How Harry Potter shaped a generation


#1

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#2

What a fun article - except this:

If Rowling’s work is rightly described as inspiring a whole new generation of readers, then young girls deserve the credit for popularizing it in the first place.

Really? If Harry Potter was a “girls’ book” in the way Twilight was, it would be news to my son and his friends. Female fans might slightly outnumber, but hey, it’s a book.


#3

The first book was solidly considered a girls’ book before the books truly caught on and everyone began reading them.

Still dislike the series as a whole.


#4

The article didn’t say that HP was a “girls’ book,” it said that “young girls deserve the credit for popularizing it in the first place” – that is, they started the craze.

That said, I’d be interested in knowing if this were true. A quick search for statistics shows that by 2006 at least more boys were reading HP than girls, but of course that’s long after the first few books came out.


#5

I think it was the films that largely helped popularise the books.


#6

The movies helped too, but the first books were already worldwide bestsellers years before the first film came out.


#7

Happy brthday harry :smiley:


#8

This is a charming piece of memoir.


#9

I think Wizard People, Dear Reader should have a mention here.


#11

Harry appealed to the natural narcissism of teenagers as the awkward orphan who was superior without needing to work at it. See also Luke Skywalker. And for Percy Jackson, his dyslexia was simply proof he was a demi-god. Each shows up at his top rated sensei or boot camp and is recognized as a prodigy that is better than all those saps who worked to get there. The only reason this is not obvious is that each is opposed by wildly out of control narcissistic villians who would destroy the world just because.


#12

But it’s also true of say, the Beatles. the last conference I went to, I saw Brian Ward give a paper on the Beatles, and one of the interesting things he had to say about the early Beatles was how they were all over these teeny-bopper magazines, which were aimed largely at pre-teen and teen girls (and as a side note, the big deal about the interview where he said “we’re bigger than Jesus” wasn’t that, it was their comments about racism in America that get everyone steamed, especially in the south).

Same thing as here. Girls were the first to really popularize this cultural thing, and then they sort of get written out of the picture, or at least downplayed. I’m really glad she mentioned that, actually. It is sort of boring and frankly a bit annoying to hear how important boys and young men are for the culture industries, when girls and young women are just as big a demographic - it’s just that their interests are usually not ascribed as much importance culturally.


#13

I think that some of the focus on males was because the first few Harry Potter books came out when there was a lot of concern that boys were not reading enough, and Joanne Rowling was credited with reversing this.

Personally, I would blame english lessons. After my english GCSEs I didn’t read another fiction book for at least a year because I was so sick of the demands put on me in my classes. That was with a good teacher, I hate to think what it would have been like with a bad one.


#14

I too remember July 21, 2007 in keen detail.

I was born the year after Harry was in the series which means I was always considered “a little old” for that “Harry Potter business.” I mainlined the first four books of the series in furtive secrecy because–at the time that four books were out–I was living with my fundamentalist parents.

There are certainly parallels to be had between an open minded trans kid hiding from parents and a magical teenage boy reading spell books under his covers, though I definitely didn’t see them at the time.

I doubt it has quite the same degree of meaning for me as it did for others but it was one of many things that saved my life, so to speak.


#15

And as my daughter immediately pointed out, 7 Hogwarts students who were main characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny, Luna and Draco Malfoy.


#16

I was in a community of Evangelical Christians, many of whom were against the books. I kept a secret library of HP books for anyone who was interested, which was very popular and probably had a similar function to the stashes of cigarettes and alcohol that other people had. We would get donations of books from American publishers and I was one of the people in charge of the stock, so I’d do my best to get hold of books like this before they got disposed of and to trash any Left Behind books if I could find any excuse. Some would call this censorship, but I considered it a public service.


#17

Yeah. We didn’t have a library, we just had sets of Left Behind books being shared around. My contribution to the greater good on that front is that I traded my copy of Fight Club for a particularly crappy episode of the Left Behind series. Since I didn’t get my copy of Fight Club back, the buck stopped there with the Left Behind book I didn’t read.

My Harry Potter books were a lot more underground and didn’t really get traded … except to my siblings. Even the one sibling who remained a fundie still loves Harry Potter.

ETA: Yes, definitely a public service. Bad theology even if you are a practicing Evangelical Protestant and terrible writing.


#18

I got to book 3 then absconded to Philip Pullman. Pretty sure I wasn’t the target audience.


#19

I think modern education does that, turns lots of kids off things like reading for pleasure… teaching to the test tends to take the joy out of learning, as does the social minefield many kids have to deal with at school.

I think people should read and enjoy it. I’m all for kids reading whatever they like, comics, genre fiction (both of which I love), literary fic, non-fic, whatever… just read.


#20

There are hordes of screaming girls at Beatles concerts captured on film. From the very start, there were “teeny-bopper magazines, which were aimed largely at pre-teen and teen girls”. Watch any club owner in an interview and they’ll say “it’s all about getting da birds on the dancefloor.” And so many male rockstars say that got into it to meet girls, I’m surprised if they say something different. Everyone knows the role young women play in popularizing stuff, as a demographic.

(The only place may not be true is nerd culture comics, the last hold-out of knuckleheadism… and who cares.  The fight is being fought.)

Early Rock was chauvinistic, Punk challenged it, and pop music’s been  back/forth since then.  It’s been discussed to the ground.  It’s sort of boring to hear about at this point.  A lot of female artists fought for recognition, and they got it. Women in pop music are culturally relevant, if they weren’t two generations ago.

This is all a far cry from some unprovable statement that the majority of Potter fans were young women. And in considering Beatlemania, I just had a thought. Are “Teen girls are often ridiculed for their preferences”? Seems like just the opposite.


#21

I actively didn’t want to do English Literature GCSE because I didn’t want to over study books and ruin my appreciation of them. I guess it worked(?) - still love reading. I am glad we ended up studying Thelma and Louise in my Media Studies GCSE rather than Alien - of the two, I’d rather have that one ruined.

To stay on topic; never read any Harry Potter books, never seen any of the films, but I’m glad they’ve got lots of people interested in reading. I guess I was 19/20 when the first one came out, more of a Tolkien kid (and a lot of Tad Williams) :wink: I did read Phillip Pullman, though - and I would say of those, one of the things that put me off HP would have put me off those too if The Subtle Knife had come out before Northern Lights - I prefer the complete fantasy world of Lyra (or Middle Earth, or Osten Ard) to the ‘normal’ one of Will - probably totally unfair but the whole premise of Harry Potter seemed a bit, well, naff, compared to, say, Lord of the Rings.