Is it still fun to be a fan of Harry Potter? I ask myself this question often, especially as I get older and look at the movies and books I loved so much throughout my childhood more critically.
As a young black woman, I have often had to love this series despite there being few people who looked like me in the books and movies. Angelina Johnson, Dean Thomas, and Michael Corner barely spoke in the books and movies. Lavender Brown, who was portrayed by a Black actress until the sixth movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was recast to be portrayed by a white actress once she became a love interest. It was revealed after all the books had been published and movies had been made, that one of the central character, Hermione Granger, could be Black, though this had never been explicitly written.
This property that I love, that has gotten me through some of the darkest and lowest points in my life, is not something I could ever see myself in. There are few, if any, witches that have dark skin and kinky hair. There are no (at least, none that we know of) bisexual witches. It can feel frustrating to see such an immense lack of representation in this franchise.
I felt some hope for change on this front with the announcement of the Fantastic Beasts films. Still, the first film was found to be lacking. Carmen Ejogo’s Seraphina Picquery was a happy surprise, though I felt that so much more could be told about her, especially since she was the President of the Magical Congress of the United States of America for a majority of the 1920’s. We caught only a glimpse of Zoe Kravitz’ Leta Lestrange in the form of a picture. For a film set in Harlem in the 1920’s, I didn’t expect it to be so, well, white.
Author of the Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling, has often come under fire for things she adds to the stories now that they have all been published. The two announcements she made that were met with the most criticism were that Hermione Granger could be read as a black girl in the stories and also that Albus Dumbledore, another central figure in the series, was gay. The issue many people had with these statements was that neither was explicitly or even implicitly stated in the books and were therefore useless. I felt similarly.
How many people would have been affected by seeing the “brightest witch of her age”, Hermione Granger, as a black girl? How would the story have been affected if Hermione Granger, crusader for social justice, had been explicitly described as being a black girl? How many kids who felt different all their lives, kids who knew they probably weren’t straight or cisgendered, might have benefitted from knowing the most powerful wizard in the world was gay?
I’ve found that, at times, it isn’t very fun to be a fan of Harry Potter. Sometimes.
Still, the community of fans that have continued to grow make being a fan more bearable. Fanfiction also helps as it enables many of us to write the stories we wanted to see as younger fans. In many ways, fanfiction often acts as a medium for us to express the way we feel not only about the fandom but the story itself. We can create characters that more closely reflect the real world and our very real lives.
I will continue to be a fan of Harry Potter. I must, if only to more critically analyze all the progress that needs to be made in the YA and fantasy genres and demand more diverse and inclusive works within those realms.