Beyond its incredible presence in the real world, chocolate is intimately tied into our imaginations of many fictional worlds as well, especially those aimed at children. From Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Patrick Skene Catling’s The Chocolate Touch, the link between chocolate and fantasy has been made clear. And even in fantasy worlds in which chocolate does not necessarily play a central role, it can still have great significance. In the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, for example, chocolate is seen as a cure to the depressed state associated with the happiness-sucking dementors, creatures that guard the wizards’ prison. It brings back feelings of warmth and happiness, and as pointed out by David Colbert in his book The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter, “doctors say [chocolate] can make depressed people feel better…[and]…has some of the same effects as the medicine that doctors prescribe” (Colbert 66). We see then that though chocolate is not necessarily a key or central part of the world, it nevertheless has important value beyond just being a food commodity.
This clip from the third Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, shows the harmful effects of the dementors – meant to represent depression – and the value of chocolate, which is portrayed as an effective cure. (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2/5) Movie CLIP – Dementor on the Train (2004) HD.”)
However, in the real world chocolate has also been linked – historically and in the modern day – to forced labor and slavery, including that of children (“Chocolate’s Child Slaves”; Martin Lecture 15; Lockwood Lecture 14). Especially in recent years, there have been movements to promote ethically sourced chocolate in an effort to reduce and eventually eliminate this slavery (“International Cocoa Initiative”; Martin Lecture 18). Outside of just citing the evils of slavery, the fact that chocolate is in our minds tied to something so fundamentally good and uplifting and that brings the consumer so much joy and pleasure has been part of the push to end the use of slavery in the chocolate supply chain. Because chocolate is viewed in this way, it can be “tarnished” and “polluted” by slavery in a way that we don’t see included in the rhetoric against use of forced labor to make iPhones, for example (Gibson). To focus on one specific group, the Harry Potter Alliance’s Not In Harry’s Name campaign has linked not just the idea of the purity of chocolate but also the idea of the goodness and inspiration of the novels to help motivate their fight against slavery in order to draw people in and get thousands of fans involved. They succeeded in getting Warner Brothers to declare that all Harry Potter chocolate products would be Utz or Fair Trade certified by the end of 2015, which has been lauded as a great success by the consumers and fans. However, this should not turn to complacency, as there are still problems with Fair Trade certification and therefore the so-called “victory” may not be as thorough as hoped, and furthermore working to eliminate unethically sourced chocolate in Harry’s name alone does not account for the vast amount of chocolate produced via forced/child labor that still circulates in the rest of the industry. Moving forward, then, these are some critiques of the movement that should be tackled in order to truly push against modern slavery and for better working conditions across the board.
To go back to the connection between Harry Potter and chocolate, outside of the novels this link can be found in the products made and sold under the Harry Potter brand – specifically confections like the chocolate frogs mentioned in the books. Though there are numerous recipes for makings one’s own chocolate frogs (“Honeydukes’ Chocolate Frogs”) and though there are a few different companies that make them (“Harry Potter Chocolate Frog – 0.55 oz”), the most official version is that created by Warner Brothers, the studio that created the Harry Potter films.
The 150 g solid milk chocolate frogs that form the bulk of the Harry Potter chocolate products, over which the “Not In Harry’s Name” was run to push Warner Brothers to use ethically sourced cocoa for these frogs (“Chocolate Frog – with Authentic Film Packaging.”)
These WB chocolate frogs are available at locations such as the Harry Potter Theme Park at Universal Studios and the Studio Tour in London, as well as online (“Chocolate Frog – with Authentic Film Packaging.”). These frogs are one of the main food products under the Harry Potter brand, and as such are very popular. However, in 2008 concerns were raised regarding whether the 30.9% cocoa solids content of the frogs was ethically sourced (“Not in Harry’s Name”).. The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), a group that “turns fans into heroes…by making activism accessible through the power of story [to work for] equality, human rights, and literacy” (“The Harry Potter Alliance: What We Do”) created the “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign to pressure Warner Brothers to investigate their sources and ensure that their Harry Potter chocolate products were Fair Trade certified.
The rhetoric surrounding this campaign focused primarily on the role that chocolate has in the Harry Potter novels and in relation to fantasy and childhood in general, the values that the novels espouse in relation to equality and justice, and the idea that child labor and unethically sourced chocolate are in fundamental contrast to these roles and values, and could in fact ruin the purity of chocolate. Through a close reading of the novels, including the points regarding the effects of chocolate against dementors, we can see an association between chocolate, purity, innocence, and happiness. The Washington Post’s article on the “Not in Harry’s Name” movement phrases it as such:
“Chocolate and candy play an important role in the Harry Potter books. After he leaves his abusive aunt and uncle to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry is boggled by the abundance of sweets his peers have access to; chocolate is a symbol of how Hogwarts will be the first place that really nourishes Harry’s body and his mind. And chocolate is big real-world business in the Harry Potter empire: You can buy Chocolate Frogs, one of the series’ signature sweets.” (Rosenberg).
