VIA Promotes Peace Through Pop Culture

Carlos Argueta

Last Thursday, a significant number of students dived into the world of Peace Studies, as Manchester hosted a VIA were students learn the great influence pop culture has on peace around the world. Manchester had the privilege to welcome author and professor of Peace and Conflict at Butler University, Dr. Siobahan McEvoy-Levy. The VIA titled Entertaining Peace in Youth Culture was an inside look at how great youth literature has impacted peace around the world today, and their use in global politics.

Dr. McEvoy’s hour-long presentation saw her explain the findings that came out of her researching in popular modern youth literature, and her primary focus was on two renowned book series, the Harry Potter series and the Hunger Games series. Before Dr. McEvoy gave the analysis over the two-book series, she first explained the implications pop culture has on peace.

When explaining the connection to pop culture, Dr. McEvoy defined pop culture as an array of items that drive traditions, social groups, or a particular area or part of the world. Things that are under this definition are clothing, events, film, literature, and products. Dr. McEvoy drives the notion that people often use pop culture to drive political issues, and in return, pop culture often pushes people toward political themes and ideas. When looking at the implications of pop culture, she was careful when making connections, as she states, “There are different pop cultures around the world, and that each one is unique.”

When looking at the two-book series, Dr. McEvoy analyzed the themes and patterns that came from these works and why the authors included them. After analyzing the books, she researched how today’s society uses these books in the real world, and how or why they were used in different parts of the world.

From the Harry Potter series, Dr. McEvoy found strong anti-war and anti-elitist themes throughout the book. The main idea of the book is about a young boy named Harry Potter, who is the chosen wizard to defeat the evil and powerful Lord Voldemort and to save the wizarding world. Although the book culminates into a giant war between good and evil, Dr. McEvoy drives the notion that the theme of anti-war was present through the book, because war and violence were tirelessly prevented through the actions of Harry Potter and his friends. The idea behind anti-elitist is seen through the Harry Potter series with the wizarding world coming together, choosing to take matters into their own hands and creating their future.

In the Hunger Games series, Dr. McEvoy found that the most recurring theme was woman empowerment and anti-violence. The main character Katniss Everdeen was a potent symbol throughout the whole book, with her strong personality, hunting skills, and her hard attitude, she is a female character that represents “Girl Power,” Dr. McEvoy explained. Katniss is pictured as the strongest character in a sea of men, where she is often looked down upon. Katniss, with other characters, choose to stand up for justice instead of continuing to play the hierarchy’s violent game. Instead of following politicians and elite wizards, the wizarding world decide to create a new freeing world for themselves.

These themes within the two books series, “Are very much present in today’s social and political climate,” Dr. McEvoy said. The ideas and issues within the book series have a strong presence within the world today with movements like Me Too and the Democratic Protests in Hong Kong, which are only two of many happening in the world today. Because of the connection to these ideas and movements; people will use images, characters, and satire from the two works, and implement them into their ideals and causes. Dr. McEvoy gave examples of people protesting with banners that have a Harry Potter or a Hunger Games theme to them, and she also demonstrated politicians using salutes or symbols from the two series.

Dr. McEvoy’s premise is that pop culture can play a significant role in society’s politics and social cues, and ultimately those ideals can be used for better or for worst. As time will continue, these pop culture ideals with continue to be the back burner of social and political movements.