You’re an Activist, Nerd: How the Harry Potter Alliance and Nerdfighters are Creating Change Beyond Their Fandoms

Social change being created by the Wizarding World and “nerds”? Fandoms including the Harry Potter Alliance and Nerdfighters use shared interests, such as a series, to connect imaginary situations to contemporary issues. Involvement with the fandom and the supportive communities encourage members to be engaged and aware of relevant social issues.

Key terms:

  1. Mechanisms of translation: the idea that the interest and/or hobby that creates a fan culture can then be used to encourage political participation (109).
  2. Fannish: this references activities of a specific fandom. This includes, but is not limited to, fan fiction, fan art, chatrooms, conventions and more. These activities not only help the fan community bond, but also are outlets that can be used for civic or political action (117).
  3. Post-object fandom: A term explaining how even though the object of interest of a fandom can be over (a series ends, a person dies, etc.) the fandom itself can continue on. This term can be used to describe the Harry Potter fandom because both the books and movies have come to an end, yet groups like the Harry Potter Alliance continue to thrive because they have continued the meaning of the story and the characters by connecting them to their own or society’s situations and issues (120).
  4. Public engagement touchstone: the idea that these communities act as a platform to connect people around a certain experience, interest, etc. This helps foster a bond that is later used to mobilize members and create change (132).
  5. “Decreasing world suck”: this is the slogan of the Nerdfighter fandom. The phrase has various meanings, anything from practicing kindness and compassion to taking action on political or social matters. The phrase is ambiguous to leave it up to members to create meaning of it on their terms (139).

 

To show specifically how the Nerdfighter community works and how hosts John and Hank Green communicate with their fanbase, I included three episodes from Vlogbrothers. For more information on the Vlogbrothers and Nerdfighteria, reference the video mentioned in the text, “How To Be a Nerdfighter.”

Vlogbrothers, “Our Massive Project: How to Vote in Every State,” Aug. 5, 2016, YouTube, Creative Commons License

This episode of Vlogbrothers from Hank Green explains how the two brothers compiled voter information, such as registration, for every state and territory of the United States. The video was published a few months prior to the 2016 election where voting aspects including registration deadlines for some states neared. It is an example of how they encourage Nerdfighters and other viewers to participate in politics by providing resources and explaining the importance of voting to their younger audience. This makes them more excited about the voting process and makes involvement more accessible.

Vlogbrothers, “Let’s Talk Money: The Bank of Nerdfighteria’s Semi-Annual Report,” Nov. 8, 2018, YouTube, Creative Commons

This episode of Vlogbrothers by John Green summarizes a year of Nerdfighteria activity, including fundraising done through one of the community’s major projects, Project for Awesome. He places emphasis on the importance of giving back and that people can do so not just by giving money, but through content creation as well. He reassures the young people that create the majority of Nerdfighters that giving back is not always about finances, and there are exciting ways to be involved in social change while also having fun and expressing their individuality.

Vlogbrothers, “Why We Stopped Making Explainers: EXPLAINED,” Mar. 15, 2019, YouTube, Creative Commons

This is a more recent video from Vlogbrothers by Hank Green discussing why the two limit the amount of “Explainer” videos made, a type of video that was relatively popular amongst Nerdfighters. This still follows the original Nerdfighter message. Although Hank mentions they have not made as many, it is because they value the importance of educating and providing balanced information to Nerdfighters so that they can form their own opinions. It returns to the original ideal of each member of Nerdfighteria being unique, and being a part of the community for original reasons all for the purpose of making the world a better place.

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