On "Harry Potter" FOMO, and what it's like to be the only kid who wasn't allowed to read the books
The first Harry Potter movie was released when I was in the fifth grade. My friend’s mom actually took her out of school early one day just so she could go see it, leaving a lot of us in that classroom feeling jealous that our moms weren’t that cool.
But see, during all this Harry Potter hype, I wasn’t allowed to read the books.
Well, I wasn’t exactly told outright that I couldn’t read the books — it was more that I knew if I asked my mom, her response would be a resounding “no.” When news outlets covered Harry Potter events and book releases, showing kids with lightning bolts drawn on their foreheads, my mom would tsk tsk and shake her head with disapproval.
It’s tough to convince your mom to let you check out Harry Potter at the library when, just last Sunday, the Church pastor held up a copy of Goblet of Fire, shook it in the air, and claimed it was teaching our children witchcraft.
I distinctly remember wondering, where did he get that copy of the book? From the library? No, couldn’t have been from the library, the wait list was too long. Did he buy it? But why buy a book if you’re against it? Unfortunately, I’ll never know the answer to that question.
When something is so prevalent in pop culture that it’s all your peers can talk about, you find a way to get the books.
Thankfully, my teacher had the first three books from the series in her classroom. I was able to borrow the books, and I read them from cover to cover. My school had this program called “Accelerated Reader” — you’d read a book, take a quiz on it, and get points, which you could then redeem for prizes. Yay for clever incentives to get kids reading! I took my quiz on The Prisoner of Azkaban and did well, so it was placed on the wall of my teacher’s classroom.
I was really happy about my prized reading quiz, until Open House came along so that my parents could visit the classroom and see all the great work I’d done that year…
My mom got closer and closer to that wall when I remembered my Harry Potter quiz was on display. I subtly tried to steer her away in another direction, pointing her to a different part of the classroom. Somehow, it worked, but I was worried what her reaction would have been if she knew I’d read the books. I was annoyed by my mom’s overprotective ways. I was frustrated that she couldn’t understand the book wasn’t just about witches. Harry Potter is about forming friendships, conquering your fears, and believing that good can prevail. I guess I can understand why parents would be alarmed if they thought a book was teaching their children witchcraft. My mom was overprotective, but that’s how she showed her love.
Because Harry Potter was such a cultural phenomenon and a vital part of childhood for so many people my age, I sometimes can’t help but feel that I am still missing out — especially with all the excitement around Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Is Harry Potter FOMO a thing? It might be a thing.
Maybe this speaks more to fandom culture — we see people get excited over something and we want to be part of it. That’s probably the reason I got into so many of the TV shows, books, and movies that I love. When everyone on your timeline or feed freaks out over the season finale of that one show, you want to understand it; you catch up on all the seasons just to get in on the excitement.
It’s the same reason you binge watch a show after the original run is over. You may not have been there for the week to week anticipation (or agony) of waiting for new episodes, but you can still appreciate the story and characters. Catching up to the Harry Potter fandom as an adult feels like that. The only difference is that there really is still more to the story. The world that J.K. Rowling created is so grand that it still allows my imagination to run wild with possibilities, even as an adult.