Owls, socks, red and gold.
For some people, this is just a list of random words. For many others, however, they see a list of symbols for innocence of Hedwig, Dobby the house elf’s freedom and bravery of Gryffindor house. These are all parts of the wizarding world of “Harry Potter.”
The plot revolves around a young British boy, Harry Potter, who discovers he is a wizard who defeated one of the greatest wizarding threats, Voldemort, when he was just a baby. He is to attend the magical school, Hogwarts. There he meets his two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and goes on fantastic adventures.
Written by J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” or “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,” for Americans, was rejected by seven publishers before Bloomsbury, an English publishing house, picked it up. The book debuted June 24, 1997, meaning it celebrated its 21st anniversary this year, just in time for the latest installment of the prequel series, “Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald,” to hit theaters.
“Fantastic Beasts,” is a prequel series taking place in the 1920s and incorporating wizarding communities in America and Europe. It focuses on Newt Scamander, the wizarding world’s version of Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin, as he discovers new creatures that will end up in Hogwarts’ required textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”
“I really like ‘Fantastic Beasts,’” biomedical science senior Kearstin Stimmel said. “It’s a different spin on it. It takes you into the world, but it’s in a whole new aspect with new people. It’s something that you can get into.”
According to Forbes, the first prequel film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” earned more than $800 million, and its second installation, “Crimes of Grindelwald,” earned more than $117 million, which is a flop when compared to its predecessors.
“I feel like ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is soulless,” human services Wyatt Williams said. “I feel like they are just milking it for all it’s worth at this point.”
Many students grew up with “Harry Potter.” It was a prominent book series marketed towards children with a new “Harry Potter” book released every one to two years after “Philosopher’s Stone” was published. It also didn’t take long for Warner Brothers Studio to turn the young adult series into a cinematic universe.
“I can't exactly remember what age I was when I got into ‘Harry Potter,’” biology and psychology junior Maile Johnson said. “Growing up, my mom was a ‘Harry Potter’ fan and we would often watch the movies together. She would often summarize the stories for us on car rides or if we ever had any free time. When the movies would come out, we would make it a big deal. We would wait until the movies were on DVD, and we would watch them in the basement of our house. It was one of those grab the blanket and popcorn kind of things. I did enjoy the first ‘Fantastic Beasts’ movie. I liked how they incorporated ‘Harry Potter’ themes but it was still its own story. I’m looking forward to watching the second one when it comes out on DVD. ”
According to Time magazine, the first “Harry Potter” movies earned a total of more than $6 million between the eight films.
Many people attach themselves to certain characters and houses in the series. There are four houses in Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. They each have their own attributes. Gryffindor values bravery and strength. Slytherin puts ambition and cunning above all else. Hufflepuff prides itself in the loyalty of its members. Ravenclaw believes wit and intelligence make the witch or wizard.
“Without a doubt, Hermione Granger is my favorite character,” Johnson said. “Growing up I really wanted to be apart of the Slytherin house. I thought that it was given a bad rep and I was the child who wanted to prove that everything has a good side and such. If you ask me now I guess I would identify with either Gryffindor or Hufflepuff house.”
While many often pick popular characters such as Hermione or Neville, cybersecurity freshman Thomas Mitchell connected with a less loved character.
“I actually identified with Severus Snape and Slytherin house,” Mitchell said. “I have a dark, quiet side.”
The franchise also spawned a Broadway play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” Rather than focus on the original “golden trio” of Ron, Hermione and Harry, the play looks at their children who are now old enough to attend Hogwarts themselves. When Harry’s son gets placed in Slytherin house, Gryffindor’s main rival, and befriends the son of Harry’s schoolyard enemy, the two set off to change the course of history and bring back a fan favorite character from the dead.
The play caused controversy in the “Harry Potter” fandom. Many fans saw this as a cash grab for the franchise. Others were upset that the original movie cast was not used and Hermione's race was changed. According to the Guardian, neither stopped fans from buying copies of the script as it quickly toppled E. L. James’ “50 Shades of Grey,” as the fastest first-week sale for books.
“Harry Potter” has permeated its way into pop culture. As one of the first fandoms, another word for a fanbase, of the Millennial generation and Generation Z, it set the tone for other literary works such as “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief,” and shows like “Supernatural.” It even made its way to card games like “Cards Against Humanity” and it’s expansion pack, “Cards Against Muggles.” Muggle is the term for non-magic users in the Harry Potter universe.
“For our generation, it was the first big thing people were obsessed with and people weren’t afraid to show they were obsessed with it,” Stimmel said. “It shows all different types and kinds of people in the movies.”
It is such a part of pop culture that there are fashion lines, culinary works and a theme park in Orlando, Florida, dedicated to the magical world.
“I started reading the books in elementary school because everyone else was reading them,” Williams said. “Then I watched most of the movies. The underlying messages in ‘Harry Potter’ are common messages like be yourself but it’s taken it to a whole new level. I mean we have a theme park and it’s a part of us.”