July 15, 2011 was one of the saddest days of my life. Surrounded by darkness, I heaved (not so) quiet sobs as my childhood officially came to an end. That day was the last time I would ever see a newly released Harry Potter movie in theaters, and as I attempted to piece together some shred of emotional stability, I heard my so-called best friend not-so-subtly snickering at me. Glaring at her, I whispered “Stooopppp it (gasp), don’t ruin this (gasp) for meeee. You don’t (gasp) understandddd!”
“Hey, at least I’m not sitting here pretending to love Harry Potter now just because the last movie has come out like everybody else,” she replied defensively. I begrudgingly gave her a quick nod of respect for that, as there is nothing that I despise more than a passenger on the Harry Potter bandwagon.
For years my love of (some would go so far as to call it an obsession with) Harry Potter was ridiculed by my friends and classmates. I bore their ruthless taunts of ‘Geek!’ and ‘Loser!’ in silence, seeking refuge within the hallowed halls of Hogwarts among the valiant members of Gryffindor house. There were others like me who shared in the magic of the world J.K. Rowling created, to whom Harry was far more than a fictional character, but my comrades were far outnumbered by those whose literary tastes were confined to the comic strips in the newspaper. And so, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 came out, I was shocked to find many of the very same people who had teased me changing their Facebook statuses to “RIP Dobby,” lining up outside of movie theaters for the midnight release in IMAX and 3D, pressing ‘attending’ to Harry and Ginny’s wedding. All of a sudden, Harry Potter was cool, and everybody wanted to be a fan. But I was the true fan: I was the one who re-read all of the books and re-watched all of the movies in preparation for this event; I was the one who fell asleep each night to Jim Dale’s voice on the audiobooks; I was the one who was Harry Potter for Halloween three years in a row, and who cried for weeks after I didn’t get my Hogwarts letter on my 11th birthday. While most kids my age were learning how to ride a bike, I was learning how to ride a “broomstick” (a tree branch); while they were memorizing the lyrics to their favorite songs I was memorizing spells; while they were writing fan mail to Justin Timberlake I was writing to Harry, Ron, and Hagrid; while they were staying up late watching TV, I was curled under my covers with a flashlight and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for new readers and viewers discovering the enchantment of Harry Potter; however, you can’t just wake up one day and decide that you’re a die-hard Potter-lover for no particular reason other than that Emma Watson is now unbelievably gorgeous and models for Burberry. These fickle fans are insulting my decade of devotion to the series that opened up the world of books to me. Their eagerness to be a part of the end of an era without actually attempting to understand why it evokes such unwavering adoration is simply lazy.
And this laziness is not just confined to Harry Potter. These “bandwagoners” are everywhere. After one of my favorite musicians, Florence Welch (from Florence + the Machine) performed at the VMAs, everybody claimed to adore her, yet when pressed to name just one of her songs they liked, these very same “fans” stuttered that the one in the Julia Roberts movie was pretty good. When the Lakers went to the championship yet again, Kobe became the city’s idol. As the Jersey Shore craze swept the nation, every teenager was a believer in GTL (gym, tan, laundry) and fist pumping.
Once a phenomenon is deemed “cool” or “popular” it seems that everybody is eager to take part in it, whether they have a legitimate interest in the craze or not. Yet this desperate desire to “fit in” produces nothing more than a society of automatons, every person pretending to be exactly the same as everybody else. I loved being a Harry Potter “freak” and resent being swept along in the new-found “Pottermania.” Harry Potter is a part of the way I define myself, a central part of me, and suddenly everybody I know appears to be just the same. Rather than trying to discover their actual interests, these Potter Pretenders have opted to adopt everybody else’s in an attempt to avoid the terrifying feeling of actually being unique. Lucky for me, I’ll only have to put up with these identity thefts until the next fad sweeps the nation…