Another interesting element of the Harry Potter series is its depiction of the suburbs. Through the Dursleys, Harry’s Aunt and Uncle, suburbanites are portrayed as completely narrow-minded, conformist, and career-obsessed. This echoes the criticism that many American observers have made of suburbs since the 1950s. After the emergence of the post-WW2 Levittowns, intellectuals like David Riesman, Betty Friedan, and others have attacked the suburbs as repressive centers of boredom and homogenous thinking.
For a half-century, films like “American Beauty” and numerous others have echoed and reinforced this criticism. For instance, it has been a subtle theme throughout the films of Steven Spielberg. Think of the shot of Eliot’s suburb in “E.T.” which shows a sea of look-alike houses. Spielberg’s critique of the suburbs reached its peak in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” when a nuclear test destroys a model suburban community in Nevada. The Potter series reveal that at least some British observers feel the same way about their suburbs.