Parallels in Fandom

“…fantasy is not an escape from our world, but an invitation to go deeper into it.” – Andrew Slack, Creator/Cofounder/Executive Director of The Harry Potter Alliance

Every kid wants their favorite stories to be real. When I was a child, I desperately wanted to be a wizard. I would scour sites like MuggleNet and The Leaky Cauldron looking for real spells. I remember leaping off of my father’s car with a broom and completely believing that I had flown for a few seconds. I used to leave gifts for faeries in our neighbor’s garden. I was convinced magic was real, that it was out there, and I was determined to find it.

As I grew up, I slowly realized the kind of magic that comes out of wands and broomsticks wasn’t quite as real as I had thought. However, I still felt like there was something important, something magical that Harry Potter had left in our world. Maybe I couldn’t fly on a broomstick to my friend’s house, but the lessons I learned through literature could take me much farther.

Myself dressed as Luna for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Myself dressed as Luna for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The human race has been telling stories since the dawn of communication. Mythology and Fables used to be our way of explaining the world around us. Whether it be the appearance of lightning explained through the god Thor in Greek Mythology or a child learning the consequences of lying through a fable like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, fiction is magnificent at getting a point across. Today’s stories are more complex, often dealing with several issues at once and evolving as time goes by. While modern stories teach us quite a bit, we don’t always consciously see the lessons hidden between the lines. Watching Supernatural, one might be entertained by the witty banter and good looks of Sam and Dean, but viewers may not be inherently aware of what the fictional brotherhood can tell us about our own families. Reading about orphan wizards is fine and dandy, but looking closer Harry Potter has a lot to teach us about love, acceptance, racism, genocide, and human rights. We can use these stories to help understand ourselves and others, overcome adversities, and even fight for social change in the world.

It’s important to realize the power that fiction and pop culture has in our reality. Without the blonde slayer from Sunnydale, girls across the globe might not have realized that they were also forces to be reckoned with. Countless technologies we have today such as cellphones, Skype, and new medical equipment were inspired by those used on Star Trek decades ago. If it weren’t for Harry Potter, the award winning and wildly successful charity The Harry Potter Alliance would not have raised over $123,000 for Partners in Health to send five cargo planes worth of supplies to Haiti in 2010. Stories have always inspired us, but now more than ever we have the opportunity to take it one step further; to allow that which is not real to affect what is.

Andrew Slack is the Creator, Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Harry Potter Alliance, a 501c3 nonprofit charity that takes parallels in fandom to an entirely different level.  Inspired by the Dumbledore’s Army Harry leads in the Wizarding World, the charity brings fans together for one common cause: making the muggle world better. Like he explains in his TED Talk, every roadblock can be overcome and he, as well as many other fans, can always find the hidden door. He believes that we can do this by using the power of story and bringing it out of its pages or away from the screen, and into our own lives.

In these editorials titled “Parallels in Fandom” that will publish the first Saturday of every month, we will explore this idea more fully. There are many connections between what we observe in fiction and what occurs in real life and within those parallels we can find answers, inspiration, and solace. We can find ways to change our world by viewing those which exist behind a screen or in the pages of a book.

Cover photo courtesy of http://mavenfandom.tumblr.com

Video Courtesy of TEDxYouth

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