Entertainment

How ‘Harry Potter’ and J.K. Rowling are giving hope to people during the pandemic

Actor Daniel Radcliffe in his role as Harry Potter holds Hedwig the owl on his arm during the shooting of the film ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone’. The ‘Harry Potter’ books and movies are being widely coveted during the pandemic as a means to cope with the isolation

Actor Daniel Radcliffe in his role as Harry Potter holds Hedwig the owl on his arm during the shooting of the film ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone’. The ‘Harry Potter’ books and movies are being widely coveted during the pandemic as a means to cope with the isolation   | Photo Credit: HO

Fans — old and new — are turning to the boy wizard as an escape in times of quarantine and fear, even as the author herself makes a comeback online to comfort fans

“Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home,” replied J.K Rowling earlier last week in response to a fan, who thanked the British author for her stories being a wonderful escape, even in dark times.

It’s been 13 years since the last book in the series —Harry Potter and the Death Hallows — released in 2007, and nine since the movie adaptation (the second part) hit screens in 2011.

Yet, over the better part of the last two months, social media has seen an increasing influx of posts from users stuck in lockdown, who have turned to the Harry Potter books and movies in the franchise, as a means of coping with anxiety and fear from the coronavirus pandemic.

But it’s not just devoted fans who have grown up along with the boy wizard (and still resolutely work on their Percy Weasley Halloween costume every year) who are doing so; indeed, a new generation of first-time readers and watchers are being introduced to Rowling’s world by family and friends throughout the quarantine, and discovering what makes it quite so magical.

Two fans arrive at a London cinema for a screening og ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ on Friday, November 16, 2001

Two fans arrive at a London cinema for a screening og ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ on Friday, November 16, 2001   | Photo Credit: ALASTAIR GRANT

In several parts of the world, the eight movies in the series, which are hosted on platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix, or telecast on television, are among the most-watched this year. Users are organising viewing parties from the safety of their homes, to experience the thrill of the adventures along with friends, albeit virtually. In China, Warner Bros. Studios have announced that a 3D-4K version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone will be used to revive Chinese cinema halls after they open following months of closure: an example that many other countries are keenly looking at following.

And at the centre of all this is Rowling herself, the author making a return to Twitter after a self-imposed break (“I thought I’d left forever,” she says) and writing about baking cakes, sharing adorable pictures of her dogs, and asking people to post pictures of the outside world… while also revealing that she’d recovered from a suspected bout of COVID-19 after two weeks of illness.

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling   | Photo Credit: Evan Agostini

She even found time to give some sound advice to people feeling low about being unproductive during lockdown: “Implying that people are lazy or unmotivated if they aren’t knocking out masterpieces daily isn’t inspiration, it’s a form of shaming. If endless distraction cured depression, no rich person or workaholic would ever have killed themselves. Sadness and anxiety aren’t weaknesses.”

 

Fans are ecstatic at her constant retweets of their comments and were even more surprised at the launch of Harry Potter At Home, a digital hub to keep young children educated and entertained during the pandemic, with audiobooks, quizzes, videos and more.

It’s easy to see why the Harry Potter phenomenon is so popular even over a decade after the last book in the series was published: Rowling’s narrative mastery over a storyline that is forever relatable, characters made more memorable by a cast of child actors who have all gone on to become superstars, and a franchise that keeps on giving, from amusement parks to Broadway plays.

Cast members of the ‘Harry Potter’ films: Daniel Radcliffe (C) who plays Harry Potter, Rupert Grint (L) who plays Ron and Emma Watson (R) who plays Hermione, pose for photographs at the Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire, April 8, 2003

Cast members of the ‘Harry Potter’ films: Daniel Radcliffe (C) who plays Harry Potter, Rupert Grint (L) who plays Ron and Emma Watson (R) who plays Hermione, pose for photographs at the Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire, April 8, 2003   | Photo Credit: TOBY MELVILLE

Yet, the fact that the tale, which begins with an 11-year-old orphan living in the cupboard under the stairs of his aunt’s house, continues to give hope to people across generations globally in times of crisis, makes for special news. Online fan-art and fiction have ranged from depicting the coronavirus as Dementors and positive thinking as people’s Patronuses, to cries for the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson to do a virtual ‘reunion special’ and cheers fans up.

