Harry Potter fandom, as introspective and quiet as it is public and raucous
People do crazy things for love, and crazier things for Harry Potter. Like Sarah Coluccio, a 23-year-old from Queens, N.Y., who, if a nationwide superfan contest was held, would stand a good chance of reaching the elimination round.
Is Coluccio on the most intense island in a sea of fanaticism? A case could be made. There's the Dumbledore quote that, she noted shyly, she had tattooed on her ribs a few years back, or the fact that she nearly got crushed against a police barricade earlier this week to be the first at the Harry Potter premiere. (It was worth it to get a glimpse of Harry, Hermione and Ron in the flesh. And besides, that alert NYPD officer was there to save her.)
At 5 p.m. on Thursday, Coluccio was standing quietly inside the lobby of the AMC Loews Kips Bay Theater on the East Side of Manhattan waiting for the first screening of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2." She was decked out in full-on Hogwarts uniform, her hand gripping a wand. (That's her above.) Potter dress-up is hardly new, of course -- it's been part of the ritual of book and movie releases for a decade -- but it often comes as part of a loud communal celebration. Coluccio was standing by herself waiting for a screening, and she spoke only in the singular about her history with the wizard franchise.
To gaze at her outfit was to examine a museum painting; new layers of its Potterness revealed itself with every look. Those dangly turquoise earrings were actually an "H" and a "P." The Hogwarts tie she was wearing was cut short just below the collarbone; whether it a was a symbolic rending of the garments for the end of the franchise, she didn't say. Coluccio was shy, not shrill, about Potter, almost as though her connection with the J.K. Rowling creation was too intimate to share with the world. The costume wasn't about showing off, just the only thinkable fashion option when one goes to a Harry Potter movie. (Pottermaniacs, please weigh in below with your own accounts of fandom and photos of costumes/tattoos; we'll publish a select group of them.)
Coluccio had read the first book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," as a 9-year-old. She was enthralled, then threw a tantrum after her mother wouldn't allow her to read the second book. Explanations that it hadn't been written yet failed to console her.
Coluccio a part of a class of early-mid twentysomethings who were pre-adolescents when the first book came out, roughly the same age as the characters, and grew up with them in lock-step. (Across the country, a downtown Los Angeles 24-year-old named Celeste Perez had a similarly private experience with the books, as documented in my colleagues' Ben Fritz and Amy Kaufman's excellent story about the franchise's end in today's Times.)
Fans in Coluccio and Perez's generation share a particular bond with Potter: They're old enough to have come to the franchise at its inception but young enough to have done so with a pre-teen innocence. (They are also came of age before "Twilight," which can give them an ambivalent relationship with that other youthful phenomenon.)
As hard as the series' end is for all Potterites, it is perhaps hardest for this group, who see in the franchise's finale the conclusion of their own childhoods, and must come to terms, like the characters themselves, with growing up. "The mourning started when the last book came out," Coluccio said . "But knowing there were more movies helped postpone the grieving process. I'm almost okay with it now."
--Steven Zeitchik, reporting from New York
Photo: Sarah Coluccio before a "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" screening. Credit: Steven Zeitchik