2021 has graced us with many cast reunions, spinoffs, and re-releases. In May, the “Friends” cast assembled for “Friends: the Reunion.” In July, “Gossip Girl” returned in an HBO Max reboot. Just last month, Taylor Swift released the latest of her re-recordings, “Red (Taylor’s Version).”
I’ve patiently waited my turn for something I really liked to come back. In January, my dream will finally come true doubly as I’m reunited with my two favorite worlds: “Harry Potter” and “How I Met Your Mother.” On Jan. 1, the “Harry Potter” cast will be reuniting for an HBO Max special, the first time they’ve come together since the final film’s release in 2011. And on Jan. 18, the first season of the “How I Met Your Mother” spinoff “How I Met Your Father” will premiere on Hulu. The anticipation has inspired me to reflect on my relationship—or rather obsessions—with both.
As a younger child, I was terrified of “Harry Potter.” My mom tried to get me into it, but for whatever reason, the idea of a wizarding world scared me so much that my five-year-old self requested that all the “Harry Potter” books be removed from our house.
It wasn’t until first grade that I took the leap and decided to try them for myself. As soon as I did, I was transfixed. I quickly read all of the books, grateful that the seventh book came out just as I started the first so I could truly binge the series. But I didn’t stop there. In second grade, I was Hermione for Halloween, fashioning myself a wand out of duct tape. The same year, I insisted on a “Harry Potter” themed birthday party, complete with a sorting ceremony, a potion-making class, dormitories for each house, and a Hogwarts-like common room (which to this day is the term used to refer to the room between mine and my parents’). In elementary school, I constantly cycled through the books, writing down the spells in a notebook as I went along as if they were a list of vocabulary words. The wizarding world of Harry Potter provided an escape for my young mind. It was the first book series I ever truly enjoyed, and it inspired a love of reading that followed me through my childhood.
I wasn’t allowed to watch the movies until I read all the books—my mother’s rule—but when I did, I found a similar fascination with the films. Additionally, I happened to be reading the series as the films were coming out. To me, the books and movies were interchangeable. Daniel Radcliffe was Harry, Emma Watson was Hermione, and Rupert Grint was Ron.
As I grew up, “Harry Potter” still had a place in my heart, but I soon started to turn to TV shows. In sixth grade, I started watching “How I Met Your Mother.” It was the first sitcom I’d ever watched, and though I was dubious at first, I soon became obsessed—so much so that my Bat Mitzvah giveaways were boxer shorts sporting “Hannah’s Bat Mitzvah was Legen…Wait for It…Dairy,” a reference to character Barney Stinson’s famous catchphrase.
Since then, it has become my go-to show. During my first break up, it was “How I Met Your Mother” and Ted Mosby’s failure of a love life that got me through. The series provided comfort as I adjusted to life at Wesleyan, especially given the many easter eggs only a true Cardinal would understand (the series was created by alums Craig Thomas ’97 and Carter Bays ’97). And as my 22nd birthday last week came to an end, the only course of action I could fathom to help cope with my thoughts of growing older was to watch the series finale. I’ve watched the show enough times that I can easily summon episode titles after hearing a quick description (and vice versa).
Although both are unrealistic in their own ways—“Harry Potter” is about child wizards defeating a dark lord, and “How I Met Your Mother” really had me thinking I’d meet my soulmate the first day of freshman year—they both have been a source of consolation for me throughout my life. And in the end, I have both to thank for bringing me to the University. I was officially introduced to the University through “How I Met Your Mother,” since creators Bays and Thomas met here and constantly weaved their Wesleyan experience into the show and its characters. As for “Harry Potter,” it was Emeritus Professor of Psychology Bob Steele’s course “Myth, Magic, and Movies” that made me choose Wesleyan over the University of Michigan. After all, only at a liberal arts college would I get the opportunity to take a class where “Harry Potter” was the sole required reading.
The returns of both of these worlds will be very different from the originals. The “Harry Potter” special will not include series author J.K. Rowling, a decision likely stemming from public censure in response to her transphobic comments. As for “How I Met Your Father,” the creative team is the same, but the characters will be completely different. Despite these changes, there is a certain nostalgic joy to reinvigorating a love for a certain universe—a feeling I anticipate, come January.
Hannah Docter-Loeb can be reached at email@example.com.