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Keep calm and Potter on

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07/15/2011

Keep calm and Potter on photo 

My “Cleansweep 7,” one of the dodgier brooms of the wizarding world, at a midnight book release for (I believe) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. 

The ones we love never truly leave us: this may be the most fundamental message of the Harry Potter books. Right about now, hundreds of thousands of people – millions, I’m not even kidding – are gearing up and bracing themselves for one final round of hoopla and goodbyes as the last film of the last book stampedes into theaters. We had a lot of valedictions and encomia in 2007, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published. But even then, we told ourselves that at least we’d have the movies. Moment of truth, readers: the time is now. Let’s get going with some Potter nostalgia.

I was introduced to the books in high school. It was the very beginning of my sophomore year, and one of the girls in the year below me showed me The Prisoner of Azkaban, which had just come out that summer. That was actually the first one I read, and I was naturally, totally hooked. Like any teenager, I did the most reasonable thing I could, which was get on the internet and immediately begin talking to strangers about it.

The thing about strangers on the internet is that they can create some wonderful, wonderful conversations. For instance, did you know that some clever person coined the term “Potterdämmerung,” a sly twist on the finale of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, to describe the ending of the series and the inevitable flame-out from distraught and disappointed fans? Have you heard about the Knight2King theory, in which wise and wonderful Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore is actually one and the same as ordinary, fumbling Ron Weasley? Were you ever tempted to try your hand at the food lucky non-Muggles feast on, only to find that butterbeer recipes actually exist? 

Phenomena and fandoms like Harry Potter can bring out the best, most inventive, generous and creative sides of people. I love the books and the movies, and certainly always will, but the community that formed around loving these stories is a marvel in and of itself. The energy, intellect and skill that I’ve seen poured into exploring J.K. Rowling’s world would floor both Hollywood and the finest universities. For the pure pleasure of talking with others about a story, people create videos, write fiction, draw comics, build models, design costumes, organize conventions, publish scholarly articles, animate cartoons, form bands, compose musicals and use any number of other outlets that many never thought they’d ever explore or accomplish before. The fact that Harry Potter and the internet did so much growing up together only intensified the process.

So, the series is complete and the movies are all here. But there’s a takeaway: just because it’s not about Harry Potter in the future doesn’t mean it’s not awesome to get excited about things like this. (I’ve totally got my ‘40s-style outfit ready for the Captain America premiere next weekend!) We shouldn’t limit ourselves. If Potter has changed anything, I hope it’s that the world realizes it’s great to get excited and engaged and inspired by what we love. And that it’s awesome to read an inches-thick book in one sitting.

I’ve seen a lot of my friends posting on Facebook or Twitter about how their childhoods have come to an end, how dressing up and lining up for the midnight showing last night means the real end of an era. I’ll admit, I got a little heart-clenchy reading all those updates. I’ve stood in line for a midnight book release or two myself; I’ve dressed up to see movies and met up with strangers from the internet to talk Hogwarts. But here’s another thing I hope Harry Potter has taught us: that it’s normal to be outstandingly passionate about the things you love, that there are many others like you and that it’s good to celebrate what you enjoy. All those skills and friendships you developed, all those conversations you’ve had, those are yours for life. So is this story we’ve gathered around. Magic is real, guys. How great is that?

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