Harry Potter and the Lack of Diverse Characters

The first Harry Potter book was released in 1997, the first film was released in 2001 and the story still hasn’t ended… for some reason.

Right I’m gonna start this off by saying I love Harry Potter, I think the original books and films are classic and among the greatest kids books and family films of all time. They mean something to people of my age and in my generation and that’s why it makes me sad to see their storyline being ground down to the point where the originality of the books and films are a distant memory.

Now I perfectly understand Hollywood doesn’t like to let go of things that make them shit tons of money. It’s in film company’s interests to make films that people want to see no matter of quality and by all accounts it seems like Fantastic Beasts might just be a great film and I really hope it is but there’s a whole other layer of problems going on in the Potterverse.

Over the past few years a few short stories have been released and then there was the Cursed Child which completely changed half the characters in the Potterverse for really very little reason. The U-turn in Cedric’s character and the plot holes being SO rife make it hard to take as a piece of the canon, it’s always pretty problematic when someone tries to get involved in time travel but come on. I really hope the series does properly end at some point though because frankly, the Potter world just seems to be being milked for profit now. The new films and play I don’t really have a huge problem with though. At least Rowling wrote and clearly put some effort into them.

What I do have a problem with is Rowling’s lax attitude to the diversity in the Potter series. Rowling regularly answers tweets to her with questions about the Potter world such as when asked if there were Jewish wizards at Hogwarts she responded with

“Anthony Goldstein, Ravenclaw, Jewish wizard.”

except that isn’t the same as representation. Saying ‘there’s a character that falls into this group’ isn’t the same as having any sort of actual representation of that group in the books. You can’t just say there’s representation in your writing without actually putting any in. Her saying something’s true about the books doesn’t actually make it true either, John Green puts this best when he says:

“I don’t think the voice of the author should be privileged when it comes to matters outside a book’s text”

He says this in response to questions about the events following his novel The Fault in Our Stars. Rowling says there’s representation in her books after the fact whilst not actually putting any in. There was recently a discussion about this after a black actress was cast as Hermione in the Cursed Child play which I think is a really strong move for the Potterworld however Rowling’s claim that Hermione might always have been black is ludicrous. If she thought Hermione should or could have been black why did she not just write it in or say that during ANY of the films or books. She is using her lack of precision in her descriptions to imply that there is some diversity.

Now I have to point out here that I don’t really have that huge a problem with Potter being particularly non-diverse, it’s set and was written in 90s Scotland/UK (Hogwarts is in Scotland but characters travel from all over Britain) where 90% of the population was white  (98% in Scotland) and there wasn’t the outcry for diversity in writing and film-making that there is now. What I do have a problem with is Rowling’s laissez-faire idea that instead of saying ‘at that time and location there was very little diversity and if she was writing in the modern day there would be a diverse array of characters’ she instead acts as if not writing actual diversity but randomly claiming that certain characters fall into minority groups without representing them as in those groups in the source text is just as good as writing stories with diverse people that have diverse backgrounds.

I still love Harry Potter, I do just wish though that Rowling would end the story and say ‘that was excellent, let’s do something new and diverse and awesome’.



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