The definition of iconic is ‘widely recognised and well-established, an iconic brand name’ but what elements of a film enable it to become an iconic film? I want to look at the Harry Potter series to decide what it is about this franchise that makes it such a huge part of the collective consciousness.
J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series is undoubtedly one of the most iconic franchises ever to exist. Ever since the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hit the bookshelves, Harry’s story continues to enchant both children and adults alike.
But, what is it exactly that makes it so loved by so many and does the added bonus of having film adaptations of the books enhance its potential as iconic? Well, let’s take a closer look. The world Rowling creates is richly imaginative, detailed and has its own mythology. This world is separate from our reality but still appears to exist in our society. The characters grow up in real counties we recognise, Harry grows up in Surrey and many of the battles to take place occur in the skies of London.
The characters we meet are sometimes eccentric, mad, charming, and others are horrifying, cruel and malicious. They show the complexities of the human psyche; Harry is the shadow of Voldemort and the motif of the series is good vs evil. Dumbledore could represent the best and worst of us. He dedicates himself to protecting and educating Harry, he becomes a spiritual figure but all along Dumbledore knows Harry must survive so he can die at the right moment.
Voldemort, the Death Eaters, the Malfoys, and Snape are the antitheses of the main protagonists and none seem to show noble qualities until later in the story. And maybe it is Snape’s story that is the most compelling of all. Ever since Harry laid eyes on Snape, he believed Snape despised him because he reminded him of Harry’s father or the life he never has with Lily. Even so, Snape is cruel and savage towards Harry but ultimately, he secretly looks out for him and is the one who reprimands Dumbledore for allowing Harry’s death to be orchestrated.
As the story develops and changes, we see characters who were once children grow up into selfless, loyal and loving adults who fight for everything and everyone they love. Could this be what makes a story iconic? Are the characters an opportunity for us to self-reflect about what is important to us and who we want to be? The simple answer is: no-one really knows.
We cannot decide exactly what it is about Harry Potter that makes it iconic. It can be a combination of social diversity, character relatability, imagination, how compelling the plot is or how deeply it resonates with our experiences and personal struggles.
However, if there’s one thing that could put an answer to my question it’s the wholeness, the vulnerability and the strength of the characters’ journeys that make the series so worthy of being an icon. The magical world they exist in is a world we all wish we could experience, to do magic, to fly and to converse with the talking hat.
But, I think what we wish for most of all is to find out who we really are in the midst of the chaos and craziness of the world, and that’s exactly what Harry and his friends discover on their magical journey at Hogwarts.