Game Of Thrones & Harry Potter Are Over. But For Diehard Fans, It’s Still A Way Of Life
"Game Of Thrones" viewers have been shipped off to the Island of Misfit Fans, a place where "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" fans moved in long ago.
Every Friday this summer, Refinery29 explores the passionate, rollicking world of fandom. We’ll take a look at how we organize, create, debate and show our passion for the things we love — the good, the bad, and the loud.
A record-breaking 19.3 million people tuned into HBO for the finale of Game of Thrones in May. Almost immediately after leaving Westeros forever, 1.7 million of them signed a now-infamous petition titled simply: “Remake Game of Thrones Season 8 with competent writers.” These millions of dedicated fans were (and still are, since signatures are still rolling in) demanding the eighth season of the HBO series, an adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s (still unfinished) A Song Of Ice And Fire series, be rewritten to a more satisfactory ending. That won’t happen.
While a prequel TV series is in the works, and ostensibly two more books are on their way, hopelessly devoted viewers of the TV series have, in the meantime, been shipped off to the Island of Misfit Fans. They join an ever-growing pool of people who have watched their favorite thing — book, movie, show, even politician — conclude its run, leaving them with only their art, fanfiction, merch, and, thankfully, each other. While they’ve had to let go of the story that brought them together, the communities haven’t dispersed. They’re still writing, creating, and moderating. And none of them have plans to leave.
“I held my next oldest sister's hand through the entire thing, and we bawled our eyes out because it was really like our childhood was ending,” Renae McBrian, Instagram Manager for popular Harry Potter fansite MuggleNet, told Refinery29 over email about watching Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in 2011. ”I was a week from getting married, and she had just graduated high school. It was a really emotional experience for us both.”
With the Fantastic Beasts franchise still going strong and the Cursed Child play on Broadway, it might be easy to forget that the Harry Potter books ended over 10 years ago, and the original movies more than five. However, the franchise captured audiences with a similar GOT fervor: Over 8 million people purchased the final book in the 24 hours following its 2007 release, and the final movie made $1.342 billion worldwide. All the MuggleNet staff members I spoke to, whose positions are part-time and volunteer-based, used the same phrase: It felt like a chapter had closed. Many of them had grown up with the books, so in a way, the series’ end was sending them off onto their next stages of life. But the fandom itself is very much still alive.
“We’re in a very divided place,” Amy Hogan, creative media manager at Mugglenet, explained. “There’s those who loved Fantastic Beasts, Crimes of Grindelwald, or Cursed Child, and then there are those who adamantly despised them.” This divide could also foreshadow GOT fans’ reactions to the prequels, creating two clear groups of fandoms: the OGs and the adaptables.
“A lot of hate, nitpicking, and animosity has popped up in the fandom, especially over the past few years,” McBrian echoed of the Potter world. “But it has also grown into a very positive community. Potter fans support each other in hard times — whether it's by starting a GoFundMe for a Potterhead friend going through some rough times, or offering a comforting quote from the works. The fandom is literally spread across the globe because we can all relate to the themes of the stories in one way or another.”
That’s how fandoms form, after all. A curious reader or viewer follows their curiosity blindly into a dark room, only to turn on the light and see equally passionate people already there, offering them a seat.
“At first I didn’t know anyone who felt the way I did about Twilight,” Natalie Davies, who is part of a larger Twilight art community and sells collages inspired by the series on Etsy, wrote in an email. “It was the blog posts and Twilight communities online that reassured me that I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling as a mum in her forties who couldn’t stop thinking about this ‘adolescent’ story.”
Turns out, she was standing side-by-side with 1.3 million other people who purchased the final book in the series, Breaking Dawn, in the first 24 hours of its 2008 release. The final film adaptation, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2, earned a global $8.3 million in 2012. Seven years later, Davies is still making Twilight-inspired collage art she sells for anywhere between $3 to $20 on Etsy, from small Edward Cullen paper ornaments to a painting of Bella’s bedroom. She’s stuck around because she’s watching the next generation begin to discover the series, and continues to find new podcasts and events related to the franchise. But main reason’s simple: She just loves it.
“I can’t imagine anything else capturing my imagination the way the Twilight saga did,” she said. “It’s never going to get old for me. It’s never going to tarnish or bore me...There is a great need we all have to appreciate things that make us happy, that bring us joy.”
Harry Potter fans are similarly resolute in their desire to stay rooted in the fandom.
“I think 20 years from now, the films will be remade,” Meg Scott, social media copy editor at MuggleNet, predicted. “I think 200 years from now, the films will be remade. I think generations of Potter fans will come to pass, and people whose grandparents haven't even been born yet will be reading Harry Potter in the future.”
I can’t imagine anything else capturing my imagination the way the "Twilight" saga did. It’s never going to get old for me. It’s never going to tarnish or bore me.
But not everyone is hopeful that the thing they love will return. In fact, author Andrew Shaffer is dreading it. Shortly after Barack Obama and Joe Biden left the White House, amidst all the sadness and hopelessness that was plaguing Hillary Clinton voters, Shaffer and Quirk Books published the presidential fanfiction Hope Never Dies, an adventure buddy comedy that reunites the President and his VP for a rolicking, Amtrak-inspired thriller. Its sequel, Hope Rides Again, was published this summer. And the third one? Well...
“I can't really write a third book until I know what's going to happen with [Joe Biden],” Shaffer told Refinery29 over the phone. Biden has entered the 2020 race for President and it’s possible he could win, which would ironically dull the shine of Shaffer’s fantasy.
“I think it would just defeat the purpose of the book,” he continued. “What I want for the country and what I would want for a book series are two vastly different things.”
But for more straightforward fandoms like Game Of Thrones, the legacies of Twilight and Harry Potter should give them hope.
“I'm a lot less interested in the fandom than I used to be,” leafeon123, who created the Reddit forum r/FreeFolk, told Refinery29 in a message. “I don't have any plans to stop moderating, but I spend a lot less time browsing for my own enjoyment.”
Instead, they’re focusing on what’s ahead: the HBO prequels. George R.R. Martin’s final books. They’ve already added new moderators to the forum in preparation for these releases, and as far as the TV ending is concerned, the community is much bigger than showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, anyways.
“I think the future is bright,” leafeon123 said. “It's still a beloved universe.”
It’s not the end. It’s just the end of a chapter. Even if the next one is taking almost 20 years to write.