why we love Jk Rowling’s boy wizard
1 Harry Potter... made reading books cool
We’re not implying that before JK Rowling came along, children didn’t read. But books weren’t exactly flaunted; kids didn’t necessarily feel comfortable reading in their lunch break or outside of class in case they’d be labelled a nerd or, if you went to school in the dark ages when we did, a “swot”. But then along came Harry... and, gradually, not only could a child (or even an adult) whip a book out of their bag and start reading on the bus, someone might actually tap them on the shoulder and want to talk about the story. How amazing is that? Which leads us to...
2 Harry Potter... brought people together
Humanity is all about tribes, isn’t it? People are happier when they’re in one. Religion has its tribes. Football teams have their tribes. There are tribes for everything from knitting to My Little Pony. Harry Potter’s tribe is a monster – bringing people of all ages, from all walks of life, from all corners of the planet, together. JK Rowling’s books have been published in 200 territories; thanks to smuggled DVDs, children even know about them in a regime like North Korea. Just imagine the relationships that have been formed over the years – and how many babies must have been born because of Rowling’s world.
3 Harry Potter... supported the British film industry
When Warner Bros first started work on the
Harry Potter films they chose Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire as their base, pumping all their efforts into making the site a superior resource for filmmakers. Thanks to this, a whopping £1.9 billion has been invested in our film industry from not only the Potter movies but other productions that followed, such as
The Dark Knight. Add to this the 3,000 to 4,000 people who worked on each of the Potter movies, the boost given to everything from cinema chains to merchandising, the Harry Potter Studio Tour set up at Leavesden in 2012 and the upcoming behemoth that is Fantastic
Beasts And Where To Find Them, and... well, you get our point. Kerching!
4 Harry Potter... raises money for good causes
“You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.” JK Rowling there, a billionaire who gave so much of her fortune to charity that she fell off the Forbes rich list. She helped set up Lumos, a charity helping disadvantaged children around the world; is the president of Gingerbread, which supports single parents (Rowling was once one, too, of course) and set up the Volant Charitable Trust to help causes close to her heart, such as MS research. All this practical action means that she has genuinely made the world a better place.
5 Harry Potter... pisses off fundamentalist religions
If you’ve written something that’s annoyed an intolerant, prejudiced and downright unpleasant religious group, chances are you’re doing something right. The Harry Potter series has been accused of promoting the occult so often that it even has its own Wikipedia page about it, but nothing stirred up the ire of radical wingnuts as much as Rowling declaring that Dumbledore was gay. After a joke about Dumbledore and Gandalf getting married in Ireland, the Westboro Baptist Church told Rowling that they would “picket” the wedding. Her reply? “Alas, the sheer awesomeness of such a union in such a place would blow your tiny bigoted minds out of your thick sloping skulls.” Game, set, match.
6 Harry Potter... has united generations
Parents have been reading books to their children at bedtime since the very concept of both “books” and “bedtime” were invented, but the vast majority of those stories weren’t necessarily ones the adult found interesting. And then along came Potter – a world so enticing to both young and old that it was packaged for kids and adults. For a while there was even a time in which grown-ups and nippers could discuss with equal excitement where the story would go next – and from this sprang reams of “Young Adult” fiction to continue the union of young and old. Now see point number 8...
7 Harry Potter... introduced us to these guys
As well as starring the cream of the British film industry – from Alan Rickman to Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon to Jason Isaacs – the movies created megastars of its three young leads. While we do love Rupert Grint, most of our respect goes to Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe: the former for becoming a UN Goodwill Ambassador and speaking up for women’s rights, and the latter for overcoming what could have been the worst typecasting in cinema history by choosing some truly bonkers projects since giving up his wand. From naked horse-bothering on stage in Equus to playing a farting corpse in Swiss Army
Man, Radcliffe has become a bona-fide acting treasure.
8 Harry Potter... created the Young Adult genre
Without Harry Potter, would we have The Hunger Games? The Maze Runner series? Artemis Fowl? The works of John Green? Even – wait for it – Twilight? We could go on and on, but you get the gist. Rowling single-handedly showed that books that cross the delicate line between “child” and “teenager”, not to mention the even more delicate line between “teenager” and “adult”, could not only be critically acclaimed but also financially lucrative. So lucrative, in fact, that the stories that followed leapt into cinemas just as her own books did. They’re such a huge part of our culture now that it’s hard to believe they’re still a relatively recent invention.
9 Harry Potter... created a new British mythology
JRR Tolkien did something extraordinary when he started whipping up all those adventures in Middle-earth in the ’30s: he established an expansive fantasy universe that managed to not only combine mythologies from all around the world, but which ended up being almost stupefyingly British. And JK Rowling, amazingly, did just the same with the Potter world. Harry’s life at Hogwarts and beyond could not be more British if it tried, playing on everything from our school system to the vagaries of our swearing. The Potterverse is as British as James Bond, Monty Python and Doctor Who – and every time our little nation produces something as huge as this, we should be rightly, desperately proud.
10 Harry Potter... made the world a better place
If you want to see how the Harry Potter books have influenced generations of people, it’s simple: go to Google (note: other search engines are available) and type in the phrase “Harry Potter changed my life”. You’ll find page after page after page of stories about people who have found hope, solace, love, joy, comfort, peace and laughter after reading about the little boy with the lightning scar on his forehead. Rowling’s books aren’t just a children’s fairytale; they’re a moral guide, they’re a beacon in the darkness, they’re an actual reason for living for more people than we can count. They really did change the world, one person at a time.
Look: proof that children still read books!
Careful, Mark Williams! You’re about to walk in front of a train!
And that is Daniel Radcliffe’s exact inner structure on that t-shirt.
Was it a love of beards that attracted them?
Making myopia fashionable.
Now if one of those was radioactive and had bitten him… “And here’s some stuff I was jotting down the other night.”
But will that ink ever come off?