Take one look at Hogwarts, and you’ll see that diversity of race, ethnicity, or sexuality is lacking. Even more so, the attempt at diversity brought on by the casting of Hermione as a black woman in the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child wasn’t a fan favorite either. The decision received backlash from fans who couldn’t imagine a Hermione that wasn’t caucasian.
At the opposite end, plenty of other fans of the series decry the lack of representation. They find it difficult to identify with characters due to their preponderantly white skin color, arguing that a school in 1990s England made up of mostly white students is not realistic. To make matters even worse, students of color are either barely mentioned or act as side characters at best. Below, I explore how a more diverse cast of characters might have impacted minorities of any kind that are fans of the series.
Harry Potter and the One Gay Character Mentioned in an Interview
It’s probably common knowledge by now that Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts’ most beloved headmaster, was gay. Or so J.K. Rowling said after the series had ended in one of her many subsequent canon changes. While I personally appreciate her recent attempts to bring more diversity into the Harry Potter universe, turning such an important, groundbreaking statement into a mere footnote is definitely not the way to go.
With Harry Potter and the Cursed Child considered canon by many now, that gave Rowling another chance to bring to life not just one, but two gay characters, Albus and Scorpius. Alas, even though it was clear for many that their relationship was more than just friendship, the official statement only deemed the two good friends, which led to accusations of queerbaiting. Another missed opportunity that instead of making J.K. more popular with LGBTQ+ fans, only worked to alienate her further.
We might still get the chance to see an on-screen gay relationship between young Dumbledore and young Grindelwald in the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Something tells me Rowling and Yates either won’t take the time to focus on the relationship, or they’ll downplay it as they did in the past.
So, what would at least one openly LGBT character mean for fans of the franchise who are part of this community too? First of all, representation. It is incredibly frustrating not to be able to identify with any characters in a series you love, especially when you’re young and looking for clues in popular culture that you are not alone in what you’re experiencing, as many children do.
Secondly, since Harry Potter is one of the most popular book and film series in the world, it would be a great place to start teaching about diversity because it would reach a broad audience, thus positively impacting the lives of many. For such a far-reaching series to be one that celebrates diversity of representation, it would set an example for other series to come. You could say that Harry Potter had a responsibility, one that it failed at, unfortunately.
Harry Potter and the 5 Minutes Spoken by All Characters of Color in 8 Movies
Another reason why the Harry Potter series came under fire in recent years has been the lack of POC attending Hogwarts. The thing that baffles me about this is that the central theme of the series is acceptance and the fight against racism (Muggle racism, that is).
Given the main focus, it’s incredible how rarely we come across ethnic or racial diversity. Someone made a video of all the lines spoken by POC in the entire Harry Potter movie series, and the grand total was 5 minutes and 40 seconds, which is appalling.
As if that wasn’t infuriating enough, the recasting of Lavender Brown as a white girl just when she started getting a more prominent role as Ron’s love interest was unnecessary and insulting. It may not have looked like it at the time, but keeping Lavender as a black character would have made a world of difference.
It’s difficult to relate to a character when none of them look like you do, and that is one of the main issues POC regularly encounter in popular culture. Especially reading the books or watching the movies as a child, it’s understandable why a lack of representation might affect one’s self-esteem, and for that, the series is to blame.
Harry Potter and the Love-Hate Relationship
If you’ve read until the end of this article, it might come off as if I’m not a fan of the series, but that’s not the case. I still love the Harry Potter universe, and the books will always have a special place in my heart. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see its flaws, and I know I’m not alone in that. Furthermore, I think it’s crucial to question even series we love, perhaps more than those we don’t have strong feelings for, because it can teach us a lot.
It’s now more than 20 years since Harry Potter saw the light of day, and things are looking rough. The lack of diversity of the series will only become more apparent and disturbing as time goes by and we see popular culture clean its act up in terms of representation. A more diverse cast when the movies first came out would have helped minority fans’ confidence, self-esteem, and self-love. If Harry Potter managed to do such a great job with the character of Hermione Granger, showing nerdy, bushy-haired girls everywhere that they can be a hero as well, why couldn’t it do the same for its fans of color or of a different sexual orientation?
Featured image, Albus Dumbledore, Lavender Brown -- Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
Black Hermione -- Photo courtesy of Simon Annand
Popular culture writer, feminist, and self-proclaimed crazy cat lady, Andreea Voicu is the Lead Editor of geekforthewin.com, a website exploring fandom, comics, and representation. You can find her on Twitter @andreeaa_voicu.