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16 January 2007 @ 12:19 pm
Media-Hype and Cashing In within the Wizarding World  
Media-Hype and Cashing In within the Wizarding World

Throughout each novel in the Harry Potter series, we are repeatedly told that Harry himself is a one-of-a-kind. He's the Boy-Who-Lived, the messianic child who defeated You-Know-Who. These days Harry has been dubbed The Chosen One. These names and titles have been spread throughout the Wizarding world and Harry appears to be very famous around the globe - in Goblet of Fire, the Bulgarian Minister for Magic certainly knew exactly who Harry was.

Why is it then, when Harry is splashed all over the papers, has been famous for his whole life, does incredible things year after year…he hasn't had an unauthorised biography published? The papers are perfectly happy to cash in on Harry's fame, Gilderoy Lockhart knew that a photograph of the two of them together would be fantastic publicity for Flourish and Blotts, even two successive Ministers for Magic, Fudge and Scrimgeour, recognised Harry's pulling power - if people believed Harry supported the Ministry, they would offer their support too (Goblet of Fire; Chamber of Secrets; Order of the Phoenix; Half-Blood Prince).

The only example of mass cashing-in is Gilderoy Lockhart, who firmly believes in his own hype and brings out new 'must-have' books in rapid succession which many witches (and less than impressed school children) then have to buy. As far as celebrity goes in the Wizarding world, on the face of it, Lockhart appears to be more of one than Harry. If Harry had been the Boy-Who-Lived in our world (laying aside the magic for now which certainly would cause a stir), there would be at least a dozen unauthorised books out about him, a good few documentaries on the TV about him, he would have to open a few nursing homes and supermarkets and there would be, most likely of all, a charity single.

We've seen through Lockhart and the effects of the Daily Prophet on Harry's dormitory mates (Chamber of Secrets; Goblet of Fire) that mass hype does affect the Wizarding world. It even affects Molly Weasley, who seems to be one of the most level-headed of her clan.

Perhaps that between the time Harry was left on the Dursley's doorstep and the time he came to Hogwarts, the market was flooded with unofficial biographies of Lily and James Potter and the subject was exhausted? But then, why would the 'Harry-Phenomenon' take off so rapidly in the papers if the subject was exhausted? Also, if there were biogs of Lily and James out there, Harry would have been able to get his hands on a couple…and probably turned into Capslock!Harry at the exploitation of his parents' sacrifice.

In RL, we can see that the death of Princess Diana has intensified the media scrutiny around her sons. The papers want to know exactly how they feel on the anniversary of her death, they want pictures of them out with their girlfriends, they want pictures of them out with their family. There is clearly a market for this stuff, people are interested, people will buy papers that discuss Diana's death and the aftermath e.g. the controversy over the circumstances of her death. In the Wizarding world, we haven't seen that until Harry has been in Hogwarts for just over three years. Maybe this is what Dumbledore wanted by sending Harry to live with the Dursleys, he wanted to prevent Harry from experiencing media attention until he was old enough to deal with it himself. Still though, on the anniversary of Voldemort's downfall, we haven't seen Harry being targeted by the papers for his reaction. When Harry goes into Hogsmeade with his friends there are no long lenses in the bushes snapping his every move. He is relatively safe from the glare of the media.

If there is a market for Lockhart's anti-dark arts books, why hasn't Harry been approached with a book deal? The closest Harry comes to recounting his actual story is when Rita Skeeter questions all the Triwizard Champions in the fourth book (ultimately coming up with her own story in the process), but by then Harry has prevented Voldemort's return twice, destroyed the Beast of Slytherin and was heavily involved in the capture and later escape of the convict Sirius Black. Clearly those stories are book-worthy because we've all read about them!

Perhaps because of what Harry has been through, his youth and his status as the Boy-Who-Lived he's seen as above documenting? This approach was taken towards Royalty and movie stars way back when. If something damning had been discovered, Fleet Street felt honour-bound to keep a lid on the gossip and protect reputations. Yes, they wanted to sell papers, but papers were sold without resorting to gossip. By Goblet of Fire and then Order of the Phoenix, however, whatever honour the Daily Prophet accorded to Harry's actions was clearly not as important as selling papers and staying on the right side of the Ministry.

