I truly admire J.K. Rowling. I realize this isn’t the most controversial statement, and it’s probably a sentiment that most people share. Her crowning achievement, to me, was the ascension of her books to actual pop culture phenomenon. Where today we line up outside movie theaters for midnight premieres, we waited then outside Borders for midnight releases. Where we wait months for the trailer of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” we waited years for the release of “Deathly Hallows.”
This is what amazes me about Harry Potter. The concept of books being a bona fide national obsession among people our age seems to have been a casualty from TV and film’s rise to the top of the pop culture food chain. More people binge-watch than read for pleasure, and it’s not for lack of time. Yet, we’ll always have Harry Potter.
And truthfully, the series’ quality is irrelevant. The things we held close to our chest in childhood we hold even closer in our adulthood. An objectively bad movie (“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace”) is considered an all-time classic (by me) simply because of its association with a faintly remembered youth.
The power of sentimentality is one of my favorite things about life. It makes me incredibly, inexplicably happy that we look at everything from our formative years in the most crimson of rose-tinted glasses. It’s why I defend “The Office” so fiercely and love Batman like I love my grandmother. There’s a VHS tape of the Backstreet Boys’ official Black & Blue tour sitting somewhere in my house; I watched it over and over as a child, and I’ll never get rid of it. And no one will ever convince me that “Space Jam” got bad reviews.
Is this worth it, though? Do we lose some sort of critical edge if we turn a blind eye to the things we grew up with? To grow up playing football would likely lead to a reluctance to answer uncomfortable conversations about concussions in the sport. To spend one’s youth going hunting would likely translate to a reluctance toward gun control. Unfortunately, it seems sentimentality is often our biggest obstacle to change, as well.
To be sure, this is a long line to draw. Assigning sentimental value to certain concepts is a naturally human occurrence, but it can also be dangerous. I grow too attached to movies, books, shows, people, things from my childhood for which I can often never see the other side, and I’ve been alarmed at the degree to which this is true. It’s odd, I know, to analyze the idea of being attached to things from your childhood, and it’s something probably no one has ever done before because no one has ever even thought about why it’s necessary, but I think it’s worth noting. It’s a concept that’s so universal, so ingrained that we never stop to think about why it is such, and that in itself is an important process.