Harry Potter era ends; first year without Potter

Forget, for a moment, your own notions about the boy wizard, about whether his story is compelling or moving or drivel. Put aside your ideas about J.K. Rowling, her writing, her ability to tell a coherent story. They don’t matter.

Regardless if you enjoyed the seven books and eight movies, the “Harry Potter” franchise has had an impact on the world like no other. This past weekend marked the 14th anniversary of the United States’ publication of the first book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Since that release date, 2012 is the first year that something Harry Potter-related has not been delivered to the world. The popularity of the series cannot be debated. The sales of the book are estimated to be over four million in just the United Kingdom. More than 100 million copies are in print in the United States alone. Five of the eight films rank in the top 20 highest ranking movies of all-time. It has spawned fan sites, fan fiction, clothing, an entire subculture of wishful Hogwarts alums.

But even looking beyond popularity, as popularity doesn’t necessarily signify merit, it is still difficult to dispute the importance and the power the franchise has had on the world.

Literacy rates mark the most obvious area affected. Over half of “Harry Potter” readers between 5 and 17 years old said they did not read books for fun before they started the series. More than 75 percent noted “Harry Potter” has made them more interested in reading other books. Harry Potter impacted scholastic performance as well as self-esteem in school: Post-Harry Potter, students reported doing better in school, seeing themselves — many for the first time — as “smart.” Almost half began to see themselves as leaders.

Harry Potter has also changed the film industry dramatically.

The films helped to advance the resurgence of 3-D, bringing a medium generally reserved for animated comedies to the forefront of film. Not only that, it also allowed for the U.K., known for small, low-cost films, to become recognized as a leader in acting as well as special effects.

Potter’s most intriguing contribution to the film industry comes through its release style. Because the initial film deal included all seven books, Warner Brothers had built-in sequels sure to have an audience. Not only that, but “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” was split into two parts, a model perfectly fitted to increasing revenue, and a model now followed by the Twilight series, as well as “The Hobbit.”

Harry’s impact and influence over cultural and societal trends has been perhaps most powerful, or at least most shocking. University courses are taught on the books, and academic conferences held, looking at class, race, law, sexuality, as they are represented in Potter. Quidditch teams spring up on college campuses, and social scientists treat the Harry Potter series as “a cultural phenomenon worthy of serious academic inquiry,” going so far as to diagnose characters in the books, using the series for research and education.

For me, this year without Harry Potter is scary. It marks — finally, resolutely — the end of my childhood. I can no longer cling to those long nights on my parents’ bed, listening to my sister ask who Hagrid is for the millionth time, my dad mimicking the gravely voice of Snape and the squeaks of Dobby. It’s a giant part of my childhood, of my life, that has come to a conclusion. I have grown up with Harry Potter, as Harry Potter. I have struggled as he struggled, fought as he fought, lived as he lived. Now all I can do is find solace in the fact that millions of others too are still trying to hold on to Harry for as long as they can.

Lisa Lowe, a professor of American Studies at Yale, puts it best: “What (Rowling’s) really done is come up with a mode of captivating a whole generation: it’s a form of captive concentration that took place over a course of nearly 10 years. As an adult, you’ll be thinking, ‘What would Harry have done?’”

Here’s to the Boy Who Lived, who continues to live in all of us who have stuck with Harry until the very end.

_Sarah is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]_