Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

The Boy Who Lived to Become the Chosen One

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

The Boy Who Lived to Become the Chosen One

Article excerpt

This paper explores the dynamics of celebrity culture in the Harry Potter books by examining how the eponymous protagonist functions as a locus for intersecting and often conflicting notions of heroism and fame. I demonstrate how Harry Potter is implicated in popular, social structures of celebrity that frame both his private 'self' and his public 'persona' within discourses of exceptional individual achievement and moral responsibility towards the wizarding community. I argue that Harry embodies the tensions between the movement towards self-knowledge and realization integral to the heroic narrative and the workings of fame crucial to the perpetuation of a celebrity's popular image. I analyze Harry's celebrity status as one that (i) functions as a ' sign' that exists, in the collective imagination of the magical community, as a counter to the evil represented by Voldemort; (ii) prods him towards and increasingly poses a challenge to his discovery of his true identity; and (iii) leads to his ultimate realization of his social role and responsibility in the final culmination of his personal heroism with his public persona. Therefore, I argue that in negotiating and realizing his fame, Harry Potter goes through a journey that results in self-discovery and moves from being a celebrity-hero to a heroic celebrity.

The Harry Potter series combines elements of the heroic quest tale with those of the bildungsroman. It presents a world where learning to distinguish between appearance and reality is crucial to and concurrent with discovering one's 'true' self. Such a process of 'discovery' is not only central to the resolution of the various 'magical ' complications in the plot but also integral to the moral traj ectory that any coming- of-age narrative must chart. Naturally, therefore, the current scholarship on the Harry Potter series is largely focused on the mythic, generic and literary patterns that the books follow (Cockrell, 2002; Pennington, 2002; Alton, 2003; and Billone, 2004), and on the issues of individual choice, agency and morality that constitute the thematic core of the books (Deavel and Deavel, 2002; Chappell, 2008; Pond, 2010; and Wandinger, 2010). However, little critical attention has been paid to the popular cultural structures and processes through which characters are identified by the magical community in the series. Thus, in this paper, I examine how Harry Potter, the eponymous protagonist of the series negotiates between his private 'self' and his public 'image' and thereby functions as a 'celebrity- hero'. I demonstrate that (1) as "The Boy Who Lived", Harry functions as a popular ' sign' on which the magical community inscribes meanings that are more a projection of its collective fears and desires than an index of his 'true'self; (2) Harry's journey towards self-knowledge involves an increasing conflict between his private thoughts and actions and his public persona, thereby revealing the potentially harmful effects of celebrity culture on an individual; and (3) by choosing to sacrifice himself for the greater good of his community, Harry not only displays personal heroism but ultimately also fulfills popular expectations as 'The Chosen One', thereby matching up to his celebrity persona through real individual achievement. Therefore, I argue that the dynamics of celebrity culture in the Harry Potter books offer a significant insight into how individual achievement is interpreted and appropriated within the larger social context of collective anxieties and aspirations.

