I’m told I’m part of Generation Y. I’m not sure what that means, but there’s one certainty we all share. Our childhood and adolescence have been punctuated by a certain boy wizard and his escapades.
The Harry Potter series grew up alongside its readership. As the new play ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ came out, the frenzy around the magical tales has again been unleashed on a nation grateful for good news.
Whilst the stories continue to allow readers, especially children, to escape into another world, it’s Gen Y who grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione intertwined in their lives like the most dependable of friends. And we are the ones who understand what it’s like to attend those midnight events in full fancy dress and wait for the next instalment after reading the book in one sitting.
Harry Potter is part of a rare subset of entertainment that defines a generation, my generation. It shares that honour with the likes of The Beatles in the 60s, Star Wars in the 70s and perhaps New Romantics in the 80s.
Of course this generational ubiquity might be a nostalgic construct. Not every sixties teen went crazy for The Beatles, nor did every youngster dress like Adam Ant.
Since the 90s, it feels like most people have read about ‘the boy who lived’ and most grew up immersed in the world of the boy wizard—reading the books under the bed covers, watching the films amongst other “Potterheads” , and competing in silly home-made Quidditch tournaments.
Notably, for all the panic over cynical youngsters, with their skinny jeans, floppy hair and our obsessive reliance on technology, we are also a generation that fell madly in love with the tales about love conquering hate.
The key element of any classic story is for it to tap into some primal fantasy of its audience. It’s not so much the idea of being whisked away to a school where magic is taught, or defeating the ultimate force of evil in an epic battle, but the relative normalcy of Harry’s life that fascinates us most.
At some level he and his friends are just ordinary, with familiar concerns about friends, homework and incipient romantic yearnings. Even in Hogwarts there are the same things that exist in the real, unmagical world: the same uncertainties, missteps and pitfalls, the same mentors, villains and conflicts between light and dark.
In this, JK Rowling follows John Updike’s great dictum that the job of an artist is to “give the mundane its beautiful due”. She just gave the mundane its magical due.
In the coming decade, Harry Potter will no doubt find a place in the hearts of many new readers, movie-goers and play audiences, but perhaps none will have the deep-seated passion for the world of Hogwarts shared by those who grew up with him through those first seven books and eight films, and now the new play.
Harry – we thank you.
Lucy Howard is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds