Harry Potter is actually the fandom that lived. Hogwarts Legacy, the newest big-budget entry within the 26-year-old franchise, grossed over $1 billion as of Could, promoting 15 million copies — regardless of numerous retailers declining to cowl it, citing Harry Potter creator J.Okay. Rowling’s historical past of constructing transphobic statements. It’s extremely rated by gamers and helps a thriving ecosystem of streamers and followers. Likewise, the award-winning Harry Potter and the Cursed Baby stage play has damaged data for weekly grosses all over the world. The franchise is even getting a TV reboot.
Regardless of quite a few newer additions to the franchise, together with the newest underperforming installment of the Improbable Beasts spinoff collection, the core canon of the unique books and flicks remains to be the middle of the lives of tons of of hundreds of followers. In numerous corners of the web, sequestered from uncaring or judgmental eyes by bespoke algorithms and obscure codenames, Harry Potter followers are thriving — producing as many fan works as ever, with that very same acquainted fever pitch I bear in mind from my days ready in line for the following guide launch.
Dipping a toe again into HP fandom for the primary time in years can, for a fan of the old-fashioned, show a bit of disorienting. The depth of up to date followers’ obsession is fully acquainted, and but additionally bewildering. These followers are transport characters I don’t bear in mind being canon (who’s Daphne Greengrass?!) or writing fic within the type of TikTok video snippets, voiced by a sensible ElevenLabs AI of Tom Felton’s Draco Malfoy.
But this persistence is proof of simply how arduous it’s to kill a fandom. Whilst some followers have identified the weak factors of the collection’ world-building — resembling the incomprehensibility of the places of the world’s wizarding colleges — the fictional universe has continued. A fandom is its personal complete world, in spite of everything, populated by concepts and inhabited by people who find themselves in search of these treasured issues: consolation and group. Many years’ value of emotional and inventive inertia can’t be halted simply.
It will be easier, after all, if Rowling wasn’t round to play an element in actively souring her fame, even amongst her most loyal followers. Then the fan dialogue might be about the way to reclaim the unique collection from a post-hoc perspective, the way to rebuild from the bottom up, because it have been. As an alternative, there’s an extremely lively ongoing tug-of-war between Rowling and her followers. As Rowling has voiced assist on social media for anti-trans activists, and personally funded causes together with a trans-excluding girls’s shelter, followers have responded by boycotting the magical franchise and calling out those that nonetheless take part within the fandom. On the finish of the day, this implies lots of people who in any other case would like to spend time within the Wizarding World are reluctant to take action.
It’s simple to imagine that as we speak’s Harry Potter followers — those who’ve remained lively or lately joined up — know concerning the connotations their public fandom practices have in 2023, after three years of Rowling making extremely public feedback in opposition to trans rights. However that’s not essentially true. Everybody, it appears, has “that one offline pal” who’s nonetheless seemingly fortunately naive concerning the bigger political context of their Potter ardour. Most of the followers I got here throughout in my reporting didn’t appear in any respect troubled by the battle.
Even when these followers did know and had an opinion on it, the way it affected their degree of participation different. Some stated that they don’t have management of what they obsess over, and that they need to be allowed to love what they like; others have efficiently compartmentalized their fandom-centric actions from the franchise by numerous means; nonetheless others have stated they don’t actually care.
I’m sympathetic — whereas I personally don’t assume I’d be capable to absolutely immerse myself in Harry Potter fandom once more, I however nonetheless really feel a powerful connection to it due to my longtime childhood obsession, robust sufficient that I all the time find yourself keeping track of it, fascinated by its ever-sprawling mass, and unable to conclusively condemn those that proceed to participate.
A lot of as we speak’s Harry Potter fandom isn’t primarily based on the story that seems within the books, motion pictures, and stage performs. The largest section of enthusiastic development, as demonstrated on social media, revolves across the Marauders period — the time interval at Hogwarts a technology earlier than Harry received there, that includes the titular group of his father James, James’ bestie Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew. (These 4 created the Marauder’s Map throughout their time at Hogwarts — Harry obtains this similar map in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.)
