Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Name: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Abbreviation(s): FBAWTFT
Creator: J.K. Rowling (Screenwriter), David Yates (Director)
Date(s): November 10, 2016
Medium: Film
Country of Origin:
External Links: Fantastic Beasts (film series) at Harry Potter Wikia
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first film in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, a film series taking place in the extended Harry Potter universe. It is set in 1920s New York and revolves around the adventures of Newt Scamander, celebrated magizoologist and author of the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which features in the main Harry Potter book series. The film's setting also spans the initial rise to power of the dark wizard Grindelwald, who is the main antagonist of the series.

The Fantastic Beasts films have been generally well-received by fans, despite some controversy over the casting of Grindelwald, and elements of J.K. Rowling’s world-building of the North American magical world, which were perceived to be racially insensitive. Fanworks, headcanons, meta and shipping revolving around the Fantastic Beasts universe all sprang up following the release of the first film.

Fan Reception of the Film

Newt's Hogwarts House

Fans who consider themselves members of Hufflepuff house were delighted at the announcement of a series with a well-rounded Hufflepuff main character, showcasing the values of their house, which was very much sidelined in the main series.

The actor playing Newt Scamander, Eddie Redmayne, made a “public service announcement” video with MTV in honour of the upcoming premiere of Fantastic Beasts, in which he declared himself a “proud Hufflepuff” and pointed to other notable excellent Hufflepuffs, including Cedric Diggory and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.[1]

Some fan thoughts on Newt's house:

"Why Newt is so important reason #528492

For years the fandom has portrayed Hufflepuffs as extroverts and good with people and Newt simply doesn’t fit this stereotype. The virtues Hufflepuff exemplifies are hard working and loyalty not extroversion and friendliness. While these traits can go together they don’t always. So please don’t assume all Hufflepuffs are extroverts because some of us, like Newt, aren’t."[2]
“...It’s as if by elevating Newt to be the central hero of the Fantastic Beasts film, Rowling has made him into a character that cannot be shrugged off. As I mentioned, Newt is awkward, he is gangly, and he interacts better with creatures than humans, but it all works. Newt Scamander embodies human flaws and the very best that can live inside someone. He has an unwavering moral compass. He wants peace between humans and beasts. He wants a gentler and kinder world. Being placed in the forefront of this film franchise, Newt Scamander becomes a realistic symbol of Hufflepuff House. He is flawed on the outside but pure and just on the inside. His values don’t seem unattainable like Cedric’s, and his eccentricities don’t define him like Tonks’ pink hair often does. He is a whole person, and we see all sides, making him the Hufflepuff we have been waiting for.” [3]

“I just love that we have an entire movie to explain the age old question:

“What the hell is a Hufflepuff?”

Well. They protect, fiercely. They’re loyal, even to the point of staying for a painful dinner because he’d kind of sort of implied that he would. They make friends quickly. They jump in wherever they’re needed, (Or wanted) and their reaction to someone trying to use a hurting child for their own gain is outrage, eyes flashing and wand a blurred motion in combative magic. They are not above physically luring a powerful creature back to safety using nothing more than a mating dance (and a bit of cunning) and they have no problem straight up lying to a mark for information because their loyalty, again, is fierce and eternal.

Hufflepuffs are hardworking, friendly, and loyal.

And, yes.

Hufflepuffs are particularly good finders.”[4]

Hopes for a PoC Newt Scamander

This article or section needs expansion.

I haven't been very active in HP fandom, so I'm sure I missed a lot. This is also a semi-braindump. See also talk page.

See also Race and Fandom.

J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. announced the Fantastic Beasts movie project on September 12, 2013. J.K. Rowling's official statement[5] included this line:

Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.

Some of the fandom put together place: New York City and time: 1920s, and arrived at Harlem Renaissance, a notable period of Black American excellence - giving rise to hopes that the Fantastic Beasts films might tell the story of a Black/PoC Newt Scamander in 1920s New York, particularly as there was no definitive canon information about Newt's appearance (including, crucially, his race).

