Growing up with Harry Potter
For the last decade, we as moviegoers have witnessed something magical onscreen -- an evolving coming-of-age story and fantastical epic. Through eight films and nine years, we’ve watched Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter grow from boy to man. As Harry grew, the tests he faced loomed larger, and a series initially dismissed as “just for kids” explored adult themes of self-discovery and the challenges of growing up.
With awed wonder, we entered the world of Hogwarts in 2001 with the first film, THE SORCERER’S STONE. This and its 2002 sequel, THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, showed us a fanciful world where the child Harry Potter and his friends Hermione and Ron could overcome evil with nothing but courage. This changed in the under-appreciated, gothic PRISONER OF AZKABAN, which sounded the death-knell for Harry’s childhood. Starting from this point, Harry was forced through the realities of responsibility and disappointment that arise in adolescence and adulthood.
As Harry entered his teen years, he would have to struggle with questions of identity many teens face. Once the evil Lord Voldemort returned in THE GOBLET OF FIRE in 2005, Harry began battling with the darker part of his nature. The personal journey of THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (2007) reached its apex when Harry was possessed by Voldemort and had to confront his insecurities. Ultimately, Harry found self-worth in his love for friends and family. This steeled him for his later challenges, but his journey wasn’t finished yet.
Unfortunately, the road to adulthood does not end with one personal revelation, but instead the discovery of one’s place in the world. Through THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE in 2009 and into the two-part conclusion of THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, the scope of the story grew larger as Harry moved from his personal battle to a larger war for his friends and home. In the end, though we love the magic of “Harry Potter,” what draws us to his story is the knowledge that his struggles are our own writ large. We may never battle a dragon, but we know the uncertainty of adolescence and the feeling of elation with each step towards self-discovery we make. Harry Potter thus serves as an empathetic parable for children and a reminder for adults of just how scary growing up can be, trolls included.