Let me get this straight. Media watchdogs deem the new Harry Potter film inappropriate for children, yet it’s being marketed to them heavily. Mainstream media mavens and reviewers debate the brooding adolescent depictions of an angry, angst-ridden Harry, deciding it’s gritty teen fare, on the cusp of its PG-13 rating. Gotcha.
Meanwhile dark acts in the REAL world transpire, so wrenching and disturbing that nations wave their wands frantically wishing horrific slaughters like Darfur would all just vanish…then who materializes to unveil the reality? Youth.
While parents hand-wring about whether tykes will get upset from violent trauma on the silver screen, there’s irony that the youth in social media’s Harry Potter Alliance have chosen to break out of the sheltered, bubble-wrapped barriers of cinematic wizardry to crusade against REAL world terrors. Britt Bravo’s BlogHer post details how the Harry Potter Alliance took shape on MySpace, extending to house parties springing up all over the globe to connect with the dark side issues of genocide in Darfur.
“I’m just a teenager, but I have a voice and a big heart and want to put all my effort into planning an awesome party to help spread the word and help Darfur,” one 16-year old HPA member said.
Are these kids ditching self-indulgence and consumerism to champion a cause way beyond organic lip gloss and eco-friendly cars?
If so, they’re venturing into some VERY ugly territory. 3.5 million Sudanese are going hungry, 2.5 million have been displaced by violence, and 400,000 have died in Darfur to date. But wait…Is this the Live Earth controversy all over again? Will people now claim these teens are ideologue do-gooders, just out for a good time or a socially conscious hot date? Where does cynicism end; where do agents of change begin?
The Foreign Policy Association picked Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond as their editor’s choice. (For npr book excerpt and podcast interview click here) So now we have:
“An Academy Award-nominated actor (Cheadle/Hotel Rwanda) and a renowned human rights activist (Prendergast) team up to change the tragic course of history in the Sudan.”
Almost sounds like a TV logline to me…And therein lies the problem.
Fact and fiction are blurred as dark sides become fantasy and vice-versa…It all starts to seem like a really bad horror film.
Darfur is not just Global Citizenship in a Virtual World (excellent blog!) or a Global Kids cause-marketing effort in Teen Second Life, (also a fave) or even a satellite lens on a tragedy…Darfur is REAL.
Very, very real. And very, very dark.
Who are WE to dismiss the social media efforts of teens with a vision?
I LOVE it when kids draw social relevance between pop culture and current events, they’re using media in a format that integrates within their world.
Harry’s stumping for Darfur in MTV indie rock bands. Online forums. Podcasts, (or in this case, “Pottercasts”!) and on youth websites like Mugglenet. That’s more than I can say for some adults who can’t even find Sudan on a map, much less tell me what’s happening in Darfur, so I hope people don’t belittle kids’ efforts to engage.
The correlation is being made between Harry starting an underground activist group called ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ to wake the Ministry of Magic up to the fact that Voldemort has returned and the HPA’s desire to wake our government leaders up to the fact that they need to end the genocide in Darfur.
Hmn. Fascinating. (Turns out JK Rowling used to work for Amnesty International, so they might be spot on with their assessment; hard to tell) My point is simply this:
Youth are constructively using new media in exciting ways far beyond twitch games, we just don’t hear about it. Why? Why? Why?
Whether it’s the worthy educational uses of Second Life, games like Ayiti, or the Harry Potter Alliance connecting through music or social media to compare our own “dark and difficult times” to the Harry character, positive media seems to receive miniscule press coverage if any.
Example of using the power of media for positive change?
“In anticipation of the back-to-back release of the final Harry Potter book (Book 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) and the fifth movie — HP Alliance is working with the Genocide Intervention Network and several human rights groups to organize hundreds of house parties all over the world…
…On July 14, each house party will listen to an HP Alliance podcast where Joe Wilson, former U.S. Ambassador; John Prendergast, senior advisor to the International Crisis Group; Dot Maver executive director of the Peace Alliance; and John Passacantando, executive director of GreenPeace will discuss the history of the Sudanese genocide and how regular people can do something to stop it. The podcast will also feature “Wizard Rock” bands like “Harry and the Potters” and is co-sponsored by the popular Harry Potter news site, the Leaky Cauldron.”
Clearly these social media kids are not just messin’ around, they’re mobilizing. And by the looks of it, they’re 100,000 strong and growing.
To me, this is where peer to peer marketing and media leveraging can work magic…Shaping Youth in a POSITIVE direction…
Look no further than our camp carpool of preteens this morning as I quietly watched a similar momentum take hold.
One tween lit up the backstory and controversy of wearing Abercrombie + Fitch tees due to racial slurs, child labor practices, objectification and teen “girlcotts” and the entire mood shifted from “I love them they’re so cool” to “omg! I’ll never go in THAT store again.”
Ah, the power of youth conviction with a spoonful of information.
Impressionable. Driven. Action-oriented.
If kids can change peer purchasing behaviors en masse in a snap, IMAGINE what they can do to rally kids for a cause…
Stirs the soul with potential, doesn’t it?
Newsflash! This just in for Potterphiles: The Leaky Cauldron has just announced that author J. K. Rowling’s reading of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows taking place at the Natural History Museum in the U.K. will be streamed LIVE online via the publisher, Bloomsbury’s website at midnight on July 21st. (next week!)
Wish those kids in Darfur had the same chance to listen.–AJ