Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Is Harry Potter stamp un-American?

By Dean Obeidallah
updated 7:53 AM EST, Fri November 22, 2013
July 23 marks Daniel Radcliffe's 25th birthday. He and his "Harry Potter" co-stars graduated from the franchise in 2011, but there's a plan for additional films set in the Potter-verse, including a spinoff <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/12/showbiz/movies/jk-rowling-new-movie-potter/index.html?iref=allsearch' target='_blank'>based on a fictional Hogwarts textbook</a>. Radcliffe, who has been busy with movies such as "Kill Your Darlings," <a href='http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/daniel-radcliffe-says-no-to-new-harry-potter-film-20130918' target='_blank'>doesn't plan to make an appearance</a>. But what's the rest of the cast up to these days? July 23 marks Daniel Radcliffe's 25th birthday. He and his "Harry Potter" co-stars graduated from the franchise in 2011, but there's a plan for additional films set in the Potter-verse, including a spinoff based on a fictional Hogwarts textbook. Radcliffe, who has been busy with movies such as "Kill Your Darlings," doesn't plan to make an appearance. But what's the rest of the cast up to these days?
HIDE CAPTION
'Harry Potter': Hogwarts class of '11
'Harry Potter': Hogwarts class of '11
'Harry Potter': Hogwarts class of '11
'Harry Potter': Hogwarts class of '11
'Harry Potter': Hogwarts class of '11
'Harry Potter': Hogwarts class of '11
'Harry Potter': Hogwarts class of '11
'Harry Potter': Hogwarts class of '11
'Harry Potter': Hogwarts class of '11
'Harry Potter': Hogwarts class of '11
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some stamp collectors are upset over a new line of Harry Potter stamps
  • Dean Obeidallah: Keep in mind that the Postal Service is in a financial mess
  • He says popular stamps are preferable to higher deficits or drastic cuts in services
  • Obeidallah: The Postal Service should roll out some stamps that can make money

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the co-director of the new comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" It was released recently. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- First, immigrants steal Americans' jobs. And now foreigners are stealing Americans' rightful place on U.S. postage stamps!

OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. But a new line of Harry Potter stamps released this week by the U.S. Postal Service has outraged some stamp enthusiasts. As the former head of the American Philatelic Society (that's a stamp collecting society to the rest of us) noted: "Harry Potter is not American. It's foreign, and it's so blatantly commercial it's off the charts."

First off, can a fictitious teenage wizard ever become a U.S. citizen? Secondly, and far more importantly, the Postal Service is in a financial "hot mess." It's losing $25 million every day. And for the 2013 fiscal year, which ended September 30, the USPS ran up a deficit of $5 billion.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

At this point, I'd be all for a stamp bearing the image of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack if that could generate revenue. That's preferable to higher deficits, drastic cuts in services and increases in stamp prices.

Look, I understand that one of the mandates of the Postal Service is, "portraying the American experience to a world audience through the issuance of postage stamps." But the "American experience" is not just colored by U.S. citizens.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

Plus Harry Potter and his cast of cohorts are not the first non-U.S. citizens to grace our stamps. Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Mother Theresa and French singer Edith Piaf have all been featured on past stamps.

This is not the first time a new set of stamps has caused controversy. In 2001, the Postal Service came under fire from some on the right when it released the Frida Kahlo stamp because she was a Communist, a Mexican and a bisexual. In fact, the late Republican Senator Jesse Helms denounced the stamp on the Senate floor.

Some have even objected to stamps honoring Mother Theresa, celebrating the Muslim Eid holiday, or bearing the image of the famed Botticelli painting of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus. Why? Because they were troubled by the religious implications.

It appears, though, that the real reason for the uproar over the Harry Potter stamp isn't his citizenship status. Rather, it's because stamp purists are dismayed by the increasing commercialization of U.S. postage stamps. As one collector said: "They shouldn't be reduced to the latest fads, whatever's going to sell."

This very issue has caused friction between the Postal Service and the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee -- a body established in 1957 to evaluate and recommend to the USPS what should be chosen for stamps.

The tension undoubtedly escalated when the Postal Service chose not to consult with this advisory committee before approving the new Harry Potter stamp collection.

But here's the thing: It's not an either/or scenario. Stamps bearing images of iconic America, like national parks and national heroes, will always have their audience. And pop culture stamps certainly have their legion of fans. Keep in mind that the stamp featuring Elvis Presley is the top seller of all time with over 700 million sold.

So I say it's time for the Postal Service to roll out stamps that will make money. I don't care if it's Miley Cyrus swinging on a wrecking ball, an angry Donald Trump or Honey Boo Boo wearing a tiara. These are all preferable to the Postal Service incurring more debt and slashing services to the point where it ends up having to lay off so many postal workers that it's stuck delivering mail via carrier pigeon.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:09 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT