The Surprising Political Lessons We Learned from Harry Potter
The Harry Potter series captured people's hearts, minds, and imaginations by transporting them into the world of Hogwarts' witchcraft and wizardry. Writer J.K. Rowling created a $24.7 billion industry and a theme park out of the books, which spawned a whole world of fanfiction. However, highly unanticipated consequence of the series is how it shaped millenials' views on politics. University of Vermont Professor Anthony Gierzyniski and Kathryn Eddy's book Harry Potter and the Millenials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation explores the political and cultural influences Harry Potter has had on millennials.
Gierzynski and his undergraduate students examined 1,100 college students from 2009 to 2011 who anonymously answered a survey determining their interest in Harry Potter. 30% of respondents answered they were "very much interest(ed) in Harry Potter." The students also answered a separate survey in which they reflected on the books' central messages. Some interesting results included that Harry Potter fans are more politically active than those who are not fans, and according to Professor Gierzynski, Muggle (non-magical folk) millenials to be "less authoritarian … and more accepting of diversity."
Gierzyniski noted that many millenials were formulating their system of personal political beliefs as the books were being published. The central motifs of the books include love, the fight for equality, and the struggle for power. These ideas are mirrored in the social and political struggles that define millenials' time. For example, the struggle between Muggles, and Purebloods, and Half-bloods reflects the LGBTQ community's fight for acceptance within the broader heterosexual world. The plight of house elves and other non-magical creatures relates to minorities and their struggles to gain equality. The book's emphasis on issues related to diversity might demonstrate why muggle millennials are more accepting than those of the Baby Boomer generation.
Just like millenials, the wizarding world underwent a serious war. 9/11 is among the defining moments of the millennial generation. Harry, Hermione, Ron, and other students participated in the wizarding war at a young age. 58% of the U.S. military is comprised of people under 30. Even though the wizarding war is fictitious, the case can be made for parallels between the war on "terrorism" and the war on "magic." Again, this is not to discredit the war on terrorism or to demean the sacrifices that countless U.S. soldiers have made for our country. Rather, it is an observation that the feelings and dedication of the characters fighting against Voldermort demonstrate the passion millenials feel towards a cause. Rowling's focus on power rather than on evil vs. good demonstrates the problems our world faces now. Many of today's global conflicts are centered on a balancing act of power. Dumbledore puts it so eloquently: "Voldemort himself created his own worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress?"
Again, some may argue that to formulate one's political beliefs, one should immerse themselves within policies and issues. I agree wholeheartedly, but to discredit cultural influences on one's political beliefs is ridiculous. If that's the case, why would The Colbert Report and The Daily Show be quite popular amongst millenials? 80% of 18-49 year-olds watch the show and choose it as their source of daily news. Political beliefs are shaped by numerous intersecting forces including one's parents' political affiliations, religious affiliation, environment, socioeconomic status and yes, culture. There is not a doubt in my mind that Harry Potter has helped shaped millenials' political views.