In this section, I argue that Harry's 'identity' as "The Boy Who Lived" derives its popular currency not from a common understanding of his real self but from his (perceived) exceptional position within his society, and therefore serves as a celebrity 'sign' that counters the threat Voldemort represents in the collective imagination. In the opening chapter of Philosopher's Stone (Rowling, 1997), Rowling introduces us to a world where the popular construction of a celebrity's public persona does not necessarily depend on his own participation in, or even awareness of, such a process. Harry Potter, the one- year-old infant, becomes an instant celebrity without knowing it for the next ten years of his life when he miraculously survives Voldemort's killing curse. The unexpected and mysterious downfall of Voldemort becomes an occasion for celebration, and Harry, the infant who is popularly held to be responsible for causing this downfall, an object of celebratization. It matters little that no one has a clue as to how an infant defeated a wizard whom no adult magician could vanquish; rather, the very fact that he managed to survive and repel the killing curse of one of the strongest magicians ever, adds an element of romance to the story and triggers off a tremendous public response. In this context, it is useful to note how in complete disregard of magical laws, witches and wizards openly roam and gossip on streets in colorful cloaks, trade messages through owl-post in broad daylight and even indulge in what seems to be the magical version of fireworks-shooting stars (Rowling, 1997, pp. 8-11). Evidently, the celebration of Voldemort's downfall is identified with an emotional response to the event rather than an intellectual probing into its causes. Harry Potter's instant rise to celebrityhood is not predicated upon a detailed understanding of the cause of his survival-it is determined by the effect it has on public consciousness by suggesting that Voldemort has fallen. The details of the event, so far as the celebrating public is concerned, are incidental, even immaterial, so long as they can appropriate its central subject as a convenient locus for their emotional outburst. The magical community displays what Chris Rojek calls the 'subjectivist approach' to celebrity, in which what confers celebrity status on a person is regarded as a mystery which ought to be appreciated rather than analyzed (Rojek, 2001, pp. 29-30). As "The Boy Who Lived", Harry serves as a popular marker, a 'sign', as it were, signifying the end of the fear and violence that characterized Voldemort's era. It is the easy appropriation by the magical community of his name as a marker of Voldemort's nemesis, of the fact of his survival as the signal of a new epoch that transforms Harry Potter into a celebrity. Thus, the public face of a celebrity belongs not to the individual who is famous but to the audience that validates and confirms his image (Rojek, 2001, p. 19).

Harry's claim to fame is not a personal achievement-in fact, it is Lily Potter's sacrifice that saves him from Voldemort's curse. Fame is thus thrust upon Harry: he becomes a celebrity by default, involuntarily. Thus, Harry becomes what Graeme Turner calls an "accidental celebrity... [a] person who has become the focus of attention initially through no fault [or merit] of their own, and through a process over which they can have very little control" (Turner, 2004, p. 21). Once the fact of Harry's survival of Voldemort's attack becomes a part of public knowledge, the reasons behind his miraculous escape from certain death are completely overshadowed by the popular desire to see in him an embodiment of successful resistance to Voldemort's 'evil'. The fact ofhis survival, however accidental and involuntary it might have really been, renders Harry 'exceptional' in the popular imagination. Thus, he also becomes what Rojek calls an 'attributed celebrity', one whose celebrity is "not exclusively a matter of special talent or skill" but is "the result of the concentrated representation of an individual as noteworthy or exceptional by cultural intermediaries" (Rojek, 2001, p. 18).

It is significant to note here that Harry is not the only one to have suffered during Voldemort's reign of terror-the dark wizard's rise to power was marked by mass killings and scenes of torture (Rowling, 2000, pp. 127,627). For instance, Neville Longbottom's parents were tortured to insanity by Death Eaters (Rowling, 2000, p. 454); Harry's own parents died at the hands of Voldemort trying to protect him. Yet, Harry attains the kind of celebrity status which no other victim of Voldemort does. It is the fact of Harry's miraculous survival that sets him apart from all other victims of Voldemort; yet, paradoxically, the story of Harry's survival is exceptional only in relation to the fate of those less fortunate than him. Also, in his failed attempt to kill Harry, Voldemort passes on to him not only a part ofhis own soul but also (unwittingly) a part ofhis own celebrity status: it is the highly publicized fact ofhis 'victory' over Voldemort that makes Harry an overnight celebrity. As a living, embodied counterpoint to the 'evil' Voldemort represents for the magical community, Harry stands in direct opposition to the 'dark' wizard, yet his celebrity status is essentially also derived from Voldemort's prior fame. Thus, his celebrity status is both oppositional and relational in nature-it is defined in terms ofhis exceptional fate vis- à-vis other victims, and of the notoriety that Voldemort already enjoys as an extremely powerful and 'dark' wizard. There can be no discourse about "The Boy Who Lived" without reference to "He Who Must Not Be Named". Each functions as a 'sign' of the other, bearing the 'trace' (in Harry's case, literally) of the other's qualities and functioning within a signifying field constituted by other less 'exceptional' witches and wizards. The 'sign' of their celebrity status is thus constituted by two 'signifiers', referring to one another rather than an external ' signified'. Harry and Voldemort are, therefore, components of a self-referential system of celebrity.

