Saturday, August 24

REEL LIFE: _’Harry Potter’ mania goes far beyond films_

It starts with a question. A friend, a roommate or a sibling turns to you and asks if you bought your ticket yet. For what? For the midnight screening. Of what? “Deathly Hallows,” obviously.

Next thing you know, people are changing their Facebook pictures to cartoon drawings of Severus Snape and Hermione Granger, everyone has forgotten about “Twilight,” and your roommates dress up as Hogwarts students for Halloween (at least that’s my experience ““ my apartment had a Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw student).

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1″ is coming out in one week and three days, and fans are excited.

One thing to note about Harry Potter fans, and I count myself as a fan of moderate-high intensity, is that our obsession has a way of spawning fan projects and tributes that become nearly as popular as the series itself.

Here on campus, the UCLA Quidditch team is part of a national league that plays in tournaments against other schools. There are also book spoofs, stores such as Whimsic Alley in Los Angeles that sell Hogwarts uniforms and robes, Potter musicals and bands that sing songs based on the books.

One such band is The Remus Lupins, helmed by UCLA alumnus Alex Carpenter. Carpenter said he got into the series after a girl he liked convinced him to start reading them. Before then, he made fun of the kids who went to the book release parties.

In 2005 he started the band as a joke. These days, he’s one of what he estimates to be about 10 wizard rock bands out of 700 that are successful enough to tour.

One thing Carpenter said he is passionate about is promoting literacy, which is one of the main tenets of wizard rock.

Carpenter said his songs focus on themes from the books, such as hope and loyalty, as well as darker themes about overcoming obstacles. Writing about the books this way, as well as performing several concerts in libraries, gets kids thinking about books.

The Remus Lupins and several other wizard rock bands will head out to New York for a giant concert to celebrate the premiere.

Darren Criss, on the other hand, didn’t have any plans for the premiere when I spoke to him. Most people know Criss as the guy who will maybe, possibly play Kurt’s boyfriend on “Glee.” But before his “Glee” gig, he was a theater student at the University of Michigan, who, along with some of his closest friends, wrote a musical about Harry Potter. “A Very Potter Musical” hit YouTube on July 5, 2009.

Criss, who plays a narcissistic, guitar-playing Harry, doesn’t claim to be more of a fan than most people. He and his friends, the group known as Team StarKid, did several tributes to films like “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings.” Their Harry Potter musical was just the first thing they put online.

“A Very Potter Musical” follows Harry through his second year at Hogwarts. Team StarKid took heavy liberties with the plot ““ it’s more of a mix of various elements from all of his years combined with the cast’s inside jokes and creative license. Professor Quirrell (from the first book) is the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Draco is played by a girl and Dumbledore is obsessed with Zac Efron.

Each clip of “A Very Potter Musical” and its sequel, “A Very Potter Sequel,” has anywhere from more than 300,000 views to more than 2.8 million, to give you a sense of the fan base.

If you ever doubted the complete cultural domination J.K. Rowling’s book series has achieved, then hopefully you’ve seen the light. The series may have ended, and we may be on the second-to-last movie, but Potter fans are here to stay.

E-mail John at [email protected] if you still think your Hogwarts letter got lost in the mail.

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