Harry Potter Fans Won A Four-Year Fight Against Child Slavery-Produced Chocolate
"Not in Harry's name," indeed.
One studio is a lot less hypocritical this week, and that’s pretty cool: Warner Bros. has promised that by the end of 2015 all of the chocolate sold in the name of Harry Potter would be UTZ or Fair Trade certified. It’s an announcement that serves as the culmination of over four years of effort by the Harry Potter Alliance to stop the use of slave labor in Harry‘s name. It’s a victory that only serves to make a small dent in the ongoing fight against child slavery across the world, but that means a whole lot when it comes to how fans can influence the creators of our media. It’s a pretty big moment for fan activism.
I should mention right off the bat that I work with the HPA as a volunteer, so I’m hardly an unbiased party. But as someone who’s built so much of her life around being a socially conscious fangirl, I look at this and I don’t just see a victory for the HPA, I see one for the wider scope of socially conscious fanpeople out there who want to take the media they love and make real-world change out of it*.
This particular Warner Bros. news was broken by the great Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post. As she wrote on Tuesday:
It’s the sort of victory that, in the past, might have been the result of a pressure campaign by trade advocates or union groups, employing the language of globalization and living wages. But Warner Bros.’ commitment to new standards for cocoa production grew out of pressure from and dialogue with Harry Potter devotees who wanted to see the franchise live up to the ideals their fictional hero fought for. The win comes after four years of organizing. And it’s a fascinating symbol of what activism might look like when it’s animated by fiction rather than political parties and when fans form coalitions with devoted advocates.
This is also a campaign that got a stamp of approval from JK Rowling herself:
“I can confirm that J.K. Rowling is delighted that Warner Bros. and Universal are taking positive steps to source only certified cocoa for Harry Potter chocolate,” Rowling’s publicist, Mark Hutchinson, wrote in an e-mail to [Rosenberg].
And here’s a great quote from a piece in The Nation published a year ago (a tiny testament to the ongoing battle this campaign proved to be):
The Harry Potter Alliance presents a new conundrum for the entertainment industry. The organization represents the most fervent fans of a hugely profitable franchise—one that Warner Bros. has no plans in halting. The company recently announced plans to release a new film tied to the Harry Potter universe, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The question is, will Warner Bros. and other entertainment companies sure to face similar activism from HPA-like organizations, deliver the transparency that a twenty-first-century fan community demands?
Will they? This certainly opens the door for other fandoms to take up similar efforts**. Warner Bros.’ relationship to Harry Potter merch obviously isn’t the only one out there that reeks (or, in this case, reeked) of hypocrisy: Another HPA campaign focused on the real-life parallels of the Hunger Games series while Lionsgate and Republic Records did things like tie-ins with Subway (and CoverGirl, and Mazda) and released a dance remix version of “The Hanging Tree.”
There are plenty of stories left to be mined, and an overwhelming amount of progress left to be made. In the meantime, this victory is a pretty cool indication of one small part of what stories can mean.
**If you know of other awesome fan stories please shout them out in the comments!
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