Fantastic Beasts

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Fandom
Name: Fantastic Beasts
Abbreviation(s): FB, FBAWTFT
Creator: Joanne K. (J. K.) Rowling (1965–)
Date(s): November 10, 2016 (First film), November 16, 2018 (Second film), November 20, 2020 (Third film)
Medium: films
Country of Origin: UK
External Links: Official Website, JK Rowling's site
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Fantastic Beasts is a series of movies taking place in the Harry Potter universe, which act as a prequel to the original story. The series is set in 1920s New York, marking a departure from the Anglo-centric setting and perspective of the original Harry Potter books and movies, and introducing fans to a different side of the wizarding world with its own set of customs and norms.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series and screenwriter for the Fantastic Beasts franchise, has confirmed that the series will comprise of five movies. They are set to be released biennially between 2016 and 2024.[1]

Canon

The series consists of the following movies:

Fandom

Shipping

The first Fantastic Beasts film explicitly introduced two canon het ships, Newt Scamander/Tina Goldstein and Jacob Kowalski/Queenie Goldstein. A number of other popular pairings have also spawned within the fandom:

  • Credence Barebone/Percival Graves (Gradence, Gravebone): This is the most popular slash ship on AO3, and came about due to the very intimate interactions between Credence Barebone and Grindelwald, posing as Percival Graves, in the film. Many fans (and non-fandom commentators) have pointed to their interactions as being overtly gay-coded, if not an example of queerbaiting.[2][3][4][5] But it is a very problematic relationship as Graves (really Grindelwald) is abusive towards and manipulating Credence.
  • Percival Graves/Newt Scamander (Gramander): Another popular slash ship, which pairs Newt with the "original" Percival Graves. Some fans headcanon them as having been in a secret relationship prior to the events of the film, or being previously acquainted, while others have them getting together post-Fantastic Beasts.
  • Newt Scamander/Tina Goldstein (Newtina): The most popular het ship in the fandom, and the most popular ship overall on Fanfiction.net. Rowling herself weighed in on what the "official" name for this ship should be, replying to a fan on Twitter who asked, "how do you say newt and tina's ship name??" with "Newtina, obvs."[6]
  • Jacob Kowalski/Queenie Goldstein (Jakweenie): Rowling has similarly weighed in on the "official" ship name for Jacob/Queenie, responding to a fan who called the ship "Janie" with "I always thought of them as Jakweenie, but fair enough."[7]
  • Credence Barebone/Grindelgraves: A variation on Graves/Credence which has Credence in a relationship with Grindelwald-as-Graves, nicknamed "Grindelgraves" by the fandom. (See Terminology on the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them page)
  • Credence Barebone/Newt Scamander (Crewt, Newdence)
  • Theseus Scamander/Newt Scamander (incest) No ship name for now; some works relate it to Theseus' overprotective attitude towards his little brother
  • Queenie Goldstein/Seraphina Piquery: A pair formed for the Fem power/femslash fest -Girlxgirl relationship, according to some fics that develop a relationship between them
  • Percival Graves/Credence Barebone/Newt Scamander (Threesome relationship)

Fan Reception and Criticisms

Johnny Depp as Grindelwald

In the first Fantastic Beasts film, Johnny Depp made a cameo appearance in the role of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald at the very end of the film. This casting decision was met with backlash from the fanbase for a variety of reasons:

  • Some fans simply disliked the idea of Depp as an actor portraying Grindelwald, either because he didn't fit their headcanon for the character or because they feared that Depp would portray Grindelwald as simply another unhinged villain in the vein of Captain Jack Sparrow or Sweeney Todd.
  • During Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Percival Graves (portrayed by Colin Farrell) was set up as the film's villain, only to be revealed as Gellert Grindelwald in disguise. Many fans felt that Colin Farrell did a far better job of portraying Grindelwald, and would have been a much better fit for the role than Depp.[8][9]
  • Due to the domestic violence and abuse allegations made against Depp by his ex-wife Amber Heard,[10] fans felt betrayed, bewildered and disgusted by author J.K. Rowling and director David Yates' decision to cast an alleged abuser in the film - particularly given the strong anti-abuse messages contained within the original Harry Potter series.[11]

