So I couldn’t sleep and decided to watch this documentary on my handy Netflix Instant. I’d heard a lot about it but avoided it because….well…we’ll get there.
I’m a Harry Potter fan. By that I mean that I’ve read the books score(s) of times, can answer pretty much any question about the literary canon and spent seven years discussing it with literature profs, MFA students, theology scholars, comparative religionists and other writers on the Yahoo Group Harry Potter for Grown Ups. I went to three book-release parties and have occasionally listened to some of the podcasts.
A few years ago–several years after I became a Potterfan, I might add–I started to notice there was a movement of fans coelescing on the web. They started at places like LiveJournal and some fansites and became more of a large mass of friends united in real life as well. That’s a good thing in a lot of ways, because for many people it seems that Harry Potter served them in the ways that Star Wars and Star Trek served me. Potter and ParaPotter culture paved the way for introverts, awkwaverts and other Species Geekus to find likeminded friends and running mates.
What bothers me a bit though is this: Members of the ParaPotter universe have this habit of looking down on those of us who don’t go to Wizard Rock concerts, fan meetups and LeakyCon as being less than legitimate in the fan world. That’s the main reason I had avoided seeing We Are Wizards. I don’t like that sort of hierarchy that has built up around the Harry Potter world. At two distinct points in the film, people mention their uberfan status. One woman–the chronically ill young lady who started PotterWar to fight with Warner Brothers over intellectual property–tells a salesman at the local Ferrari dealership that she had been a “major player in the Harry Potter fan community”. At another point author Melissa Anelli talks about how she as a fan now has fans of her own.
Now, I confess to listening to a few of Melissa’s podcasts, following her on Twitter and buying her book. (I haven’t read it yet. I’m saving it for coming down from my next readthrough of the books). But I do this not because I think of her as a better fan than I, but because she seems like an interesting person to discuss the books with. In short, I don’t view her as a person of whom I’d be a fan but as a person I could befriend under favourable circumstances. To be fair I don’t think Anelli was saying this as a good or bad thing, but merely commenting on its existence.
It kind of weirds me out a little bit that some people appear to be trying to turn what was once a gathering of like souls into a hierarchical society. I’d imagine there are one or two sociological papers in there somewhere. Perhaps it’s just me feeling left out when other fans write me off for not going to Leakycon. But I really don’t like seeing these excellent books turned into yet another tool for making outsiders feel more outside.