Nearly a decade has passed since the release of final novel of Harry Potter saga released. With help of novels and movies, it has earned a dedicated fan following across the globe. Don’t believe me? Check out hundreds of facebook groups and pages filled with Harry Potter obsessed fans.
But a new study suggests that obsession with the Harry Potter franchise may indicate a greater awareness of death. Just like the mythical Thestral animal, fans touched by death find novels and films more compelling for rereading and rewatching. The authors of the study – Lance Garmon & Mary Patterson – both associate professors of psychology in Salisbury University, Maryland, presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association –
The study involved more than 400 college students. The study participants identified how many times they had read each books and watched each movies in the series. In addition, a series of questions about why they read or watched both, as well as about how prominently death featured in their daily thoughts, were asked.
The people in the study who had read the books at least nine times or watched the movies at least 30 times were considered to have high exposure to the series. Compared with people in the low-exposure group (up to three book readings and up to 11 movie viewings), the high-exposure group was more likely to think that death played an important role in the series. In addition, the high-exposure group reported higher death awareness. Meaning, they ruminated on death or were anxious about the thought of death — compared with the low-exposure group.
But the reason why people said they were reading or watching Harry Potter was important. Those who said they do it as a way to cope or form their own identity were most likely to have higher levels of death awareness, compared with people who read or watched primarily for entertainment.
This finding that Harry Potter fans report could have implications for parents, for example. The themes in the book may make it more comfortable for parents to talk about death with their children in a safe environment.
Well, as an ardent Harry Potter fan myself, the findings doesn’t come as a surprise. Since the beginning of the series, death plays a significant role in lives of Harry and his friends. Harry looses his parents, his god-father, the principal he adored and cute Dobby of all. Similarly, Ron and Hermoine loose sibling and parents(technically) respectively. And then there is a silent guardian Severus Snape, who protected Harry throughout his life, without him ever knowing. For a series that was supposed to cater to young audience, the series presented some hard-hitting realities of life.