Culture

Harry Potter Culture

Photo credit: Jenna Chabot

Harry Potter has been around since 1997. For most Michigan State University students, that’s practically their entire childhood. It all started with the books, then the movies and then endless merchandise. Now there’s even a theme park; The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort, where you can do anything from visit Zonko’s Joke Shop to ride Dragon’s Challenge.

“I first got into the books around 5th grade. I remember in 3rd grade, I thought it sounded incredibly dumb; I was not interested at all. So when my mom decided to read it to us during Hanukkah one year, I was vehemently opposed. But of course I listened as my mom read one of the greatest books ever, and the rest is history,” said second year international relations and political theory & constitutional democracy major and MSU Quidditch head coach Will Hack.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened its gates last June, is responsible for raising Universal Orlando’s revenues by about 20 percent last summer. The Wizarding World houses the most popular ride the resort has ever had, Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey; the ride had its 1 millionth rider only a few months after the opening of the park.

The books that inspired this new attraction have been translated into 67 languages and have sold over 400 million copies. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince achieved platinum status, selling over 9 million copies, within the first 24 hours of release; a feat very few other books have ever accomplished. However, MSU students have their own favorites.

Some fans lean toward the suspense aspects of the books.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was my favorite because I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, not that I always did, but I felt like it was really hard to guess where it was going,” said mechanical engineering alumni, Matt Waggy.

Others go for the thrilling adventure.

“My favorite was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; it was before JK thought she needed to write 800 pages to make a sizable novel, so every moment was action-packed,” said Hack.

Now, 14 years after the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling is considering releasing the entire series as e-books, which may cause another jump in sales for the already record breaking books.

Having this enormously popular series available on medias such as Kindle and the iPad will encourage the transition to e-books that is already taking place and may mean the ultimate downturn of paper books.

The seven movies that have so far been released have also earned a hefty profit, grossing over $5.5 billion in sales worldwide, with over $950 million coming from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 alone, that’s more than all three Twilight movies combined.

The movies are no doubt a completely separate entity from the books. They change and adapt the story to be more concise and visual. However these changes do not necessarily take away from viewer’s enjoyment of the movies, it may even add to the excitement.

“I think it’s really cool the way that they bring the books to life. I just love to see the different ways they adapt the books,” said international relations junior Gina Herakovic.

The movies are even more intriguing for audiences that have never read the books, unlike for avid readers, every twist and turn is an entirely new and incredibly exciting adventure.

“The movies first came out when I was in fourth grade and just like we have all grown up, the movies have grown and progressed through the years.  They have gotten darker and have a deeper meaning with a more developed story line.  The final movie should be the best yet!” said engineering freshman Rebekah Koschmann, a passionate moviegoer.

The final movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, is due to be released (in 3D) July 15th of this year. Harry Potter fans have mixed feelings about the end of the empire that, when all is said and done, will include seven books and eight movies.

“I’m kind of sad, I wish it would go on longer but it was a good ending; all stories come to an end. Once they get drawn out too long they’re bad,” said microbiology sophomore Andrew Johnson.

“I’m a little sad; it’s been such a big part of my childhood. I started reading the books when I was in fourth grade and the last book came out after I graduated from high school so I’m kind of ok with the movies being done because then that part of my childhood is over and I’ll feel more like an adult,” said social relations and policy senior Kelsey Stuart.

The Harry Potter book fanatics had their ending moment in July, 2oo7 when the final book was released.

“I’m sad that no new Harry Potter materials will be coming out after the movie, although I have some hope that J.K. will produce more. Honestly though, I loved the books much more than the movies, so the release of the last book was really my cathartic moment,” said Hack.

How did people become so obsessed with Harry Potter in the first place? Every story is different, but the main reasons seem to be the life lessons and genuinely incredible story line.

“What makes Harry Potter so popular is that it is truly great literature, along with a great story. It’s achieved more success than Twilight because there is a lot of intrinsic value in the writing and morals of JK Rowling, so much so that the books are read in some literature classes. But the main reason Harry Potter took off is the story; all of us could use some magic in our lives,” said Hack.

The release of the final Harry Potter movie is truly the end of an era. But, even with no new books or movie to look forward to, the popularity and expansion of the Harry Potter dynasty suggests that it is here to stay and will potentially bridge generation gaps in the same way that The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia have.

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