French Journal For Media Research

Laura Gabriela Kievsky

The tender child and the young immature

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Actuellement, il existe différents mécanismes médiatiques qui construisent et fixent une certaine figure du fan de Harry Potter dans l’imaginaire social. Le but de cet article est d'analyser la manière avec laquelle les enfants, les adolescents et les jeunes adultes fans de Harry Potter sont représentés par les médias de masse dominants en Argentine. Il s'agit d'étudier les aspects interdiscursifs majeurs, à savoir les récurrences thématiques ou les noyaux de sens qui apparaissent dans les représentations de ces sujets dans la presse graphique traditionnelle et la télévision nationale. Dans ce contexte, nous observerons que, d’un côté les enfants fans de Harry Potter sont associés à certaines images et idées positives et, d'un autre côté, les adolescents et les jeunes adultes sont perçus comme immatures. De plus, le phénomène Harry Potter est composé d'une saga de livres fantastiques, faisant partie de la culture littéraire et, comme nous le discuterons, la lecture de ces histoires est encouragée pour les petits enfants.
Mots clés
: fanatisme, Harry Potter, représentation, enfants, stéréotype
Abstract :
Nowadays there are several media mechanisms that help building and establishing a certain figure of the Harry Potter fan in the social imaginary. This paper aims to analyze the way in which children, adolescents and young Harry Potter fans are represented in the hegemonic mass media of Argentina. In this way, the methodology of this paper consists of the study of interdiscursive dominances, that is, the thematic recurrences of meaning, which are found in the representations made by the traditional graphic press and national television. In this sense, we will observe that, on the one hand, the children who are fans of Harry Potter are associated with certain images and positive notions, while adolescents and young people are seen as immature and are usually being laughed at by older adults in the media. In addition, considering that the Harry Potter phenomenon was born as a book saga and, therefore, is taken as part of the literate culture by most of our society, we will find that the mass media actually encourage children to read it and become a fan.
Key words
: Representation, fans, stereotype, childhood, Harry Potter


2Nowadays, we can say that we are immersed in a globalized context that is constantly moving and in which media and cultural products are expanding fast, reaching more and more places and people, and producing diverse responses from the audiences. Within this context, the phenomenon that revolves around the Harry Potter books and films has grown rapidly and has generated fans of different ages, genders, social classes, and ethnicities from all around the world.

3The global phenomenon of Harry Potter started in 1997 with the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the first book of the saga written by J.K. Rowling and published by Bloomsbury Publishing in England. Originated more than twenty years ago, today Harry Potter is more than just a book, it’s a saga of seven books, eight movies, a few spin-offs, a play, theme amusement parks, hundreds of merchandising products sold and thousands of fans.

4The story follows an 11-year-old boy who finds out that he is a wizard when a letter from Hogwarts, a school of magic and wizardry, arrives. Harry Potter, the main character, then seeks to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort, who murdered his parents in his quest to conquer the magical world.

5Although the books were written with a young audience in mind (specially kids and adolescents), several adults quickly became followers and fans of the franchise. In addition, the phenomenon that began in 1997 acquired a greater impact in 2001, when the fiction reached the big screen and thousands of fans and non-fans were able to watch the story in a cinema. The books became best sellers, and all of the films were blockbusters. We can say, then, that Harry Potter had more global success than people expected and that it turned out to be an unprecedented phenomenon that led to a lot of people becoming fans and even calling themselves “potterheads”.

6The arrival of the first book to Argentina in 1999 generated local and national dynamics around this global phenomenon. That moment led to the birth of a large fandom (or community of fans) which assembles people of different ages, from children who can barely read (or don’t even know how to read yet, but have seen a Harry Potter movie) to young adults who read the books when they were kids or teens, or found the magical world during adulthood.

7Therefore, the objective of this paper is to investigate the representations of Harry Potter fans in the Argentinian hegemonic mass media. To do so, we seek to identify the interdiscursive dominances (Angenot, 2010), or the thematic recurrences of meaning found in these representations, through which these children, adolescents and young adult Harry Potter fans are portrayed, determining the rules and limits of what is thinkable, sayable, and displayable about these actors.

8Along these lines, we selected a journalistic corpus that will be described and examined in detail throughout this paper. This corpus is made up of audiovisual material broadcasted on television programs of the main Argentine channels, available on YouTube, as well as articles and reports published in the traditional graphic press, consulted on the web pages of those newspapers. For this reason, we believe that the iconic layer, according to Peirce (1987), constitutes an elementary component of this analysis since in the images and texts that are reproduced in these type of media (graphic and television), “the meaning is produced in the articulation of both instances, iconic and linguistic” (Borda, 2000, p. 2).

