#CritYourFaves: Harry Potter and -the lack of- Diversity

Hello guys!

In the middle of September Aentee @ Read At Midnight had this fabulous idea to create a blog event where you can post a discussion, throughout the whole month of October, in which you look at your favourite book or series through a more critical lens. This doesn’t mean that you have to diss it or completely tear it apart, even less that you have to start hating it from this point forward. It is just a way to admit that even the books we love endlessly have problematic sides to them and to discuss them. Hens the title #CritYourFaves where you criticize your favorites (duh!!) 

hp-and-diversity

No that’s not the title of yet another Harry Potter book, that is just my discussion post.

I’ve been meaning to tackle this subject for a long time on the blog so this seemed like the perfect occasion. And before any die-hard Harry Potter fans come at me with pitchforks, I AM a die-hard Potterhead too and I have been oblivious to the issues it has for years and years until a few months back when I started being more aware of the diversity talk that’s getting louder and louder with each day’s passing -which is great.

Since August I’m slowly making my way through the series all over again and loving reimmersing myself in the world, I still love it as much as when I was a kid if not more, because of allthe nostalgic value it holds. All of this being said, I couldn’t help noticing the monopole that white, straight, cis characters have on the cast, it is almost exclusive. And I know this is a discussion that’s been had and recycled over time but I still want to talk about it with my own words and be honest about my own feelings and experience.

I want to start off by saying that writing diversity into stories is in no way a mendatory thing, BUT with such a wide cast as Harry Potter has, it is just unrealistic for all of them but a couple characters to be white, and none of them to be anything but straight. I’m talking here about the ones that have been defined, not the ones -like Hermione- whose skin color has been left vague, or the ones -like Sirius – whose sexualities are still a mystery. Especially for the main characters. The Potters are white. The Weasleys are white. The longbottoms. The Lovegoods. Dumbledore. McGonagall. And so on and so forth. You get it, dozens and dozens of characters. Do you really think that in real life right now, if I gather let’s say 20 people, RANDOMLY, they would all be white, straight, cis people? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Especially when you have so many side characters, it would be VERY easy to make them literally anything but white -if you are afraid of misrepresenting any group of people as a MC and/or lazy to research them- because a secondary character doesn’t need much thought nor a very large backstory because their main job is to support the main characters and not to stear the attention away from them. And I know there are some, but it isn’t even close to a fair “ratio”. To just state an exemple, in all 8 movies there have been just a little bit over 6minutes with lines said by PoC. Weird, I know.

I must admit that, being a white person, to J. K. Rowling it came more naturally to write about the things that she knew, especially more than a decade back when diversity talk wasn’t as widely known and when social media wasn’t even a thing yet. It is not an excuse, I know, but it is kind of attenuating.

The same thing doesn’t stand for books written more recently.

Moving on to the characters whose feature or sexuality were left vague. I’ll start with the most obvious one being Hermione. She has “brown eyes, frizzy hair and is very clever” so why the hell did I first imagine her as a white character? For a person of color, that is just sad. Really, I just feel sad that I imagine characters as white people by default when I am not and I never felt how unfair that was until recently. That just shows how unrepresented I feel, and how unrepresented I AM. I know how a lot of people say that they’ve always seen her as a black girl and I am not one to doubt those statements but it just wan’t the case for me. So, here’s the real issue. What would’ve been the cost of making it CLEAR that Hermione isn’t white? And I know that in the Cursed Child, she was cast as black, that is really good but I’m sorry to say that it is not enough because minorities are very under-represented, by a very wide marge so “implying” that a character is of color isn’t enough.

Same goes for characters’ sexualities. I know that there have been a lot of fan-made theories about how Sirius is gay or how Dumbledore is asexual/aromantic and I know that some of them have been confirmed by Rowling -though I don’t know which, but the fact that they’ve never had a mentioned significant other in the series doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have been a woman, I wanted to feel that as I was reading and not just be told a few years afterwards when I’ve already had this whole thing built in my head a certain way.

