I was enchanted by the magic of Harry Potter years and years ago, with it being one of the first book series to truly have an impact on my heart. Even to this day, I enjoy re-reading the books and re-watching the movies. If your life is at stake and can be saved with an answer to Harry Potter trivia, I’m definitely your gal.
When you love something like a book or movie series, it really begins to come to life. I think most Harry Potter fans can agree that the magic is real for them, as it is for me too. However, when something is real for me, the flaws are more apparent than ever. Even though I love Harry Potter with all my heart, I have no problems with pointing out the clear lack of representation within the series, especially in the movies.
It doesn’t even necessarily come down to the series itself though, it mostly comes down to the reaction of fans when this is pointed out.
With the announcement of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child making a debut as a two-part play, a fervent discussion was ignited when a black actress by the name of Noma Dumezwenzi was cast as Hermione. A “fervent discussion” is an understatement, however, because fans were just nasty towards Dumezwenzi because she was a black woman cast as a character who had been depicted as white in the movies.
J.K. Rowling even took the opportunity to point out that Hermione’s skin color was never specified, and character ethnicity was completely up for interpretation by the readers. Rowling and Emma Watson (who played Hermione Granger in the films) have been frequent supporters of Hermione being a person of color, but many fans have not.
When fans make art that include any main characters as black, Indian, or Middle Eastern, it is met with an abundance of hate from many white fans of the series. I’ve heard all the same excuses. They say that characters that are persons of color are not canon, despite J.K. Rowling herself saying that the characters are up for interpretation.
They say that there are already characters who are ethnically diverse in the series: sure, maybe six. Six persons of color versus dozens of white characters. Six persons of color who aren’t even main characters, with very little screen time in the movies. One of the six being Cho Chang, who has very little purpose besides being Harry Potter’s love interest, rampant with gross stereotypes and widely disliked by most fans regardless.
They say that persons of color are rare in Great Britain. Rare despite the 4.5+ million Asian population and the almost 2 million Black population. Crazy how out of all those people, it still isn’t possible for Hermione Granger to be black. Even if that isn’t realistic, you’re telling me that dragons and three-headed dogs are?
It all comes down to realizing that representation matters. Academic journals such as Communication Research have conducted studies that prove that a lack of race representation in media has a detrimental effect children of color’s self-esteem. To argue against this is to pretend that a person’s race doesn’t affect their day-to-day lives. It is to pretend that racism doesn’t exist.
Harry Potter is beautiful in the sense that one of the main messages is that discrimination has no place in a world of good. With that, it is unfortunate that so many self-proclaimed fans throw a fit when they see Hermione depicted as anything besides white. If it bothers you, maybe you need to re-read the series and absorb the message a little better. Until then, I hope to see better representation in not just future Harry Potter projects, but in all media.