A few years ago, I calculated just how old I'd be when the seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter series is released.
Taking into consideration J.K. Rowling and the usual life impediments and occurrences—you know, like love, marriage, kids, whatever—I figured I'd be well out of college. That is, well out of college and still faithfully following Harry Potter.
And am I ashamed? Not really.
I love how intensely over-the-top fan subcultures can get. You know, taking up Klingon, building your own lightsaber, Lord of the Rings trilogy marathons, assembling your own goblin army of cast-iron miniatures, entering in cosplay contests at Anaheim's yearly Anime Expo, fantasizing about Harry and Severus Snape together (as in together-together), and then going online to write slash fanfic about them being together-together and/or PhotoShopping up alarmingly realistic images of them being together-together.
We call it fandom, and we call them fanboys and fangirls. But the Japanese have a word for those who partake in extreme fan obsession, too: otaku, which translates directly into "house." "House" because all otaku do is stay home, go online and obsess over stuff. While there are the usual, expected types of otaku in existence—manga (comic book) otaku, anime otaku—the Japanese even use the term to describe those fixated with tanks, guns, fighter jets and all sorts of other weaponry: gunji otaku. (Not too far of a stretch for American society, is it?) Even stranger are the tetsudo otaku—people who are hung up on the Japanese metro system and memorize every type of train there is and every stop that every train in Japan makes.
As pathetic as one may find the phenomenon, fanboys and -girls are essentially just expressing extraordinary passion for their craft of choice. And why not? People follow rock bands all across the country, don silly outfits and multihued painted faces for baseball games, make pilgrimages for their college football team's homecoming, start riots when their favorite soccer player gets red-carded, or spend thousands sprucing up their trucks. In a society in which it's cool to feign jadedness, it's encouraging that people can still get excited and creative about something—anything—these days. Especially books.
I spotted these girls outside the Irvine Spectrum for a midnight showing of the latest in the Harry Potter film series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In their lovely homemade costumes representing the four houses of Hogwarts, they were waiting in a line that snaked all throughout the Spectrum, around the corner and down the street, where passers-by gawked and honked their horns. With Sorting Hats, DIY-Gryffindor scarves, lawn chairs and blankets in tow, people were waiting as early as 8 a.m. Five full theaters had sold out; a considerable line had already formed for the 3:15 a.m. showing.
With the final installment in the book series coming out this Saturday, hundreds more will be lining up outside their local bookstores, waiting to get their hands on a book. That's awesome.
What's not awesome are the angry parents who'll be fronting the cash for their kids' therapy bills when and if Rowling decides to off Harry for the safety and welfare of all non-Muggle and Mugglekind.
Either way, people are reading.
Who even reads anymore?
And why are you reading this anyway?
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