Potterversity Episode 19: Harry's Fantastic Fandom

Mar 14, 2022, 02:00 PM

Take a closer look at the Harry Potter fandom in this month's episode!

What aspects of the fandom are your favorites: festivals, online communities, cosplay, fan fiction, or something else? On this episode, Emily and Katy talk with Dr. Marianne Martens (Kent State University), author of The Forever Fandom of Harry Potter (Cambridge University Press), about what makes Harry Potter fan communities unique and persistent.

The first Harry Potter book was published at about the same time that online communication and social media became more popular. Marianne explains how digital platforms have helped researchers understand what appeals to readers in addition to facilitating readers connecting with each other online, circulating theories and creative reflections on the series. The Potter fandom has a strong participatory aspect, especially among young people, and significantly higher engagement than many other fan communities built around young adult novels.

A lot of Harry Potter fan participation happens outside of official commercial channels, which fuels fan engagement but also creates challenges with copyright and trademark restrictions, as the many renamed wizard fests attest. Marianne explains what it means to be a "branded author" and "branded readers" and how that influences Harry Potter fan experiences by making room for the emotionally inspired, affective labor of fans but also raises questions about who "owns" the Harry Potter stories. Active participation leads fans to feel a sense of ownership that can be in conflict with the original author and the film production company. We also talk about the joys and struggles of the festival experience and where these events might be headed in the future. Marianne points out the significant power that Potter fans have had to protest the commercialized elements of the Potterverse, like the activism to protect independent fan sites and to end support of the exploitative labor systems used to produce Potter candy products.

Does Harry Potter have a "forever fandom"? Marianne tells us why she characterized the fandom that way for her book in 2018, and we discuss directly the impact of more recent developments that have created tension in the community and turned away previous fans of the series. We talk about how fans have responded and the possibility of separating the series from its creator.