Now I examine how Rowling sets up an opposition between the demands and pressures of popular expectations that act on Harry as a celebrity and the obstacles he has to overcome in order to make the heroic achievement he is destined for. The conflict between Harry's private self and his public image intensifies as he learns more and more about himself and understands his 'true' (predestined) role in the magical society. If the extraordinary fact ofhis survival catapults Harry to fame and marks him uniquely for the rest ofhis life, Dumbledore is anxious to ensure that he lives in ordinary circumstance in his initial years:

It [fame] would be enough to turn any boy's head. Famous before he can walk and talk! Famous for something he won't even remember! Can't you see how much better off he'll be, growing up away from all that until he's ready to take it? (Rowling, 1997, p. 16)

As readers, we are invited to perceive, along with Dumbledore, the potentially damaging consequences of fame for its object in the absence of a proper understanding of the responsibilities it entails. In seeking to provide for Harry a 'normal' childhood in spite of his unique legacy, Dumbledore effectively makes an argument for an individual's strong grounding in self-knowledge before s/he can 'take' her/his public image in the right spirit. It is to be noted here that celebrities often complain of a loss of a sense of their true or 'veridical' self with respect to their public image (Rojek, 2001, pp. 11-12), while it is essential for a 'hero' to gain self-knowledge as part of the process of coming into his true being (Pharr, 2002, p. 56). This inaugurates, in a certain sense, the conflict between Harry's need for self-realization (as a hero) and the public pressure on him (as a celebrity) to live up to his image as a 'sign' of good who has, miraculously, supplanted that 'sign' of evil, Voldemort.

Learning about one's own self is a common enough trope in the bildungsroman and also in heroic narratives. Harry's initiation into the magical world and his education at Hogwarts are not just about acquiring new magical skills-they are also about learning about his own past, present and future, as well as about coming to terms with his own public image. For Harry, the process of understanding his true nature-the movement from ignorance to knowledge about the 'self' that the heroic narrative traditionally charts (Pharr, 2002, p. 55)-is concurrent with that of coming to terms with his celebrity status. Hagrid disillusions Harry about the way his parents died, and this inevitably involves telling him that he is a celebrity. In fact, Hagrid seems to believe that the Dursleys' version of the Potters' death (they had told Harry that his parents died in a car accident) is scandalous as Harry ends up not "knowin' his own story when every kid in our world knows his name" (Rowling, 1997, p. 44). Later, when Hagrid takes Harry to the 'Leaky Cauldron', the latter creates quite a sensation and random witches and wizards come up to him to congratulate him. Though Harry knows none of these strangers, their feelings on meeting him range from genuine happiness ("Welcome back, Mr. Potter, welcome back.") to excitement ("Always wanted to shake your hand - I am all of a flutter.") to sheer privilege ("Did you hear that? He remembers me!") (Rowling, 1997, pp. 54-55). Again, we find that for his fans, 'Harry Potter' is a name that evokes strong emotions in spite of the fact that none of them knows the person who bears that name any better than as "The Boy Who Lived". The emotional intimacy and easy identification that these strangers feel with Harry, or rather his public persona, is symptomatic of how a celebrity functions as a cultural ' sign' that "sheds its own subjectivity and individuality and becomes an oiganizing structure for conventionalized meaning" (Marshall, 1997, ρ. 5 6). As a victim- survivor, Harry becomes the subject of popular sympathy as well as awe: the emotionally charged responses he evokes from the people around him result from their sense of identification with as well as admiration for him. Such a paradoxical coexistence of feelings of intimacy and distance often marks the relation between a celebrity and his audience (Nayar, 2009, p. 154). The point is that Harry Potter exists as a celebrity not because of what he is but because of what he is perceived to be by the magical community. "The Boy Who Lived" serves as a point of reference/meaning that is perceived in opposition to the dreaded figure of Voldemort, one that is embodied insofar as Harry bears the name but also dispersed in the sense of being constructed and circulated discursively by the magical community.

