Animation Fandom Literature

From Wands to Bending

Anyone who knows me knows I love The Wizarding World. My entire family does. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was the first ‘big girl book’ my daughter read. Her first serious Halloween costume was that of a Hogwarts’s student — she is a true Gryffindor. My wife loves the films — they are our Christmas tradition. We’ve been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter more than a few times. The books, the world, have been a part of my life since 1998. But like so many others, I am nursing a huge fan-wound because The Wizarding World’s creator, the TERF Who Must Not Be Named, showed their true colors. Those colors have betrayed the very values and ideals The Wizarding World extols. 

Nursing a fan-wound, caused by who you’re a fan of, is rough. Not only is it rough, it is confusing. Like so much art that is created by a trash and harmful creator, we have to ask ourselves a very complicated question: can we (should we) separate the art from the artist?

So many artists who make transformative and purpose-giving work are trash human beings. How many domestic and child abusers do we have in our record collections? How many murderers? I love Jeepers Creepers but Victor Salva is a registered sex offender. Damn near everyone loves Dr. Dre, but will make excuses for him why he beat up Dee Barnes and Michel’le. One of my all-time favorite comic writers, Warren Ellis (I think Planetary is one of the greatest books of all time) has 100 or so women claiming he used his power and position to sexually coerce them. How do you separate the art from the artist when the artist gave you something you found wondrous? If we all separated the art from the artist, all we’d have left is Nina Simone, Mr. Rogers, Dolly Parton, LeVar Burton, the Muppets, and a handful of others. Hey… that’s really not a bad roster. But I digress. 

I had to check myself and my misogyny. I had to question if I was more appalled at The TERF Who Must Not Be Named because she was a woman. I had to sit with this question for a long while. I try to live my life as pro-woman as possible, but misogyny is like a virus that flairs up once in a while. I’ve taken all the anti-biotics, but I’ve yet to find a cure for it. I’m trying to keep it under control. But that was (thankfully) not the case. I just felt so damned betrayed. Despite the overwhelming whiteness (and maleness) of The Wizarding World, most of the themes aligned with my values and the values I wanted to instill in my daughter. But to have Her Royal TERFness say such horrible (not to mention unscientific) things, with such ferocity and conviction, it really and truly hurt. To explain to my daughter why all things HP would be slowly phasing out of our house and our lives was heartbreaking. 

Being a fan is a wonderful thing. Our fandoms, however we choose to express it — except for in hateful and exclusionary ways — is liberating. We’ve met life-long friends, started businesses and organizations, found our artistic voices, created thernerdsofcolor.org, all this because of our fandom. And when what we love lets us down, betrays our values and our confidence, it’s a blow. A painful one. 

In all honesty, losing the HP-Verse left a gaping hole in my family’s fan-life. Where would our shorthand come from? What would be the thing we could all bond over — as we have very disparate tastes? So many HP fans, fans more engaged than I ever could be, are keenly feeling this pain. Hell, I know people who treat their Hogwarts house as a key piece of their personality. What’s there to fill this wand-shaped hole? For us, we didn’t have to search too far. 

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. 

Pop culture and fandoms matter. They act like maps, meta-cartography with which to navigate our shared world.

The world of Avatar the Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra have given me and my family another collective fandom to participate in. Granted, Avatar and Korra don’t have the same pop-culture influence of The Wizarding World, nor is its mythology as in-depth, but it is a world we very much enjoy. We own every episode of both series and, instead of Hogwarts houses, my daughter and I explore which bending style bets fits our personality and values: she’s a fire bender because she’s a damn hothead. I’m an air bender because, as she says, “Daddy. You’re always up to mischief.” This has been a wonderful thing to share with her.

While it isn’t the same as The Wizarding World, it has given us something else to connect over. We’ve developed our own slang, based on the elemental kingdom and tribes. She’s written her second piece of fanfic, based in the world of the Benders. My wife isn’t there with us, yet. But we’ll get her to join. She’s a water bender, for sure. 

Pop culture and fandoms matter. They act like maps, meta-cartography with which to navigate our shared world. They allow us to see things from vantage points we may have never considered. But best of all, they give us enjoyment whether we’re just consuming or participating. 

The move from wands to bending hasn’t been an easy one. Not easy, at all. But it has allowed us to nurse our HP fan-wound while making space or something new.  

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