Harry Potter is all the rage, of course. Some people are happy about that and others aren’t. Crooked Dimwit is one of those who isn’t.
Annoyed and exhausted by the Harry Potter hype, Crooked Dimwit argues that the media overstates Harry’s preeminence at the box office. Because the rating system ignores inflation, HP rankings are actually exaggerated. When adjusted for inflation, Gone with the Wind ranks the highest grossing movie of all time while HP ranks well at the bottom half of the top 100 box office earners. As an aside, GWTW has *sixty* years of re-releases added into its total whereas HP has been released for, what, three weeks? In sixty years, we’ll see who’s the head boy, bucko.
Commercialization besmirches the beloved HP books. True, a lot of people think that the books themselves aren’t all that grand. They consider the books generic. Indeed, the books are generic. Generic, as in, a member of the genre: children’s fantasy literature. And an excellent member at that. I love Harry Potter because of JKR’s sense of verbal play and her very British sense of humor. Consider the delightful names of wizards, books, spells, and candy. Her plot twists and turns are surprising. I never guessed that the bad guy in book four is *OOPS*….never mind. People like to rail that these books aren’t “timeless” “literature.” But, honestly, who cares about all those tired old high-culture/low-culture arguments that have long ago proven to be culturally and historically relative?
So what’s my issue with Harry Potter, then?
Well, Crooked Dimwit’s biggest complaint is the news media report box office figures as news. The “Magic of Harry Potter” is really just media spin, he claims, and hardly newsworthy.
I cannot blame him for his anger. Yes, HP has been grossly over-commercialized (grossly over-commercialized? Isn’t that redundant?), an ongoing problem, as Harry Potters would agree. This problem exceeds advertising, too. It spans across the board; it’s been all about the galleons. Remember, WB bullied kids about their fan sites over copyright issues. Not to mention the ugly controversy about JKR plagiarizing (the very notion of intellectual property is an effect of commerce, after all). Or the even uglier controversy about Harry’s demonic associations for the Christian Right (another effect of commerce, but that’s another story). Or the controversy about multiple toy companies getting licensing rights. Or JKR’s supposed “I hate action figure” deals with Coke. Not to mention Robbie Coltrane’s recent rant because WB can skip royalty payments because they didn’t use his likeness for the Hagrid dolls.
Yet, despite murmurs of boycotts, we all went to see the film, and we all still buy the over-marketed/cross-marketed products.
Maybe it’s all part of the dumbing down of America, which has evil kinship with grade inflation, the explosion of Wal-Marts across the country, and Mediocre George II’s presumable “rise to the challenge of the presidency during a time of crisis” (still yet another effect of commerce, and all part of the very -same- story).
So, like Crooked Dimwit, I’m too annoyed with the hypercapitalism of Harry–or as Rex Murphy calls him, Frankenpotter. But I’m not that naive. No one should believe news media actually reports news any more. Here’s an obvious, visible piece of evidence to show that the news media is just one big Madison Avenue advertisement.
If you follow the dollar..erm..galleon, you will see that AOL-Time Warner owns the rights to Harry Potter. AOL-Time Warner also owns or is related to:
Little, Brown & Co.
Time Magazine (obviously)
So if you think you see Harry EVERYWHERE, it’s because you ARE seeing Harry everywhere. It’s called product placement and cross-marketing. And news reports are just another version of product placement. Here is the perfect example to prove my point. CNN Money has an article and a dollar to galleon converter on it currency conversion page, which you can check out (here too).