That is just damage control.

I know that not a lot of people might agree with what I have to say next but this is my opinion and I hope you can understand where it comes from. J. K. Rowling is adding these things as people “request” them and I’m one of those people who are against that (Or am I the only one?) It’s not that I don’t want diversity in those books, it is the opposite actually. I wish they could be re-written so that as many people as possible can relate to one character or another, but unless a time machine is invented that is impossible. So I just wish she left it alone and promised to do better next time, because to me what she’s doing feels like patching up and isn’t worthy of all those people who are squeezed in. Yes, that’s how I feel about it.

Squeezing in.

I hope my words won’t be interpreted the wrong way because I’m one of Wizarding World’s biggest fans and that would never change no matter how many problems come out of it. It is just that as I grow up and grow more aware I need to adress the issues and speak up about things that bother me.


That’s it until next time.

Let’s chat ! What do you think of the Lack of Diversity in Harry Potter? And what about the add-ons after the series was wrapped up?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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46 thoughts on “#CritYourFaves: Harry Potter and -the lack of- Diversity

  1. Don’t think I have much to say because while I’m sure hermione was white the whole time and that my favourite author is just trying to be inclusive not, i didn’t mind. I also always thought Dumbledore was gay. Well not gay explicitly but that he didn’t like women. And for me I didn’t feel underrepresented because I’m India and Padma and Parvati Patil were there. But I cannot imagine how the others felt!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooh really? To be honest I never gave Dumbledore’s sexuality much thought, growing up I felt he was too old for that 😂😂😂 Oh the silly child I was!
      I’m really glad you felt represented, but as you said it wasn’t like that for the rest of us and it sucks especially when the series is my favorite of all times !

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can imagine. Yeah I understand his age thing and thinking he’s too old but I always expected the others to mention a spouse somewhere but I never expected him to. It was like “nah he’s too busy with more important things to have ever wanted to woo and marry someone)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant post, Fadwa! The lack of diversity wasn’t something I noticed until recently. I understand that the books were written in a time where diversity and social justice weren’t the forefront and no one really knew anything about it, but it definitely doesn’t excuse it. I love JK Rowling and Harry Potter, but I feel like everytime Jo adds to canon she just digs herself a deeper hole haha. And there’s no excuse for the cultural appropriation that was used in the new US school. I don’t know if you’ve read or plan on reading The Cursed Child, but the lack of diversity happened again in that and I was so mad because there was serious queer baiting going on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lauren ❤
      EXACTLY! I’m so happy you feel the same way about it, I feel like by throwing around a bunch of things she just makes it worse !
      Oh what kind of appropriation?
      I haven’t read the cursed child yet but I definitely heard about the queer baiting situation happening as well as the lack of diversity! (But them already being children of not-so-diverse characters it just makes sense 😂)

