“Harry Potter” Mystery: Does J.K. Rowling Really Know What 20-Somethings Look Like?

I bet you are not surprised by my question. A lot of the adults in the Harry Potter universe are portrayed as much older – at least by 10 years, if not, more.

The most obvious ones are Harry’s parents, Lily and James. If you have read or watched either seventh installment (part 1 in the film series), you learned that the couple was only 21 when they died. 

However, they appear older in the movies. It’s no wonder many people think they were in their 30’s when they perished. That’s because the actors who played them were in their 30’s and 40’s.

The actress who portrayed Lily Potter was 34 in the first movie, and the actor who played James was 43. I’m assuming that whoever was in charge of casting presumed that Harry’s parents were older. They even considered J.K. Rowling for the part of Lily, and Rowling was also in her 30’s at the time.

So, why didn’t she reveal James and Lily’s ages then? Did the crew forbid it? Did she forget?

Obviously, she envisioned them younger and finally revealed their ages and the Deathly Hallows book. Regardless of their young ages, the crew did nothing about it in the films. They didn’t recast younger actors, put youthful makeup on the actors they’d already cast, or even make them older in the movies.

I could understand the first thing on the list not happening right after the Deathly Hallows novel had come out. It probably would have taken up a lot of time and cost too much money. The second option could have occurred, though. After all, they did that to Shirley Henderson, who played 14-year-old Moaning Myrtle at age 37 (which, by the way, is not only far too old, but should’ve also been controversial when she’d interacted with the child actors then).

Regardless of that, many fans say that portraying Lily and James looking younger in the movies when Harry first sees them in the Mirror of Erised in The Sorcerer’s Stone and especially when encountering their spirits in The Deathly Hallows Part 2 would have looked weird.

Tell that to the Twilight Saga filmmakers, folks. A lot of Breaking Dawn movie posters showed Bella, Edward, and their daughter, Renesmee together, looking like siblings. Mackenzie Foy was in her tweens when she played Renesmee, and Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson were in their twenties. Yet, the latter two still appeared young enough to be in their late teens, like their characters.

If someone who knew nothing about the Twilight series came across that poster type, he or she might have guessed that Bella and Edward were Renesmee’s older sister and brother. No way would that individual assume that the teenage characters were the little girl’s parents.

The Twilight franchise no longer holds up a lot of popularity the way the Harry Potter series does. In fact, hardly anyone discusses the Twilight saga these days. Its trend is over – at least for now.

Anyway, back to Lily and James Potter. The last option on the list, which is making them older in the movies, would have likely been the easiest and cheapest option. I don’t think that would’ve messed anything up. The film crew had already changed and cut a large amount of content and elements anyway. Plus, it wouldn’t have been the first time that characters were drastically aged up from their original sources.

If the filmmakers could change the colors and mascot of Ravenclaw house, and make Beauxbatons all girls, and Durmstrang all boys, I see no reason why they couldn’t raise Lily and James’s ages.

Maybe one possibility was that the crew wanted to make the couple older, particularly because the actors already were and stayed appearing middle-aged. But then J.K. Rowling begged them not to and it had got to the point where they gave in to her pressure against their will. I don’t know.

But the way it is feels odd, unbelievable, and drives me insane. 

All 21-year-olds look like teenagers and act like them, too!

While some of them are mature enough to be parents, a lot more are not. And a good percentage of parents would be furious if they’re barely-overage daughters (whether they’re 19, 21, or even 24) became pregnant. My mom and dad certainly would have had fits if I’d become pregnant that young.

Lily and James Potter are not the only characters to be in their twenties, but were depicted as much older on screen. The supporting characters in The Fantastic Beasts films are all younger than Newt, who is in his late twenties in the first and second installments. Tina is 21, Queenie is 23, and Jacob is 26. The last Revelation shocked me the most. 

While Tina and Queenie do look a little bit like they’re in their early twenties, (even though the actors are also likely much older), Jacob looks very old for mid-twenties. I’d thought he was at least 30-something before. The actor, Dan Fogler, was in his late thirties when the first Fantastic Beasts movie was filmed.

This is why I wonder if J.K. Rowling really knows what 20-somethings look like. Below is a picture of me at 21.

Me at 21 at an aquarium with fish behind me

I was a 4th year in college, studying art. This photo was taken at the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

I also lived with my parents and brothers (although one had gone away for college) and had barely matured since high school graduation (but now I’m a lot more mature). I was not married with a child, living independently, or having to hide from danger and protect my family. I still looked like a teenager, even young enough to be 13.

I’m sure most real people can relate more to me than Harry Potter’s parents. And a high number of young adults can relate to this fictional character, who is also 21 in the events of the story she’s from. That is Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, released in 2013.

At times, I feel Disney depicts their characters more believably – at least to a certain extent (exceptions include those like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Cinderella). Many Disney protagonists are naive, including those out of their teens, like Elsa, Quasimodo from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and Joe Gardner from “Soul.”

Not only does Elsa actually look like a 21-year-old in the movie (and in a good number of live performances of Frozen), but she also acts more like one.

She struggles with her ice powers, runs from her fears, and has trouble empathizing at times. Her physical appearance, behavior, and maturity levels are way more realistic for a 21-year-old. I also don’t think she is mature enough to be a parent during the events of Frozen and its sequel, which takes place 3 years after. 


This post differs from my other Harry Potter ones since I add comparisons to Twilight and Frozen. But their depictions of young adults or young parents succeeded more, in my opinion.

J.K. Rowling has written adult novels in addition to Harry Potter, although I don’t know the ages of the protagonists there. But I hope she improves herself. 

I don’t just mean for her to end her transphobia and apologize to the trans community, but also for her writing and portrayal of young adult characters.

The Harry Potter novels are far from perfect, but pretty much any fictional work is.

What do you think of my thoughts in this post?

Published by Sunayna Prasad

I enjoy writing stories, creating artwork, watching movies and TV shows, cooking, and traveling. These are the topics of my posts. I also publish books, where you can learn about them on my website, www.sunaynaprasadbooks.com. Be sure to copy and paste the link and subscribe to my newsletter on the email list button on the homepage.

3 thoughts on ““Harry Potter” Mystery: Does J.K. Rowling Really Know What 20-Somethings Look Like?

  1. I’m so intrigued and excited to see a comparison of my FAVORITE movies Twlight, HarryPotters, and Frozen. Yes, I relate to you more than Harry Potter’s parents and regarding Frozen sequel shes too young to become a parent. I really like the way you approached this topic!

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