The conflict between Harry's real self and his public image is perhaps best embodied (literally) in the famous lightning scar that he bears on his forehead. For Harry, it is not merely a painful reminder of the horrors ofhis past but also a source of frequent agony and danger, as it serves as a connection between him and Voldemort; but for the magical community, the scar is merely a visual marker that identifies Harry as "The Boy Who Lived" and sets him apart as being unique. Even James and Lily Potter become celebrities in their death, as they become part of what is perceived as a greater event-the downfall of Voldemort. Their ruined house in Godric's Hollow (which, as we come to know in the last book, is preserved as such) functions in the same way as Harry's scar does-as a tangible, easily recognizable proof of a momentous event. More than the intangible, incalculable loss that the Potter family suffers, it is the implication of the events of that fateful night that becomes part of public memory and consciousness. The ruins of the house (which had once been a home) and the scar on Harry's forehead bear only a synecdochic relationship to their 'real' selves, as it were, but they are sufficient material for the magical community to construct them as celebrities. The celebrity status of a person is predicated upon his easy recognizability, and his body functions as the most readily available medium of such identification. Thus, Harry's scar functions as an inscription of the meanings that the magical community commonly reads into his image. Ironically, Voldemort's cruelty inflicts upon Neville Longbottom's parents what is aiguably a worse fate than Harry's-a lifetime of mental illness and confinement to an asylum; Neville too is orphaned for all practical purposes, since his parents do not recognize him at all. However, the Longbottoms' personal tragedy does not quite make the cut when it comes to acquiring the 'celebrity victim' status: there is no sensational tale related to their suffering that could assume legendary proportions comparable to the Potters' tale, and Neville bears no external mark of the trauma he has to go through. The Longbottoms' family is only one of the many that is broken and ruined by Voldemort and his followers; there is nothing 'exceptional' or 'spectacular' about their suffering that could catapult them to the kind of celebrity status the Potters enjoy.1 Celebrity involves what Nayar calls a "theatre of the dramatized real", in which the 'real' is interspersed with exaggerations and speculations (Nayar, 2009, p. 118). It is the story of Harry Potter that lends itself conveniently to such dramatization on account of its significance in the downfall of Voldemort. Clearly, Rowling problematizes the concept of celebrity by demonstrating that fame does not necessarily follow individual sacrifice or suffering and sometimes comes at a great personal cost to the self that others may fail to take into account fully.

Even as he arrives at Hogwarts, Harry begins to perceive that celebrity is an integral part of the culture of the magical world. He learns from Ron (whose curiosity he satisfies by displaying his scar) that the magical community has its own fair share of celebrities. The cards that come along with the 'Chocolate Frogs' carry pictures of and brief write- ups about famous witches and wizards and seem to be the magical equivalent of the very popular WWF cards in our 'Muggle' world. Significantly, as Ron tells Harry, it is not the chocolates that are of any importance (though everybody seems to be consuming them all the time), rather collecting the cards seems to be the 'in thing' at least so far as students are concerned. Collecting these cards is then more than an act of consumption: by sharing and exchanging information about famous personalities, children construct a community whose models are adults who are valued for their achievements. Celebrities who feature on these cards thus become more than only figures of adulation-they serve as common points of reference that assist interpersonal communication (Ron and Harry's budding friendship is a case in point) and as routes of initiation into the adult world of witches and wizards and the ideologies that govern it. The insertion of textual material relating to celebrities into oral discourse is a means of initiating discussions about subj ects that a community considers important (Jenkins, 2006, p. 82). The Chocolate Frog cards, therefore, serve to introduce Harry to the celebrities in the magical world as well as to the kinds of achievements that the community holds in high esteem. Celebrity culture, as manifested in these cards, thus reflects the parameters and values that define the individual's role in society.

