When Reuters/Hollywood Reporter ran an article laying out the "eerie links" between the Harry Potter saga and the killing of Osama bin Laden, the mockery came fast and furious. But sociologists say it isn't a joke for many members of the Millennial generation (born 1980-2000), for whom the Sept. 11 attacks and the Harry Potter books and movies are formative cultural touchstones. For them, "it's a Harry Potter world," says historian Neil Howe. And now "it's like Voldemort is dead." Is this a real phenomenon?
Yes, "Osama is our Voldemort": "For most of us Millennials," Sept. 11 was when we lost our childhood sense of innocence and safety, says Alexandra Petri in The Washington Post. And the man who took it was bin Laden. In our world of nuance, where most bad guys "just had weird childhoods," Osama was inarguably "pure evil," like Lord Voldemort. So of course we celebrated his demise: Voldemort is dead — "gather the er, wizards, for the wizard banquet"!
"Why we Millennials celebrated when Osama died"
We know life isn't that simple: Yes, "we're the 9/11 generation," says Matthew Segal, co-founder and president of the under-30 nonprofit Our Time, in USA Today. And the Harry Potter parallels do resonate for us. But we're also "not a generation that oversimplifies good and evil, nor do we revel in violence." Remember, it's our fellow Millennials who are still fighting and dying in foreign wars.
"Bin Laden's death a turning point for Millennials"
At least Millennials know who bin Laden is: It makes sense that the people who were 9 or 10 on 9/11 see bin Laden as "the personification of evil in the world," says Megan McArdle in The Atlantic. What's harder to believe is that so many of 2011's teenagers don't even know who Osama is. I guess, why would they? They were in kindergarten. But it's just a reminder that "teenagers live in their own little world, only tangentially connected to the one the rest of us occupy."
Why not see Osama as Voldemort? The obvious comparisons between bin Laden and "big bad Voldemort" have been around for years, says Matt Singer in IFC. And not just among Millennials. But so what? "I firmly believe the real world invades popular culture more often than many realize," and that's probably a good thing for both reality and fiction.
"Harry Potter and the real world terrorism parallels"