By Christopher Campbell
When J.K. Rowling ended her series about the famous boy wizard, she put a curse on the fans, a curse that involves depression, anxiety and craving.
Last Friday, while Karina and I were apparently too Oscar-anxious to notice, MTV posted this news about a scientific study of Harry Potter fans — or as they conclusively label them, addicts — and the post-conclusion depression that’s afflicted them since the final novel arrived in stores last summer. Apparently, 10% of these “addicts” went through a serious period of withdrawal, equivalent to the aftereffects of quitting smoking. This study, the results of which are being submitted to the Journal of General Psychology with the title “Harry Potter and the End of the Line: Parallels with Addiction,” involved the polling of 4,000 fans online and found that a significant number were so obsessed that their “more than four hours a day on Potter-related activities” interfered with things like eating and sleeping. Here, a positively spun quote from the study’s lead researcher, Muhlenberg College psych professor Dr. Jeffrey Rudski:
“An addiction is an addiction is an addiction,” Rudski said. “An addiction to a drug is no different than an addiction to Harry Potter or the Internet or pornography. Although it’s not always a bad thing. There’s a community that you get with Harry Potter that you don’t get with heroin.”
And despite there being only 10% actual Harry Potter “addicts”, another 20% were considered by Rudski to fall within what he calls a “critical threshold.” They include the person who wrote this: “I had trouble getting out of bed Monday morning. I was depressed and had nightmares all night long. I dreamed I was being attacked by Lucius Malfoy and Fenrir Greyback and didn’t have a wand because I was Muggle-born.” Just imagine what those 400 actual addicts are like (by the way, Rudnick refers to his daughter as one such “addict”).
It’s interesting to note that it was apparently a toss up for Rudnick to conduct this study on the aftermath of either the conclusion of Harry Potter or the conclusion of The Sopranos. Certainly this shows that a study like this is rather unnecessary, or at least too universal to matter so specifically. We could do the same study in a few years when Lost goes off the air. I know I’ll be in withdrawal following that series conclusion. The same goes for whenever I finally watch the last of the Thin Man movies, which I’ve prolonged both because I don’t ever want them to end (despite technically ending 60 years ago) and because I’ve heard it just doesn’t live up to the rest. Still, as a former Quantum Leap addict (thank goodness NBC had us weaned off that drug with ever-decreasing potency), I’ve always been curious about seeing little Dean Stockwell as Nick Charles, Jr.