As a girl growing up in the 80’s I was in fantasy genre heaven: She-Ra: Princess of Power, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Willow, The Never Ending Story, Red Sonja, The Princess Bride, Conan, Excalibur, Clash of the Titans, The Beastmaster, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal among many others. Waging epic battle against the tyranny of the annoying, younger brother was easy with such cunning, brave and resourceful role models.
Then in the 90’s we had……. Dragonheart and Ever After. Xena and Hercules were the refuge of the fantasy geeks, along with Charmed. It was a small tenacious hold-out of geekyness in the land of Seinfeld and Nirvana. Grunge, gothic and edgy urban humor reigned the 90’s. The mullets were trimmed and the D&D books and dice were put on the top shelf of the closet. It was drear for a fantasy freak.
Then in 1998 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in the US. It was huge. Children were reading in droves and begging their parents to buy them, of all things, books! Fantasy wasn’t merely back, it was bigger than ever. Magic swords, wizards, giants, ghosts, dragons and villainous villains had returned with flair!
Harry Potter heralded a new era for fantasy. The Lord of the Rings trilogy debuted shortly after Harry made his first big splash, Eragon, Inkspell, Stardust, Ella Enchanted, The Fountain, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hogfather, Bridge to Terabithia, The Narnia Chronicles, The Golden Compass, Lady In The Water, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Alice in Wonderland, and many, many more.
Fantasy is cool again. Fantasy books, films and even computer games, such as World of Warcraft, are big business! Parodies of the genre, such as Enchanted, Dorkness Rising, Hoodwinked and the upcoming Your Highness, have had some success as well. Making fun of fantasy geeks used to be the volunteer work of jocks in public school hallways. Today it’s big business and the fantasy geeks are laughing along.
Every generation idolizes the themes of their childhood. Harry Potter sparked our memory of days when the armor was skimpy, the hair was big and the swords were even bigger. It gave us a way to share our love of the fantasy genre with our children. It’s creating traditions and teaching the values of honor, loyalty, courage and imagination. It reminds us that what we can imagine can have real meaning and purpose in our lives. So well done, Harry!