J.K. Rowling recently announced that the last book in the Harry Potter series, code-named “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” will be released on July 21, completing a 10-year odyssey that saw Harry become a worldwide phenomenon and a wildly successful movie franchise, making the author a billionaire. In my lifetime, there have been several cultural phenomena that have swept the country, from Pogs to yo-yos to Pokmon. But none have hit so hard and for so long as Harry Potter. Grown men and women camp out to buy the books; bookstores throw “wizard parties” on release day; it has become a genuine spectacle. And unlike many other fads, this one didn’t fade softly into the night. In fact, it made Rowling the richest woman in the UK and Time Warner executives very happy people.

Along the way, the career trajectory of Daniel Radcliffe somehow went from starring in wholesome family films to being in interspecies erotica. I have a feeling that this story will end when E! does a profile on him and his broken career.

Can you imagine if Harry Potter were a real kid? What if the books and movies were based on a real person? What kind of person would he end up being? I bet he would be looked at in the same vein as the people who got abducted by aliens. These are the questions we should be asking of Rowling. Forget an eighth book – she should just answer her fan mail about the characters and then compile all of that into a book. Don’t act like you wouldn’t buy it.

As with all major successes, the Harry Potter series has spawned its detractors and critics – most notably, Christian groups who say that the books are teaching their kids about witchcraft and pagan beliefs. When asked about the possibility of turning kids into demon-lovers, Rowling said in a 2001 interview, “That’s not true. Not once has a child come up to me and said, ‘Due to you I’ve decided to devote my life to the occult.’ People underestimate children so hugely. They know it’s fiction.”

Truer words have never been spoken. Not once while reading the books have I ever thought to start praying to Beelzebub.

Perhaps the biggest legacy of the seven-book series is not the subject matter (it’s decidedly childish) or the writing (which will never be confused with Shakespeare), but the invasion of Harry Potter paraphernalia – just about anything you can think of became Harry memorabilia. I blame all that on the movies. Books require imagination, but movies give concrete face to an imaginary character, which allows for the marketing machine to do its magic.

While some may say that there’s too much Harry in our lives, I am sure that many people in my generation and younger would beg to differ. We grew up with Potter, and when it comes time for him to die (after all, how lame will the last book be if Ron or Hermione or some random character ended up dead instead), we will all mourn his passing.

Maystrovsky is a member of the class of 2009.

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