films — 20 years since the first Harry Potter film, on misfits and belonging

Finished watching 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts documentary film a few days back, with the return of the cast reminiscing over their time on shoot and how they grew up together with the world. It felt like a warm fuzzy catch up between family-friends who haven’t met in a long while, honest genuine sharing about their time and how they coped with the sudden fame.

The Harry Potter film series was a childhood film series I grew up watching (since 2001!)— When the trio joined Hogwarts and went to school, I grew up similarly by age, entered elementary school to being a teenager and then adulthood along the years. I caught each film without fail once it was out in the cinemas, with relatives that bought the books as Christmas gifts at the start, and later grew to like the movies more and more. It was just… a time of being away from reality, to live in a separate world where things could be a little more interesting and fun. A little bit more unusual, little out of the world that catches my interest till today. I can watch every single film on repeat for many many times, still find myself glued to the screen and not be bored with it. Maybe a bit of a Potterhead.

There were many themes that concatenated in the story — of love, family, friendship, loyalty but there was a deliberate theme that J.K Rowling touched on, in highlighting the “misfits” in the film that brought in fans for all camps. Characters such as Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, the Weasley Twins, Hermione Granger, the Half-Blood Prince aka Severus Snape (oops spoiler) and even Harry Potter were crafted to bring attention to how these misfits generally were — awkward within groups, seemingly unable to fit in or are outcasted — yet each has his or her own innate gifts and what they can bring to the table, in other words, their own magic.

I’ve been reading a few stuff here and there these days but a common theme has been popping up consistently — our human need to belong, to be a part of something, to seek being in community. Humans have a tendency to classify people in something, in an organized fashion, even in the literal terms we use like “clique”, “insider’s scoop”, “us vs them” and many more. Them, they, others become misfits.

However though, I think we need to think differently, or at least start to make an attempt to fill in the gap of “insider vs outsider”. To be the bridge across this seemingly gap in this case. In fact, I see the innate need to belong, to contribute to something bigger than our individual selves resonating in us since birth, in some way we all have an intrinsic vindication that we! are! all! in! this! together! Yes, all. So when we see seemingly misfits turning out to be not misfits at all, winning the day and that we’re actually all similar, there’s somehow a reunion of “Yesssses! Ahhhh nailed it! Aww, that’s my champ!” filling the cinema, filling the room, filling us instinctively. I quite like how Amanda Montell wrote in her latest book Cultish on cultish groups (Which I also did a short review for),

“I have acquired a newfound ability to suspend high judgment of those who might (show loyalty in cultish form). This comes from knowing that one’s out-of-the-box beliefs, experiences and allegiances are less a mark of individual foolishness and more a reflection of that fact that human beings are physiologically built to be more mystical and communal than I knew.”

I don’t have an answer for why racism is still widespread if misfits are social constructs (A heavy topic for another day), but I just know we are more similar than we know. I don’t know how a reflection of the Harry Potter film can lead to this lol but I think this quote by Lily Tomlin, an American actress summarized my thoughts well —

“After all, in private, we’re all misfits.”

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