Harry Potter Alliance brings together fans to affect social change

The Harry Potter Alliance is a nonprofit coalition whose work so far has included creating a YouTube video titled 'The Hunger Games Are Real' which aims to raise awareness of poverty and hunger in the US.

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    The 'Harry Potter' films star (from l.) Matthew Lewis, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Daniel Radcliffe.
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Thought "Harry Potter" and "Hunger Games" were just fun and games?

Think again.

Today the series’ famously cult-like fans are using these popular fiction books as a means to affect social change.

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The Harry Potter Alliance, a nonprofit coalition of fans who use “the power of story to inspire and affect social change,” is launching a campaign inspired by Suzanne Collins’ "Hunger Games" trilogy to fight social injustice in the US.

The nonprofit Alliance has created a "The Hunger Games are Real” YouTube video and a social media campaign called “The Odds Are in Our Favor” which shares statistics about poverty, hunger, and income inequality in the US with fans. 

In an LA Times op-ed, Harry Potter Alliance executive director Andrew Slack writes, “If the books are supposed to function as a cautionary tale against the real class divide in the U.S., we need not look far for evidence. The future of Panem is upon us: More than 20 million Americans can't find full-time jobs, 22% of children live in poverty and middle-class wages have been largely stagnant since 1974. Meanwhile, corporate profits are at an all-time high.

“If the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist, the same can be said of systemic economic inequality. The pull of the American dream is still so strong that many believe the only reasonable explanation for poverty is that it's poor people's fault.”

The “Hunger Games are Real” campaign is using excitement behind "The Hunger Games,” a story about inequality, to attract interest. “The Hunger Games” is a story about economic inequality, Slack argues, in which the fictitious country of Panem is actually the United States some decades in the future, where a fraction of people control almost all of the wealth and starvation is a daily experience.

According to the UK’s Guardian, actor Donald Sutherland, who plays President Coriolanus Snow, the archvillain of the Hunger Games series in the latest film, said in a Guardian interview that “I hope that they [young people] will take action because it's getting drastic in this country.”

The campaign hopes to spread its message through its YouTube video, social media, and a three-fingered salute used in the “Hunger Games” as a symbol of solidarity against corruption and inequality.

In the Times op-ed, Slack writes, “Perhaps Lionsgate will embrace the simple but radical message of its blockbuster films: No one should have to go hungry in a nation of plenty. After all, fantasy is not an escape from our world but an invitation to go deeper into it. And we will keep going deeper until the odds are in everyone’s favor.”

Using popular fiction to inspire social change – what do you think of this trend?

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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