On JK Rowling’s thing about after the fact diversity
|Title:||On JK Rowling’s thing about after the fact diversity|
|Date(s):||22 December 2015|
|Fandom:||Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child|
|Topic:||Hermione Granger's casting in Cursed Child, and J.K. Rowling's failure to write meaningful diversity into the Harry Potter series while expecting kudos for having hinted at it or revealed it after the fact|
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On JK Rowling’s thing about after the fact diversity is a meta essay published to Stitch's Media Mix. It reacts to the casting of Hermione Granger as black in the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and how author JK Rowling appeared to be taking credit "after the fact" for having written Hermione as racially ambiguous.
Some points covered by the essay:
- The lack of meaningful diversity and representation in the Harry Potter series
- Dumbledore's "off-screen" gayness
- The lack of prominent characters of colour in the Harry Potter extended universe - not just the original series of books but the Fantastic Beasts films and Pottermore
- JK Rowling "taking credit" for diversity which was, in large part, thought up by fandom
Some Excerpts from the Essay
My big issue with all of this “after the fact diversity” that we’re seeing around JR Rowling and the Harry Potter series is that she’s getting so much credit for doing basically nothing with regard to representation.There’s no reissuing the books with covers where more characters are characters of color. There aren’t any additional chapters showing Albus Dumbledore as gay in any capacity (and seriously, the idea of a gay man pining nobly into old age after the one who got away is just an excuse to not have to address any of his relationships omfg).
And with this recent thing: JKR may have made Hermione’s race ambiguous (I guess) but that’s not a good thing. She still okayed illustrations in the books where Hermione is white and championed Emma Watson as the character. She still absolutely wrote the character while thinking that she wasn’t a character of color and that’s obvious as hell.I get that before Harry Potter got huge, she may not have gotten to have control over the images of the characters she put out. But Pottermore? Fantastic Beasts? Things that came out after the HP series took the world by storm and that still are super white and super far from diverse? She definitely has more clout now than she did before and people know that HP will sell bank. So she could be demanding more in-text diversity. But she’s not. Not until the text is completed.
JKR still wrote 99% of the Harry Potter cast as white and straight. She still didn’t describe the characters in a way that made them prominently POC or LGBTQ. Dumbledore is gay offscreen. You literally have to read between the lines to start to suspect that maybe he wasn’t straight. Blaise Zabini was revealed to be Black in book five and then we never learned anything about him or got to see him as a character.Almost all of her diversity comes after the fact and I don’t think that she should be getting praise for any of it. Especially because fandom has done most of the work on diversity for her. Like… She didn’t think up Black Hermione. That wasn’t even in her mind until fandom’s headcanons and the sort of universal idea of the character being Black the entire time hit her airspace and then she swans in to be like “oh well, I never made Hermione white in canon so I’m cool with this”.
Further Discussion on the Post
Yes, the way she did this, with Hermione and Dumbledore, smells a bit like CYA*, after the fact, no matter what her original intentions were.*CYA = Cover Your Ass/Arse
You say that she’s getting credit for “after the fact diversity” but I see it differently. All she did was say that she’s OK with the interpretation of Hermione as black and fans showed her grattitude. J.K. Rowling’s validation of their interpretation means a lot to those fans.
[...]At the end of the day, the books are what they are, with all those imperfections, but they’re still awesome, and for that, JK Rowling’s word still means the world to them.
The author responded:
Now obviously I disagree with you, which is okay because my experiences aren’t yours. In my experience as a fan of the Harry Potter series and as a writer all on my own, I am very focused on what diversity means to me. I’m also super aware of what it takes to incorporate meaningful diversity into my own works.
And JKR doesn’t seem like the type of person that understands what it means to be aware of diversity in her writing. It comes across as something that she doesn’t have to include in her work, especially when she can use allegories for racial inequality instead.
I have no issue with fans who are like “oh my gosh, JKR likes the idea of racebending”. My issues are with JKR herself acting as if her canon is diverse the way she does in the tweet used as a header image and with fans acting as if her support of racebending makes her this ultimate champion of diversity. Sure, she gets credit for creating the characters in the first place, but I think that’s where the credit should end as far as diversity goes.
Yes, she created an amazing world and some iconic characters that literally changed the way that publishers marketed to children and their parents. Yes, she provided us with a series that covered racism and war and very dark topics in a way that was accessible for children.But at the same time, she was telling this story with a predominantly white cast where everyone was straight. And she has no intention of updating or adding to her textual canon in a way that changes that.
Some other pieces of meta by the same author on the topic of representation and race in Harry Potter:
- Fantastic Beasts & Invisible Diversity in the Harry Potter Series
- Letters to the Author – JK Rowling
- Stop Using the Harry Potter series’ Original Publication Dates as an Excuse for Rowling’s Diversity Fails
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: A Sorta Snarky Review