Can people refrain from saying that Newt Scamander is canonically white?

There are several different illustrations of him and not one of them has been heralded as the canon illustration. His appearance has never been described in any of the Harry Potter novels, not even on a Chocolate Frog card.

Newt Scamander is a clean slate. They could cast anyone for him. They don’t have to cast a white person. It’s not racebending if they cast a POC. It’s not whitewashing if they don’t, but this is JK Rowling’s chance to create a POC character who is substantially fleshed out. Because honestly? Her efforts in the Harry Potter series fell flat.

And let’s face it, the most “magical” time in 1920s New York is the Harlem Renaissance. Sure, we have the flappers and the Prohibition and the Jazz Age, but let’s not forget how the black Americans took back Harlem and launched a cultural movement that made that neighbourhood the “Black Mecca”. Who isn’t convinced that Langston Hughes and co. weren’t all wizards?

#newt scamander #fantastic beasts and where to find them #the HP universe isn't just for white people #and besides #white british actors have been in EVERYTHING #and POC actors hardly ever get a break[6]
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2014)

The year is 1925. Fresh out of Hogwarts, Newt Scamander finds himself struggling with the banality of working for the Ministry of Magic. When the United Wizarding Republic invites him to investigate a rogue dragon living in the sewer systems of New York City, however, Newt’s boring life is plunged into chaos. New York City is dark, dirty, and dazzling, but with a little help from Nella Larson and Duke Ellington - the brightest witch and wizard of their age - Newt finally starts to feel that New York is home. Together, Nella and Duke teach Newt how to do the Charleston, how to buy Butterbeer off the blackmarket, and, of course, how to save New York City from a hoard of angry dragons.

Newt Scamander - Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Nella Larson - Angel Coulby
Duke Ellington - Gary Carr

#THIS IS ALL I WANT OK?? #also #if you were wondering if newt and duke are supposed to look like they're flirting #the answer is a difinitive: #YES!!!![7]

Rebuttals to the "historical accuracy means Newt should be white" argument

Saying “statistically there was only a small number of PoC in Britain in the 20th Century so it’s implausible for the main character to be a PoC” is like saying “statistically only one person survived an attack from Voldemort so it’s implausible that the main character of the books would be that kid.” “Statistically, Darth Vader only had two kids.” “Statistically, only two people have been bitten by an OzCorp spider.”

“Statistically, most professional baseball players in the 1950s were white, so it is implausible that this film would be about Jackie Robinson.”[8]
It is canon that at least two of the families in the Pure-Blood Directory (“The Sacred 28”) are people of color: the Shacklebolts, who are canonically black, and Shafiq family (Shafiq being a traditionally Arabic surname).

So, on a list of pure-blood families compiled in the 1930s by exactly the kind of pure blood supremacist that the Ministry has always been riddled with, there is a black family and a Middle Eastern/South Asian family. That, to me, suggests, the main drag of oppression in the Wizarding World has more to do with blood purity than race.

Unfortunately, we don’t know very much about the intersection of race and blood purity in the HP Universe, but since we don’t know, I find it something of a fallacy to apply “historical plausibility” to a society that deliberately operates outside the Muggle sphere (and, oh yeah, is comprised of fucking fictional wizards).

It’s also a fallacy to assume that race relations in the Wizarding World operate in exactly the same terms as they do in our own world when, in fact, we have no evidence in canon that suggests that this is the case (in fact, we have more evidence to suggest that it isn’t).

Because if two wizarding families of color were powerful enough in the 1930s that they were included in The Sacred 28, then that suggests to me that a) there most certainly were PoC witches and wizards kicking around in wizarding Britain in the 1920s and 30s, and b) that their race didn’t detract from their privileged status as Pure Bloods (the Shacklebolts and Shafiqs were still respected and seen as desirable marriage prospects by white Pure Bloods).