It puzzles me greatly that there have been no cash-ins on Harry's name and fame throughout his life. If, indeed, Harry is so famous that everyone knows his name and his scar…why wouldn't someone write a book about him and a book about his parents? Harry Potter paraphernalia would be, I would have thought, a pretty lucrative business to go into, judging by his lifelong fame, yet, the Wizarding world seems unchanged by his actions. There isn't an army of boys called 'Harry' born within the years 1980-1985 coming up to Hogwarts, yet in post-war Britain there were loads of boys named Winston! If Harry is so famous in the Wizarding world, all people must do is discuss that fateful night between themselves, because there are no books on the subject and no programmes on the Wizarding Wireless Network about him! As far as we've seen, there wasn't even a Daily Prophet Harry Potter Coming to Hogwarts Commemorative Edition the way there are Commemorative Editions for historical milestones in our world; the Queen's 80th Birthday, 60th Anniversary of VE Day, Royal Weddings etc.

Any and all comments, gratefully received!
Current Mood: curiouscurious
(Deleted comment)
Deccaboo: Jess: History: Milkshakedeccaboo on January 16th, 2007 03:07 pm (UTC)
Thanks for commenting :)

I like your 'gentlemen writers' idea :) I suppose this is shown by the fact that there is no 'throwaway lit' in the wizarding world, all books are described as big, heavy tomes instead of little, manageable paperbacks, suggesting that it takes a certain amount of clout to get published in the first place - for something to be worth the time and effort of printing and binding, I would have thought the writer would have to pay a certain amount to start the process off.

I wonder what Muggleborns and half-bloods think of this though, coming from a world where disposable books are everywhere and anyone could be a writer if they want to? Would this mean that there is no 'great Wizarding novel' or literature tradition?
CrazyKatLadyroguetailkinker on January 18th, 2007 12:15 am (UTC)
all books are described as big, heavy tomes instead of little, manageable paperbacks, suggesting that it takes a certain amount of clout to get published in the first place

Wasn't there some mention of Mrs. Weasley reading magic-themed romance novels?
wemyss: true bluewemyss on January 20th, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC)
In short, I think that the same rule applies to the wizarding world: books are written either by 'expert tradesmen' (such as retired Hogwarts Professors) or rich and well to do dabblers in certain specialist and obscure arts (Nicholas Flamel for instance)
I think that in the Wizarding world, just as in the Roman world, writing is not something you do to earn money, but something you do if you *have* money, as a hobby or to leave a legacy.

Precisely. Which is why, for example, Florean Fortescue, in between serving ice cream cornets, is a mediaevalist.
The Elf ½: Snape hates you allelfwreck on January 16th, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)
Writing about Harry's fame and reasons therefor requires thinking about You-Know-Who... and most of the wizarding world is entirely unwilling to do that. So they focus on Harry's fame and importance, but not his history or his future; they gossip about his girlfriend(s), not his magical activities.

The Chamber of Secrets story, I believe, never got out. There were attacks at Hogwarts, rumours about the "heir of Slytherin," some petrifications... and then, umm, Dumbledore fixed it. He may have shown dead basilisk parts--he almost certainly didn't tell anyone about Harry, Ginny & Tom Riddle. "Here's the basilisk, and here's the sword of Griffendor that killed it." Nobody needs to know the exact details. (In fact, he might even have implied that Lockhart did it, which gives an excuse for the memory loss, adds to Lockhard's useless celebrity, and takes the focus entirely off Harry.)

I think there are people who are trying to document something about Harry... but have no idea what's going on in his life. And knowing he was raised by Muggles, they can't even imagine his childhood... they can't make something up because they haven't the slightest idea what to put into their fiction. They know they have some Muggleborn and half-blood readers, and wouldn't want the story to ring totally false--but of course, they don't want to do enough research to find out how Muggles live.

