Hello and welcome to In Too Deep Harry Potter vs Star Wars, where I finally decide which one of these franchise is better.

Now a year or so ago James Daniel Walsh wrote this infamous statement: “Star Wars is the cultural mythos of our generation”, to which I argued that while it was true for his generation, my generation’s cultural mythos was Harry Potter. Now, a year of putting it off, I’m finally going to sit down and analyse both of these franchise. So without further ado…

So then. Nine days, nine blogs, a loooot of discussion on them. And since some of it is worth sharing, this blog will be in two parts. The first part will be a general ‘here is what people said to me’ part, since there’s a lot going on there. The second will be the final summation. So without any more further ado, lets end this.

First off, the comment threads. Naturally the first thing I have to do is thank T-Kun Unusual Wordsmith III. While she never said anything that I felt needed directly responding to, she did comment on pretty much every blog I wrote, so she does deserve acknowledgement for what she said.

Now, onto the much, much, much bigger discussions. We start with the third blog, the one about the franchises as a whole. To quote:

Les says: (Edit)

January 6, 2015 at 2:02 am

Hi Pretty Boy. You know….if you condemn Star Wars to lameness based on such examples as the Holiday Special, you need to further examine what made up television entertainment in the 1970’s and the public outcry to have more Star Wars to experience. This wasn’t a common phenomenon, my friend. Star Wars was such a draw that even having a nonspeaking cameo of Darth Vader would boost hour show ratings. Oh, and Lucas was the first director/producer to successfully franchise and merchandise a science fiction property. You cannot possibly compare what he accomplished against Doctor Who, Star Trek or Disney…well..maybe Disney for scale, but it’s still a vastly different genre….and Doctor Who and Star Trek didn’t see theatrical releases until 1980 and 2013, respectively, so if they saw merchandise success from it(debatable) it had Lucas’ example to follow.

And the toys….I walked through a Target and a Wall-Mart recently and saw no Harry Potter toys of any kind. There were numerous Lego Sets and action figures for Star Wars….that indicates a success and popularity win for Star Wars over Harry Potter for what you’ve brought up in this posting.

You are, of course free to prefer Harry Potter for personal tastes. But you’ve got a long way to go to prove it actually is more popular or successful to me. Peace.

Pretty Boy says: (Edit)

January 6, 2015 at 2:47 am

Amendment: The first Doctor Who movie came out in 1965 (Dr. Who and the Daleks), the second came out in 1966 (Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150). And Dalekmania was pretty big, since it was this mania that led to these two Dalek films being made. Granted, they’re not canon with the TV series (and in hindsight get a whole lot wrong), but Doctor Who did have huge merchandise success before Star Wars. There’s a documentary on Dalekmania that I can’t find, but I know exists.

Put simply, the Daleks were so popular and so over-merchandised they got their own movie

Les says: (Edit)

January 6, 2015 at 4:38 am

I was unaware of the 2 films you mentioned….and no wonder as they completely bombed at the US box office, due, likely, to the fact the the American public, largely didn’t know anything about Doctor Who or the Daleks. In America in the 1960’s and 1970’s was more a cult following here than the sensation it was in the UK.

The Star Wars Phenomenon was worldwide when it premiered. Its merchandise success, internationally, was light years greater than Dalekmania, my friend.

 

Now I was planning my response for this blog, but since it came in the next comment section, I’ll hold off for now. But the important thing to note here is that George Lucas wasn’t the first person to make a killing off franchise merchandise (that honour belongs to Walt Disney), nor the first person to do so in a science-fiction setting (that honour belongs to the BBC as far as I’m concerned). However, just because George Lucas didn’t do it first didn’t mean he didn’t do it well. The legacy of Lucas isn’t that he pioneered it, but that it was more successful beyond his wildest dreams. If Disney and the BBC lead the way for this, Lucas was the one who really succeed with the model. So while he may not have done it first, and while he may not have done it the best when looking across the board, he certainly was the best at the time the films came out.

