If your kids are like mine, they’ve been counting down the days until the opening of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II”. This is not a new phenomenon for my family…as we’ve experienced the same lead up excitement with all the prior movies. The difference today, though, is that we are preparing for the end – the end of the story and the end of the movies.
The Harry Potter phenomenon is amazing to consider and, in many ways, has been unlike any other book to movie franchise. It’s not only one of the best author rags to riches stories of our day but is, itself, a phenomenon that has impacted an entire generation of kids, fostering their imaginations, impacting their dreams and ideals, and giving them a framework to witness their own real world experiences of growing up in a safe and understandable way.
When I view the Harry Potter movies from a media perspective, I have to give the entire group of movies a thumbs up. There are few movies that have been able to keep up the quality from movie to movie as these movies have. There are also few movives that have captivated kids and their parents like this creating a multitude of venues families can enjoy together. In the case of my family, this journey started before my oldest daughter could read, with the first few books being read to her by my husband. Once the movies came out, it quickly became a family event. We’ve seen all the museum exhibitions that have toured and even tailored our recent London trip so our kids could see some of the real world sights that influenced the fantastical sets of the movies.
The other element of these movies that I have loved is the casting. Few movies today have casted kids in kid roles and allowed them to grow up as the movies evolved. The rarity of the cast is how wonderful they are to their fans and how humble they have been throughout the last decade. That is truly rare in today’s Hollywood culture.
Our kids have actually grown up with these characters which is one of the unique and most powerful features of this entire enterprise. Seeing movie characters they can relate to going “through kid stuff” and “coming of age stuff” helps our kids deal with their own “stuff” – stuff like just growing up, becoming a teen and young adult, dealing with first romantic crushes and feelings, understanding the value of friendship.
So, this just isn’t the end to a run of movies. By the conclusion of “HP 7″ our kids will be saying “farewell” to characters that have been staples throughout their childhoods. The impact will be akin to saying “goodbye” to a friend about to move so we should prepare for that, and allow our kids the emotions and reactions they will have. Just like saying “farewell” to a friend about to move, this weekend’s movie will rock our kids and we need to be prepared for that. Art often imitates life and that has truly been the case with the core events the HP characters have experienced. Seeing real world events depicted in movies helps our kids deal with similar real world issues. It provides a context removed from the real world to talk about some tough stuff and real life issues that may be hard to discuss otherwise.
As I walk in these shoes with you, about to see the movie tonight at midnight and likely to be part of carpools as my teens plan to see the movie again with friends, here are my thoughts on why the Harry Potter story line has been one of the best for kids and families in my kids’ lifetimes:
- The story gets kids reading.
- The movie and related events encourage family time.
- The story and characters have sparked imagination and fueled our kids to be kids.
- The story itself grapples with Good Vs. Evil with normal life issue undertones of kids growing up.
- The movies, and books, have showed how teens deal with hormones without inappropriate images.
- No gratuitous sex, drugs, violence that isn’t out of the real of what kids can handle.
- The story evolves tween and teen issues in a way kids can relate to.
- The story emphasizes the importance of education, friends and family.
- Friendship is shown in a real world light and emphasizes that it’s ok for friends to disagree – and still be friends.
- Love, friendship and good triumph in the end, as it should…after all, this is still a movie!
(Image: Harry Potter Warner Brothers website)