Film / Nation Identity

Harry Potter and The New British Perspective

„Quintessentially British“ is a term you hear often from tourists and locals alike, in reference to the green and pleasant land known as Great Britain. The word British is virtually synonymous with notions such as afternoon tea, the royal family and Shakespeare. However, Britain has always faced its fair share of controversy when it comes to its perception amongst outsiders, regularly associated with Euroscepticism and the War on Terror. It is clear that the latter issues will overshadow any small cultural aspects or traditions when it comes to judging Great Britain, but in recent years a new cultural phenomenon has cast a spell over Britain, attracting tourists and placing Britain centre stage: Harry Potter.

This is no joke. Literature and film have been used for years to manipulate the “brands” of nations. From propaganda films in Nazi Germany, to 19th century French literature about Paris society (Balzac), this medium is a common tool for shaping the identity of a nation. So Harry Potter doesn’t exactly portray Britain in its “muggle” form, but whenever people think of Harry, there is always Britain in the back of their minds. The films show some of Britain’s most beautiful historical sights, such as Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, used as the setting for Hogwarts. Incidentally, the castle saw a 120% rise in visitor numbers after the release of the first film alone, and the films have generated £9million in tourist revenue for the area. The British Tourist Association even has a “Potter Map” where people can visit some of the key places where Harry Potter was filmed, and King’s Cross now has an official Platform 9 ¾ plaque.

More important than the material aspects which Britain has gained from Harry Potter, is the new worldwide attention Britain has attained. The cast and crew of the films is almost entirely British, something insisted upon by Rowling herself who didn’t want the film to be Americanised or made abroad, as the books and characters themselves were inherently British. The dialogue in the films is also a good example of Britishness. The Harry Potter films, have shed a new light on Britain, one of positivity and filled with hope. This is the feeling we get from Harry Potter. So we don’t have a Ministry of Magic or play Quidditch (although some universities have set up their own teams), but for me, Harry Potter has proven to be an excellent example of Nation Branding, albeit unintended, as it has exhibited some of Britain’s greatest talent and beautiful scenery. In the current age of globalisation, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain national identity, but by sticking to its roots, Harry Potter has done just this. It has shifted perceptions of Britain and has given something for Brits to be proud of.

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