So, yeah, no, the idea of a PoC wizard in the 1920s is not unheard of. It’s not inconsistent with canon or with actual history (the number of PoC in Britain may have been smaller in the 1920s than it is today, but they still existed. What? None of them were witches or wizards? The Wizarding World quashed them because they ~emphasize secrecy~ so much?). And it isn’t impossible that a black or Asian British wizard in the 1920s would have been working for the Ministry when we have no evidence to suggest that the Ministry, nor the Wizarding World at large, has ever discriminated on any basis other than Blood Status (and geez, wouldn’t it be nice to have some actual PoC lead characters in this franchise that thematically deals with racism?).[9]
Just wanted to add that on the topic of sexism in the ministry mentioned in the second comment, the first female Minister of Magic, Artemisa Lufkin, came into power in 1798 and was successful (she established the Department of International Magical Cooperation) and well liked. In addition to her, Priscilla Dupont, Hortensia Milliphutt, Evangeline Orpington, and Josephina Flint were all Ministers of Magic before the 1920′s. Women continued to hold significant places of power in the ministry with head-of department jobs (Mafalda Hopkirk) from as early as the early 19th century. With sexism and racism seemingly not as big of a deal in the wizarding world, you really can’t make an argument against POC Newt just because he was a minister.

(also all the facts I stated were found on Pottermore on the List of Ministers and are therefore considered canon)[10]

The 2014 Quidditch World Cup final

In July 2014, J.K. Rowling released Rita Skeeter's gossip column from the Quidditch World Cup final match. The gossip column included a line that described Rolf Scamander, Newt's grandson, as "swarthy" - i.e., dark-skinned. Fans were quick to pick up on this very specific word choice:

Last of the ringleaders of Dumbledore’s Army is, of course, Luna Lovegood (now married to Rolf Scamander, swarthy grandson of celebrated Magizoologist Newt). (x)

*PoC Newt Scamander headcanon intensifies*

and in other news, of course Rita Skeeter is racist as all hell

#it’s like dangling a carrot on a stick because you know they’ll cast a white guy in the movie[11]
so in that article, rolf scamander was described as “swarthy”

remember when fantastic beasts was first announced and we were all like “ok but what if we get a poc newt scamander?”

well, we might actually get a poc newt scamander

#harry potter #fantastic beasts #if you're not excited then idk what to tell you #oh my god /please/ jkr do you know how /good/ that would be[12]

PoC Newt fancasts

A number of fancasts or suggested castings for a PoC Newt Scamander (some of them gender-swapped) were put forward by fans in the lead-up to the film's release, including:

Richard Ayoade:

Angel Coulby:

Idris Elba:

Janelle Monáe:

Dev Patel:

Suraj Sharma:

Nathan Stewart-Jarrett:

"In support of a Newt of color: Diversity in the wizarding world" by Marissa Lee (a founder of Racebending) was published 3 April 2015 on Mugglenet. As of 23 July 2018, it is in the sections "Blogitorials" and "The Quibbler"; compare to "Casting Newt Scamander", published 15 Sept 2013 on Mugglenet, which has no author named and is in the sections "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film" and "News."

Casting and Reaction

Casting decisions for the four protagonists were announced in June-August 2015: Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander (4 June), Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein (16 June), Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein (9 July), and Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski (16 Aug).[13]

In a Reddit discussion thread on r/harrypotter about the news that Eddie Redmayne had been cast as Newt, fans expressed their disappointment over the choice of a white actor:

Sighhh. Eddie Redmayne is a fantastic (no pun intended) actor but I was really gunning for a POC. It would have been a great opportunity to put in some much needed diversity into the HPverse. Oh well.[14]
Me too, not just the HPverse, would be nice to have a major cinematic universe have a PoC as one of it's main characters for once. Hopefully Marvel will do it with Spiderman at least.[15]

Noooo, I was hoping for a colored actor as we all were at one time.