9In other words, we will analyze the different tools and devices used in the mass media to establish a certain image of children, adolescents and young potterheads in the social imaginary, while seeking to compare the attributes assigned to them.

Interdiscursive dominances in the hegemonic representations of children, adolescents, and young Harry Potter fans in Argentina

10The main interdiscursive dominance found in the representations of potterheads is the tender or cute child who likes to read. In the Argentinian mass media, the child or adolescent is associated with images of culture, learning and play. In this way, we observe that children are allowed to be dressed up as characters from the Harry Potter saga because "it is a good thing for kids their age".

11Thus, we notice the fascination for a boy dressed as Harry Potter in “Las puertas de Guido”, the Argentinian television program in which the host, Guido Kaczka, and his co-host make comments such as “impressive” or “this is perfect” (Canal 13, 8/8/2017), while they show the details of the kids’ costume and express their approval and admiration. In this case, dressing up as a fictional character is not related to being ridiculous, but rather constitutes a way of playing, typically related to childhood, to which even Guido Kaczka can join in by trying on his scarf because, in this case, it is something he can do to relax and give the kid some confidence, reducing a possible feeling of discomfort of being publicly exposed on television.

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12Fig.1: Guido Kaczka, the host of the tv show Las Puertas de Guido, using the scarf from the kid’s costume (8/8/2017)

13In addition, we find a new recurring characteristic of the child who is a Harry Potter fan: tenderness or cuteness. The representation of Harry Potter fanaticism in children is full of images of them in costumes and headlines that announce "The cute photos of the 'little wizards' sons of Messi, with the theme of Harry Potter" (La Nación, 1/3/2019). The children of Lionel Messi, the renowned professional football player, are seen as "cute" because they are fans of this fantasy world and even dress up as wizards.

Image 100000000000029A00000191BC35C2651C553922.png

14Fig.2: Thiago y Mateo Messi dressed up as Harry Potter (La Nación, 1/3/2017)

15The iconic reference is fundamental in the reproduction of the Harry Potter young fan stereotype, since the images chosen to illustrate the potterheads in the media focus on children dressed up as different characters, reading or playing without the presence of adults in those photos and videos.

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16Fig.3: Kids having fun at a Harry Potter birthday themed meeting (TN, 27/6/2017).

Image 100000000000025E0000017416D05DCB2A686515.png

17Fig.4 Kids playing Harry Potter games in Usina Fantástica (Infobae, 21/11/2019).

18In addition, the symbolic level also becomes relevant for the analysis of this corpus. According to Peirce (1987), symbols are arbitrary and unmotivated signs, and they rely on conventional usage to determine meaning. In this sense, any word is a symbol as there’s nothing inherent in them that indicated what it represents, and it must be culturally learned. Therefore, the words related to potterheads and their fandom that can be found in articles are at the symbolic level.

19Accordingly, at this level, the potterhead who is also going through childhood and adolescence is characterized as a "reader"; children and teens can be fans of Harry Potter since this fanaticism is related to reading and learning, and is conceived as something positive or beneficial as, apparently, nowadays kids have lost interest in books. Thus, we can find articles with the following words “Twenty years after his first book, the highly successful series of the young wizard created a community of fans for whom Harry Potter was the gateway to reading and a way to explore the mystery genre. Whoever has called themself a Potter fan has also called themself a reader, a loyal member of the guild of story seekers. Boys and girls who could recognize each other in their common language, Harry's language” (La Nación, 7/2/2017). In this piece, it is also mentioned that "Harry, Ron, Hermione and Dumbledore continue to conquer new readers, they continue to build a community among the little ones" (La Nación, 7/2/2017). Being a Harry Potter fan appears as a way of being part of a community of readers that consists mainly of children and teens.

20In other words, the Harry Potter fantasy saga helps children to approach fictional reading, an activity that has positive value both for their parents and for society as a whole. Thus, meetings such as the Harry Potter Book Night and Usina Fantástica1 are described by the press as "A night where magic and reading meet" (Infobae, 2/9/2017), where the fanaticism for Harry Potter becomes "love for books”, “kids and young people were invited to express their love for books by dressing up and having fun with a series of incredible activities” (Infobae, 2/9/2017) -, as an initiative that “Encourages reading among younger people” (Clarín, 2/8/2019) and seeks to “celebrate fantasy literature” (Clarín, 1/30/2020).

