[Movie still from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Warner Bros.]
Twenty years ago, a brand new book made its way into the world, about a boy with a lightning bolt scar who lived under the stairs, until he got a letter that granted him entrance to a hidden school for witchcraft and wizardry. Since the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry, his friends, and his magical world have become such an integral part of pop culture that it’s hard to remember a time when words like Patronus and Hogwarts weren’t part of the vernacular.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, here are five things we wouldn’t have if not for J.K. Rowling’s magical series.
1. Hogwarts Houses
Before Harry Potter, there was no easy shorthand to know exactly what type of person you were dealing with within seconds of meeting them. Sure, one could maaaybe use their Meyers-Briggs type, but how many people really know what all those different letter combinations mean off the tops of their heads? Now, one need only put “Gryffindor” in their Twitter profile for others to know to expect someone brave, daring, and maybe a little reckless; or shrug after making a particularly morbid comment, claiming, “Slytherin.” Obviously, there is a lot of room for nuance within each House, but they still provide a good starting point, and it’s a given nowadays that most people (especially within fandom) will be able to rattle their Hogwarts house off the top of their head without batting an eye.
2. J.K. Rowling’s charitable organization, Lumos
In the world of Harry Potter, Lumos is a charm that brings light from the spell-caster’s wand, but in real life, it is a charitable organization founded by author J.K. Rowling, with the purpose of “...[supporting] the 8 million children in institutions worldwide to regain their right to a family life and to end the institutionalisation of children.” According to their most recent Annual Report, Lumos has ensured that over 17,000 children have been moved out of harmful institutions to “families, family-style settings or supported independent living,” as well as prevented nearly 15,000 from entering harmful institutions, trained over 27,000 care providers and policy makers, and much more. For the tens of thousands of children affected by the work of Lumos, life would surely look very different without the massive success of Harry Potter.
3. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Three years after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Potterheads could realize their dreams of visiting Hogwarts and the nearby town of Hogsmeade by traveling to Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Florida. This Potter-themed park offered everything a Harry Potter enthusiast could wish for, including rides through Hogwarts castle, tastes of wizarding treats such as Butterbeer and Cauldron Cakes, and even the opportunity to purchase your own wand from Olivander’s. Since its opening in 2010, the Florida Wizarding World has expanded to include Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express, and additional Wizarding Worlds have launched in both California in Japan.
4. Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Rupert Grint (...okay, maybe Rupert Grint)
Warner Bros. took a serious gamble back in 2001, resting a potential seven-film franchise (which ultimately turned out to be eight) on the shoulders of a group of untested 11-year-old actors. While they hedged their bets by packing the adult cast full of respected Hollywood veterans, the kids of Harry Potter grew up alongside their characters, and several of them turned into bona fide Hollywood stars. Emma Watson has probably experienced the most success of the main trio, most recently starring in Disney’s box office juggernaut Beauty and the Beast, and was also appointed an actual UN ambassador in 2014. Daniel Radcliffe has had a series of critically acclaimed film roles, as well as a starring run on Broadway. And Rupert Grint… well, he hasn’t had quite as much Hollywood success as his peers, although he is still acting steadily, but he was able to drive around in an ice cream truck for a while, which miiiight have still happened without the success of Harry Potter? Thankfully, we’ll never have to find out.
5. Hollywood’s trend of splitting the last movie in a series into two movies
First it was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Then came Breaking Dawn Part 2. Then Mockingjay Part 2 and the now-canceled Allegiant Part 2 and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War Part 2. While Deathly Hallows was indeed a doorstopper of a finale, and probably warranted the two-movie split, the massive box office success of both parts of the Harry Potter series-ender paved the way for every subsequent major franchise to follow in its footsteps, with mixed results. While some benefited from the additional screentime, others – most notably Allegiant, the conclusion to the Divergent series – suffered from insufficient material and dwindling fan interest. Still, splitting the final movie in a series, regardless of whether the narrative calls for it, seems to be a lucrative move for studios more often than not, so this trend probably isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Thanks, Harry Potter.