Harry Potter and the Curse of Disability

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News Media Commentary
Title: Harry Potter and the Curse of Disability
Commentator: Christina Papamichael
Date(s): April 2004
Venue: BBCi section Ouch!
Fandom: Harry Potter
External Links: Harry Potter and the Curse of Disability (Wayback)
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Contents

Harry Potter and the Curse of Disability is an article about writing disabled charactes in fanfic with a focus on Harry Potter fanfiction. It lets fan writers explain their stories and motivation in their own words and features the obligatory Henry Jenkins quote.

The article links to the stories Summon the Lambs to Slaughter by La Guera and Thicker than Blood by CorvetteClaire, both hosted at Schnoogle.com, and to Coriander's Love is Blind at Fanfiction.net.

Excerpts

Anyone reading knows that there are no disabled children in Rowling's books, to date. Yet there are disabled students at Hogwarts.

How? Fanfic.

For anyone who doesn't know, fan fiction is exactly what it sounds like: fans writing fiction for other fans. Existing in the grey areas of copyright law (hence the use of pen-names), fanfic usually focuses on characters in TV shows. But, in the case of Harry Potter, it is the universe of the immensely popular books that have inspired thousands of stories.

"It occurred to me, as I read the books, that JK Rowling has representatives of every race and creed, but she has no disabled students of any kind," says La Guera, a disabled fanfic author in her mid-twenties. "It struck me as very sad."

Why write fanfic though?

According to Professor Henry Jenkins (Director, Comparative Media Studies Program, M.I.T.), fan fiction is "born out of a mixture of fascination and frustration", as the original material captures the imagination but fails to satisfy. Writers placing "marginalized peoples" at the centre of their stories, "play out a drama about acceptance, tolerance, even an embrace of their difference."

La Guera puts it more simply: most people who "see 'disabled' on a book sleeve" are going to put the book back. In fan fiction, she (and others) can show that "we aren't passive, drooling prawns."