Salt Lake Comic Con
At this year’s Salt Lake Comic Con panels analyzed fandom as faith in the context of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books.
SALT LAKE CITY — A group of panelists at this year’s Salt Lake Comic Con discussed the similarities and differences between fandom and religion in the context of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series.
The idea for this panel was inspired by the “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” podcast, which approaches reading the series as if the books were sacred texts.
Panelist John W. Morehead, who researches pop culture and religion professionally, drew similarities between fandom and faith communities by identifying specific elements that run through both groups.
“There is a desire for mythos that is connecting to a story that provides meaning and a connection to transcendence,” Morehead said. “There is a sense of ritual; I think cosplay can be understood in a sense for some people as a form of almost religious ritual. There is an ethical sense; scholars have studied and seen that out of the Star Trek franchise, people have developed an ethical sense, and they apply that to their lives.”
Another panelist September C. Fawkes, a Dixie State University English graduate who wrote her thesis on “Harry Potter,” drew a parallel between great fictional and religious texts. She said both can change meanings over time and be applicable to readers throughout various stages of life.
“Things that are considered timeless, it’s usually because they’re still so relevant, and there’s still so much in them through each reading and as society progresses,” Fawkes said. “It still has a lot of that universal truth, but yet changes with each reading.”
Moderator Debra Jenson, a Utah State University journalism and communication professor, said a similarity she sees between religious and fandom communities is a propensity for “hero worship.”
“I see a tendency in faith communities and in fandom communities to identify a leader and they become untouchable, and I have experienced this with other authors,” Jenson said. “I’ve…