There was a time period during my earlier youth when I was obsessed with Harry Potter, as were a large majority of children around my age at that point. It began around seven or eight, and lasted up until about 19 or so, for me. I fancied myself an aficionado on all things Harry Potter related, and indeed I was knowledgeable about it in a certain factual sense. However, until The Cursed Child came into existence, as well as the subsequent casting of an actress of color for Hermione, I did not realize how ignorant I had been up until then. After much thought and research, I will explain why this series does not stand the test of time for me.
At the time of inception of this seven book series, matters regarding the LGBTQIA+ community had only really became mainstream in recent years. The Stonewall Inn riots had been a turning point, but there was much ground to be made still in regard to national and international media in the U.S., and worldwide respectively. The Philosopher’s Stone, after all, was published by Bloomsbury in London just a scant three months after Ellen had announced that she was indeed gay, back in 1997. Harry Potter, at its core, is a children’s series that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is, however, a product of its time. One where those who were not what mainstream media expected them to be, would more than likely flop. Ellen’s show, after all, was cancelled shortly after her admission. While that seems a world away, as well as not that long ago, times have changed much since that pivotal year.
In recent years though, J.K. Rowling has been criticized for her lack of diversity in the books, which as an adult well into their 20s, is not lost on me. However, had it been brought up years beforehand, I would not have understood the condemnations properly for what they were, because as has been pointed out, it is not simply about lack of LGBTQIA+ diversity, but of all sorts of missing representation for a series that supposedly has people in it from all over the world.
Moving back to The Cursed Child – it opened in the same month, ironically, 19 years after the first book in the original series had been released. To long time fans, given the casting news it had been a shock to the system, as we all digested the newest lore and content that had been released, albeit knowing that it had not been Rowling who singlehandedly had penned it. While the actors and others who created the play, I have no qualms with, I do however, reserve a certain frustration with the original series author, Mrs. J.K. Rowling herself.
Why, you might ask? Well, it’s plain and simple. Her excuse of the political climate as a reason she did not create a single drop of LGBTQIA+ diversity in the series might have flown back then, but in this day, it is a lack luster one, bordering on insulting. The Cursed Child, which was released in 2016, easily could have been imbued with some of our community’s flair. Was it? Of course it wasn’t, because her ally ship only goes so far as her tweets.
Talk is cheap, they say, and she has done a hefty amount of that in recent years. Back when the series concluded, collectively, the fandom was heartbroken, as it had been a part of our lives for years. That, was understandable. However, if we had known then what we do now, I wish that we had bit the bullet, and thanked her, then moved on our merry way to other books that actually represent a larger portion of her reader base, rather than continuing to harp on the point of wanting more. I owe that time period in large part to what my favorite childhood author has done thus far publicly.
Bear in mind, that I do not believe an author must include LGBTQIA+ people or people of color, various religions, etc. in any work. However, I find it disturbing that given the diversity of the world, that one could wish to sideline or exclude these narratives all together, or add them in after the fact as an aside, rather than have canon text to back the claim up. In that same vein, professing that the only characters who are queer, happen to be a Nazi, and a deeply flawed man? It’s ludicrous, as well as a dangerous message to send to future questioning children, or those who are straight and viewing queer people through media, as well as their own lens. That is a topic for another day though.
So, where does that leave me, a parent, who wishes to pass on only the best of literature to my daughter, who is learning about the world around her, including history of those who came before us? While I have two choices, I can only condone one – shedding the attachments of my earlier years, in hope that I am able to find and boost works that show people of all kinds, rather than exclude them as so many other media forms have done before.
J.K. Rowling and the series of Harry Potter is not inherently bad, and I do still find value in it. Likewise, I did indeed learn from it, both what to do and what not to. However, given the lack of diversity across the board, it is one that I no longer care to uplift.