Why is “Harry Potter” so popular? No one is mistaking the Potter series for a literary masterwork; in fact, I could make a pretty persuasive argument that J.K. Rowling’s writing shares more in common with such foods as Pringles and Velveeta than it does anything pertaining to literature. The entire storyline seems to be the most recycled, processed mishmash of every major myth, legend, and fairy tale in known history. What makes it special, like the foods mentioned above, is the blend. Everyone can identify with it, and it creates a new sensation that, while familiar, is still completely fresh.
Many stories of fantasy involve realms that we, as ordinary mortals (or Muggles), can never visit, except in our minds when we turn the page (or these days, watch numbly as 24 frames per second flicker by). The best fantasy stories usually involve wounded heroes on a selfless quest, of both discovery and adventure, and tragic villains, on a quest for domination or destruction. Add in a little danger and a lot of fun, and you have a great boilerplate for a rainy day. “Harry Potter” has these basic fundamentals, but the magical difference is in the details.
One of the keystones to the secret formula is Hogwarts, the ancient and mysterious school where Mr. Potter and his friends learn of wizardry. I can honestly say almost everyone has gone to school, but how many people can you name that lived in a hut with Hobbitsr That Harry has his own adolescence and social image to battle, as well as Lord Voldemort, is part of the series’ overwhelming success. Everything is new to his eyes, as it is to us, the audience. And while most of us did not fight trolls in high school, many fought the school bully, as Harry must. Apparently, even Harry Potter will have to learn to shave one day, or at least learn the corresponding spell. When was the last time you wondered if Conan or Merlin ever needed to use the restroomr
I believe it comes down to the fact that almost anyone can identify with the world created in the Potter books and films. Everyone of every age, race, creed, sexuality, talent, and appearance is accepted in Harry’s world, unless of course, you are not a pureblood wizard. By skewing the discrimination slightly, Rowling can comment on tolerance and other social issues relevant to our “Muggle” world, while never making anyone feel unwelcome. We get all the joys of fantasy, along with all the nuisances of reality.
I don’t think that Harry Potter is a mere trend. I think it is a classic that will loom for quite some time. Assuming that Ms. Rowling continues to maintain the ridiculous standards that she has set, and that the marketing machine continues to keep young Harry in the public eye, I am certain that we will continue to witness what is quickly evolving into a piece of pop-culture history. Like those trusty potato chips, they will always be there, they will always taste familiar, and we will rarely get tired of them for very long.