Followers solely briefly glimpsed this “prequel” period in flashbacks within the books and flicks. However it has lengthy held enchantment as a fertile playground for followers to think about the lives of witches and wizards of a sepia-toned Earlier than, within the halcyon days earlier than the First Wizarding Conflict kicked off the primary occasions of the collection.
The Marauders — the characters and the period typically — have loved recognition for the reason that days of The Shoebox Venture. This LiveJournal-hosted fic turned immensely fashionable round 2005-2007, and was many a millennial’s first publicity to the Remus/Sirius ship, referred to as Wolfstar. Ben Barnes was even compelled to remark this yr throughout promotion for Shadow and Bone on the ubiquity of his “fancasting” as younger Sirius.
A brand new technology of followers have flocked to the Marauders at unprecedented ranges. The brand new Marauders period is exemplified by All of the Younger Dudes, a 526,000-word fanfic that, for some time, reigned supreme on the prime of all fics on Archive of Our Personal sorted by hits. It has since been dethroned, most notably by viral Minecraft YouTuber fic Warmth Waves, however stays the highest Harry Potter fic of all time, and an enormous affect on this newest wave of fandom.
The fic was written by consumer MsKingBean89 someday between 2017 and 2018. However it didn’t attain a peak of recognition till the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when followers have been returning to previous fandoms in search of acquainted comforts, and studying novel-length fics whereas in lockdown. The story follows the Marauders by their time at Hogwarts from Lupin’s standpoint; it’s primarily canon-compliant, apart from a change in Lupin’s backstory that had him rising up in an orphanage and with a much more traumatic youth than in canon.
Author and journalist Ashley Reese has been constantly lively in Harry Potter fan communities for practically 20 years, and has noticed firsthand the shifts within the Marauders subcommunity as younger new followers enter the fandom.
“[All the Young Dudes] has just about been elevated to a type of canon, fanon, no matter you wish to name it, degree — to this extent to which although I haven’t learn your entire fic, I do know sufficient about it now,” she says. Characterizations from ATYD, resembling a barely edgier Remus Lupin, have seeded themselves all through as we speak’s Marauders works like a fast-growing mycelium.
When Ryan Broderick and I interviewed ATYD’s creator, the pseudonymous MsKingBean89, in 2021 for the web tradition e-newsletter Rubbish Day, she commented on the phenomenon of ATYD readers seeing the large, sprawling story as a “substitute” for the precise canon of Harry Potter, absolving them of their uncomfortable closeness to Rowling.
“I didn’t are available in to say, ‘no, I’m a greater author than anybody.’ Or, ‘I wish to exchange J.Okay. Rowling, I wish to current to you an unproblematic Harry Potter universe,’” she instructed us on the time. “As a result of I’m not able to doing that. I’m only a one who was actually intensively writing for a yr and a half and perhaps ought to have been doing different issues.”
She has since retreated from the fandom, and different authors and creators have taken her place within the highlight, each increasing the Marauders sub-fandom and popularizing different ships. The Draco/Hermione ship has skilled a swell of recognition within the AO3-centric facet of the fandom, forefronted by the book-length, Handmaid’s Story-inspired Manacled fanfiction. It additionally options closely within the fanbinding facet of TikTok, the place followers print out and bind tales so as to have their very own bodily copies of beloved fic.
Transformative fan works — that’s, fiction and artwork made by followers that make artistic use of an current canon’s world and characters — can really feel like a refuge and a reclamation, and a means for followers to proceed to take part in a beloved universe with out giving a dime to its dastardly creator. Amid snappy edits filled with fancasts and fan-made Harry Potter quick movies on TikTok, a big group of devoted readers make movies discussing their favourite fan-written tales as in the event that they have been self-contained canons themselves.
These tales might be discovered in lots of locations, and are made up of many various fashionable genres. Harry Potter is likely one of the hottest classes on adolescent-dominated fiction platform Wattpad, the place Mary Sues and self-inserts flirt with Draco and mingle with Marvel characters (who’re instantly additionally at Hogwarts?) in tales with hundreds of thousands of views. On extra mature fic platform AO3, HP fic has lengthy reigned in a secure second place, after Marvel, for whole variety of fics.
