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Opinion

Harry Potter's true service to my generation: Muggles united

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is more than the end of a great saga. Translated into 67 languages, the Harry Potter series united my generation around the globe.

By Noah Bokat-Lindell / July 15, 2011



Washington

It All Ends Here.

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So proclaims every advertisement for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”, possibly the most anticipated movie in recent history and the climax of a multi-billion dollar media franchise. That tagline evokes something deeper, however, than just the end of a film series. For me and for others my age, it symbolizes the end of our childhoods. We are, after all, the Harry Potter Generation. Some have considered us to be the product of the Information Age, and others have noted how we have grown up in the shadow of 9/11, but I am convinced that it is our embrace of a fictional orphaned boy that will end up defining my generation.

See Monitor film critic Peter Rainer's review of the movie

For 14 years – a full two-thirds of my time so far on Earth – we have been living in Harry Potter’s world. We’ve waited outside bookstores at midnight, dressed in costumes normally reserved for trick-or-treating, staying up far past our bedtimes to enjoy the simple pleasure of holding a book in our hands. We’ve devoured each new installment in the chronicle of Harry’s life while our attention spans, supposedly destroyed by YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, somehow managed to grow in proportion to the length of the latest volume.

We’ve dutifully attended all of the movies and bickered about how the screenwriters left out seemingly crucial details, or how the actors playing the three leads just weren’t cutting it, or how mind-bogglingly impossible it is to ever recreate on the screen the universe that we’ve designed in our heads. We have been indefatigable in our fandom. And together we’ve journeyed to this point in our lives, when we will finally be released from Harry’s world and thrust into our own.

Circumstances made us – and Harry – grow up faster

It is a favorite cliché among politicians that we are living in uncertain times, and this is doubly true for my generation. The job we want could be taken by someone living halfway across the world who is willing to work for a fraction of the cost. The unemployment rate in the US for those between 16 and 24 stands at around 19 percent – double the national rate.

And we are still coping with the knowledge, made suddenly and terribly plain to us a decade ago, that there are people out there in the world who want nothing more than to see our bodies strewn across the wreckage caused by their malice and closed-mindedness. In many ways, like Harry, we reached adulthood far earlier than a kinder universe would have allowed.

But this is what makes the “Harry Potter” series so important for us. It has helped ease the transition, allowing us to slow down a bit as we followed Harry through his dangerous but still relatively childish pursuits. As we became old enough to accept sorrow and grief, Harry, too, confronted a more complex web of emotions and responsibilities. We grew up alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione, sharing in their triumphs and wallowing in their despair.

It certainly helped our navigation of their world that the evil they were fighting was unsullied by nuance. Lord Voldemort never exhibited any redeeming qualities. He certainly never showed remorse. Unlike most situations in the real world, with “Harry Potter” one never had to hesitate before choosing sides.

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