On July 21, 2007, people across the world dressed in wizard’s robes and waited for the final installment of the Harry Potter series.
The tale of the boy wizard came to an end seven years ago this past Monday, and I can’t help but see that as significant because in the books, seven is the most powerful magical number.
And yes, I know that because I was a part of the Harry Potter generation. I was a “Potterhead” and quite proud of it.
Seven years ago, I went to the Wizarding Wilmington release party dressed as Nymphadora Tonks. Then, within 46 hours, I finished my first read of a Harry Potter book for the last time.
Sure, I cried when favorite characters died, gasped with each plot twist, and cheered for every triumph.
But then, I did something else.
I ran to the internet, reading other fans’ reactions. I posted on forums. I texted and called other friends who had also just finished the book.
I don’t know what’s more amazing: the story itself or the way it connected so many people.
Or, perhaps, the way people allow themselves to be so connected.
The internet has given us many things, one of which is the concept of a “fandom.”
By definition, a fandom is “the community that surrounds a TV show, movie, book, etc.,” according to urbandictionary.com.
And while the word may be new, the concept of a fandom is not.
In discussing the band’s fan-base, Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead once said, “We’re like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.”
That is, quite possibly, the best way to describe what a “fandom” is. Not everyone likes Harry Potter, but those who do, really do. Not everyone likes Star Trek, but those who do … well, you get the idea.
And while Harry Potter was my first fandom, it has certainly not been my last.
I have also been a “nerdfighter,” aka, any person who reads books by John Green and watches the YouTube videos made by him and his brother, Hank.
So from “Potterhead” to “nerdfighter,” there are a lot of ways to be a fan. Some other popular ones include: “Parrotheads” (Jimmy Buffet), “Trekkies” (“Star Trek”), “Gleeks” (“Glee”), and “Whovians” (“Doctor Who”).
And entering one of those fandoms is as easy as pressing play or turning a page.
But then a funny thing happens once people join fandoms.
They discuss jokes, theories and characters with other fans. In fact, connecting with each other is almost like some sort of bizarre initiation.
And not too long ago, I had that experience with “Doctor Who.”
“Doctor Who” is a British show about an alien, known only as The Doctor, who travels through time and space with a companion, fighting evil and having adventures. The show, which began in 1963, was re-launched in 2005, and since that time has gained popularity on this side of the Atlantic; however, unlike Harry Potter, it has never really become a household name.
My brother had begged me for months to “just watch one episode,” and finally, earlier this year, I relented.
My first reaction: “It’s actually alright.” So, feeling bored, I watched another. Then another.
Long story short, I now know more about Daleks (the Doctor’s number one enemy) and sonic screwdrivers (his gadget of choice) than I ever thought I would.
But I can’t help but feel excited when I meet another Whovian. It’s an instant connection, a sense of being a part of something bigger.
It’s the same feeling I and millions of others had with Harry Potter.
And it’s a feeling that any fan knows all too well.
Ultimately, humans strive for connection and community. As much as we may seem to focus on our differences, more than anything else, we want to find our similarities.
It’s the reason we play sports, or why we listen to music.
And I know that in comparison fandoms can look a little silly, with people dressed in costumes and quoting witty catchphrases.
But really, a fandom is just another way we, as humans, break down barriers and build bridges.
In my newest fandom, The Doctor says, “There’s a lot of things you need to get across the universe. Warp drive… wormhole refractors…. You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.”
And perhaps that’s the most basic truth of all. The Beatles, who had a fandom of their own, also said, “I wanna hold your hand….”
So here’s hoping that we never stop looking for that connection, whether it’s with a team, a band, a show, a book … or even with licorice.
Sarah Allen may be reached at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.