      Like

  3. Actually, I noticed that while reading book and comparing them to the movies. To me it seemed like some characters were clearly described differently in the books or haven’t been given any distinguishing characteristics, so the script writers taken it upon themselves to spice it up.
    Totally agree with everything you said!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Growing up and as weird as that might seem I never paid attention to the character descriptions, like I literally read and had no idea what the characters were supposed to look like and if how I imagined them was accurate 😂 so I didn’t really notice how things were different until after rereading it this summer.
      I’m glad you agree though, thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Honestly I think you’re totally right. I watched the movies before reading the books so I always pictured the characters as the actors playing them on screen but there is a lack of intentional description in the books when it comes to race and sexuality. Part of me gets it because it’s not really what the story is about but at the same time it creates an unrealistic view of the world. And while getting the short stories and new information about the Wizarding World is cool and interesting, it does feel like she’s parching up the things she did wrong the first time and it almost feels like I can’t really trust anything she says about her world since it’s inconsistent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that Rowling kept some characters vague so that people’s imaginations can roam freely but at the same time when the characters she actually describes are mostly white it’s more likely for us to imagine the rest that way too (I hope I make some kind of sense 😂)
      That is exactly how I fell about it !! Like once a story is done, it’s done. You can’t go around tweeking it at people’s demands, it just looses credibility.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It made lots of sense, but honestly, I’d rather have clear cut descriptions than vague ones. The default I think for most people is white so when you’re going for something else, it’s best to make that as clear as possible. I find that to be more genuine.
        Exactly! The author might say it but it doesn’t make it canon unless it’s a part of the story. I don’t mean I need every character’s life story, because the books were about Harry’s journey. But if Dumbledore has something besides straight, it could’ve been placed within the Deathly Hallows, at any opportunity ya know?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! That’s exactly the idea I’m trying to get across. When it is a default for me as a person of color to see all characters vaguely described as white then that rings a bell so it would be better to be precise about these things. I wouldn’t have mind if we all were equally represented, then it would’ve been okay to leave things vague.
        Yes!! We just need the relevant things and yes deathly hallows had plenty of opportunities because a lot of it was about Dumbledore, we don’t need pages. All it takes is a sentence.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such a fantastic post, my twinnie, and I completely agree with everything you said. Like Sara said before above my comment, I always pictured the characters like they were in tthe movies because I saw them first, but yes they aren’t way too described in the story, and it’s too bad. It could have been interesting to have diverse characters in this, really, and it would have felt more real as well?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a great post. Unfortunately, I feel like Harry Potter actually managed to get worse when it came to diversity with the recent controversies with Rowling’s use of Native American myths and such. It angers me that she hasn’t even acknowledged that controversy exists when there’s very little possibility she doesn’t know about it. It’s one thing to not include diverse characters in your books. That’s not a good thing, but ignoring a group of people who are angry at the way you portrayed them is a whole new level. I do think J.K. Rowling has good intentions, but I get the feelings that she’s oblivious in many ways without realizing she is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you 😊
      Oh ! What controversies? I’m afraid I am not aware of them!
      That is a really bad thing to handle thing to say the least! The right thing would’ve been apologizing and setting the records straight. But well, sometimes we do harm while being completely oblivious to it. I just hope it’s not done on purpose !

      Like

  7. Awesome post Fadwa! You’re tackling a really important, yet sensitive topic. I agree completely with you. But, I actually recently read that Hogwarts only accepts wizards/witches from England and Ireland, so too many black/Asian/Latino students would be unrealistic, if you get what I mean. My problem is more with Fantastic Beasts at the moment. While I’m dying with excitement, it makes me a little mad that almost all of the cast is white. Because FB IS set in the US where there’s a lot of diversity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Kate 😙
      I actually know about that but those coutries although they have a predominantly white population also have their fair shares of PoC but I definitely understand what you mean.
      Yes I heard a lot of people saying that about FB but I hadn’t actually looked into the cast but now I definitely agree!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah I totally feel you! Even though its predominantly white, there still are other races living in that area. What also really bothers me is that the people who aren’t white are super stereotyped. In the 4th movie, at the Yule Ball, Cho (who is probably Chinese/Korean/etc.) dresses EXACTLY like someone from those countries would. Same with Padma and Patil. Then all the white people just have pretty dresses in general, and that’s always irked me. :/

        Liked by 1 person

      • That always felt weird to me too !! Because that stereotyped to a point where it is just ridiculous !! It just felt out of place, I would’ve understood if it were a party where you have to wear your traditional clothes xD