21These meetings that invite children and young potterheads to learn and play are legitimized in the mass media since they are organized by historically recognized and respected authorities such as the British Embassy in Argentina or the Government of the City of Buenos Aires in Usina del Arte. In addition, Harry Potter is treated here as a piece of literature that belongs to the hegemonic literate culture, considered legitimate and valid and, therefore, children should be captivated by it. As an example, Viviana Cantoni, the undersecretary of cultural management of the City of Buenos Aires, explains in an article in Clarín newspaper (11/22/2019): "The idea is to present something that the kids find attractive and allow them to get closer to culture, reading, learning about new things".

22Moreover, Mark Kent, the British ambassador in Argentina becomes a relevant actor in articles which talk about the Harry Potter Book Night. He repeats several times in different media that he does not consider himself a Potterhead - “I'm not as fanatic as these people here” (Crónica TV, 1/2/2018) - but he thinks that it’s a good thing that the children have fun and learn with Harry Potter. Some articles about the meeting contain quotes from the ambassador stating that “Harry Potter Book Night is a way of honoring the fanaticism for the books of the acclaimed British writer (...) Harry Potter is a wonderful character who has allowed children and young people around the world to get interested in reading” (Perfil, 2/8/2019). By saying this, he legitimizes and validates Harry Potter fanaticism by defining it a "classic of the British literature" and older people should persuade children to read it.

23While the fanaticism for Harry Potter is allowed and even encouraged for children and adolescents, in contrast the young adult who is a Potterhead is characterized as “childish and immature” (Jenkins, 2010), a ”loser” who still lives with their parents and can’t grow up. For example, a journalist from C5N channel (6/2/2020) comments “Ah, we are too old for this” after a woman who is dressed up as a Harry Potter character tells him that she is 21 years old. In other words, young people are shown as people who are failing in adult life and still engage in childish activities.

24In addition, we can say that, from an adult point of view, every young person who dresses up as a fictional character once their childhood is over is classified as stupid and should be made fun of. We can see this, when the tv host Leo Montero asks some potterheads who attended his show if they go to high school, even if he knows that those fans are people who already graduated from school many years ago. He asks "Hey, and do your parents embrace this?" (AM, 7/6/2011), implying that they are a disappointment for their family and characterize them as childish. In addition, Leo Montero and his other co-hosts constantly laugh at the guests and make fun of them, making them feel uncomfortable and reinforcing the laughable potterhead stereotype.

25In other words, in the mass media these fans appear as childish, immature young adults who do not want to grow up and do “adult” things. It is evident that children and teens are the only ones qualified to be Harry Potter fans since, in a way, they are linked to activities historically valued as positive such as reading literature and culture, while older potterheads are shown as immature people who must grow and therefore they can be made fun of by other adults.


26Throughout this paper we have analyzed the different representations of the Harry Potter fans of different ages. We have seen that the child who is a potterhead is characterized as the "cute kid who is interested in reading books", and the images chosen to illustrate the newspapers articles about Harry Potter-themed social events show children playing age-appropriate games and learning. Considering that, commonly, fanaticism is related to “cultural forms that the dominant system denigrates such as pop music, romance novels, comics, and Hollywood stars” (Borda, 2015: 73), in this case the love for the Harry Potter universe is associated with the legitimate culture and literature.

27We could say, then, that the image and perception of the child and young fan is still in a process of reconfiguration and implies many contradictions and new characteristics. In this sense, we found a contradiction between those pieces that give Harry Potter fanaticism a positive value, because it brings children closer to reading and cultural activities, and those in which fanaticism acquires a negative value as it is related to immaturity in young adults. Being an older potterhead can be the reason why other adults can make fun of them and treat them as immature in the mass media.

28In conclusion, we notice a tension between the media that positively qualify Harry Potter fanaticism as a sociocultural phenomenon that encourages children to read, and the one that tries to mock young adults just because they consume these books and movies. Therefore, we observe that the mass media contributes to the establishment and reproduction of a certain figure of the reading child and the ridiculous young Harry Potter fan in the social imaginary, associating both negative and positive meanings.

29The hegemonic representations that focus on Potterheads continue to determine interdiscursive dominances that perpetuate historical stereotypes about fans, who can even embrace them in their own speeches.


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1 Harry Potter themed event for kids between 0 and 12 years old. It is held in Usina del Arte, an arts center, located in La Boca (Buenos Aires City).

To quote this document

Laura Gabriela Kievsky, «The tender child and the young immature», French Journal For Media Research [online], Browse this journal/Dans cette revue, 16/2021 Children and youths in the center, last update the : 31/01/2022, URL :

Quelques mots à propos de :  Laura Gabriela Kievsky

Laura Gabriela Kievsky

Diplôme en sciences de la communication de l'Université de Buenos Aires

Degree in communication sciences at Buenos Aires University



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