Following the release of the first film, Fantastic Beasts producer David Heyman justified the decision to cast Depp in the role of Grindelwald in an interview with 'Collider', saying:

“What we wanted was an iconic actor to play Grindelwald, because Grindelwald is an iconic character who has a significant place in this story. His ability to persuade the hearts and minds, to persuade people to follow him is essential to this story.” “...We were looking for someone who was seductive and could be charming and could be original, who was iconic, who was a great actor; and that’s what Johnny Depp is. He can be irresistible. He’s powerful. He’s created some iconic characters, and not made the obvious choices when doing so. The unpredictability of the choices he makes is part of what makes him so extraordinary and that was very exciting for us. He was the perfect choice for Grindelwald.”
An alternative version of the Crimes of Grindelwald poster, featuring Colin Farrell in the role of Gellert Grindelwald, by Tumblr user ColinFarrellSource

In November 2017, the title of the second Fantastic Beasts film (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) and a promotional image showing Depp in the role of Grindelwald were released, making it clear that Depp would reprise his role as Grindelwald and be a central focus of the second film. Some fans responded by creating variations on the promotional poster which cut Depp out of the image, or replaced him with Colin Farrell.

Facing renewed backlash from the fandom over Depp's continued role in the Fantastic Beasts franchise,[12] Rowling published an official statement to her website which defended her choice of actor to play Grindelwald, while admitting that she had at one time considered recasting the role:

When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald, I thought he’d be wonderful in the role. However, around the time of filming his cameo in the first movie, stories had appeared in the press that deeply concerned me and everyone most closely involved in the franchise.

Harry Potter fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role. As David Yates, long-time Potter director, has already said, we naturally considered the possibility of recasting. I understand why some have been confused and angry about why that didn’t happen.

The huge, mutually supportive community that has grown up around Harry Potter is one of the greatest joys of my life. For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful. However, the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected. Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.[13]

Some fans were satisfied that Rowling had addressed the issue personally and trusted that she had made the right choice by casting Depp. Others, however, found the response evasive and tone-deaf, and believed that it failed to properly acknowledge fans' very legitimate issues with the casting. Rowling was also found to have blocked at least one fan who called her out on Twitter for the hypocrisy in casting an alleged abuser as Grindelwald, when the actor who originally played Vincent Crabbe in the Harry Potter films was let go over drug possession.[14]

Ilvermony & North American Worldbuilding

In advance of the 2016 release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, JK Rowling began releasing information about the wizarding world of North America through Pottermore. The first installment of a four-part essay series entitled History of Magic in North America was published in March 2016; the essay outlined key events in North American wizarding history from the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. The essay series was met with much criticism from fans and journalists, many of whom identified issues of cultural appropriation, colonialism and Eurocentrism in these worldbuilding efforts; similar criticisms were also made in response to Rowling's account of the founding of Ilvermorny, the North American wizarding school. In particular, Native fans, scholars, and journalists were at the forefront of these ongoing conversations. A post on Tumblr that linked to "a curated list of Native writings on Ilvermorny" was shared over 14,000 times as of April 3, 2018, and conversations continued on a variety of social media platforms, including Twitter and Reddit.[15] The curated list of responses from Native people to Rowling's writings on North American wizarding life was initially published on the American Indians in Children's Literature's blog in March 2016, and updated through October of that year; the list included some media pieces from outlets like Huffington Post and Indian Country Today, as well as many links to Twitter threads and Storify posts.[16]

Both the History of Magic in North America essays and the Ilvermorny materials were understood as part of the worldbuilding for the Fantastic Beasts franchise, and so criticism of these writings often included or incorporated criticisms of the franchise as a whole. Rowling's writings on Pottermore were also accompanied by video trailers published to the Warner Bros. Pictures Youtube account; these trailers were framed as promotional materials for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts film.[17][18]

