Our final project was Harry Potter propaganda. We made a variety of examples, unfortunately two were unpostable. Aaaaand I’m unsure as to how I could post the other two, so for now here is our paper until I figure out more of what to do.
Mary Sirianni and Amber Bittiger
April 29, 2009
Harry Potter Propaganda Creative Project
Propaganda can be defined as information, ideas, or rumors that are deliberately and widely spread to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc. Interestingly, public relations are described in much the same fashion except in terms of advertising. The wide variety of propaganda that exists about the expansive list of topics it is about, allows for lots of room to apply it to the world of Harry Potter. Using pre-existing mediums and techniques, this project applies different worldviews and opinions prevalent in the Harry Potter books to create Harry Potter propaganda. Our methodology including answering a set of questions we had compiled for this project. These questions included “Who is the target audience?’ and “Who does the propaganda villainize or marginalize?” We located well-known examples of propaganda, both historical and contemporary, and distilled their primary techniques. Then, using these techniques, we created propaganda about issues that are somewhat parallel in the wizarding world.
The World War II posters appeal to an American audience and ask them to support the war efforts against the Axis powers. The basic assumption is that viewers would see the war efforts as necessary and valid causes. This public would value patriotism and duty to one’s country, believe that the Allied Forces fought for the side of right. The audience’s attitudes would also be changing to accommodate rationing and supply drives for materials needed for the war efforts. They would be under the impression that their small efforts at home would directly impact the war efforts either positively or negatively. These efforts would have included carpooling and not writing letters or talking about where their loved ones were stationed overseas. The government is in the dominant role here, with the American people as the receivers of the messages.
The succinct wording and rhyme make the “loose lips sink ships” a memorable phrase to keep in mind whenever one hears or thinks about saying something that could aid the enemy if heard through a phone conversation or a letter. This poster would be distributed by the Ministry of Magic to the general wizarding public at around book 5. The Ministry would assume that wizards had heard rumors of Voldemort’s Return following the Triwizard Tournament in book 4. Death Eater’s in the ministry would have valued their power and ensure that they keep it at all costs. Creating posters like this one would show them to be compassionate and looking out for the public good while also allowing them to retain their power by making people not only fear the enemy, but also fearing each other.
“Loose Lips” in this case means that any anti-ministry or anti-Voldemort activity should be reported to the Ministry so it can keep an eye on any dissenters who may attempt to create a counter-reaction organization, just like the student group “Dumbledore’s Army” at Hogwarts. Adding a punishment like dementors would be as terrifying to a wizard as an Axis victory would have been to an American from the 1940s. In each case, the posters equate written or suspicious talk as dangerous and directly aiding the enemy. The audiences of both are given a great feeling of responsibility and the ability to benefit the war or safety of the wizarding world, when in reality, they are just doing exactly what the creators of these posters would do.
The next example of propaganda we looked at was PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) propaganda. PETA uses a lot of celebrities to advocate for animal rights, sometimes through extreme means, like having them pose nude. Their print ads feature short rhymes or plays on words. These posters assume that viewers will be swayed by cute or pathetic-looking animals, or an attractive naked celebrity body. PETA values and animal rights and dignity above all. They often support these beliefs in an undignified manner and are somewhat of a joke among the general populace. Members of PETA believe that abusers should be punished severely and that everyone should adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. They also view it appropriate to pursue any means necessary to accomplish these goals. Their primary methods are to get attention with extreme pictures, sad animals, or celebrity shock value, and then give a brief suggestion for the way that people should change in order to treat animals better.
The poster for S.P.E.W. (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare) employs similar characteristics. Like PETA, S.P.E.W. is fighting for the rights of a group of organisms which can otherwise not fight for itself (or in the house elves case, won’t fight for itself). Hermione values the independence of house elves and believes they should be free. She establishes S.P.E.W to free and assist them. Hermione would have hand/magically-drawn this poster, so it lacks the professional quality and starpower of a PETA advertisement. It does, however, have a rhyming slogan that could be chanted or thrown at the Great Hall. There is no nudity in this poster, even though most house elves do not wear conventional clothing; this is Winky, who wears a dress as a Hogwarts employee. Though she receives a wage, Hermione still believes that this is a form of slavery.
