Commerce and Harry Potter

Today we went to Discovery Times Square to see the Harry Potter exhibit.    The exhibit itself was fantastic, filled with actual props and costumes used throughout the series.    Even though you expect attention to detail when it come to films with as big a budget and following as these, it was still surprising to see the leather Quidditch gloves looking as though they had seen a lot of action on the pitch, and spell books filled cover to cover with writing and notations, even though only a page or two are visible in the film itself.

But the best part, for me, was the gift shop.   You kind of wind up in the gift shop without realizing it, as the exhibit flows right into it.   This is of course done with intent, because even though  now you are faced with refrigerator magnets and Muggle t-shirts, they are interspersed with still more actual props and backdrops inviting you in to Ollivanders where you can own your own genuine replica of Voldemort’s wand.   For a few minutes, a sense of giddiness ensues;  a feeling that if you can just buy the right thing, you can take the entire world of Harry Potter and Hogwarts home with you.

That genius marketing was not, however, the reason that the gift shop was my favorite part.   The gift shop was my favorite part because even though Maya had opened her money drawer (which is an old cash register from our store) and brought extra cash with the intent to buy ‘some cool stuff’, and even though Ben was looking around with eyes as big as saucers and had a brief notion to get Harry’s wand, they both decided in the end that they would buy nothing.    Maya said, rightly so, that once you leave the building it’s just more stuff in your room.  You can’t take the world of Hogwarts home, no matter how many ‘exact replicas’ you buy.

In the end, because I offered, we walked out with a bookmark for Ben and a pencil for Maya.  Our contribution to the glut of commerce that surrounds the world of Harry Potter?   A whopping $5.45.  (Of course, we did pay to get in to the exhibit itself…)    I don’t know when my kids became so marketing savvy.   They watch commercials and are never duped.  They know that the backdrops and set pieces and accompanying music are only there to suck them in to buying things that won’t be nearly as cool in real life as they seem on TV.    In the case of our outing today, they quickly figured out that the stuff for sale wasn’t the fun part of being there, or the purpose.

That said, if they’d had replicas of Severus Snape’s Advanced Potion-Making book for sale, it would now be mine, all mine!

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