Onto the fourth blog, the big one, the one where I argued once and for all that Harry Potter was culturally more important than Star Wars. I still think it’s one of my favourite blogs of all time, but the comment section had a second discussion I entirely missed. The most important thing to note is the concept of the toy production, and how that effected the debate (bear in mind, some stuff is cut due to a lack of relevancy to the overall debate):

Les says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 1:58 am

Hi Pretty Boy. Yeah, 100 people surveyed on Facebook is definitely a joke to build a “proven theory.” And I also take the fanfic statistics with a grain of salt too…as there are no standards applied to who can and does write a fanfic(Just ask the FanFic Critic if you think I’m lying about that….). If 500 hack writers produce 500 Harry Potter piles of shit against the 5 or so really well written fanfics of Star Wars,…..hmmm not really arguing the point you made..sorry….ok…you can make a case that amongst fanfic writers, Harry Potter is more popular….so that’s 699,000 votes for the popularity of Harry Potter…among fanfic writers. However, that’s still not conclusive as very few people compared to the total population write fanfics. All you’re proving is Harry Potter is the defining mythos amongst fanfic writers.

As I stated yesterday, I get my cues from the toy aisles in stores. What toys are the kids screaming for? Harry Potter?…nope….apparently they don’t sell anymore and aren’t being stocked anymore. Star Wars? YEP! at least 15 Lego sets and a few dozen action figures/playsets. And why stop there. Look at one of the most popular game apps in history: “Angry Birds.” There are 2 Star Wars versions of it. There are no Harry Potter versions of it. You’d think that one of the most successful game apps in history would find a way to incorporate the “current generation’s defining mythos” into a version of their game empire, right?

So far, you’ve only proven that Harry Potter is more popular as a fan fiction topic, my friend. Peace.

Pretty Boy says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 2:43 am

So lets break that down into the two key points:

1)The bad Harry Potter fanfics outweigh the good ones. Yes, that is true… But that’s not the point. The point is, a lot more people are writing about Harry Potter than they are Star Wars. A significant amount. Now since a majority of fanfic writers are of my generation, it is safe to say that my generation seems to be more interested in writing about Harry Potter than Star Wars. Harry Potter is a more popular fan fiction topic because Harry Potter is a more popular topic.

Case in point: If people were writing more books about Star Wars than, say, Empire of the Ants in the late 1970s, it’s safe to conclude that more people are interested in Star Wars than Empire of the Ants. Likewise, since there was more people buying Star Wars stuff in the 1970s than anything else, it’s clear that your generation cared about Star Wars.

Therefore, since your generation lapped up Star Wars stuff and made a lot of Star Wars spin-off stuff, it’s just as logical to conclude that my generation is doing the same with Harry Potter. The venue is different, but the conclusion is the same: Generations tend to profess their love and appreciation of things they love and appreciate. It’s clear that my generation is doing it.

In other words, since an overwhelming majority of fanfic writers are of my generation, and an overwhelming majority of fanfics are of Harry Potter, it’s safe to conclude that an overwhelming majority of my generation cares about Harry Potter.

Also, for your claim to work, you’d need to prove that more people of my generation care more about Star Wars than Harry Potter. I have offered proof that my argument is valid, where is your proof that it is not?

2)”Kids”. Now I’m going to go out on a limb and presume that you’re roughly 15-20 years older than me. So would you say that you and I are of the same generation? No, of course not. When you were my age I was but a kid. So while kids these days may be back into Star Wars, they are not my generation. My generation is interested in Harry Potter. The next generation is interested in something else.

3)You can’t argue “Quantity isn’t a good indicator” then turn it around in your next paragraph. If 500 hacks make 500 bad Star Wars books, and one person makes 7 good Harry Potter books, then the quality of the canon is higher with Harry Potter than with Star Wars. Likewise if there are a lot of Star Wars merchandise, and most of it isn’t fantastic, that is by no means an indicator that the brand is fantastic. If quantity isn’t a good indicator of quality or cultural attachment, than Star Wars fails that because there is far more bad quantities of it than good.

Still, if 600,000 people are writing Harry Potter fanfics, but only 33,000 are writing Star Wars fics, it’s clear that the fanfiction community favours Harry Potter over Star Wars. And since the fanfiction community is my generation, my generation favours Harry Potter. If you disagree, prove my wrong.

Les says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 3:03 am

I did retract my quantity vs quality argument when I realized I wasn’t arguing your point. However, I noticed you didn’t even argue my toys or Angry Birds comments…two compelling pieces of evidence that your generation cares more about Star Wars than it does about Harry Potter….and that’s still 40 years later. And I didn’t even mention the t-shirts, posters, etc. You may have the fanfics on your side…but you don’t have to pay money to read a fanfic….Star Wars merchandise, on the other hand is still turning an incredible profit and shows no sign it’ll be changing any time soon, my friend. We do, indeed come from different generations, but then, your generation IS still buying the Star Wars brand by the billions.