The Marauders are simply far sufficient from Harry Potter correct for followers to really feel some possession of the weather of the world that they performed an element in creating. And extra lately fashionable ships have leaned additional into this radical distance from the unique collection canon. The Jegulus (James Potter/Regulus Black) ship, for instance, has exploded in recognition over the previous few years, going from 42 works posted on AO3 in 2019 to almost 9,000 works posted in 2023 to date, as of mid-July. In fics posted up to now 12 months, it’s the fifth hottest ship, beneath juggernauts Draco/Harry and Draco/Hermione, however above canon pairings Ron/Hermione and Harry/Ginny.
Regulus Black is Sirius Black’s youthful brother, a personality who in canon is barely recognized for changing into an enthusiastic Demise Eater as a young person, solely to betray Voldemort after a change of coronary heart and die as a consequence. James Potter, Harry’s father, is after all fated to be with Lily. However followers have embraced a hypothetical romance between James and Regulus, often in live performance with Sirius/Remus. A thriving Regulus fan group on TikTok has embraced the edgy goth teen as “the Loki of the Marauders,” turning an unsympathetic however intriguing background character right into a sultry heartthrob, often forged as Timothée Chalamet.
The Jegulus ship first emerged as a basic rarepair origin story, with an identifiable Affected person Zero start line, based on Reese. A pal group of All of the Younger Dudes TikTokers thought it could be enjoyable to advertise Jegulus as a performative in-joke, with a recurring punchline about Regulus’ canonical dying by drowning (“fascists don’t float,” per screenshots of now-deleted movies). Naturally what started as ironic shortly turned honest as followers exterior of the pal group took the ship and ran with it earnestly, turning James and Regulus’ unlikely and doomed romance into one thing hundreds of readers are actually acquainted with and looking forward to extra of.
“Individuals babygirlify these characters in a means that’s actually unusual to me,” says Reese, reflecting on previous eras of fandom, “as a result of I used to actually solely see followers woobify characters like Snape or Draco, who we really see on the web page.”
Whereas followers have all the time made use of minor or background characters in canon to replenish their fan works, Harry Potter fandom’s use of shared fanon is extra of a up to date phenomenon. As an alternative of every creator giving their very own interpretation of Regulus Black or Marlene McKinnon primarily based on canon, they adapt instantly from different fan works — useful, maybe, for individuals who wish to chorus from returning to the books and flicks, however who don’t wish to abandon the Potterverse wholesale.
The fandom’s future
It might be that newer generations of Harry Potter followers have self-selected, which is to say that critically social-justice-minded younger folks would avoid what has grow to be such a controversial franchise. Maybe the present fan communities are merely populated with individuals who don’t see the political and social context round a piece as a barrier to enjoyment.
That’s to not say the Harry Potter fandom is full of individuals who agree with Rowling’s feedback about trans folks, or that followers favor the racially homogenous Wizarding World of the unique books. Traits in fan works over the previous few years belie that declare — such because the transfer towards devoted illustration in fanfic, and the virtually common embrace of queer and various headcanons for characters, together with Harry Potter himself, who’s continuously headcanoned as being of Indian descent.
“It looks like overcorrecting, or a solution to really feel much less responsible about enjoying with the TERF’s characters, in a means. Like a way of rise up: I’m going to go as far-off from the canon as I can as a result of this lady’s terrible,” Reese proposes.
The continued success of the theme parks, video video games, and theater components of the franchise show that there’s nonetheless curiosity in Harry Potter because it was initially written. So the announcement of the brand-new HBO collection, protecting the identical well-trod floor as the unique motion pictures, appeared kind of inevitable.
The true query is: Will Rowling ever construct out the Marauders period, or adapt it on display? On the one hand, it looks as if a slam-dunk no-brainer. However not all followers are essentially interested by seeing it lastly grow to be a actuality after so lengthy — particularly those that have purposefully ensconced themselves in a world of fanon far-off from something produced by Warner Bros. and that can revenue Rowling. Parallel to their standing in canon as a prewar idyll, the Marauders — and Wolfstar, Jegulus, Snily, and the remaining — symbolize a model of Harry Potter that followers have explored extra freely and with out a lot of the fraught situations that weigh on different elements of the fandom.