For Harry, finding and understanding his position within his society is inseparable from coming to terms with his own celebrity status. The "Sorting Ceremony" in the first book is for Harry not only an initiation rite into the world of magic but also simultaneously both a test ofhis personal worth and his first public performance, as it were. In addition, it also serves as a good example of Rowling's narrative strategy: as readers, we begin to learn, along with Harry, the rituals of an unfamiliar magical world, but we also share, exclusively, his individual response to the world he finds himself in. Throughout the series, Rowling gives readers a privileged access to Harry's individual struggles, while simultaneously also representing the conflicts between his private 'self' and his public 'image', thereby constructing the boy wizard both as a hero and as a reluctant celebrity. Part of Harry's charm is owing to the fact that he is completely unimpressed with his own celebrity status. As he continues to be completely indifferent to and even somewhat embarrassed by his fame, he endears himself both to his friends and to the readers. We like him not so much because he is extraordinary (in terms of magical talent he certainly is not) but because ofhis ordinariness: he is the quintessential boy-next-door, only with atragic past and a turbulent future. Harry is never allowed to forget, and neither are readers, his special status. He is the typical ordinary hero with an extraordinary destiny. Interestingly, it is this combination of the mundane with the exceptional that characterizes the celebrity too, and determines the way in which Harry's actions are perceived by the rest ofhis community.

Concurrently, we are also made aware of how Harry is perceived and represented by those who are familiar only with his image as a celebrity. Thus, peripheral interest in the details of Harry's life, which marks most of the characters' perception of him, is set in opposition to the readers' more intimate knowledge ofhis inner thoughts and feelings. From the very beginning, Harry is the subject of general curiosity and speculation within the Hogwarts community. However, from Goblet of Fire onwards, the magical world outside Hogwarts begins to intrude into the hitherto cocooned school atmosphere in ways that force Harry to reckon with the tremendous public glare that he must always live under. The constant scrutiny that he is subjected to is no longer merely a nuisance, as was the case with Colin Creevey's annoying determination to capture Harry in each ofhis glorious and even some not-so-glorious moments on the Quidditch field (Rowling, 1998, pp. 75, 82, 130). If Colin Creevey is something of a celebrity stalker, Rita Skeeter, the Daily Prophet reporter, is the stereotypical Page 3 columnist who thrives on celebrity gossip. In rapid succession, she reports Harry to be a poor victim of his tragic past ("Tears fill those startlingly green eyes as our conversation turns to the parents he can barely remember"), a jilted lover ("Harry Potter's Secret Heartache") and an unstable, attention-seeking, potentially dangerous wizard (Rowling, 2000, pp. 269,447,531-532). Harry becomesan object of gossip which "relies upon mixing positive and negative attributes of the celebrity in question ... of the factually correct and the questionable or doubtful" (Nayar, 2009, p. 117). Thus, while ostensibly claiming for Harry the reader's sympathy, Rita Skeeter also simultaneously suggests that his actions might actually be harmful for society. Skeeter also draws upon her readers' (assumed) knowledge of Harry's life-story to bear upon the specific context of the Triwizard Tournament which she reports. Though Harry's tragic past has no direct relation to his performance in the tournament, his audience inevitably sees the two as being interrelated. The celebrity's identity and his performance are thus conflated in the public imagination, as it is not possible to read about him without being aware of the 'meta-textual' context ofhis personal history (Nayar, 2009, p. 118). It is not possible for the magical community to see Harry Potter, the Triwizard Champion, as being different from Harry Potter, "The Boy Who Lived".

