When Pokemon Go was released in early July, my Facebook feed of twenty- and thirty-somethings was filled with cellphone shots of Rattata, Squirtle, Pidgie, Bulbasaur, and Charmander sitting on their kitchen tables, in their yards, on their work desks.
At the end of the month, my Facebook feed again was filled with a common theme, this time the release of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
Many adults I know were more than happy to indulge in these “childish” pleasures. I was among the Harry Potter fans tweeting photos from the bookstore on release night and sharing my thoughts on the play a couple days later.
One reason twenty- and thirty-somethings love juvenile pop culture with roots in the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s is because it takes us back to our childhood. But for every five lovers of Pokemon and Harry Potter, there’s bound to be a hater in the ranks.
One Facebook friend had this to say:
And then there were memes like these:
An article on Discover Magazine’s website, The Psychology of Pokemon Go Haters, explains one reason why some people were quick to share their dislike of the mobile augmented reality game and the latest Harry Potter installment:
Facebook and Twitter are quick and easy ways to push against the grain and shed the Average Joe status, and dissing a wickedly popular game may be a way to recover a desired status. Adam Arvidsson and Alessandro Caliandro analyzed nearly 9,000 tweets about Louis Vuitton using a qualitative research method called netnography. Based on their analysis, the experience for many users was simply about exposure, building a reputation and getting the satisfaction of a “like” from an anonymous person.
Despite memes’ accusations of Pokemon Go and Harry Potter fans being lazy, jobless, overgrown children, the fans among my Facebook friends are hardworking adults. Moreover, they’re balanced people who manage the responsibilities of adulthood while finding joy in both adult and childhood pleasures. They can enjoy their appletinis and late bedtimes as much as they love the nostalgia of revisiting much-loved characters.
A different sort of nostalgia
There are plenty of adults who want to put childlike things behind them. They associate Pokemon Go and Harry Potter with immaturity. (Wrongly so, in my opinion.)
But I think that’s why those same adults love “Stranger Things.”
The Netflix original series is a blend of genres — horror, mystery, sci-fi, thriller. The show feels like a merger of Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” and a Stephen King novel adaptation. Its target audience is adults, but the main characters are a band of junior high-aged kids. Set in the 1980s, the show is as much about the plot and characters as is it about paying homage to the decade of its setting.
Like Pokemon Go and Harry Potter, the reason many adults adore the Netflix program is because it lets us relive parts of childhood. There’s a difference, though.
I think the reason some adults aren’t ashamed of joining the “Stranger Things” pop culture bandwagon while simultaneously spreading vitriol about Harry Potter and Pokemon boils down to target audiences. “Stranger Things” is clearly marketed to an older audience, while the others are marketed to a spectrum of ages, including children. Accessibility to children makes it “immature,” which chafes the pride of certain adults. (I speak from speculation and not from any expertise in psychology.)
Not everyone has to love every pop culture phenomenon. I’m not a Pokemon Go player, and I was only a passive Pokemon television watcher as a kid, but I’m not offended that other adults are passionate about it. Falling back on a cliche, “To each their own.”
Meanwhile, I’ll be over here reading Harry Potter and “Stranger Things” fan theories …