It's also possible that there's a booming industry in Harry biographies, which the members of the Order have been keeping from him. (Although I suppose Fred & George would've mentioned it by now.) There's probably at least a couple of books about the Tri-Wizard Tournament, but those are probably more-or-less accurate, with lots of photos of the champions, and little actual content.
Deccaboo: HP: Disney: Hermionedeccaboo on January 16th, 2007 05:41 pm (UTC)
Writing about Harry's fame and reasons therefor requires thinking about You-Know-Who... and most of the wizarding world is entirely unwilling to do that. So they focus on Harry's fame and importance, but not his history or his future; they gossip about his girlfriend(s), not his magical activities. Good point! I suppose people are still unwilling to call Voldemort by his name 16 years after his disappearance and are very disinclined to do so with his return.

Seeing as Fred and George came up with the 'U No Poo' thing, I'd have thought if there were any Harry biogs, they wouldn't be afraid to say something. Or bought some and sent them to Ron by owl - see how well he knows his best mate!
CrazyKatLadyroguetailkinker on January 18th, 2007 12:18 am (UTC)
The Chamber of Secrets story, I believe, never got out.

That one kid from the DA knew it, remember? And he mentioned it in front of the others. One of the paintings told him the story.
meltaus48 on January 16th, 2007 05:00 pm (UTC)
Didn't someone suggest Harry at Slughorn's Christmas party that there should be a book about him? And Harry turned it down. So there are people interested in writing about him.
Deccaboo: HP: Disney: Hermionedeccaboo on January 16th, 2007 05:36 pm (UTC)
True, I forgot about that :) An ex-Slug Clubber, Eldred Worple, suggested Harry would make a good subject for a biography. Thank you!

I thought if Harry was asked he'd turn it down, but seeing as in our world unauthorised biographies are run of the mill now, I would have thought there'd already be a couple about Harry on the market.
snorkackcatchersnorkackcatcher on January 16th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
Hermione does say to Harry at their first meeting on the train that he's in various books such as Modern Magical History that she picked up for background reading. So it does look as if there's biographical material on Harry about -- just not a full-scale biography. And as elfwreck said, most of the stuff that he's done at school before GoF isn't well known outside Hogwarts (not to mention that the Ministry were casting Harry as a liar all through OotP).
glacierscoutglacierscout on January 17th, 2007 12:16 am (UTC)
I'd agree with [Bad username: elfwreck"] here to start - writing about Harry's heroics would mean acknowledging that Voldemort is back, and nobody wants to do that. In addition, most of Harry's heroics have been done behind the scene, or involve deeds best left secret. So, while we know that Harry has behaved heroically, or else has been incredibly lucky, the general public wouldn't have learned what he did.

Sorcerer's Stone: Yes, Harry kept the Sorcerer's Stone from falling into Voldemort's hands, but no one is supposed to know about the stone anyway. I doubt that even most of the Hogwarts students know what Harry did.

Chamber of Secrets: As cired earlier, this is another case where harry's deeds were done in secret. Dumbledore can let it be known that the basilisk was killed, but there's no need to let the public know that Harry was involved.

Prisoner of Azkaban: Sirius' continued freedom and the freeing of Buckbeak require that Harry and Hermione's heroics be kept a secret.

Goblet of Fire: Harry probably got at least some attention for his performances in the first two challenges in the Triwizard Tournament, much to his chagrin. His final triumph is overshadowed by the death of Cedric, and this tragedy also helps hide the real story, the return of Voldemort.

Order of the Phoenix: Harry and his friends certainly saved the day in their fight at the Ministry of Magic, but since the Ministry has such tight control over the Wizarding media, it's doubtful that any part of Harry's story would be released.

Half-Blooded Prince: Here too, Harry's actions would likely be overlooked, since att attention would be focused on Dumbledore's death, when harry was petrified and hidden beneath his cloak.

So, since the only one whos could tell Harry's true story would either be Dumbledore or Harry himself, we ought to be glad that his "official" biographer JKR has managed to find out the facts.
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CrazyKatLadyroguetailkinker on January 18th, 2007 12:27 am (UTC)
That's a very good point about the Stone being a setup.

Prof. McGonagell is probably the only one who could shake him out of it at this point. I doubt there's another adult he'd listen to, except possibly the Weasleys.