“Is There a Text in This Advertising Campaign?: Literature, Marketing, and Harry Potter”
In Philip Nel’s article from The Lion and the Unicorn, the merchandizing and general commercialization of Harry Potter are examined. Nel argues that as readers and consumers, we need to make an effort towards to “separate the books from the marketing.” By looking at the book and merchandizing in one, it is possible that there are literary merits of the book that are being overlooked due to the distraction of everything else in the world of Harry Potter.
I thought it was interesting to note that J.K. Rowling, the author of the series, was not as impressed with the marketing and commercialization, as determined by June Cummins. As an author, it can be assumed the Rowling would like her work recognized for its literary merits, something that is overshadowed by the immense about of “stuff” that can make the books appear to be nothing more than another piece of merchandise to make money for the franchise. Additionally, much of the money gained from Rowling’s Harry Potter empire is donated into charitable causes, backing up her viewpoint on wealth depicted throughout the books. Nel points out Rowling’s depictions of the use of wealth, through the villianization of the Dursleys and the Malfoy and through Harry’s portrayal as a thrifty philanthropist, Rowling makes the point that wealth is not necessary a bad thing as long as it is used for good and not as a way to hurt others.
One point that he made really struck a chord with me. Early in the article, Nel quotes John Pennington as saying, “Phenomena such as the Harry Potter books are driven by commodity consumption” and “the pleasure and meaning of a book will often be prescripted or dictated by convention.” Books are not simply seen as just books anymore, but as jumping off points for larger media and marketing campaigns (or in some cases, the books follow the media and marketing efforts). As a young adult reading these books for the first time, I vividly remember thinking about how the stories would make such great movies and envisioning myself as Hermione, long before the movies were in the works. Obviously I was not alone in this thinking since the books did indeed get adapted into films.
I think the most compelling argument for the quality of the books is the origin of Harry Potter’s popularity. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone originally became popular because kids read the stories and told other kids how great the book was. Word spread, and more and more kids were reading the book. It was not the mass marketing campaigns or merchandising; it was kids falling in love with a story and sharing that with one another. As a child myself at the time, that is why I started reading the books. I did not chose to read the books because the media was telling me I should, rather it was because I heard it was a good book and gave it a try. If a book can inspire kids not only to read but to inspire other kids to read, then that is a very telling quality. As Nel put it, “hype alone is not a sufficient explanation for Harry’s appeal.”
“Children’s Literature at the Turn of the Century: Toward a Political Economy of the Publishing Industry”
I'm Edie - wife, mom, teacher, instructional designer, home renovator,
and lover of nature, travel, technology, and vintage campers!