Oh, and I’m willing to bet that when I was your age…you weren’t born yet…but that’s just a guess. I’m 46….am I right?

Pretty Boy says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 3:09 am

How old are the people making this merchandise?

Les says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 3:11 am

How old are the one’s begging their parents to buy it?

Pretty Boy says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 3:15 am

Ah but it’s your generation making the toys, not mine. My generation has yet to reach the point where we could make them (not that we could, since J.K Rowling doesn’t sign the rights over willy-nilly to make anything). We’re still living in a time where your generation controls most. Whose not to say in 20 years time my generation won’t make Harry Potter toys? Also, when did an over-abundance of products indicate cultural lasting power? Many great works of fiction have little in the way of extraneous products, and yet they’re still just as popular.

Les says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 3:24 am

@Pretty Boy…..that’s a ridiculous argument. The kinds of toys that are made are determined by the demand for them, not because the toy company decided to make them. If Star Wars wasn’t popular with your generation, you wouldn’t be buying them, and they’d stop making them. Economics are based on supply and demand, not company desires to dictate what toys should be popular. Concurrently, the same generation producing the Star Wars toys are the ones who produced the Harry Potter toys, as well…toy companies are toy companies. If Harry Potter toys were popular, they’d still be stocked on the shelf.

Pretty Boy says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 3:26 am

What if the toy companies weren’t allowed to make Harry Potter toys any more? What if J.K Rowling didn’t give them the license to do so?

Les says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 3:30 am

Prove that. Show me where JK forbid toy companies from making Harry Potter toys.

Pretty Boy says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 3:37 am

“Some Warner executives also chafed at Rowling’s demands that there be no Potter-related fast food offerings and that Warner show restraint in product licensing. “I can only say now to all the parents out there, if the action figures are horrible, just tell the kids that I said don’t buy them. Sorry, Warners,” Rowling told a 60 Minutes interview.”

Source: http://deadline.com/2011/07/harry-potter-inc-warner-bros-21b-empire-146754/

“It has also been encouraged by the response to “The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter” at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando. The theme park attraction opened last year, the result of a 10 year licensing deal NBCUniversal signed with Warner. More than that 7 million people have ridden the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride, and the park reports that its attendance in the first quarter was up 68% vs the same period last year. Visitors to the destination’s Hog’s Head pub have bought more than 2 million Butterbeers”

If the appeal of Harry Potter had died down, then the Harry Potter themed area would have been a flop. If anything, it’s the complete opposite. The appeal for Harry Potter is more than ever, since it’s now easier to get stuff online.

But I think the most damning part is this: “We had a guideline that was perhaps frustrating to our colleagues in Consumer Products but has held well for us as a company which was to look to create artifacts, not souvenirs,” DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson tells me.” Harry Potter isn’t a franchise that goes out of its way to make toys, it goes out of its way to make quality merchandise. The same can not be said for the Star Wars franchise.

Yes, there aren’t toys about Harry Potter out there… because they’re not interested in making toys. They’re interested in making quality products. And what with the birth of online shopping making it easier than ever to order quality goods, why bother stocking them on the shelves?

Les says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 3:47 am

Touche!…although Harry Potter did have some really good Lego sets(I used to have the Chamber of Secrets one). It’s a pity that THAT franchise died out.

Yes, Harry Potter is extremely popular at theme parks…However, so is Star Wars….in the two Star Tours attractions at the Disneyland parks….although I can’t track down a number for you on how many people have been on them…I can say from experience(6 trips to Disneyland in 20 years) that the line to it was always huge.

Pretty Boy says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 3:58 am

On a side note, it’s actually the opposite when I worked at Disney. More often than not Star Tours had a remarkably shorter line than pretty much the other Big Three rides (Rock ‘n’ Roll Coaster, Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania).

But I think you’re underestimating it. Harry Potter isn’t extremely popular at the theme parks, it beats out Star Tours in that regard. When Harry Potter first opened, attendance rose by 29%. When Star Tours opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, attendance rose about 1%. Same can be seen at Disneyland. So it’s not just popular, it brought in a significant amount of revenue for the park. Compare that to the small blip Star Tours gave (even then, it’s not so much that as attendance in general going up), and it’s safe to say that Harry Potter blows Star Wars out of the water when it comes to popularity at theme parks.

