(WOMENSENEWS)–Even before its July 15 opening, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" had already sold more tickets in advance than any movie in history with sales already reaching $32 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
This of course is the final installment of the Harry Potter movies, which fans have followed for 14 years through seven works of fiction; the opening of an amusement park in Orlando, Fla.; and now eight feature-length films.
And of course the Wizarding World is finding a way to continue financially. Last week Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling announced in a Youtube video that she will launch a Web site, Pottermore, in October 2011 to sell Harry Potter eBooks, among other items.
The release of the last movie tied to Rowling’s work marks a major outlier moment for women’s financial achievement.
Forbes named Rowling as the first person to become a billionaire by writing books. She has created an entire industry out of just one simple idea that originated on a coffee house napkin in Edinburgh, Scotland. The International Business Times reports that J.K. Rowling is one of the richest women alive.
Amassing that kind of wealth in a single lifetime–in fact in just a few recent decades–can only be compared to Oprah Winfrey, who also bowed out of her main showcase this year when she said goodbye to her daily TV talk show.
Winfrey may not be hosting her regular spot on ABC at 4:00 pm EST, but like Rowling, she’s also continuing her media empire. On July 13, in a Facebook letter, she said that this fall she will become the new CEO of the Oprah Winfrey Network. Forbes lists Oprah with a $2.7 billion net worth as of March 2011.
No False Impressions
The cash piles of two celebrated women, however, should not be used to construct any general impressions.
Last year research by the Insight Center for Community Development reported on women’s median net worth. For single white women ages 36 to 49 it was $42,600, or 61 percent of the comparable figure for same-aged, single white men. For single women of color in the same age group the statistic was a startling $5.
But while neither Rowling nor Winfrey can be seen as symbols of women’s rapid wealth accumulations, the two dynamos can certainly be credited with lifting the cultural horizons for girls and women.
In May, researchers at Kenyon College, based in Gambier, Ohio, reported in the journal Sex Roles that nearly 30 percent of clothing sold for preteen children had "sexualizing characteristics" that can lead to self-objectification. For girls, that’s particularly likely to reinforce restrictive stereotypes.
Both Rowling and Winfrey, however, are iconic symbols of women using their talent, not their physical attributes, to become enormously successful. And Rowling’s lead female character, Hermione, offers an alternative for young women.
Hermione’s character is critical in the overall impact the Harry Potter series has over a new generation. Her old-fashioned virtues of courage, bravery and kindness make for a positive role model for young female followers. The authentic agency embodied by Hermione proves to be far more important than her physical appearance–viewers tend to focus more on her ambition and spell abilities than on what she wears and the style of her cloak.
Juliet LaBella, my 7-year-old cousin and Harry Potter fan, spoke to Women’s eNews in a phone interview before seeing "Deathly Hallows Part 2."
"I want to be just like Hermione because she’s smart and knows everything. If the teacher asks the class a question she always raises her hand and has the right answer," she said. "I think J.K. Rowling wrote really good books."
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Krystie Lee Yandoli is a Women’s eNews editorial intern.
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For more information:
"Lifting as We Climb," report on women of color and wealth:
J.K. Rowling Announces Pottermore:
Oprah Announces New OWN CEO: