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Written by Jarrod Waetjen & Timothy A. Gibson

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1 Written by Jarrod Waetjen & Timothy A. Gibson
Harry Potter and the Commodity Fetish: Activating Corporate Readings in the Journey from Text to Commercial Intertext Written by Jarrod Waetjen & Timothy A. Gibson CMC 200 March 21, 2013 Morgan Saunders

2 Jarrod Waetjen Timothy A. Gibson
Professor at NOVA (Northern Virginia Community College). Faculty/Staff English. Ph.D. Cultural Studies (ABD) George Mason University. M.A. American Literature San Diego State University. Timothy A. Gibson Teaches: Critical media studies, mass communication theory, and urban communication. Communications Professor in the Cultural Studies PhD program at George Mason University. Received his BA in liberal arts from The Evergreen State College. Received his MA in communication from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Received his PhD in communication from Simon Fraser Univeristy in Vancouver, B.C.

3 Timothy A. Gibson (continued)
This is his most recent article (released in 2007) with Dr. Waetjen Many works published, two in which are books: Securring the Spectacular City: The Politics of Revitalization and Homelessness in Downtown Seattle (2004) Urban Communication: Production, Text, and Context (2007)

4 Big Five Topic: The shift of class and consumerism in the Harry Potter series as the franchise moved from text to film. Focus: Harry Potter and its supposed commercial intertext Method: Textual Analysis and Political Economy Target of Analysis: AOL Time Warner Political Economy of Harry Potter Goals: Undermine AOL Time Warner Political Economy of Harry Potter

5 Harry Potter and the Commodity Fetish: Activating Corporate Readings in the Journey from Text to Commercial Intertext In reality, Harry Potter is an extremely lucky individual. Mediocre child with native power and innate ability. In a couple scenes from Harry Potter, Rowling plays with Dickensian characteristics… In the beginning of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry is ordered to come downstairs to watch the bacon (as it must not burn) because everything must be perfect on Duddy’s birthday. Harry immediately obeys his aunt, Petunia Dursley. (Poor social conditions) Sleeps in a cupboard underneath the stairwell. (Treated like an orphan) Duddy finds it very funny that Harry attends a public school, while he attends a private school. Comically repulsive character: “Duddy” who is “spoiled, overweight, and dim- witted” and also complains about only receiving thirty-seven presents.

6 Key Quotes “The current explosion of Potter-inspired merchandise is, to be sure, a textbook case in the commodification of children’s culture and the proliferating sins of hyper-commercialism” (Waetjen & Gibson 2007, 5). What do you believe the impact is of the authors suggested ciphered Harry Potter representing the ideal consumer in an unequal class stratification? Can you give examples of any other children’s cultural commodification's in media?

7 Key Quotes “Drawing on this textual analysis, we then argue that these same contradictions were strategically exploited by AOL Time Warner in their drive to transform the universe of Potter characters and settings into a long-term source of licensing revenue […] In short, Rowling’s portrayal of Harry as a gadget-loving hero, when combined with her vision of an economic system seemingly devoid of labor exploitation and commodity fetishism, could be read as a full-throated celebration of guilt-free consumption. And, indeed, we argue that it is precisely this reading that AOL Time Warner has ‘‘activated’’ in its commercial appropriation and amplification of the Harry Potter universe” (Waetjen & Gibson 2007, 5). Considering this is not of a studio where you would expect the intent to hyper-commercialize, I ask the question; is there any form of cultural expression left in this country that isn’t commodified?

8 Key Quotes “Perhaps because of the ambiguity of labor power in a world that runs by magic, the picture of class relations in the wizarding world is more categorical than relational. Rowling, in short, never suggests that the poverty of one family can be tied to the wealth of another” (Waetjen & Gibson 2007, 13). “Some wizards, for whatever reason, are poor. Others are rich and always have been. Those who do the dirty work (the house elves) seem to enjoy it. That is just the way things are. Unfortunately, that is not how the muggle world works. In our world, the class system is utterly relational---the wealth of some depends upon the exploitation of many. And so, despite Rowling’s sometimes vivid and powerful descriptions of class inequality, she stops well short of offering an insightful, radical critique of systems of class-based exploitation” (Waetjen & Gibson 2007, 13).

9 “The myth that commodities can change your life, win you friends, and achieve your dreams is, of course, the most powerful message of advertising” (Waetjen & Gibson 2007, 14). The meaning of commodities, as Sut Jhally notes, is thus purged in the process of their circulation. This empty meaning-space, however, is quickly filled by the work of advertisers and marketers, who first invest their goods with a whole range of meanings (status, love, etc.) and then move to encourage consumers to find themselves and their desires in an always-changing, never-ending constellation of fetishized commodity-signs.

10 Discussion Why magic? What does it do for the characters? Why does this system even exist? Looking at class construction, why does Rowling continuously use the theme of “creating something out of nothing”? (Tent)

11 Class Activity How is money and class shown in the Harry Potter Films?
(Train) (Wand) (Ron’s house) Class: (Mudblood) (Dobbie)

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