Auden Granger is the props and lobby designer for Fandom, and quite possibly the most experienced fan in our ensemble. Here Auden talks about working with the Harry Potter Alliance.
Have you ever wished Harry Potter was real? Well, it kind of is!
There may not be any dementors, Death Eaters, or dark wizards in our world, but the forces that Harry and his friends fought against- oppression, violence, inequality- are very present. It’s hard to imagine that if the members of Dumbledore’s Army and the Order of the Phoenix were transported to our Muggle world, they wouldn’t continue to fight for positive social change. It’s unlikely that Hermione would abandon her quest for worker’s rights with S.P.E.W. and the house elves- instead she might follow her motto of “when in doubt, go to the library!” and shift her focus to literacy and access to education. And would Harry really be okay with unethically sourced chocolate being sold in his name at amusement parks and shops?
The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) fights the battles that we believe Harry Potter would fight if he lived in our world. An international non-profit organization, the HPA uses parallels from popular media like Harry Potter, online video, and the Hunger Games to garner enthusiasm for social activism. The HPA turns fans into the heroes they love by using the power of story- the power that has us reading hundreds of pages, standing in line for hours, and arguing over ships- to make activism accessible. We believe in the power of fandom. We believe that fiction is not just an escape from our world, but also a way to go deeper into it, a means to connect to others and to the world we live in. With over 275 chapters in 25 countries and 43 US states, the HPA proves that it’s the fans who control the narrative- not just of the stories we love, but in the world around us, too.
The Harry Potter fan community started out for so many as a refuge, a place to escape, but quickly grew into much more than that, a community that is not dominated by the media material that it consumes but uses its shared passion as a way towards compassionate action. While so many people see fandom as something meaningless and silly, we know differently, and with imagination and with the empathy that stories give us, the HPA has been able to make incredible progress in human rights around the world, all the while reshaping the dry, stuffy landscape of nonprofit organizations into something vibrant, accessible, and alive.
My passion for storytelling for social change and improving accessibility led me to join the Harry Potter Alliance staff as the manager of a project called Fandom Forward. Fandom Forward was designed to create resources to enable individuals and HPA Chapters members to connect the stories that they love to relevant social issues. These resource toolkits balance academic social change language, action items, and references and parallels to stories we love too in order to make ‘fan activism’ and activism in general easier to approach, whether you’re an avid activist, passionate fan, or just mildly interested in how popular media and social change could be combined. In fact, you should check out the Fandom Forward Marvel Cinematic Universe Hero’s Toolkit– it’s 100% Captain America approved.
Fan activism and the work the Harry Potter Alliance does can be hard for people to wrap their heads around. Popular culture and fiction seem so distanced from what nonprofit organizations do. After all, what could a character like Superman have to do with immigration reform? But anyone who has ever been moved by a story or cried cried over a character death knows firsthand how impactful a piece of media can be. So think to yourself- what would Harry Potter, Buffy, Gandalf, Spock, the Doctor, Katniss, or Captain America do when faced with injustice? And, in the words of Buffy, “Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?”
– Auden Granger
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