        Like

  8. Girl, this post is fabulous. It annoys the shit out of me that JKR is trying to make things seem so much better than they were when she wrote it, and ruining good things in the process – i.e. saying Hermione and Harry should have wound up together after the fact. I think that she could have done better with diversity by not making the names of the few obviously diverse characters so stereotypical – Cho Chang, Anthony Goldstein, Parvati Patil – as well as by including more people of color explicitly. It’s the 1980’s in Britain – it’s not that white. In 2001, acc. to the Wiki, there were 2.5 million asian british people, 1.1 million “black british people” and more than half a million that identified themselves as mixed. 2001 is near the end of the series’ timeline, but I feel like in a school of 4-500 kids, there should be more characters of color. (Obviously I have some FEELINGS about this series…)
    I read these before the movies came out, but I did picture Hermione as white. However, after a re-read, I really had no reason too, so as an adult I can say that I love the headcanons that portray the characters as other races that totally make sense, given the very vague descriptions that were given in the book. I really wish they’d done better with Fantastic Beasts, since there was a huge Chinese population in NY in the 1920s, as well as black people, but all of the ones we’ve seen have been white as hell. Plus, her pseudo-Native American mythology is a little shitty, and she’s not owning up to it. It’s disappointing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • THANK YOU 💕💕
      Exactly ! All these changes she’s making are ruining things for us a bit! OMG THAT’S THE ONE I HATED THE MOST!! For one I’m one of those people who actually ship Ronmione AND that is just nonesense because YOU wrote the book why the heck change the story, isn’t that what fanfiction is for?
      Yeah you’re right!
      Me too! Especially when I stumble upon some stunning fanart of them as PoC!!
      Yeah that’s a bummer really !
      Excuse ignorant me but everyone keeps bringing up this Native-american thing but I know nothing about it, what is it ?

      Like

  9. I’m a die hard fan of Harry Potter too! ❤ I used to claim it as my ultimate favorite fantasy, but over the years, I started to realize that it has its own flaws. A lot, actually. Diversity wasn't really my concern, because even if I would love to be represented, the lack of diversity doesn't bother me THAT much. But I could totally see where you and most people come from 🙂 I read HP when I was pretty young so I didn't give much attention to details like skin or hair colors. I just imagined them as I saw the actresses and actors on the movies because I watched the movies first. And yes, I didn't remember any PoC except Padma & Parvati Patil and Kingsley Shacklebolt (but my memories are a little vague at the moment). And I never, not one second, got the impression that Hermione was black! I didn't realize if it's implied or not but she was so white on the movie. I agree with you that if Rowling indeed wanted to incorporate some diverse characters, she should've made it clear, instead of just dropping vague hints here and there. Same goes for Dumbledore's sexuality, I just thought that he was too old or too busy with magic to even have a proper relationship, silly me?Haha the later revelation saying he was gay was kind of pointless to me. Like you said, I'd rather she just write better and more diversely in the future. Also like you, I immediately imagine all characters as white (unless stated otherwise) everytime I read a book! Which is weird because I'm Asian </3

    Great discussion, Fadwa! I'll be posting my own #CritYourFaves discussion sometimes in the next week 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes exactly ! Actually, HP will always have a special spot in my heart that no other book can access but it’s not “my ultimate favorite” anymore !
      I’d love to hear about the flaws you mentioned though !
      I don’t think it was implied, I think that was just said afterwards to save what little could be saved haha.
      Hahaha well I’m glad I’m not the only one who had those thoughtd about Dumbledore 😂😂
      Aw ! I hope we get over that “default setting” soon though.
      Thank you💖 I’ll make sure to keep an eye out for your post and read it as soon as I can!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I loved your post, Fadwa. Thank you for sharing and being honest.
    It took me a long time to stop defaulting characters to white if their race wasn’t specified. It was a concerted effort, but now it’s one of my proudest achievements as a reader.
    I can tell you really love the series and your critique is quite sensible. I do agree that Rowling should just have left the story alone and not try to “squeeze” in diversity after the series was completed. If it wasn’t explicitly on the page, then it doesn’t really count for me. She may have confirmed that Dumbledore was gay years later, but we didn’t get a single sentence confirming that he was gay in the book, so I’m not going to go around calling him a gay hero or icon in literature.
    Given that she started the series in the 90s, before there was much talk about diversity and representation, I understand why Harry Potter turned out the way it is. I love it just as much as any one else, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have right to critique it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so happy you did 😊
      I’m so glad you were able to do that and I hope to get there sometime soon too.
      Exaclty my point ! It has to be WRITTEN in the pages of the book for it to be an actual fact.
      Yeah! As I said it is kind of attenuating though it doesn’t excuse anything 100%

