Fan Activism – Relating Pop Culture to Civic Participation in the Harry Potter Fandom

Popular culture brings diverse groups of people together with a common interest in a particular content world. Groups like Imagine Better have found that the cultural activities that fan groups participate in can be translated to civic actions by relating events and issues from the mythologies of popular culture to those of the real world.


Civic Agency – People “being able to see themselves as participants” in a civic culture (Kliger-Vilenchik 104). People have this agency when they are motivated participants engaged in what they perceive to be meaningful work.

  • Would you agree that people see themselves as less politically engaged today than in the past? Why?

Civic Imagination – the ability to imagine alternatives to a cultural status quo. Facilitated by popular culture in that scenarios from the content world can help people “make sense of, relate to, and act upon real world issues (106).

Mechanism of Translation – providing analogies drawn form the content world, encouraging the curation and creation of pop culture based media, and fostering an environment that encourages people to think about the political environment from a new perspective

  • in short, how we get from the content world to real issues

“Fannish” Civics –  the application of activities and social ties that members of fan groups already participate in to civic participation

  • ex. fan fiction, fan art, vidding, discussing texts, dissecting/role-playing with characters and events – how could this be translated to activism?

Cultural Acupuncture – Appealing to a broader audience by pinning buzz-worthy stories from conventional news media to fandoms and their content worlds and vice-versa


Even something as silly as a Photoshopped image of a house-elf with a gun and a clever pun on a line from the book can make a political statement. The mechanism of attaching Dobby to American gun laws translates a real world issue which can be hard to discuss) to the content world which seems safer, or at least more familiar.


LePard, Clay. News 6 WKMG. Twitter. 26 Oct 2017.

The mass appeal of popular culture can help a cause reach new levels of visibility. Here in their social media presence an animal shelter takes advantage of Potterheads’ strong connection to their Hogwarts House to draw in new people to shelters and help them see past breed stereotypes.

Darren Criss wrote and starred in the University of Michigan based group Starkid Productions’ A Very Potter Musical (AVPM). This showcases the lengths fans are willing to go to engage with their content world. The musical was shared online via YouTube and went viral, and because it was shared with so many people the themes it explores can be a starting point for discussion and civic participation far outside the Chicago area where it was staged. Criss’ Broadway and TV stardom following his graduation from the University of Michigan only adds to the appeal of the show.


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