Citing one of the novels mentioned earlier, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Hamida Bosmajian in 1985 similarly discussed the “pleasing associations of chocolate, whose high concentration of energy-producing compounds combined with caffeine and theobromine makes it truly a food for the gods as well as for those who, like Charlie, are empty buckets of deprivation” (Bosmajian) – as is Harry, too, prior to attending Hogwarts.
Based on these associations, statements such as those seen in this video sought to galvanize Harry Potter fans to sign a petition and protest Warner Brothers’ use of chocolate that had not been certified as ethically sourced.
This video shows a montage of clips that serve to summarize the progression of the “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign and to celebrate the letter the Harry Potter Alliance received from Warner Brothers in December 2014 pledging to make Harry Potter chocolate products UTZ or Fair Trade certified. From this video, we can identify a number of comments and remarks that showcase the types of rhetoric as mentioned above. (“Harry Potter Fans Win Against Child Slavery”).
This video showcasing the movement included quotes such as this one from a speech at the Yule Ball in Cambridge, MA in December 2010:
Speaker: “When you are facing a dementor after a dementor attacked you what is the best thing you should eat?”
Speaker: “But what if that chocolate was made by a child who was kidnapped from their family and forced into slavery on the Ivory Coast”
Speaker: “The chocolate would not work.”
(“Harry Potter Fans Win Against Child Slavery”)
The HPA Facebook page similarly made a post urging supporters to “protect your friends and loved ones from using faulty chocolate against Dementor attacks” (“The Harry Potter Alliance Facebook Page” 2013).
This idea that the unethical production of chocolate would sully it enough so that its beneficial effects would be lost speaks to the value that we associate with chocolate, especially so for Harry Potter fans. Another quote from the video states “It doesn’t seem to be too much to ask that something that is for children, essentially, Harry Potter chocolate, should not be sourced by children” (“Harry Potter Fans Win Against Child Slavery”). HPA founder Andrew Slack pushes this point by asking readers to
“Picture a 9 year old enjoying a Chocolate Frog at the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. She is happy to be a part of JK’s Rowling’s magical world — a world that inspired in this young girl a love for reading and a commitment to human rights. Now imagine a 9 year old boy in West Africa, kidnapped and enslaved… all so that he can harvest the cocoa use to make that very chocolate frog” (Slack).
As we see from these quotes and from the books mentioned at the beginning of this post, chocolate is associated with children and children’s fantasy, and here the interesting contrast is posed between those children who have the chance to enjoy a childhood of this fantasy and consumer products associated with them, and those children who are forced to labor in order to produce the raw materials for these products.
Scholar and University of Southern California professor Henry Jenkins additionally points out that:
“The effort defines HPA members as fans of the franchise and as consumers likely to buy affiliated products, but also mobilizes content-world expertise to challenge studio decisions:
[6.5] When Hermione Granger discovers that the food at Hogwarts, chocolate included, is being made by house elves—essentially unpaid, indentured servants—she immediately starts a campaign to replace exploitation with fairness…In Harry Potter’s world, chocolate holds a unique place: it is a Muggle item with magical properties. Chocolate is featured prominently throughout the books as a powerful remedy for the chilling effects produced by contact with dementors, which are foul creatures that drain peace, hope and happiness from the world around them…It is doubtful that chocolate produced using questionable labor practices would have such positive effect, both in Harry’s world and ours. (Harry Potter Alliance 2010b)
[6.6] Rather than seeing the licensed candies as mere commodities, the HPA evaluates them according to their meaningfulness in the content world and then links their “magical” powers to the ethics of how they are produced and sold: “As consumers of Harry Potter products, we are interested in supporting and purchasing products that are true to the spirit of the Harry Potter franchise.” Throughout its campaign, the HPA holds open the prospect of a meaningful collaboration with corporate interests, but it also pledges to use boycotts and buycotts against the studio and its subcontractors.” (Jenkins)”
Ultimately, through what Andrew Slack calls “cultural acupuncture” – the “practice of mapping the fictional content world onto real-world concerns [to help] empower young people to become civically engaged and politically active” (Jenkins) – the HPA got 400,000 signatures, the support of J.K. Rowling, and finally in December 2014 a letter from Warner Brothers stating that by the end of the following year, all of their Harry Potter chocolate products would be “100 percent Utz or Fair Trade certified” (“Not in Harry’s Name: A History”).
Projecting the real-life success of the “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign onto the fictional The Daily Prophet newspaper from the Harry Potter series, this image showcases the sentiments felt by members and supporters of the HPA following the letter from Warner Brothers.
The letter from Warner Brothers to Andrew Slack reveals the plan to make all their Harry Potter chocolate products Utz or Fair Trade certified by the end of 2015 – the victory that the “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign had hoped for.
