Fantastic Beasts & Invisible Diversity in the Harry Potter Series

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Title: Fantastic Beasts & Invisible Diversity in the Harry Potter Series
Creator: Stitch
Date(s): 25 November 2015
Medium: Blog post
Fandom: Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts series
Topic: Characters of colour and queer characters in the extended Harry Potter universe and the Fantastic Beasts cinematic adaptation, and J.K. Rowling's failure to write meaningful diversity into her world
External Links:
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Fantastic Beasts & Invisible Diversity in the Harry Potter Series is a meta essay published to Stitch's Media Mix. It revolves around issues with diversity and representation in the extended Harry Potter universe, including the film adaptations and Pottermore, but focusing specifically on the Fantastic Beasts film adaptations as the newest addition to the franchise.

Specifically, Stitch talks about how the Harry Potter universe is filled with metaphors about diversity and oppression, but is significantly more lacking when it comes to meaningful inclusion of those things within canon. She touches on the lack of fleshed-out characters of colour across seven books (and eight films), and talks about how this lack of diversity is perpetuated and reinforced by the Fantastic Beasts films, which despite taking place in the 1920s (during the Harlem Renaissance) and in a would-be diverse setting, are overwhelmingly white and feature only one speaking character of colour.

Some Excerpts from the Essay

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.

J. K. Rowling’s world isn’t going to be it.

We’re dealing with both the unbroken whiteness of Hollywood and JKR. Let’s face it: JKR’s works lack poignant and notable diversity within the confines of the text and its film adaptations. She’s a writer who shaped much of our childhoods (if you’re in your twenties, at least) but at the same time, she legitimately sucks at including diverse characters in her works.

Out of seven books, eight films, a couple of tie-in books, and Pottermore, can you really say that her creations are diverse? There are only a handful of characters who are described as being characters of color in the book and who get dialogue. That’s it. That’s… bad.

Here’s the thing that has everyone so very mad: It’s not historically accurate to show this super white New York at any time after like the early 1800s.

New York was a hub of immigration not just for Europeans, but for a lot of other people. These people came from all parts of the world and they & their descendants deserve to be represented as more than afterthoughts or background characters in these overwhelmingly white stories.

And okay, let’s talk about how whenever Hollywood producers refer to the presence of diverse characters as happening in an “organic way”, it’s code for “it’s more natural for [wizards/vampires/captain America] to be in this universe and time period than characters of color in main roles so don’t expect to see many POC”.

It’s such obvious coded language and lazy thinking on top of that.

Why would you set a movie what was one of the most amazing periods for Black American excellence in history and then not have a single actor of color in the core cast?

Why is that a thing?

Why does JKR never seem to step up and fight for active diversity in her stuff?

Related Meta

Stitch has published a number of other pieces of meta to her website which deal with issues of diversity (or lack thereof) within the Harry Potter world:

Refer also to Hopes for a PoC Newt Scamander on the Newt Scamander page for more discussion surrounding the film's setting and what it might mean for the race of its lead character.