Because apparently there was news that it would be set in America during the 20s? And seeing a black wizard in that time would be an interesting POV.

Ah well.[16]

Newt Scamander isn't white....

Edit: I was mistaken; it was actually his grandson described as "swarthy," which at the least means an olive skin tone and dark hair. I guess I was really just hoping this would be a chance for a new actor, who wasn't already pretty famous, because that would be more interesting to me. It also would make for an interesting dynamic in 1920s New York to have a black or non-white lead. Eddie Redmayne will probably be great, he just isn't what I pictured. I'm still really looking forward to the movie(s).[17]

During the course of this discussion, several Redditors pointed out that any users who disagreed with Redmayne being cast as Newt, and particularly those who argued for a PoC casting instead, were being downvoted en masse by the rest of the community.[18][19][20]

On the overwhelmingly white main cast of the Fantastic Beasts film, which included but was not limited to a white Newt Scamander, fandom critic Stitch made this point in a meta essay:

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.

[...]

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?--Fantastic Beasts & Invisible Diversity in the Harry Potter Series (25 Nov 2015)

Meta/Further Reading on Hopes for a PoC Newt

Fandom

Spoiler Warning: This article may contain spoilers. If this bothers you, proceed with caution.

Terminology

  • Original Percival Graves: This term refers to the fan characterisation of Percival Graves as a character separate from the Grindelwald impersonation that we see in the movies. While this character does not appear in the movies, fans have formed their own headcanons about what he might be like, and he often appears in fanworks, either pre-Grindelwald, post-Grindelwald, or in AU fanworks where he is never impersonated.
  • Grindelgraves: The fan term for Grindelwald-as-Graves, i.e. Grindelwald's impersonation of Percival Graves. Sometimes written Grindel!Graves. (Not to be confused with the pairing Grindelwald/Graves).

Notable Fanworks

J.K. Rowling Features kirikawa_juu’s Fanart on Twitter

On 22nd November 2016, the day that the first Fantastic Beasts film was released in Japan, a Japanese artist named kirikawa_juu posted an anime-style digital painting to Twitter. The fanart, entitled “Hero, change” (主人公、交代) featured Harry Potter walking away with his back to the viewer, “tagging in” Newt Scamander, the protagonist of the next series of Harry Potter films.[21]

Two days later, Twitter user thatarabicwitch drew the piece to the attention of J.K. Rowling, tweeting, “i'm in love with this pic, are you?” The tweet contained a link to the image but no attribution.

Rowling herself replied just three minutes later, eager to find out who the artist was.[22] thatarabicwitch replied that they didn’t know, as they had discovered it on the social networking site We Heart It.

Fans immediately rallied to hunt for the artist, and multiple links were posted to kirikawa_juu’s original Tweet as well as to the artwork on pixiv.[23] [24] Rowling then tweeted again to verify that she was being given the correct name: “I'm being told the painting is by @kirikawa_juu, is that correct?”[25]

kirikawa_juu then replied to the tweet: “I'm kirikawa ,Thank you for seeing my picture. It can't get any better than this! I will be your biggest fan forever...!!! 😭”[26] Rowling responded: “Thank you for that beautiful painting. It really moved me! They're two characters that mean so much to me.”[27]

Rowling then posted the fanwork in a new tweet, complete with attribution, and Pinned it to the top of her Twitter feed.[28]

The next day, kirikawa_juu posted a Tweet with a message of thanks to the Harry Potter fandom.[29] Translated, it reads:

“I actually spoke to my sister about this, and told her that the warmth from the ‘Harry Potter’ cluster of fans is out of the ordinary.

I never thought that drawing this picture would bring such happiness and create so many replies from people I’ve never spoken to. Truly, thank you.”

