The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Around this time last year, I couldn’t scroll through my ‘for you’ page (FYP) without seeing hundreds of videos related to Harry Potter. It was very odd for a long-time fan like me to see people digging up a metaphorical time capsule buried by 2014 Tumblr and bringing the contents to TikTok. Those who were invested in the series and fandom in their youth hopped on the trend out of pure nostalgia while many others picked up a Harry Potter book for the first time in order to join in on the fun.
I’m not saying by any means that TikTok popularized the series. Since the early ’90s, people have been hardcore fans of the books, showing their love at conventions or on internet forums. For the past two decades, you couldn’t walk into a HotTopic or bookstore without seeing wands, Funko Pops, and other Harry Potter themed merchandise. Thousands of people a day visit the Wizarding World in Universal Studios and everyone probably has met at least one person with a Harry Potter inspired tattoo. Being a fan of the series did not originate from TikTok last year, it transformed it. Fans went from reading and writing fanfiction casually to getting it printed as real books to put on their shelves at home. They went from wishing they could go to Hogwarts to shifting realities to experience it. Cosplayers on TikTok were fully editing videos to make extremely realistic POV videos where it appeared that they were actually part of scenes in the films.
“DracoTok” was a cultural phenomenon that forever changed how people create and perceive fan content.
WHAT EVEN WAS DRACOTOK?
“DracoTok” or HPTikTok as some call it, was a side of TikTok that was exclusively dedicated to people sharing how attractive they thought certain members of the Harry Potter cast were. This began around August of 2020. The main focus of this trend started with Draco Malfoy, the resident bully of the series. Actor Tom Felton who portrayed Malfoy over a decade ago joined TikTok and hopped on many of the fan trends. At first, it was a cute attempt at playing in on nostalgia, but it wasn’t long before it turned sour. But where did it go wrong? When did revisiting something so pure from our childhoods become messy and problematic?
As I stated, it started with “pure” intentions. I personally don’t care for Draco Malfoy as a character. I think he’s genuinely malicious and had a mediocre redemption that was unnecessary. He was a spoiled brat who bullied an orphan for fun. However, many people on the internet saw him differently. To them, he was a complex and broken boy who had no choice but to act mean because he was raised in the environment that he was. Also, the actor was attractive when he was a teenager. These factors drove fans to go absolutely feral for the character. Edits, POVs and fanfictions multiplied. Some popular stories include Potter? by Selina, The Marriage Law by quilldrop and Filfthy by -babynaomi all on Wattpad. These stories rack up a total of over 41 million reads combined.
That many people could fill up the Staples Center over 2,000 times.
However, for some fans, video edits and stories were not enough. Something called “reality shifting” blew up and soon, thousands of people were spending their nights transporting their subconscious to a fictional world. People began posting their shifting stories to TikTok. While I think it would be a very strange collective lie for everyone who successfully “shifted” to tell across the internet, lots of it was very obviously made up. I don’t really believe that people taught Hermione the WAP dance and got detention from Snape for it. While the topic of shifting remains controversial, it had and still has thousands of people in a chokehold.
In the Summer of 2020, the author of the Harry Potter series, J.K Rowling came out on Twitter with transphobic comments, proudly proclaiming herself as a “trans exclusive radical feminist” or “TERF”. Nearly every member of the Harry Potter film cast came out with statements against Rowling and her views in support of the LGBT+ community. However, Tom Felton did not. At first, the participants of DracoTok did not pay any mind to this. It made sense why they didn’t. The phenomenon was about Draco Malfoy, a fictional character, not Tom Felton. However, a few months into it, after the trends expanded to nearly every character in the series, people brought light to Felton’s silence.
When asked about it in interviews, he would dodge the question entirely and once even called J.K Rowling a genius, which many LGBTQ+ fans found harmful. There are several underlying racist, sexist, xenophobic and homophobic themes buried beneath the surface of all the magic of Harry Potter. This is not to say that people cannot enjoy the books but discourse is productive and necessary especially following Rowling’s comments. Examples include the anti-semitic caricatures of the Gringotts Goblins and the fact that one of the three black characters in the series is named “Shacklebolt”.
Felton’s fall from grace also can be attributed to the fact that he still has not let go of his role as Draco from when he was a teenager, has made several creepy comments about co-star Emma Watson (who’s engaged) and has used his platform to pander to minors. These factors turned many fans off from the trends as well as just general loss of interest.
HPTikTok is still going strong in its own corner of the internet, but many fans have since moved on to other fandoms such as Marvel. The trends of POVs, popular fanfictions and shifting were copied and pasted but with different popular media.
I do believe that DracoTok is dead and gone though. Other characters in the series began getting more attention and soon more people were reading All The Young Dudes by MsKingBean89 (a popular ao3 fanfiction about Remus Lupin and Sirius Black) than any Draco Malfoy x Reader story. Tom Felton is still holding on to his role as Draco and those who are enthralled with the idea probably weren’t on DracoTok.
I think that overall this phenomenon was a great outlet for many young people’s creativity and impacted fan content on TikTok permanently. It popularized tons of songs, stories, indie merchandise shops and inspired people to read and write and make art. Of course, there is a toxic side to everything and although lots of aspects of DracoTok were extremely cringey, it had a positive impact on millions of people.