Newsflash: Owning More Merchandise Does Not Make You a Better Fan
Like everyone else here, I’m a Harry Potter fan. I live and breathe Potter to the point where I have a job writing about it. I’m also a fan of merchandise, to the point where I wrote an article campaigning for more Ravenpuff merch. However, I don’t buy everything branded with that famous lightning logo for the sake of owning more merchandise, and when one admits to that, there’s a tidal wave of backlash in the form of fandom gatekeeping. It’s vicious and it’s unneccessary, because the fact is that owning more merchandise doesn’t make you a better fan.
I’ve watched a lot of people tell me I’m not “a true fan” because I don’t want every single piece of merchandise or edition of Potter that’s on offer. For example, this happened with the 20th-anniversary editions of Philosopher’s Stone. Shouldn’t quality supersede quantity? If we know that there is low-quality merchandise that has been produced by corporations with the knowledge that they can and will make money off Potter fans, then should we buy said merchandise? It’s fine for us to buy every piece of merchandise that meets the eye. Alternatively, it’s also fine to be selective about what you choose to buy and instead curate your Potter gallery.
Additionally, like with not being able to attend Cursed Child in London, or going to a Wizarding World theme park, monetary statuses have a huge impact on merchandise and experiences. Everyone has different financial circumstances, and not everyone can afford to pay to fly across the Atlantic or go to London to see the play. We all must remember that while this fandom is aging, there are always going to be younger people within it who don’t have their own income in order to pay to see and buy everything. I’m 18 and will become a college student in September. I’ve been a Potter fan for six years, but as a young adult pursuing a degree, I don’t have the means to see and buy everything Potter. Not everyone has the security to throw money at J.K. Rowling for more Potter experiences and possessions. Frankly, this is when the fandom becomes elitist.
Merchandise, in whatever its form, takes up a lot of space. The fact is that people don’t have the space for all this merch! While I would happily buy every piece of merchandise to roam the earth, I am a student who is the proud owner of one room. I don’t have an entire house to adorn with Potter posters or Ravenclaw banners. Even if I did have that space, we also need the space to live. Everybody’s circumstances are different, whether that be a tiny dorm room or a mansion to fill, and that should not be an excuse for judgment.
At the end of the day, however, isn’t this just futile? Someone can be a fan of something and not have it plastered across every surface. For example, last year I went to the King’s Cross Potter shop for the first time. Where I bought enough to fill the biggest bag, my friend bought a pencil. In terms of possession of merchandise, does that make me a better fan than her? No. We must also remember that everyone starts out somewhere. Once upon a time, we were all just owners of a battered copy of Sorcerer’s Stone or a movie theater ticket. We all started with that pencil and built our shrines from there, no matter how big or small. But owning the pencil, in its metaphorical state, doesn’t mean that makes us a weak fan, or lesser than other fans. If we criticize others for how much/little they own, what good comes from it? We’re all passionate about the same story, so why does this have to be an elitist competition?
At the end of the day, merchandise is merchandise. It does not need to be a place for fandom gatekeeping or to put others down. After all, as Dumbledore says, “We are only as strong as we are united. Weak as we are divided.”