I was pleased when my seven-year-old son went Harry Potter crazy. Having never read to himself before, he was suddenly racing through book after book, his bedside light on late into the night.
Never read anything before? Hmmm. Really?
I’d always admired JK Rowling from afar. Who wouldn’t? A writer whose imagination transfixed the world, whose riches now exceed those of the Queen, but who has founded a children’s charity, pays her taxes in full, and remains both poised and politically engaged: as role models go, it is hard to think of a better one.
Well, for a progressives, yes, no doubt.
Less pleasant, however, was the realisation that there was a marketing juggernaut poised to capitalise on my son’s enthusiasm.
Oh noes! The eeeeeevil capitalists are coming! More feared than Dementors!
…the children discovering Harry Potter now are immediately faced with a multibillion-pound industry trading in Potter-themed “experiences” and paraphernalia.
Ah, the innocence has been stripped away! No more the simple pleasure of reading a book published by a multi-million pound publishing industry…
In the gift shop at the British Library’s excellent exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic, I watched my son deliberate anxiously about whether to spend nine weeks’ pocket money on a small piece of chocolate, and couldn’t avoid feeling that he was being fleeced by the Harry Potter industry.
Wait! The damn thing cost £4.50 – how much pocket money does the poor little sod get?!
And how will Saint JK get out of this one?
“My feeling is that Rowling, who once vowed to resist the commercialisation of her creation, has decided to ‘give the customers what they want’,” says Stephen Brown, a marketing expert at the University of Ulster who has studied the Harry Potter phenomenon.
“You can hardly blame her. If she didn’t, all sorts of fakes and counterfeits and so on would crawl out of the woodwork.”
Ah! Of course. It’s not really her fault at all…
Ah, the things you have to tell yourself!