Pottermore, universes and greed
I’m gonna go on a bit here and I was unable to embed videos, so lots of text. My apologies
One minute over midnight last night, I attended the premiere of the last of the Harry Potter movies in Malmö, The Deathly Hallows, Part 2. The books and films have been part of my life the past eleven years, since I caught the hype from the release of Goblet of Fire and spent the summer of 2000 reading the four first books back to back, and so the final chapter of Harry Potter also marks the end a decade of my life.
I was reminded, leaving the theatre with hoards of crying teenagers, that the presence I’ve felt can be multiplied by hundreds if Harrys coming of age coincided with your own. Or, as the most current comment to the trailer reads om YouTube: “I’ve watched the last film now, my childhood is over” (karaman4567).
I have been reluctant to use Harry Potter as an example of transmedia universes (until my latest post, where in fairness, I wasn’t the one to bring it up). Though the films in the franchise have been successful, the Harry Potter brand has been wasted on bad games, but more importantly: J. K. Rowling has shown herself completely unaware of the importance of engaging and respecting her audience. Her lawsuits against fan projects, such as the “Harry Potter A-Z” makes me conclude that she has not yet realized that her works are no longer fiction, they have taken on a life of their own. Which should be the greatest compliment any writer could hope for. And cash in on, by all means.
I guess she’s slowly realizing this, but Rowling’s current launching of Pottermore, the web-universe for fans’ participation, smacks more of one way communication and clever new sales channels than it does real co-authorship and giving up control.
Too bad, Joanne. One would think that standing on the shoulders of Roald Dahl and J.R.R. Tolkien would make you humble with respect to intertextuality and well intentioned stealing (which I applaud, by the way).
Still, I think the Harry-Potter franchise is a great example of transmedia universes – the example we need in such an early stage. 70% of conversations I have with people about transmedia revolve around the need for such “inventions”. Should we not be able to make a single film anymore? Am I not aware how awful remakes can be? How can we ensure the success of such ventures? Well, those are the valid needs of the industries and artists, and I guess the answers will be here soon enough.
I prefer not to speculate about the future with buzzwords that people need to have explained to them: so how about we take a look at what has already happened? The needs of the audience, or rather the greeds of the audience, is what fuels Pottermore, fan fiction and social media. It’s as simple as that – when we love something we want to dive into it, infinate variety and the possibility to interact. The industry can take advantage of that greed by thinking immersion, diversion and engagement right from the start. You can call it what you want, but you can’t fake it – the audience knows the difference.
So I applaud Pottermore and hope it becomes a big sucecss, manifesting that transmedia is not about industry vanity, though the buzzwords might well be. It’s simply about the audience wanting …more. I know I do.