This article about the frustrations of the Harry Potter fandom and the continued resurrection of the franchise raises an interesting question. Who owns it?
Harry Potter has become so much more than just a story; more even than a series of stories about a mere handful of characters. An entire world has been created, with a rich history, backstories, future stories, mythology and a whole lot more. The fans of the world clearly feel a sense of ownership over the characters created by JK Rowling, and this might be something to do with the development of a sort of co-creativity behind the story. Although Rowling is undeniably the original creator, as the years have gone by, others have added to the creativity – film makers work on adapting scripts and bringing scenes to life, actors give voice to the characters, and most recently Rowling has worked with co-authors to write the stage play The Cursed Child.
This results in many different voices telling the story, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But the fans themselves have also contributed to that voice – HP fans were one of the first real groups to use the internet to share their love of an imagined world, and as the article states, they filled the 3 year gap between books 4 and 5 by sharing their fanfiction, which thanks to the internet could suddenly be spread far and wide at the touch of a button. Fans from around the world could communicate with each other, and they are the owners of the stories that were created during that time to fill the void while they waited for Rowling to provide them with more material.
It’s easy to see how fans can become so attached to characters, and why they might feel annoyed if a story continues on in a way that they don’t like, or that they don’t find as interesting as the original. Rowling has a lot to live up to I suppose. The 3 year gap between The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix was 15 years ago now, and the world of 2016 is very different. There are no voids. There is instead a constant stream of material, and as it turns out, this isn’t always a good thing. There are spin off films, a stage play, the script of the stage play, Pottermore.com, and sporadic tweets from Rowling which reveal tid bits about characters that fans have long since said goodbye to. Do fans have any right over what is revealed about these characters? Should they somehow be allowed to change the direction of this collaborative creativity, or even put a stop to it altogether? After all, the World of Harry Potter would most certainly not exist in its current form if it wasn’t for the fans and the things they have done over the years to raise the profile of the books. It was in that 3 year wait for book 5 that books 1-4 really gained the global recognition they have today.
I don’t think Rowling is in it for the money, though I don’t think I could day the same about Warner Bros. She clearly has more to say, and is able to engage new audiences of young people with Harry Potter. The children who read the stories originally are now adults, but clearly still feel a strong affiliation with the characters. Perhaps they should just embrace the limitless imagination of Rowling? I must say, though, that I am a strong believer that less is more, no matter how good a book, film or TV series may be. Spin offs, sequels, prequels, origin stories, and the dreaded remake (Why remake? Why? Why??) are rampant, across the film industry in particular. Sometimes I think that the creative minds behind them should realise that sometimes, things really are best left to the fans imagination.