In India, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested citizens across the country to switch their lights for nine minutes to show a sense of solidarity against the ‘darkness’ of the coronavirus, many even compared it to Dumbeldore’s iconic quote from Prisoner of Azkaban (along with a spate of inspired memes): “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Enthralled children having a look at the J.K. Rowling’s seventh and final book in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,’ during its release at a book store in New Delhi, on July 21, 2007

Enthralled children having a look at the J.K. Rowling’s seventh and final book in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,’ during its release at a book store in New Delhi, on July 21, 2007   | Photo Credit: S_Subramanium

As Rowling’s works continue to raise spirits, we talk to Potterheads, old and new, in different parts of the world, and try to understand what Harry Potter means to them during this pandemic. Lumos!

Nivi Manohar, public relations officer (Hobart, Australia)

Nivi Manohar

Nivi Manohar  

I have been re-reading my favourite parts from the book and it helps me ‘turn on the light’ at the end of the rather stressful days. Some passages, especially those that have Dumbledore’s lines, fill me with hope, in a time when it is very easy to lose clarity of the future.

Apart from that, I’m now very curious to know if the wizarding community gets affected by Pandemics like us mere mortals. Would it get cured by spells, or one of Madam Pomfrey’s awful tonics? If at all the wizarding world is real, now would be a great time to reveal themselves and save the world.

I love how Jo is back on Twitter, looking out for fans when they need it the most. The Harry Potter At Home initiative is a nice addition to the WW website and there are some fun quizzes and games to keep me occupied. The challenge would be to not finish all of them in one go!

Ruben Thomas, software engineer (Milan, Italy)

I was 8 years old when my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and he was the one who’d gifted me my first Potter book. During those days at the hospital, I used to take my copies with me, sit by his bed and read to him. There were many days where he was under chemo and we weren’t even sure if he was cognizant, but I’d hold his hand during my favourite bits in the books and he’d press back.

He recovered, made it back home and would continue to live a hearty life until he died 12 years later. That remains my lasting memory of my experience with JKR’s creation: something to be shared with the family, which holds us together tight in the toughest of times, and just maybe reminds you that there’s magic still left in this world.

I’m under lockdown in Italy with my wife and three-year-old daughter, and we just began reading the first book to her. Over the course of the next few months, I hope we, as people in today’s world, make kind and thoughtful decisions to get past this crisis, as that’s the only way forward. As Dumbledore said, it is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

Vinithra Menon, writer and content specialist (Chennai, India)

Vinithra Menon

Vinithra Menon  

I’ve always been an avid reader, but I haven’t read any series as devotedly and as many times as I’ve read Harry Potter. The Potter Universe is my Patronus. I don’t remember a single time when I’ve been low where I haven’t turned to this series, and it has unfailingly saved me. Jumping into Hogwarts makes me feel better almost instantly.

Even though I’ve read each book at least 20 odd times before, when I look up from the pages I need a minute to reorient myself to my surroundings and that’s the best form of escape.

I’ve grown up with these characters, and there’s a part of me that’s inexplicably linked to the Universe that Rowling created — that’s the part I turn to when life gets difficult. I owe my imagination to the series as well, and as a result, so many other things including my career as a writer and my ability to turn on the light in the darkest of times and find happiness.

Especially now when there is so much uncertainty and chaos floating around, I need to escape into this world every now and then to manage any anxiety I may feel. See? Patronus.

Azhar Malik, media professional (Singapore)

For me, the series has always been about one defining trait: acceptance. Harry Potter taught me that it’s okay to be who you are, to believe in yourself, and you will find your family — even if it’s not the one you were born into.

Looking at the happenings in today’s world, there are so many other accompanying battles that make dealing with this pandemic so much more challenging, such as racism, ignorance and communal violence. This is where I believe the books and the movies will hopefully make a difference to even the next generation, and teach them to fight our battles together, as one.

My colleagues and I have been rewatching the movies, playing HP-themed trivia and costume nights, while also recommending the same to whoever we can. This world could badly use some magic today through our imagination: of course it’s happening inside your head, but why should that mean that it is not real?

Pragathi Guruprasad, singer, musician and student (Los Angeles, USA)

Pragathi Guruprasad

Pragathi Guruprasad  

I’m a first-time reader who is reading Philosopher’s Stone currently — what better way to get through quarantine? I’d never read it earlier because of how big of a fan my sister was. We’d stand in lines at midnight for her to buy the books and I was too young to read it.

Then we watched the movies as they came out as a family, and when I was old enough to start reading, I felt like I already knew what was going to happen and could never get past the first book! In the US, it’s really ingrained as a part of the culture and you’re looked down upon if you haven’t read the series, haha. But this is my chance to finish all the books during the lockdown, and I’m so glad we have a getaway like this.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 8:38:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/how-harry-potter-and-jk-rowling-are-giving-hope-to-people-during-the-pandemic/article31289237.ece

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