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!!)
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.
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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