Rowling demonstrates that celebrity culture is more concerned with issues of marketability and salability than with principles of truth and justice. Rita Skeeter's 'scoops' on Harry are not just free (and unwelcome) publicity for the boy but more essentially palatable celebrity gossip that helps sell her newspaper. In such a setup, the highly presentable, manipulative and media-savvy Lockhart is more attractive as a celebrity than Harry who, at the end of the Triwizard Tournament, returns to give a true, if somewhat incoherent and thoroughly unsettling, account of Voldemort's rise to power. The irony of the situation is hard to miss: Harry Potter, the infant, was readily believed to have somehow defeated Voldemort (when actually it was Lily Potter's sacrifice of her own life for her son that had ensured his survival), but hardly anyone believes Harry when he really manages to escape from Voldemort and tells the world so. Evidently, the celebrity's popularity depends on how well he is able to feed into the shared beliefs and the popular fantasies of a community. Harry Potter is certainly more attractive as someone whose survival is a 'sign' ofVoldemort's downfall, ratherthan as aperson who survives only to tell others that Voldemort is still alive. So long as Harry himself does not bust the belief, if not actively collude in its perpetuation, that he had vanquished Voldemort for good, he functions well as a heroic celebrity. It is when he voices the unpalatable truth about Voldemort's return that he becomes the object of a lot of negative publicity. The celebrity mechanism sells a personality that people want to consume (Nayar, 2009, p. 10), and by refusing to fulfill such popular demand, Harry invites public censure. What the magical community witnesses here is a breakdown of the system of 'signs' in which Harry functioned successfully as Voldemort's counter, as a marker of immunity against the Dark Lord; in testifying to Voldemort's return to power Harry breaches the boundaries of his celebrity 'sign' (as "The Boy Who Lived") and signifies (now as "The Boy Who Lies") the contamination of the magical community with the fear ofVoldemort's evil.

Midway through the series, Harry begins to be faced with the constant challenge of choosing to act on his own-independently of, even in direct opposition to, public opinion ofhis actions. I argue that proving himself to be beyond the stressful and often misleading demands ofhis status as a celebrity becomes the route for Harry to personal heroism and also ultimately his rightful claim to the fame that had always preceded his actions. Through the fifth, sixth, and seventh books, he has to bear the brunt of a vindictive campaign2 that the Ministry of Magic carries out against him in collaboration with the Daily Prophet. Harry is shown to act more and more on his own, without the express support of either of his father-figures (Sirius Black and Dumbledore die at the end of the fifth and the sixth book, respectively) or ofthe magical community in general. By presenting him in a general atmosphere of distrust and confusion, Rowling ensures that Harry emerges as a character brave enough to follow his chosen path unaided and in spite of public criticism. Thus, the cruel jokes about his scar that circulate in the media and the vicious newspaper campaign against Dumbledore (conducted, again, by the irrepressible Rita Skeeter), force Harry to evaluate himself and his role in the struggle against Voldemort independent ofhis earlier convictions. This phase of'alienation' from his community, a standard feature of heroic narratives, is a strategy Rowling employs to enable Harry to demonstrate his moral strength and determination. As he discovers his true self, especially the secret of the magical bond he shares with Voldemort, his individual actions increasingly bear testimony to his heroic qualities while simultaneously also tying them up inextricably with the fate ofhis entire community. Harry emerges as a hero whose exclusive responsibility as well as prerogative it is to act on behalf ofhis people: he is thus represented paradoxically as being both within the magical community and beyond it. All through this period, Harry remains at the center of public debate and speculation. He is a permanent fixture in public imagination and discourse-being talked about by both his supporters and detractors-which is one of the preconditions for celebrity. Thus, even during this lean patch in his career as a celebrity-a period which is skillfully employed by Rowling to establish Harry's capacity to act independently and 'heroically'-Harry is never off the celebrity radar.

