LSU muggles gather to witness the fate of Harry Potter
In the 14 years since the first Harry Potter book hit stores, the culture around the series has expanded to epic proportions, inspiring films, theme parks, language and a dedicated fan base. LSU has not been untouched by the magical world created by J.K. Rowling.
As the final installment of the film franchise hits theaters, students gathered in droves, bedecked in various costumes and reminisced about the series and the effect it had on their generation.
Art & Design senior Justin Reed attended the midnight opening at Cinemark at Perkins Rowe, accompanied by a group of friends and a homemade snitch.
“I definitely see Harry Potter all over Facebook,” said Reed. “People have been anticipating this day for a while.”
Reed had only one suggestion for LSU, owl-delivered admission letters.
“If I would have gotten my admission letter by owl, it would have been the best thing ever,” said Reed.
Admission to LSU may not require an owl-delivered letter, but once beneath the stately oaks and broad magnolias of campus, don’t be surprised to see broom-riding athletes chasing a snitch, a copy of The Daily Prophet or a reference in English 1001 to allegorical relationships between Potter’s journey and that of many other literary characters.
Like LSU and football, the world of Harry Potter revolves around the wizarding sport quidditch. Played on broomstick high above an oval pitch, quidditch is prevalent in both the books and films.
At LSU, students have created their own version of the popular sport.
“We started the Quidditch Club at LSU to have a fun environment for people to come out and play the game, whether you loved the Harry Potter series, wanted to hang out with some people and make new friends, or have a physical activity to enjoy every week,” said Quidditch Club President Todd Watson.
Played on the ground rather than soaring through the air, the LSU Quidditch Club runs with broomsticks between their legs. Lack of a flying broom doesn’t change the main points of the popular sport. Players still chase the game-ending snitch, throw bludgers at one another and score goals with the quaffle.
No longer a magic, flying ball, the snitch is a person dressed in yellow with a long sock containing a tennis ball inside, tucked and placed in the back of his or her shorts. The seeker must pull the sock out of the waistband without knocking the snitch off his or her feet.
LSU participated in the 2005 Quidditch World Cup in Middlebury, Vt. – the officially recognized birthplace of non-wizarding quidditch.
Though the movies are finished, Watson believes quidditch will stick around.
“It’s sad to see the end of the movie era, but I still think quidditch will continue to blossom across the country as it’s been growing very steadily over the past few years,” said Watson.
Quidditch isn’t the only aspect of Potter’s world to ride the Floo Network onto campus.
When part one of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” premiered in November 2010, the LSU student newspaper – The Daily Reveille – refaced the front page to resemble the wizarding counterpart, The Daily Prophet, featuring a story about LSU Chancellor Michael Martin taking the fictitious Professor Dumbledore’s place as headmaster of Hogwarts and speculation that Mike VI was actually a shape shifter, or animagus.
Former Reveille Editor-in-Chief Sarah Lawson said the reaction was positive, with all newsstands left empty.
“This is one of the biggest pop culture phenomena of our time, and as a newspaper we’re a recorder of history,” said Lawson. “Years to come, someone is going to come looking for archives of what we did for Potter Mania, and we’ll have done something.”
Lawson, like many others in her generation, grew up with Harry Potter and has mixed emotions about the end of the Potter era.
“For those of us who started reading at 10 or 11, like me, we grew up with Harry,” Lawson said. “We’re all in our twenties, and this is the last one. I think we’re all realizing that in a few days, our childhoods are over.”
LSU students may play quidditch matches on campus and The Daily Prophet may make an occasional appearance on newsstands, but the place where the Potter world can most closely be felt is in the classroom.
Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at LSU June Pulliam noted that the Potter books follow a traditional story format.
“The Harry Potter series, in spite of all the magic and sorcery, fits into the traditional idea of the school story,” said Pulliam. “It takes place at a boarding school and you have sporting events, a fight with the school bully, but most importantly, most of the learning takes place outside of the formal classroom.”
Pulliam’s 2006 essay on literary elements in Harry Potter include descriptions on race and class issues, gender, conformity, mortality and friendship. In her essay, Pulliam describes the friendship dynamic between the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione, but she also highlights the gender oppression Hermione faces in the first book.
With the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named vanquished and the next generation of Potters and Weasleys attending Hogwarts, the muggle world and the students of LSU will be left to reminisce about the impact Rowling and her story had on pop culture and analyze the literary themes for decades.