      Like

  11. “I’ll start with the most obvious one being Hermione. She has “brown eyes, frizzy hair and is very clever” so why the hell did I first imagine her as a white character? For a person of color, that is just sad. Really, I just feel sad that I imagine characters as white people by default when I am not and I never felt how unfair that was until recently. That just shows how unrepresented I feel, and how unrepresented I AM.”

    This really breaks my heart. Being straight, white, and female, I am to be able to see myself in so many books. The Diversity in Books Movement has really opened my eyes and made me evaluate my own reading. Thank you for such an honest post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I just hope that in the future, kids/teenagers won’t have to feel the same way
      The thing is I myself didn’t realize the important of representation in books until recently so in a way, it has opened my eyes too 😊
      Thank YOU for reading 💖

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh my gosh I never noticed it before, but you’re right!!! As much as I hate to find fault with the Potterverse, there really is NOT much diversity there! I just finished The Cursed Child, and I won’t spoil in case you haven’t read it, but there was a definite situation where I was shipping two characters and it was like the writer just refused to go there because of the lgbtq association. I do kind of understand that originally it was directed at younger readers, and maybe the lack of diversity was done intentionally to keep heavier themes out of the writing, but I do think it could’ve been included and done well if given the chance! Great post!!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Riiight? Oh even though I still haven’t read Cursed Child I know about the Albus and Scorpius queerbatting thing and it truely is a shame because I totally can see myself shipping them too.
      Even though it is directed at young readers, some of them are aware at a very young age of their gender/sexuality and seeing themselves represented would actually help them coming to terms with who they are.
      Thank you 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  13. “Really, I just feel sad that I imagine characters as white people by default when I am not and I never felt how unfair that was until recently.”

    This is absolutely crushing.

    I second your desire for Rowling to just promise to do better in the future–and that she follow up on the promise in a thoughtful and meaningful way, rather than just slapping various skin colors on people (as if the colors are interchangeable and ultimately pointless). Fingers crossed.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This post is honestly just so great! Even though I’m a person of color, unless a character’s race/ethnicity is spelt out for me, I automatically assume that they’re white! Now that I think about, it’s really sad that that’s not only the default in writing, but the default in my mind, too. I love Harry Potter, but I hate that my race isn’t represented enough. It makes me sad that I have to be so extremely excited when I find out that Hermione’s race is ambiguous. If races were really represented fairly, it wouldn’t have to be so surprising and cause for celebration. I LOVE HARRY POTTER, and I will forever, but it doesn’t change the truth. This #CritYourFaves thing sounds GENIUS and so much fun! Could I join, and link the post back to your account?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much !!
      I’m glad I’m not the only one dealing with that but at the same time I’m sorry that’s a default setting for you too, hopefully we’ll get past it soon 😊
      I think the sign-ups were over in the end of September but it’s totally okay to make a post of your own, just say that it’s inspired by this feature and mention the creator, also leave a link fore me, I’d love to read it 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Everything you said is so true! I guess growing up with HP, i never had the chance to notice all of the things you said because I was so caught up with tha magic and the wonderful stories. Now that I’m an adult (plus with the help of social media) we’re forced to see it differently. It kind of bums me out tho. It feels like I’ve been under a trance for a long time that I feel really guilty that as a die hard fan, why didnt I see them before? Thankk you for sharing your wonderful thoughts. I’m looking forward for more. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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