Significantly, Harry's greatest achievement-defeating and killing Voldemort-is not so much a marker of his skill in the techniques of magic as it is a result of his moral superiority over his adversary. By giving himself up to Voldemort for the sake of his community in a re-enactment ofhis mother's sacrifice of her own life for him, Harry reinforces the magical bond that fortifies him against any harm from the dark wizard. It is his willing choice to put his community's welfare before his own life that ultimately renders both immune to further assaults from Voldemort. Thus, Harry's fate becomes his community's fate too, his choice the sole determinant of the future of the magical world. By neatly tying up the individual fate of her protagonist with the collective destiny ofhis people, Rowling produces a hero who is unrivalled in his agency to choose and determine his own course of action as well as command, at least when it matters the most, popular support for his actions. The selflessness of Harry thus becomes the (magical) force that creates the supremely powerful 'self', his renunciation ofhis individual interests the cause ofhis emergence as the individual who matters the most.3 This victory of the individual 'self' over social constraints is essentially a reassertion, a valorization of the possibility of heroism in a context where images are often valued over truth. Yet, the conventional re-assimilation of the hero into the community is what Dumbledore's advice to Harry and Harry's own actions, both based on the principle of selfless love, ultimately lead to.

In Rowling's moral scheme, to know the self is to love others selflessly; to be a hero is to follow one's own principles but to finally also submit oneself to the service of the community. The seeds of celebrity are always already embedded in the figure of the hero, whose achievements must find a social context for their validation. Harry Potter, the people's hero, is an integral part of the magical community as well as a symbol of all that it holds as being good and virtuous-he is both a part ofhis community and above and beyond it. As we have observed before, such a twin equation between the individual and his society also characterizes celebrity, and it is this feature common to the hero- figure and the celebrity that places Harry at the intersection of the discourses of heroism and celebrity. From being an 'accidental celebrity' to becoming what Chris Rojek calls 'achieved celebrity' (Rojek, 2001, p. 18), Harry charts a journey that involves a 'heroic' realization ofhis inherited destiny in the context of a community that demands and celebrates easily recognizable embodiments of morality and power. His achievement holds the promise of individual worth and agency as well as the assurance of popular symbols of collective conscience. Thus, as readers, we join the magical community in cheering Harry when he finally kills Voldemort, in celebrating "The Boy Who Lived" to become, though his individual choices, the messianic, prophesied 'Chosen One'. By proving himself to be beyond the concerns of celebrity, Harry Potter makes himself available for celebration as well as 'celebritization'.

Itis evident that though Harry's status as a 'hero' is constructed in terms of opposition between his public 'image' and his private 'self', confusion between the two is the condition that governs his existence throughout the series. This 'confusion', in the literal sense of putting two things together (the real 'self' and the illusory 'image'), renders Harry's identity perpetually subject to the process of'celebritization', since every detail ofhis life feeds into a 'narrative ' that works precisely because of this oscillation between the 'truth' and the 'appearance' of "The Boy Who Lived". The dynamics of celebrity culture are crucially determined by the creation, circulation and popularization of a body of 'knowledge' (to be distinguished from 'truth') about certain individuals, whose life 'stories' then become the discursive terrain for public expressions of collective anxieties and aspirations. In realizing his position and role within his community, and thereby also discovering his own 'self', Harry Potter charts the journey from being a celebrity-hero to a heroic celebrity and represents the ways in which an individual's 'persona' is defined, identified and appropriated in contemporary popular culture.0

1 There seems to be a hierarchy of suffering when it comes to celebrity victims and their visibility across media in contemporary popular culture. It is the salability of a victim as the subject of an attractive 'story' that determines the degree and nature of his celebrity.

2 It is easy to identify such a negative publicity campaign with the frequent instances of celebrity bashing in our own 'Muggle' world. A celebrity's fall from grace is typically charted in terms of his/her deviance from the image that initially gained him/her public attention, and explained as a consequence of the excesses of their lifestyle.

3 The correspondences between Harry and Christ here are too obvious to be missed. By presenting a re-enactment of the classic moral drama of Christ's redemptive sacrifice for mankind through Harry's willing submission to Voldemort, Rowling fits Harry into the archetypal representative figure, who is one of his people and yet one of a kind.



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Reference # 43J-2012-06-01-01

[Author Affiliation]

Saradindu Bhattacharya*

* Research Scholar, Department of English, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad 500036, Andhra Pradesh, India. E-mail:

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