Harry Potter’s Wizarding World through an Anthropologist’s Eye

Dr. K writes blog that looks at popular culture through the twin lens of fandom and an anthropological eye. A four part analysis of Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed district is definitely a new take on what I’ve read before. In parts three and four the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride and queue is dissected. The author is very familiar with the Harry Potter world and has some very valid points.

Narrative continuity is not a strong point of this place but this is bordering on the absurd. You are instructed to go the Room of Requirement (and suddenlyt Ron makes it snow. Huh?) in order to sneak out of the castle. At this point, it became clear that they should have forgotten the millions of dollars they spent filming the movie actors to create this walkthrough. It makes no sense at all. Further along the way there is also a Gryffindor Common Room (furniture against one wall) and a portrait of the Fat Lady that is one of the better effects but she is not at the entrance to the common room.

In fact, while I can’t find fault with many of the points made, I have to think that the larger point was missed. The criticism comes from some idea that an ideal version of the Harry Potter world exists somewhere and that this was supposed to imitate it exactly. The reality is that this is a theme park with certain limitations and expectations that are agreed upon by the visiting audience. 100% fidelity is not required to let yourself go and find yourself in the world of Harry Potter, it just has to be close enough.

If you like this sort of analysis, I also recommend Henry Jenkins’ blog.

6 thoughts on “Harry Potter’s Wizarding World through an Anthropologist’s Eye”

  1. I’ve seen other reviews of this nature that really get down to the nitty-gritty of the Wizarding World, whether it exactly matches the book, and so on. One of the ones I see repeated over and over is that Ollivander’s doesn’t belong in Hogsmeade, as it was in Diagon Alley.

    Does it really make that big a difference to your experience? Would you rather Ollivander’s not be in the park at all? Can’t we just enjoy the experience of a favorite book coming to life?

    The fact is, the designers and builders only have so much space and time to work with and they’re hoping to please the maximum number of people, most importantly JK Rowling. She signed off on every aspect of the park, down to every single piece of food and drink.

    I know I could find “faults” or I could just enjoy the park. I think they did a great job.

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  4. An anthropologist’s eye gets applied to everything in a culture because what we try to show is that everything is connected, including amusement parks, popular literature, movies, etc. My take on Wizarding World has nothing to do with whether it matches the canon of the books or movies. I am interested in it as a ritual, pilgrimage experience where you finally get to mesh reality and fantasy. It fails at that miserably.

  5. Wow; I have to say that this is one of those moments where I am disappointed that an individual whose personal expectations far exceeded the reasonable would use some pathetically banal analysis in a near negligent form to the ‘science’ to criticize a theme park. It’s absurd. I enjoyed my visit with my adult daughter in tow because our expectations of what a theme park of Harry Potter’s world would be had not overrode our wisdom. Our real life world is full of beauty and challenge just like Harry, but we don’t look to a theme park to provide an unreasonabe duplication of a complicated world of Jo Rowling’s creation. We enjoyed fun, meeting new people ( including those
    who worked in the Wizarding World of
    HP), and taking home memories of butterbeer, and chocolate frogs for friends and family.
    Ritual is born out of three things: spirituality, faith, and sacrifice. As a Native American, I have personal, social, and spiritual rituals I perform regularly as part of the celebration and gratitude of my life. I do not seek for an amusement park to provide me with congruency for my fantasies or call them journeys of anything other than mild entertainment and distraction. The true melding of Harry Potter’s world must be found in applying universal principles and archetypical motifs to our own walk in order to make them come to life. Universal Studios is not responsible for
    bringing that to anyone. Less regidity and more surrender to possibilities usually yields more fun…and perhaps, greater introspective personal insight.

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