What's the Next "Harry Potter"?

No, I'm not talking about Harry Potter books-- there won't be any more of those for a while, at least until J. K. Rowling decides she really needs to buy Bolivia. I'm talking about "Harry Potter" the cultural phenomenon-- the inescapable, endlessly hyped mass-culture Event that everybody talks about and obsesses over. The question is this:

What will be the next "Harry Potter" style mass-culture phenomenon?

"That's ridiculous," you say, "Nobody saw the Potter thing coming, so how could we possibly predict the next 'Harry Potter' scale phenomenon?"

True enough, but think about this:

The Potter books didn't really explode into a gigantic international Phenomenon until around the publication of Book Three (which was and remains the best of the lot). Which means that there were a couple of years in which the first two Harry Potter books were out there in the underground, as it were, slowly gathering steam. Surely there were some parents out there who looked at what their kids were reading, and said, "You know what? This Potter thing could be huge..."

So the next "Harry Potter" type phenomenon may very well be out there. You may already have read the first book, or listened to the demo tape, or seen a rough cut of the movie. Now, here's your chance to let the world know, and showcase your Mad Prognosticating Skillz.

What's in it for you? Fame and glory, obviously, or at least a chance to lord it over your un-hip co-workers a couple of years from now when Antithetical Squid T-shirts and action figures are everywhere. And, hey, if you predict the Next Big Thing correctly, you might be able to parlay that into one of those cushy media pundit jobs, and you'll never need to do real work again.

So what will it be? Is it a band? A movie? ("A dog?" suggests Emmy, hopefully). What will be the next "Harry Potter" style phenomenon?

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It seems clear to me that the Next Big Thing will be either three-hour Bukkake movies, romance novels set in hospitals, or Mongolian larynx-singing karaoke.

Hopefully it's reading! I'm not a Harry Potter person, but if it gets more people to read I'll accept its roaring popularity.

By Evan Berkowitz (not verified) on 24 Jul 2007 #permalink

I'm still pulling for a resurgence of Babylon 5....but some how I doubt it.

By a cornellian (not verified) on 24 Jul 2007 #permalink

Cornellian: Don't rule it out. Let's see how The Lost Tales sell. Not likely to become another Potter, but it might uptick.

By Will "scifanta… (not verified) on 24 Jul 2007 #permalink

Babylon 5's original "surge" was only huge among us nerds. Most of the world never heard of it.

I'd love a resurgence, but it's never going to be within an order of magnitude or two of Potteropularity.

In any event, I only discovered Harry Potter at about the time the third book came out, so I'm hardly the one to predict.


Rob: In any event, I only discovered Harry Potter at about the time the third book came out, so I'm hardly the one to predict.

Here I give you the perfect opportunity to hype your new gig, and what do you do?

You've got to learn to love shameless self-promotion, man...

Well, I'd say that the *last* Harry Potter was Star Wars so, I'd say we've got another 20-30 years before the "next Harry Potter" comes along.

Also, watch out in 20 years when JKR writes the long-awaited prequel series.

Surely there were some parents out there who looked at what their kids were reading, and said, "You know what? This Potter thing could be huge..."

Sure there were, but people see a lot of things and say "this will be huge", yet they turn out wrong. This is just an example of confirmation bias; you find a handful of people who "predicted" that Harry Potter would be big and that suggests the phenomenon is predictable.

Odds are that any big, complex social phenomenon such as Harry Potter is a superposition of a large number of smaller, simpler phenomina that happen to interfere constructively rather than destructively.

By Nathan Parker (not verified) on 24 Jul 2007 #permalink

Well, I'd say that the *last* Harry Potter was Star Wars

No, I'd say the last Harry Potter was Pokemon.

Being an idiot, I'm going to try something never before attempted in this thread, and actually have a go at answering Chad's question. The next Harry Potter will be a toy/MMORPG tie-in. Possibly Barbie (already out and doing well, but possibly too girl-specific to rival HP), or possibly Lego (out soon, but maybe a bit on the geeky side), but more likely something currently under development.

By Ross Smith (not verified) on 24 Jul 2007 #permalink

The seventh book is out. The series is over. The only thing left to sustain the fans is the next two movies, but by 2010, they'll be done. There's probably a faint possibility, at some point down the road (a decade or two away) that a TV series may be made that covers more detail than the movies have done, but essentially, it's over.

All those millions of wizardy fans will want a replacement. Diane Duane has already supplied one, and she's written eight books:

The books are for adolescents and are more mature and (if you can make such an argument) more "scientifically sound" than Rowling's work. I can't believe that no one has considered the possibility of making a movie or two out of these books.

Of course, the books may never take off. There are already eight and they haven't exploded yet. Perhaps they're too "sensible". Perhaps the focus on strong females dissuades males somewhat.

They're a different kettle of fish than Rowling's, although, I would argue, more intelligent. Perhaps one movie is all it would take to make this into a phenomenon. Perhaps not.

Apart from that kind of "prediction", I think it's foolish to try and imagine we can, by anything other than sheer luck, predict what will capture people's imagination next, to the extent that the Potter series did.