(Translation taken from RocketNews24)

Fanfiction

Fanart

Fanvids

References

  1. Newt Scamander Defends Hufflepuff Pride, Inverse. Published November 15, 2016 (Accessed December 23, 2017).
  2. Why Newt is so important reason #528492 by hufflepuffinthetardis221b, Tumblr. Posted November 26, 2016 (Accessed December 23, 2017).
  3. Newt Scamander: The Hufflepuff We Need by Amy, The Daily Prophet Blogitorials, Mugglenet. Posted December 1, 2016 (Accessed December 23, 2017).
  4. Tumblr post by citizen-of-the-fandom, Tumblr. Posted November 25, 2016 (Accessed December 23, 2017). Archived on February 2, 2017.
  5. J.K. Rowling post on Facebook, September 12, 2013. Accessed 22 July 2018.
  6. "Can people refrain from saying Newt Scamander is canonically white?", tumblr post by alterocentrist, posted within 3 days of the announcement (Racebending posted a reply to a reply 15 Sept 2013). (Accessed 22 July 2018.)
  7. Gifset and teaser text (original link, now moved) by lordbyronsbloomers, posted no later than 6 July 2014. (Accessed 25 July 2018 at a new address.)
  8. Tumblr blog Racebending on the "historical accuracy means white Newt Scamander" argument, 16 September 2013. (Accessed 22 July 2018.)
  9. "It is canon that at least two of the families in the Pure-Blood Directory (“The Sacred 28”) are people of color", tumblr reply by chaucerettes. (Link requires you to be logged in to Tumblr; you can read this text on the next comment's post.)
  10. "the first female Minister of Magic, Artemisa Lufkin, came into power in 1798", tumblr reply by albuspotterstolemytie, posted between July 2014 & July 2015. (Accessed 23 July 2018.)
  11. "*PoC Newt Scamander headcanon intensifies*", tumblr post by inkyopinions, July 2014. Original link (now dead); link to a reblog by bikedancelaugheat.
  12. "so in that article, rolf scamander was described as ‘swarthy’", tumblr post by asongofwizardsandtimelords, July 2014. Original link[Dead link] (dead before I had a chance to reblog it; does anyone else have this post?).
  13. Casting decisions and announcement links on the Fantastic Beasts (film series) page on the Harry Potter Wikia.
  14. Comment by jondegi, r/harrypotter, 2 June 2015 (Accessed 25 August 2018).
  15. Comment by bananiepie, r/harrypotter, 2 June 2015 (Accessed 25 August 2018).
  16. Comment by SilverSuicune, r/harrypotter, 2 June 2015 (Accessed 25 August 2018).
  17. Comment by TosieRose, r/harrypotter, 2 June 2015 (Accessed 25 August 2018).
  18. Comment by bananiepie, r/harrypotter, 2 June 2015 (Accessed 25 August 2018).
  19. Comment by sylviecerise, r/harrypotter, 2 June 2015 (Accessed 25 August 2018).
  20. Comment by jondegi, r/harrypotter, 2 June 2015 (Accessed 25 August 2018).
  21. Tweet by kirikawa_juu, Twitter. Posted November 22, 2016 (Accessed December 26, 2017).
  22. Tweet by jk_rowling, Twitter. Posted November 24, 2016 (Accessed December 26, 2017).
  23. Tweet by aikajellybean, Twitter. Posted November 24, 2016 (Accessed December 26, 2017).
  24. Tweet by DulcimerKJ, Twitter. Posted November 24, 2016 (Accessed December 26, 2017).
  25. Tweet by jk_rowling, Twitter. Posted November 24, 2016 (Accessed December 26, 2017).
  26. Tweet by kirikawa_juu, Twitter. Posted November 24, 2016 (Accessed December 26, 2017).
  27. Tweet by jk_rowling, Twitter. Posted November 24, 2016 (Accessed December 26, 2017).
  28. Tweet by jk_rowling, Twitter. Posted November 24, 2016 (Accessed December 26, 2017).
  29. Tweet by kirikawa_juu, Twitter. Posted November 25, 2016 (Accessed December 26, 2017).