However, while this was lauded as a victory for the HPA, there remain issues both with the outcome and with the way the campaign was framed. The HPA blog showcases Fair Trade as a sort of panacea for ethical issues associated with chocolate and for the struggles endured by cocoa farmers, stating that Fair Trade International “[ensures] that their products are produced by people making a living wage, and are not being produced with harmful or inhumane practices such as the use of child labor” (O’Brien) and provides “fair exchanges with farmers and artisans” alike [to make] certain that there is enough money to issue better working conditions, health-care, [and] education for the children of the workers” (Simeti). However, as we learned in class Fair Trade is still quite problematic. For one, though in theory Fair Trade should eliminate child labor, because it “does not ensure a direct relationship between producers and buyers” and lacks thorough quality control there have been cases where child labor is still used on Fair Trade-certified cooperatives but has gone unnoticed (“What’s the Difference Between Direct Trade and Fair Trade?”). Therefore, the chocolate in chocolate frogs being Fair Trade certified is not guaranteed to solve the specific problems that the HPA seems to think it will. And beyond this, in reality Fair Trade puts a “significant burden for new producers and manufacturers [who have to pay to be certified], and drains money from the sourcing relationship” (“What’s the Difference Between Direct Trade and Fair Trade?”), making it difficult for small farmers especially. Therefore, while getting Warner Brothers to use Fair Trade certified cocoa is certainly a step in the right direction towards the goal of chocolate being ethically sourced, there is still work to be done – and the fact that the “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign is portrayed as a huge success, and has been covered by many prominent media outlets, can be misleading and affect how the general public sees Fair Trade. Ultimately, a push towards Direct Trade – the sourcing model used by Taza Chocolate, which cuts out the middlemen and provides more benefits to farmers and producers – would be even more desirable (“What’s the Difference Between Direct Trade and Fair Trade?”).
Furthermore, while the use of Harry Potter and all the emotions and values associated with it to galvanize such a huge movement of people in favor of ethically sourced chocolate was immensely creative and has had results, this should not limit the scope of the push against forced and child labor. The statements “We wanted to make sure that child slavery would no longer be carried out in Harry’s name,” “Maybe we can’t end child slavery altogether, but we can at least get Harry’s name out of it,” and “Not in Harry’s name and not in ours either” (“The Harry Potter Alliance Facebook Page” 2015; “Harry Potter Fans Win Against Child Slavery”) were helpful in promoting the movement, but problematic in that they focus too much on the consumer and the value of Harry Potter rather than condemning child slavery in general – though of course I do not think that is the message the campaign intended to send with this. Focusing on Harry Potter was simply a way of rallying this online community to fix specific problems one step at a time, but moving forward this approach needs to be broadened to protest all unethically sourced chocolate, not just those products which happen to be associated with a beloved fantasy world and the ideas of purity and childhood.
Luckily, it seems both issues mentioned here are being addressed: Walk Free, the anti-modern slavery movement that partnered with HPA in its campaign, is “designing and propagating a new certification for slavery-free supply chains” and Slack “hopes to use Warner Bros.’ decision to pressure other chocolate chains, such as Hershey and Nestle, and mobilize fans of other franchises” (Rosenberg). As Slack said,
“If ‘Harry Potter’ [as a franchise] were to be in alignment with the values of Harry Potter [himself], it could be a real symbolic and coherent victory… [Harry Potter] represents righteousness, nobility, love, so much beauty and a place of safety that people go to, and moral authority. If the ‘Harry Potter’ brand were to move something like fair trade, it would be making a statement that not only is the ‘Harry Potter’ brand a cut above the rest but that [other franchises] have to catch up to it.”
Jenkins, too, sees potential here beyond just this one campaign, identifying that HPA is “developing messaging tools that can be adapted to any number of causes, rather than identifying campaigns and then developing strategies for them” and suggesting that “‘In some ways, the flexibility of what the Harry Potter Alliance is doing is very useful…It can form new kinds of alliances, it can again evolve over time as the cultural references change’” (Ibid.). And in the broader scheme of things, “the cocoa campaign proves that the impact of Rowling’s novels isn’t limited to the pleasure it gives readers, or to a win in a single campaign for more ethical chocolate” (Ibid.).
Overall, we see a very interesting situation play out here where consumers have really taken control and, through their personal associations with the Harry Potter series, its values, and the role of chocolate in it, have fought back against unethical labor conditions. This is truly a fan-based internet movement, and can be seen as proof that online mobilizing really can have real-life effects. While the HPA was successful in getting Warner Brothers to make their chocolate products Fair Trade certified, however, we see that there are still problems with this “victory” – and moving forward, we certainly hope to see a push for more direct, regulated supply chains that truly do benefit the producers and others who historically have gotten the short end of the stick. And while “Not in Harry’s Name” has been a great movement in terms of bolstering people to care about these issues, we should turn to protesting unethical chocolate simply because it is unethical.
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