Pretty Boy says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 3:43 am

Also, how old is my generation? Late teens, early 20s. Do we buy toys any more? No. Why, then, would you market toys towards an audience that doesn’t want to buy toys any more? We want to buy quality gifts like wands and cloaks. The toy companies aren’t making toys any more because the audience grew up, so they changed their angle to appeal to us. Harry Potter merchandise didn’t go away, it just matured with the audience that still loves it.

Les says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 3:53 am

Sure, but I’ll bet you anything that the same generation buying wands is also buying lightsabers. There is a great big market for the quality Star Wars merchandise like Boba Fett Helmets, Full sized R2-D2s and Blaster props being bought by the generation that doesn’t buy mere toys anymore. However, I’d argue that the appeal of both Star Wars and Harry Potter transcends multiple generations, not just yours and mine. I do feel that Star Wars has a larger fandom if for no other reason than it’s been around a lot longer.

HOT DAMN! This is a great debate, my worthy friend. It’s a privilege to cross mental blades with you on this topic.

Pretty Boy says: (Edit)

January 7, 2015 at 4:03 am

Oh yeah I’m going to shamelessly nick this discussion for the last blog (which is designed as ‘A response to the debate + closing thoughts).

Star Wars has the large fandom, yes. I can’t argue that, because Star Wars has been around longer. But that’s not the issue at hand. If the debate was “Which has the larger fan presence” or “Which has had the highest sales in merchandise” Star Wars wins both (in fact Star Wars wins period, since nothing matches up to the amount Star Wars merchandise made). But, and this is still the crucial thing, the debate is whether the Star Wars or Harry Potter is more influential to my generation, enough for it to be the ‘cultural mythos’. And since it’s the statement ‘my generation cares more about Harry Potter than Star Wars” has been proven false, and I have proven that at the very least fanfic writers adore it, my argument still stands: Harry Potter is the cultural mythos of my generation.

The rest I’ll debate later, either in one of my blogs, or in my final wrap-up.

 

So then, getting back to this debate, what can be said of this? Well, the concept that measuring a fictional property’s impact on the cultural sphere by merchandise alone is a foolhardy process. Take Shakespeare, for instance. Shakespeare has had a massive impact on the popular culture… but has little to no merchandise to promote this. Same with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ground-breaking film… that has little commercial success when compared to Harry Potter and Star Wars. But, of course, 2001 wasn’t trying to be a mass marketing merchandising machine now, was it? It was trying to tell an important story, rather than solely make toys. In many ways the same can be said with Harry Potter, and perhaps the first Star Wars movies. The were designed to tell interesting and clever stories first and foremost, with the merchandise being later. Now, as can be proven by pointing to the Ewoks, Lucas quickly realised that merchandising was the way to go. Not that this makes the two Star Wars sequels bad, mind you. They’re still great. It’s just, when one looks at why the Ewoks were included, the answers ‘appealing to children’ and ‘merchandising opportunity’ aren’t entirely foolhardy answers. Of course this gets more damning in the prequel series, where you get the likes of Jar Jar Binks, and the argument “He’s making to appeal to kids to make money” becomes even more valid. So is there more Star Wars merchandise? Yes. Does it appeal to all ages? Yes, there is merchandise that appeals to all ages. But what about Harry Potter? Well there is merchandise, though focusing more on the ‘collectors’ side than the ‘toy’ side. Most Harry Potter merchandise is more about being a collectors item than a toy to play with, whereas most Star Wars stuff tends to be a toy rather than a collectors item (though, over time, the two merged where toys became collectors items). But is it fair to judge the cultural impact solely on merchandising, especially when one side had a strict quality control and the other didn’t? The answer is no. Merchandising plays a part, yes, but it’s not the strongest argument either way. The Star Wars filmed were built on merchandising. It made them more money than the movie. So to compare that to any franchise is going to be risky, but even more so with one who put the foundation on the story instead. So while one can measure the cultural impact by the amount of stuff one can buy, culture itself is made up far more than that.

So there you have it. My first half of the response to everything that has been going on, of which there’ll be more of tomorrow. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.

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