Friday Forum – More Potter?

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Pottermore Patronus

Our graphic designer, Garth Jones, got a dragon, because of course he did.

So I’m a beagle.

Pottermore, the website continuing the Harry Potter experience for fans of the books – as descriptive titles go it nails the brief – launched a new feature overnight.

After answering a short series of questions, delivered through an interactive web browser game, visitors to the site learned what their ‘Patronus’ was. The Patronus is a spirit animal of sorts, which in JK Rowling’s books can protect wizards from evil forces.

Think the mythical daemons of Ancient Greece (or Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series).

What is interesting about this Pottermore event is how people took to social media to spread the word of their discovered Patronus. It reminded me a little of horoscopes, or the online personality tests that flood social media platforms like Facebook. The Tarot is another point of comparison – which claims descent from the Egyptian god of storytelling Thoth – wait, is JK Rowling the new Thoth?

In fact, how we use social media could be seen as a game – we present our best version of ourselves to friends and the public.

Potter fans used the reveal of their Patronus to also declare their continuing love for Rowling’s novels. Harry Potter, the publishing phenmonenon, has transcended books and become an online social media platform all of its own.

Robert Lloyd

Self-declared Hufflepuff Rob Lloyd with a fellow cast-member of his Mighty Little Puppet Show

I asked Robert Lloyd, an actor/comedian behind a series of one-man shows about fandom in Australia (he also credits himself as both a TimeLord and a Hufflepuff), what the enduring popularity of Potter reveals about its fans?

“I think the endurance of the ‘Wizarding World’ JK Rowling is constructing is most definitely connected to how you can establish your identity within this world. You can find a place to belong with your House.You can possess your very own wand. And now finally you can have your own Patronus Charm…kinda an animal representative of your positive side.

“JK Rowling is clearly attempting to create a world that you feel like you can exist within.”

And it is that sense of immersion, of belonging, to a fictional world that fascinates me. It is not just marketing (although the upcoming film set in America Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them clearly facilitates more sales of books and merchandise to fans) – it is a means for people to present  themselves to their peers via this popular fictional world. Harry Potter has values and a meaningfulness that appeals to them.

Do we all look to outside sources to identify with? Do we all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves, perhaps even a series of stories about wizards in boarding school?

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