The world of 'Harry Potter' seeps into normal life

Hey, all you Muggles who scoff at fictional wizards: Their effects on our lives are very real.


Stephen Colbert can get a laugh from a “Harry Potter” character without even using the character’s name. Which is as it should be for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The comedian voiced his love for Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently despite Scott’s awful approval rating. “Twenty-nine percent is low,” Colbert admitted as a picture of Lord Voldemort appeared next to Scott’s, revealing a certain resemblance. “He’d probably be doing better if he wasn’t trying to kill Harry Potter.”


Dementors are soul-sucking fiends, the foulest of creatures. J.K. Rowling says a long period of depression, “a hollowed-out feeling” after her mother’s death, inspired their creation. Some therapists now use the word in the context of depression, but it’s gotten bigger: You’re a Dementor if you’re in the habit of sucking the life out of anything potentially fun.


What would be more amazing, sneaky and useful than a Potteresque Invisibility Cloak? Nothing. Scientists are working on it. A cloak made of “metamaterials” might one day guide rays of visible light around an object. Another approach uses calcite prisms to hide small objects. Whatever it takes, smart people, but hurry up!


There was probably no way to keep “Potter” out of political party rivalry. GOP-baiters came up with “Republicans for Voldemort” bumper stickers and T-shirts. Not nice. Maybe Republicans should strike back with “Democrats for Cornelius Fudge” — that cowardly minister of magic.


Hogwarts is no longer just a wizarding school but a new and easy reference to Gothic architecture everywhere. Especially for American high school students on college visits. Especially east of the Mississippi. They can be heard outside stony academic buildings and inside elaborate dining halls exclaiming, “It looks like Hogwarts!”


Harry Potter themes have fueled serious study in a variety of disciplines — history, theology, globalization studies, literature, to name a few. College courses focus on the books or take inspiration from them at many a revered institution, including Stanford, Georgetown and Yale universities.


Specifically, Quidditch. J.K. Rowling made up the game, which requires flying on a broomstick and seeking — or avoiding — a variety of balls, but college kids play a modified version. Some high school students in Texas are so gung-ho they are seeking recognition of Quidditch as a high school sport. (Their Golden Snitch ball is a person dressed in gold with a tennis ball inside a sock on a flag-football belt.)

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