Many fans had been concerned about Rowling's plans to incorporate "indigenous magic" in the Fantastic Beasts series since at least 2015, when she confirmed on Twitter that this would figure somehow into her story of the North American wizarding school eventually revealed as Ilvermorny.[19] In a 2015 open letter to Rowling, Dr. Adrienne Keene (a Native scholar and the author of the website Native Appropriations) responded to Rowling's tweets: "The problem, Jo (can I call you Jo? I hope so), is that we as Indigenous peoples are constantly situated as fantasy creatures...But we’re not magical creatures, we’re contemporary peoples who are still here, and still practice our spiritual traditions, traditions that are not akin to a completely imaginary wizarding world (as badass as that wizarding world is)."[20]

For more detail on this topic, see the Criticism section of the Ilvermorny Fanlore page.

Archives and Communities

References

  1. Fantastic Beasts (film series), Harry Potter Wikia. Accessed December 23, 2017.
  2. J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts Flirts With Gay Allegory. Its Sequels Should Go All the Way., Slate.com. Published November 28, 2016 (Accessed February 4, 2018).
  3. "Interestingly, Fantastic Beasts is already developing a fandom of its own, with fans spotting slash-y potential in the charged relationship between Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves and Ezra Miller’s tormented Credence Barebone." - Can The Harry Potter Fandom Survive A New Canon?, Buzzfeed. Published June 29, 2017 (Accessed February 4, 2018).
  4. "AND ANOTHER THING, their scenes were obvious to me queer baiting but the implication of the only potentially not straight potential couple in the movie being toxic and abusive really piss me off" - What If by DominikaDecember, Archive of Our Own. Published November 18, 2016 (Accessed February 4, 2018).
  5. "Much of his [Grindelwald's] screentime is dedicated to a compelling yet disturbing relationship with Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), a young outcast whom he cruelly manipulates during scenes with an obvious gay subtext." - What ‘Fantastic Beasts’ and Grindelwald mean for the future of queer representation in ‘Harry Potter’, The Daily Dot. Published November 23, 2016 (Accessed February 4, 2018).
  6. Tweet by jk_rowling, Twitter. Posted November 24, 2016 (Accessed February 4, 2018).
  7. Tweet by jk_rowling, Twitter. Posted November 24, 2016 (Accessed February 4, 2018).
  8. Tweet by priscilla page, posted November 16, 2017 (Accessed April 22, 2018).
  9. Tumblr post by chadthemusicdad, posted November 16, 2017 (Accessed April 22, 2018).
  10. Johnny Depp: Family, relationships and domestic violence allegations on Wikipedia. Accessed April 22, 2018.
  11. Some tweets about JK Rowling's statement in defense of the casting of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald in the second Fantastic Beasts movie by dearprongs via tumblr. Posted December 8, 2017 (Accessed April 22, 2018).
  12. People are furious Johnny Depp is in the new #FantasticBeasts movie by INSIDER via Twitter. Posted November 16, 2017 (Accessed April 22, 2018).
  13. Grindelwald casting, J.K. Rowling official website. Posted December 7, 2017 (Accessed April 22, 2018).
  14. Tweet by hobbitlindsey, posted November 29, 2017 (Accessed April 22, 2018).
  15. "Please don't let your hero worship of JKR (or your love of Harry Potter) make you an opponent to Native people trying to voice why Ilvermorny is problematic." Originally posted by ginnydi. Accessed on April 3, 2018.
  16. "Native People Respond to Rowling" Posted on March 10, 2016. Accessed on April 3, 2018.
  17. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - "Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" Posted on July 5, 2016. Accessed on April 3, 2018.
  18. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - "History of Magic In North America" Posted on March 8, 2016. Accessed on April 3, 2018.
  19. "However, indigenous magic was important in the founding of the school. If I say which tribes, location is revealed." Tweet by JK Rowling. Posted on June 7, 2015. Retrieved on March 18, 2018.
  20. "Dear JK Rowling, I’m concerned about the American Wizarding School," Adrienne Keene, Native Appropriations. Published on June 9, 2015. Retrieved on March 18, 2018.