By Kortney Frederick and Seth Harrison | Photos by Griffin Harrington and Seth Harrison
Everyone has interests. Some people have obsessions. Those people are so deeply passionate about a book, person or cultural symbol that it becomes a defining part of their identity. When it comes to these kind of obsessions, people will have all the knowledge and merchandise to accompany their obsession, and they’re not afraid to share it with the world.
Maddy Potter’s love for all things Disney is so infectious that it could make even a cynic believe that Disney World is really “the happiest place on earth” — and this past May it actually did. The freshman communication studies major went to Disney World this summer as a graduation trip, and one of her friends was determined not to buy into any Disney magic.
“I convinced him to go on the trip, and he was like ‘I’m not going to enjoy this; I’m just going to make a point not to enjoy this,’” Potter says.
But Potter, knowing her friend is really into “Star Wars”, persuaded him to go on the Star Tours ride in Hollywood Studios with her. Star Tours is a motion-simulated ride with a digital 3-D video of a space journey through the world of “Star Wars.”
After Star Tours, Potter said that her friend had enjoyed the ride in spite of himself; he enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he claimed it was the most fun he’d ever had in his entire life.
“Disney does its job well,” Potter says.
Potter’s Disney obsession is all-encompassing and spans from the parks themselves to the animation in the movies and the man behind it all. One overarching element of Disney that she finds particularly impressive is the level of detail in all aspects of Disney culture.
“They put hidden Mickeys around the park and they make sure the details are perfect when you go visit the princesses and they put crowns on the ceiling of the Royal Palace so that you can look up and see them,” she said. “Just the little details means that they love what they do and they care so much about what you think when you go to the park.”
Potter said that while she’s not entirely sure when to pinpoint the beginning of her passion for Disney — which she admits could be considered an obsession — it might have begun when she was 11 and visited the park for the first time.
“I wasn’t interested in it, when I went [to Disney World] the first time,” she says. “And I’m not sure if that like, sparked it and it just kind of snowballed from there. But I know that now Tumblr is definitely an aide in my obsession.”
Potter isn’t the only JMU student whose obsession has been fueled by social networking sites. Sophomore biology major Megan Moore uses Tumblr and YouTube as ways to support her One Direction obsession.
Moore became a One Direction fan during her senior year of high school when she heard “What Makes You Beautiful” on the radio and thought it was so catchy that she had to learn more about the band.
“Then I got a Tumblr, and that’s when everything went terrible. Tumblr’s the worst thing,” Moore says. “If you like something, you’re going to obsess over it after you get a Tumblr.”
Moore said that the vast majority of the blogs she follows on Tumblr are One Direction-themed.
“I’m pretty sure — I follow, like, 600 blogs — and probably, like, only five of them are not One Direction. So, basically, all the time I see One Direction,” she says.
Moore has also made multiple playlists on YouTube to watch One Direction interviews and other videos.
Although they may seem to fit the definition, not everyone is willing to call their obsession, an obsession.
“[Obsession] is a strong word,” Elizabeth Foote says. “Harry Potter’s not taking over my life, I’m just vocal about it. Being excited about something isn’t bad.”
Foote is a junior psychology major. Ask her what her true passion is, however, and there’s only one answer: Harry Potter.
Foote started reading the books when she was in third grade. At the time, the series was only up to the fourth book: “The Goblet of Fire.” Initially, Foote was reluctant to jump on the Potter bandwagon, but once she started reading them, she couldn’t stop.
“It’s a whole world that you can get into,” Foote says.
Foote is a collector of all things Harry Potter, and her friends are always looking for Harry Potter-related surprises for her.
“My friend in Israel sent me a Hogwarts letter,” Foote says. “She told me she was sending me a surprise, but she didn’t say what it was. When I got it, I cried a little bit.”
In addition, after graduating high school, Foote decided to take a trip that many Harry Potter fans dream of.
“The most expensive thing that I’ve done was go to the World of Harry Potter theme park. There’s an online community called the Leaky Cauldron, and they had a Harry Potter convention there. Me and some friends went down to Florida and stayed in one of the really high-end Universal resorts, and we got to see the latest movie before it was actually released in the U.S. I blew about half of my graduation money.”
Harry Potter himself may only exist on the printed page and movie screen, but the author of the books, J.K. Rowling, is very much real, although Foote has yet to meet her.
“Me and a friend were going to get tickets [to an event where Rowling was speaking], but the tickets leaked online before they were supposed to go on sale, and by the time we got there they were gone.”
If Rowling’s and Foote’s paths do cross, however, Foote is ready.
“If I met her, I would be very emotional, but I wouldn’t cry. I have a list of questions. I want to know why she made Peter Pettigrew a Gryffindor,” she says.
“He’s just such a traitorous bastard.”