Written by Sophie Fennelly
Artwork by Elliott Wilkins
After the exposure of the series’ author’s transphobic views, the Harry Potter fandom was in grave danger. It appears, however, that TikTok may have saved it. There was already a growing rift between the Harry Potter fandom and the series’ creator that had arisen over the past few years as a result of some of the statements the author had made on Twitter about some of the characters than fans felt did not fit the way the character had been written and suspected may be retrospective labels added to make the series have more appeal to a current audience. This was amplified by the second Fantastic Beasts film ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’, written by the series’ author, featuring Professor McGonagall teaching at Hogwarts in 1927, 8 years before 1935 when the author claims she was born. This led many fans to believe that the author was prioritising fan-service, which would bring in more viewers, over her own canon, and therefore, many perceived her to have become greedy in her success. Thus, when the controversy began, fans were ready to leave the author behind.
The emergence of ‘Harry Potter TikTok’ began with a trend of videos entitled ‘If J.K. Rowling wrote a [minority] character’, after the controversy over the author’s opinions regarding trans-rights. These videos provided fans of the series with a way to vent the anger and frustration they felt at the revelation that the author of a series which has embodied inclusivity and community actually harbours some problematic, discriminative views. This led to widespread consensus within the fan community to no longer support the author in their consumption of the series.
The popularity of ‘Harry Potter TikTok’ is also undoubtedly related to the rise of so-called ‘Draco-tok’, a sub-community on the platform of people who are obsessed with the character of Draco Malfoy. This became popular around the same time as the original videos venting frustration, and the co-incidence of these two trends led to a large amount of Harry Potter based content being created at the same time, contributing to growing community of fans on the app.
This discarding of the author from the fandom seems to have allowed for a new burst of creativity, discarding ‘canon’, shared through the medium of TikTok. This appeared to start with the creation of short videos of the Marauders being played by creators: @actinganimagus has created a lot of content where he plays young James Potter, and @ashvalmont creates similar content where he plays a young Sirius Black. This content in particular has gained a following, probably because the fans were already interested in the Marauders (the names James Potter’s group of friends gave themselves in school) who have been subject of countless fanfictions and many headcanons (fan theories that are not part of the series’ canon but are widely accepted to be true among fans) such as WolfStar (Remus Lupin and Sirus Black’s romantic relationship). Therefore, this is an area that lent itself to increased creativity in a world where the author is no longer gatekeeping the series.
In a similar vein, @thedailyprophcast creates a comedy series where she acts out what James and Lily Potter’s reactions may have been to the letters they received from Hogwarts if they had not died but everything else had been the same. Here it seems that the abandoning of canon has allowed the fandom to further develop their feelings towards certain plot lines or characters and to enact what they would have liked to have happen.
But the innovation of these creators is not limited to existing characters. Many creators are now taking their love of the books and the films and creating their own storylines. Some of these involve editing themselves into the films and creating their own plot lines such as being an unmentioned daughter of Sirius, or a love interest of Fred Weasley. Others create a Sci-Fi world in which when we turn a certain age, we develop a telepathic connection with our soulmates. The main character of these videos (a person living with our world) becomes connected with one of the main characters of the series. Some creators have even gone beyond the series’ characters and create their own story lines. The most notable example of this would be the videos from @morganarrividerci who makes POVs where she plays your Hufflepuff BFF and acts out scenarios that might occur if you were to be at Hogwarts together - there are even different versions of these depending on the Hogwarts House of the viewer!
Of course, all the normal trends such as dressing as each of the characters, put a finger down videos, and recommendations of where to visit if you’re a fan are prevalent on the platform. There are also countless small business owners who create Harry Potter inspired merchandise advertising themselves on the app and these videos prove extremely popular as a result of the fandom’s desire not to buy or fund anything directly affiliated with the author.
Earlier this month, Tom Felton (the actor who played Draco Malfoy) started interacting with these Harry Potter videos by duetting some of the creators mentioned above (Felton had been posting his own unrelated videos on the app since late August). This seems to have, for many fans, consolidated the feeling that this fandom cannot only survive, but thrive, while leaving the series’ author behind. In fact, twenty-three years after the first book of the series was published, with the help of TikTok the fandom seems to possibly be freer and more creative than ever before.