Harry and Katniss are very different heroes because they live in very different worlds. But if I had to guess whether most people felt their world more closely resembled the private boarding school with clear-cut lines between good and evil, or the dystopic district with frustrated and struggling neighbors, I’d say there’s a real reason Katniss’s mythology has captured audiences as thoroughly as Harry did in his more prosperous heyday.
In Harry Potter, then, social class is a way of telling us something about the characters more than the actual lived reality or a source of conflict that it becomes in The Hunger Games. This is because in the wizarding world, power doesn’t come just come from money and other forms of social privilege, power comes from magic—and it seems that magic is quite an equalizer.
I've noticed a trend in the content attributed to and depicting the three male Harry Potter leads—Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, and Daniel Radcliffe—and the running joke that they might secretly be gay for one another. This idea isn’t original to them, of course. The male leads of any science fiction or fantasy epic will be paired off in the minds of their fandom. For example, TBS ran a spot a few years ago advertising an airing of Lord of the Rings, with the spot focusing on the relationship between Frodo and Sam and "Secret Lovers" by Atlantic Starr as the background track. The narrative has been queered so severely that not admitting the likelihood of a Sam/Frodo pairing makes a person seem a little bit naïve.
Despite the obvious social critiques in the books, I never consciously drew parallels between the wizarding world and my world. I wanted Harry Potter to exist in a vacuum. But as the books went on, the back stories grew more complex, the danger became more insidious and intimidating, and the fantasy world turned out to be as confusing and terrifying as my real post-9/11 adolescent world. I dreaded the release of the last two books, knowing I would endure them more than I enjoyed them, but the idea of simply abandoning the series never even crossed my mind. Not only did I not want to analyze the books as cultural products or actively criticize them, I was and still am basically incapable of doing so (if you would like a really feminism-centric response to Harry Potter, Sady Doyle has a good one). Because I grew up reading these books, I have internalized the messages that I uncritically accepted in a way I only really could when I was a kid. As far as I'm concerned, it's word of God, and I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way.
The series may be barely over, but we all knew from about the fourth book on that Harry Potter is the children’s literary icon of its time. Let’s take a look at its author, J.K. Rowling, and the young ladies of the series.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out last week, and it's pretty safe to say that most of the universe has witches (and wizards) on the brain. The blockbuster success of the Harry Potter franchise is not all that surprising, though, considering that humans have been obsessed with witchcraft both real and imagined for millennia. One of our favorite things to do throughout history has been to accuse social outliers of one form or another of being witches, whatever exactly that means.
You know those stickers that say, "Well-behaved women rarely make history"? Well, they also rarely get into the history books without getting called a witch at some point along the way. Go figure. This week, I've rounded up some historical figures of varying degrees of renown who would, according to their detractors, have fit right in at Hogwarts with Hermione, Ron, and Harry.
You only have to look to the history of Star Trek– inspired music—ranging from surf-punkers No Kill I to the Klingon heavy-metal band Stovokor—to see that fantasy and science- fiction fans have made music devoted to their obsessions for generations. Nothing in the history of fandom, though, can compare to wizard rock, a thriving subculture of musicians and fans devoted to Harry Potter–inspired rock ’n’ roll. But don’t let the name fool you: It’s witches, not wizards, who dominate this scene.