The rest of the poster, after it hopefully entices the audience’s sympathy with a sad picture and a memorable yet accusatory slogan, Hermione offers a helpful alternative. The fact that S.P.E.W. is mostly a one-girl show is evidenced at the bottom of the page with Hermione holding all of the group’s offices and positions. While this poster may not be an effective recruitment tool, neither is most of PETA’s attempts. The failure of the recruitment to these two different organizations can probably be attributed to completely different things.
The amended Hogwarts crest poster is the next example. Its models are religious radicals like the Westboro Baptist Church who target a group or groups and blame them for social issues and pitfalls that are completely unrelated. Specifically, the Westboro Baptist Church often have picket demonstrations where they display their political, social and religious views on signs. Their signs are often vulgar, crude, and offensive. Their reasoning is often faulty and illogical. They go for shock value and controversial issues and language. “God hates fags!” is one of their more infamous slogans—in fact, their website is godhatesfags.com. Another method of theirs is to alter or deface an already existing image in order to twist or change the message that the image was originally trying to send. The Westboro Baptist Church uses a picture of Matthew Shepard that was used in the news after he was beaten to death in a homophobic hate crime and plaster it across posters with the words “Shepard at home in hell” across it. This bastardization of images is a common method for shock value. Almost every message from the Westboro Baptist Church is one of hate and blind, unfounded intolerance. They seemed to serve as a good model for Pureblood Supremacists from the Harry Potter series.
The amended Hogwarts crest uses similar tactics to the Westboro Baptist church—it targets a group and holds it responsible for an unrelated social issue for illogical and unsupportable reasons. Sometimes the social issue that the poster is claiming may not even exist, like in this case. This poster takes a well-known image and alters it in order to change what it represents. Some of the visible alterations on this poster include the change of the school slogan. Probably the most blatant of insinuation, the school slogan now reads “Hogwarts School of Mudbloods and Muggleborns.” Now the audience is sure what this poster is implying about who is causing any problems or distastefulness. The animals on the crest have been replaced or amended—the Slytherins now get a worm, the Hufflepuffs a rat, and Ravenclaw a pigeon. All of these animals are similar to their true animals, but are considered lowly, more foul versions of themselves. Instead of Gryffindor receiving an entirely new animal, they retain their lion but it is scrawny and malnourished. It is assumed that the Gryffindors would consider a fallen version of their proud symbol more insulting than just changing their symbol entirely. The crest itself is colored with darker, dirtier shades of the ordinarily bright and eye-catching colors it is usually graced with. The final touch is the slogan at the bottom causing the whole poster to read: “Hogwarts School of Mudbloods and Muggleborns; Weakness of the Wizard World!” The insinuation here is that Hogwarts is full of wizards who are not considered to be of “pure blood.” Their presence in this school is causing “weakness” within the wizarding world. Much like the Westboro Baptist Church, this sign is insulting, extreme, and illogical. It would probably be posted somewhere around Hogwarts by a precocious pureblood supremacist student whose target audience were other people close to the school. I imagine that this recruitment and propaganda tactic is about as unsuccessful as the Westboro Baptist Church’s.
The final example is inspired by the many pamphlets put out by white supremacists throughout the country. These types of organizations use pamphlets, brochures, flyers and other paper literature to spread their message about white elitism. They try to disguise the illegitimacy of their arguments behind business-like language and graphics. They use all of the same marketing strategies a small business would except they are applied to their radical worldviews. It is also used to portray their organization as “the good guy” or people who are only trying to “educate the misinformed.”
The Death Eaters, Inc. pamphlet follows the model of these examples. It uses a business approach to spreading their ideals of Pureblood Supremacy. Hidden behind bullet points, questionnaires, and graphics, the shady nature of the services they offer and the ideals behind them are hidden. However, the language is open about their views and what they believe should be done about them. The target audience are the many pureblood families in the wizarding world. This pamphlet is hoping to enlighten them about the mudblood threat and what they can do about it.
Propaganda is a useful way to make a group and its beliefs known. It can be used to “inform,” recruit, intimidate, or offer services and alternatives. All sides of any argument, all groups and organizations, no matter how unprofessional they may be, use propaganda to try and win other people to their side. Some propaganda is more effective than others, but propaganda can be used in any context. As proven here, the world of Harry Potter has potential to be full of propaganda—pamphlets, posters, picket signs, articles, advertisements, the whole bit. It is hard to argue that a world as full and multi-dimensional as Rowling’s wizarding world could escape without having propaganda be a driving force.