Trump-Voldemort Metaphors in the 2016 US Presidential Election

Curator's Note

Trump-Voldemort metaphors have proliferated during the 2016 US presidential election. Early in the campaign, Rowling asserted that Trump was worse than Voldemort and called a Trump campaign spokesperson a Death Eater. In December 2015, Sarah Xiyi Chen released a Chrome extension that changed all references from Trump to Voldemort. That July, EW released a "Who Said It: Donald Trump or Voldemort?" quiz. The metaphors continued after Trump clinched the nomination. After a man destroyed Trump’s Hollywood Star, articles framed it as the destruction of one of Trump’s horcruxes, while another listed Trump’s six other horcruxes. A week before the election, MoveOn.org released a political ad featuring Senator Merkley reading "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child". The ad asserted that the Harry Potter story "espouses the values of respect and tolerance. Trump does not" and called citizens to "unite to defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named." After Trump won the election, the Trump-Voldemort metaphor continued to circulate.

The Trump-Voldemort metaphor functions in two ways. First, the metaphor frames Trump as an evil dictator by aligning him with Voldemort’s thirst for power, his unethical methods for achieving that power, his belief in pureblood superiority, and his selfish focus on himself. As scholars like Lakoff and Johnson explain, metaphor is central to the ways in which we make sense of our world and communicate that sense to others. In this case, the Trump-Voldemort metaphor argues that Trump is a dangerous demagogue.

Second, the Trump-Voldemort metaphor functions as a call to action for Potter fans. If these metaphors are convincing, then a citizen faces an obligation to act to defeat Trump/Voldemort. For most Potter fans, Voldemort represents evil. Framing Trump as Voldemort invites fans to envision themselves as their favorite character, working against evil. Failure to take action would be tantamount to failing to stop Voldemort.

This is not the first time the Voldemort metaphor has been used politically in the US. During the Bush era, bumper stickers proclaiming "Republicans for Voldemort" and "Cheney-Voldemort ‘08" circulated widely, though Harry Potter fans sometimes critiqued them for their divisive message. This time, the Voldemort metaphors have circulated beyond the Harry Potter fandom through organizations like MoveOn.org. This might be an indication that fan-based politics may no longer be restricted to online fan communities, instead, finding wider audiences in mainstream publics.

Comments

Lauren Camacci's picture

Great Connection with HP Universe Week Post #1

What a great connection between your post and Kati’s from Day 1, especially regarding your first point. Making the overt connection between the evil of Voldemort and of Trump invites Trump supporters consuming the metaphor to re-position themselves: Readers of the HP series KNOW that Voldemort is totally evil, but because of (as Kati said) the banality of evil, the characters in the series are able to rationalize or to look past evil if it doesn’t directly affect them (represented perfectly by two moments in HP:DH- first when the Trio hears the Muggle-born fugitives Dirk, Ted, and Dean, and the goblins Gornuk and Griphook discussing the new Ministry policies and the role of the Daily Prophet in chapter 15, and later in Kingsley Shacklebolt’s interview on the radio show PotterWatch in chapter 22). Making this metaphorical connection is, I think, an invitation to those currently rationalizing and looking past DT’s hateful rhetorical practices instead to take on the role of the reader, to step outside a role as characters in the national story and see this person more clearly than perhaps banality allows.

Ashley Hinck's picture

YES!

Yes! What great analysis! You can tell I wrote this blog post the weekend before the election results. After Trump won, the blog post felt like it needed a bigger conclusion or some kind of part 2 to explain why the Trump-Voldemort metaphor wasn’t enough. Your analysis answers that question so nicely. Thanks so much for contributing that to our conversation. =)

Kati Sudnick's picture

I really enjoyed this post,

I really enjoyed this post, especially as it sits well with how I have been envisioning the Potter series in how it relates to the real world. While I didn’t have room for it in mine, I was tempted to add some Trump-Voldemort-Hitler metaphors and I’m glad someone took the time to flesh some of that out.

Like Lauren said, I think this connection allows for fans of the series to really get at the heart of the banality of all that is surrounding us regarding Donald Trump’s language as well as the social fallout that has occurred as a result of his election and find ways to organize and move forward that is akin to the heroes in Harry Potter.

Well done!

Ashley Hinck's picture

I’m so glad that someone took

I’m so glad that someone took the time to flesh out the Hitler connections! They are so complex, rich, and interesting it really needed a full blog post. And those connections are just so necessary to understanding how the Trump-Voldemort metaphors are used in public discourse. I’m so thankful for your great blog post!

Lauren Camacci's picture

HP Biden Meme

I’m sure you’ve seen this, Ashley, but I had to post it. These Biden memes have been great, and now there’s one that uses that horcrux post! Hope you can see it: https://twitter.com/HobbitLindsey/status/798462440916721664/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Ashley Hinck's picture

Yes! I think this started

Yes! I think this started circulating right after the blog post went live. The Trump-Voldemort metaphor is alive and well, even after Trump won.

Thanks for sharing it with all of us. =)

Amanda Firestone's picture

Really Great Observations

I think the observations here are spot on. It’s important to consider how fans can be mobilized to action given shared values or goals. I think the two prong approach you use here is really smart, and there’s significant support for aligning these two figures further given what has come to bear post-election. My friend and colleague, Leisa Clark, and I are collecting chapters for a book about Harry Potter 2.0 post-canon books/movies. I would love for you to submit a proposal about this subject. If you’re interested, please send me an email at: ConvergencePotter@gmail.com.

Julie Escurignan's picture

Great contribution!

Very interesting analysis! Congrats on a great contribution, Ashley!

Cassie Brummitt's picture

.

Hi Ashley - what a neat summation of the Trump-Voldemort links we’ve seen throughout the election season. Thanks for this. I appreciated your comments on how metaphors help us make sense of the world; and it occurred to me that aligning a real-life figure (Trump) with a fictional one (Voldemort, an arguably two-dimensional and sociopathic figure) reduces moral ambiguities and serves to polarise Clinton and Trump on opposite ends of the ‘good’ and ‘evil’, respectively. That links partly with Lauren’s points above.

I also thought your comments about the Trump-Voldemort connection as a ‘call to action’ were very interesting, especially considering the Harry Potter fandom’s prolific forms of fan activism through the likes of the Harry Potter Alliance.

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