Note: I absolutely wrote the wrong title down initally because I am a space case. Deal with it.
I went and saw Fantastic Beasts this past week.
Considering that my video review is almost an hour long, obviously it inspired a whole host of grouchy thoughts on my end. Mainly that the film’s beautiful cinematography and the way that the magical creatures first brought to our attention in Rowling’s 2001 magizoological textbook are brought to life on the big screen don’t make up for barely unbroken whiteness, Rowling’s misuse of Native cultures in and out of the film, and what reads to me as a really shitty narrative about abuse survivors.
I fell out of love with the Harry Potter series pretty early on. I liked the idea of the franchise and owned all of the books at one time or another, but with every new tidbit that Rowling revealed about her characters and the world that they lived in, I found myself increasingly disenchanted. This is all thanks to Rowling’s constant need to express regret for everything except how lacking her works were in diversity and her new material which contains things like confirming/canonizing her “lycanthropy as a stand-in for AIDS/HIV” stance or the way she views Native cultures as a monolith while misrepresenting and misusing Native peoples and cultures.
I watched Fantastic Beasts specifically because I wanted to check the film out and provide an honest opinion of it. I did go into it expecting to hate two specific things (the lack of diversity and Johnny Depp) but I was surprised at all the other things that made me annoyed or uncomfortable throughout watching it.
Note: If you’re unfamiliar with the critical slant I tend to take when watching films, understand that this isn’t going to be a review where I say super goopy things about the film. I think I say one and a half nice things about it and they’re not very nice at that. So be prepared for a rather caustic look at the thing you probably love!
Notes, clarification, warnings, and links to thing you might want to read are under the cut!
Every time I talk about J. K. Rowling’s current and continuing diversity fails, someone always has to show up to remind me how she “couldn’t write diversely because it was 1997”.
Without fail, people are more invested in protecting Rowling from criticism she will never see or care about than in acknowledging the way that her writing has continued to erase marginalized people while allegorizing their struggles in order to pad her plot and make her characters more interesting.
Even if I knew (or cared) more about the realities of publishing when I was seven years old, the fact of the matter is that JKR managed to put a ton of atypical things in her “kids’ series”. She wrote about the violent effects of racism and blood supremacy as well as child abuse and children coming of age in a war torn world.
And yet, she “couldn’t” include more than eight characters of color or any queer characters who made It to the end of the series alive or who were queer onscreen?
The “it was 1997” excuse for Rowling’s diversity fails only holds a scant bit of water when it comes to looking at the body of her work. Other writers wrote queer characters into their works, other authors managed to have diverse children’s books during the same period that Rowling was publishing her books.Read More »
Part passive aggressive stress valve, part honest attempt at expressing my continuous frustration with JKR, this first post for Letters to the Author is me at my grouchiest. Future posts will be more moderate. Maybe.
I can’t remember exactly how old I was the first time I read a Harry Potter book I was either nine or ten years old. It was before I moved to Florida and before I knew that there was a certain kind of magic that really only existed in books like yours.
As a small child, I didn’t notice how poor your portrayals of people of color were or how lacking all forms of representation were. You got so much praise for the women you wrote, but aside from my own headcanons about Hermione’s implicit blackness, only a handful of your women were like me.Read More »
For a body of media that seems fixated on different avenues of oppression, the Harry Potter series is seriously lacking when it comes to actual diversity and oppression that doesn’t revolve around magical beings. Seriously, just about everything’s a metaphor for some form of oppression or some facet of a marginalized identity.
If you’re looking for allegories about human rights and racism shown through a lens of magical humans and magical species, cool. That’s what you’re getting.
If you’re actually looking for nuanced interpretations of how race, power, and privilege intersect and affect each other in a world of magic, maybe look somewhere else.
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