Harry Potter and a Generation’s Early-Onset Nostalgia

My introduction to Harry Potter was in fourth grade when my teacher read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone aloud to the class. I don’t remember if we read the whole book as a class or if I had to go find a copy of the book to finish myself. I do know, however, that I was drawn into the world created by J.K. Rowling.

I was an avid reader already, blowing through my elementary school library’s collection of the Redwall series, the Boxcar Children and, of course, the sports section. Still, like many children my age, Harry Potter became an integral part of my childhood. I dressed up like him on Halloween, for a while Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the longest book I had read, I saw the movies (though never at midnight) and developed the requisite crush on Emma Watson.

I was a dedicated fan. Not the biggest, but for a middle school boy, I think I was a pretty good one. That is, until the fifth book came out.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out in the summer of 2003, the summer between seventh and eighth grade for me. I hated it. Harry was too whiny for my taste. There wasn’t enough of Hermione. Sirius dies. I’m not sure it was significant that the fifth book was the first I read as a teenager, but maybe I was looking for a reason to leave the series behind.

In any case, the luster was gone. I almost quit the series. I had already seen the first three movies, but wouldn’t watch any more. I read the final two books, but felt no rush to get my hands on a copy as soon as they came out. The last two books were much better, but my fanaticism was gone. They were just more books for me to read, which I did happily.

So when the eighth and final Harry Potter movie opens tonight, I will not be standing in line. Many of my friends, however, will be. They view tonight as a very significant event in their lives; some have even called it the end of their childhood. While I admit I am not much of a fan anymore, I still cannot understand this line of thinking.

The seventh book came out before my senior year in high school, a much better ending point for our childhoods. The books carried us from elementary school through high school; they were our childhood friends, the things that brought us surprise and a desire to keep turning pages. The movies are just an interpretation of what we already know. The movies have been well done, from what I have seen, but there are no surprises.

Perhaps my friends are seeing the same thing coming in less than a year. Perhaps they see graduation and real jobs or grad school and are doing their very best to cling to this last summer of “childhood” before school starts again. If that is what they are feeling, I can hardly begrudge them.

For we all know how the movie will end tonight. This is not the end of our childhood; this is watching the tape of our high school graduation for the first time. This is nostalgia, this is clinging to our childhood and, for those standing in line at the theaters, there is nothing wrong with admitting that.


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