Fantastic Harry Potter Merch (And Where to Find It)
I could make some sort of flowery statement about how the magic of Harry Potter isn't just in Harry or Hogwarts, or even in the story of JK Rowling, but in everyone who has some sort of special memory attached. Because that's how it seems sometimes -- that it isn't just a stack of books or movies, but this living thing that keeps giving, no matter how long it's been since it ended. Between the theme park and the steady stream of new merchandise (and now more movies!) to help us hold onto those memories, it's probably true that magic is as real as we make it. I mean, it's definitely real enough to get me to wear a full Slytherin student costume to go see The Pogues, on Halloween, in LA (the land of detached coolness).
(Goblet of Fire Triwizard Cup Prop Replica, Entertainmentearth.com, $119.99)I don't know if you can set things on fire in this, or even use it as your majestic drinking vessel, but who cares? This thing is so rad, and so cool-looking, that that doesn't detract from it! You can play movie-Dumbledore and aggressively yell DID YOU PUT YOUR NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE in response to anything, and even shake it for emphasis (though it's kind of expensive, so I probably wouldn't do that, no matter how well-made it is). This goblet is basically an eternal “get out of jail free” card, because you can either say I HAVE TO GO FIGHT DRAGONS I CAN'T FOLD THE LAUNDRY or, if you're feeling extra studly/pompous, I AM THE TRIWIZARD CHAMPION, I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR SUCH PETTY CONCERNS, and nobody can disagree with you because YOU HAVE THE VICTORY PRIZE. As steep as $120 seems, that's $120 of “I am better than everyone else”-ness. and I've definitely paid much more for much less victorious pride.
(Harry Potter Wand/TV Remote, Wbshop.com, $54.95)Do you like tv? Do you want to be a wizard (without waving around a Wiimote/at a Kinect and pretending)? Well, good news everyone! We've been blessed by the gods of beautiful merchandising with a wand remote. YOU CAN PRETEND TO CHANGE THE CHANNEL/NETFLIXICATION WITH MAGIC. It's beautiful. It's something that you store in a place of honor, an entertainment unit turned shrine. It's like someone looked down and said, “TV isn't enough magic for these poor humans, let's make it a million times cooler, and they will rejoice.” And, oh my stars, are we rejoicing.
(Hermione's time-turner necklace and display case, Thinkgeek.com, $49.99)Truth time: I own this. And it's amazing. I don't wear it, because I lose enough time that I don't want to risk accidentally losing more because of my rad necklace, so it stays in the display case, which isn't just well made, it's also pretty as all hell. If/when I have children, and I force Harry Potter on them more aggressively than I force toilet-training (dream parenting style is that I handle the important stuff, and spousal person handles the “important” stuff), I won't be ashamed to show them it and be like “this is the coolest [Harry Potter-related] thing that I own, and you are 100% not allowed to touch it until you understand the importance of hippogriffs and other cool stuff”. I'm going to be the best mom with the smartest kids.
(Harry Potter luck necklace and display case, Thinkgeek.com, $39.99)This is another piece of “you can wear it or your can display it, the product is your oyster” items, but either choice is gorgeous. The bottle is empty, which is a little sad because we all need extra fake luck sometimes, but maybe that means you've always drank it, and you are in an eternal cycle of good luck by owning it. If you don't want to wear it because you don't trust your luck, or because you are wearing the pretense of being a serious adult who only wears serious things, you can keep is stored in the awesome domed display case. When stored, it looks like something you'd find in a weirdly brilliant professor's study, so it's not like you're thumbtacking some pictures torn out of a magazine to your wall (no shame, we've all done it), you're displaying something.
(Personalized Hogwarts' acceptance letter, Wbshop.com, various sizes and prices)How many people dreamed of getting their letter, no matter whether they were of age or not? It was the same feeling as wishing The Doctor would show up in the TARDIS and take you away on an adventure, the same physical symbol of being special, of being positively recognized for being different. Being able to buy one now, an actual, personalized letter to display, is like entering into that bit of magic, even if it's just a framed bit of paper on your wall or shelf. These letters are amazing, and finding them has actually changed my entire not-bills-budget so that they can jump to the top of my list of silly purchases. I'm sorry, “decent clothing”, but you've been thrown to the bottom, because I've been accepted to Hogwarts as a 31 year old first year.
(Line of Tonner brand Harry Potter Dolls, Tonnerdoll.com, prices vary)
With Alan Rickman's recent passing, it feels almost cruel to review this figure, to say anything negative about it feels like I'm being a teenage James Potter. These dolls, out of the the entire line of what feels like high-end barbies, capture his likeness and overdramatic version of Professor Snape almost perfectly. You can hear the figure smacking Ron Weasley and living in the dungeons of Hogwarts, and you can feel the sadness of Snape's redemption. Even though it's just a doll, it's also a bittersweet piece of many people's adolescence, both past and present.
It doesn't matter if you grew up with Harry Potter, and the characters felt more like friends than words in a book, or if you came late to the game. Once you get the stories in your guts, they stay there, and grow over time from something you read or watched, to something that secretly taught you so many life lessons. You can learn everything from “how not to pick up chicks (looking at you, Harry and Cho)” to “how to be brave and rad while also loving botany (sweet, magically dreamboatish Neville)”, to the bittersweet acceptance of a well-loved, and possibly even well-earned, death. The stories have a nobility that is honored by these toys, no matter how silly, because Harry Potter is silliness and nobility, lessons and magic. Toys aren't just toys, they're the physical representation of the power and meaning that have been brought into our lives over the years.