Hello again, everyone. How were your holidays? If you celebrated Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, did you give or receive any books as presents? I certainly hope so.
Speaking of books, I’d like to talk about the Harry Potter books. Or more specifically, their author.
As as far as authors go, J.K. Rowling is kind of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I love the detailed and meaningful names she gives her characters, and her foreshadowing is nothing short of brilliant. (I’ve lost count of the number of times I suddenly realized the EXTREME IMPORTANCE of some minuscule reference from an earlier book!)
On the other hand, there are some things she is, well, significantly less skilled at – representation comes to mind. The Harry Potter books just aren’t very diverse. And as if that weren’t frustrating enough… she pretends they are. And then I turn into a GRUMPY BOOKWORM. (Imagine me as the Hulk, only in worm form.)
This December, Rowling has been quite active on Twitter, answering fans’ questions. Recent questions included inquiries about religious diversity…
…and diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity.
Now, I love diversity. I write diverse characters. I try to read as diversely as I can. I roll my eyes when an author couldn’t be bothered to include a single diverse character even though their story is, like, four hundred pages long and they had plenty of time for interesting characters.
Or, in J.K. Rowling’s case, even though their story is four thousand pages long.
And that’s why I’m frustrated – because she thinks that tweeting about diverse characters is the same thing as including them in the actual series. There were queer students at Hogwarts, Ms. Rowling? …then where were they mentioned? Oh, wait, they weren’t.
The whole point of representation is to allow readers to see themselves reflected in a character. If some aspect of a character – their religion or sexual orientation or whatever – remains in the author’s imagination and never makes it into the story, then what’s the point? Fans can’t read their favorite author’s mind.
So no, that doesn’t “count.” In a way I think that this is more annoying than saying there weren’t any queer students (for example), because what she’s said now is essentially, “Oh yes, there were LGBTQ+ students at Hogwarts, but I couldn’t be bothered to actually write them into the story.” That’s lazy, lousy representation.
It’s like… I don’t know, like if J.R.R. Tolkien suddenly came back to life and told us all, “OMG GUESS WHAT THERE WERE MARTIANS IN MY STORIES BUT I JUST NEVER MENTIONED IT LOL AREN’T I AMAZING?” We’d all stare at him like, “What? No, you didn’t. That doesn’t even make sense, dude.”
So, yeah. I would love to see waaaaay more diversity in Harry Potter. I have not yet read her Cormoran Strike books (published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith), but I read The Casual Vacancy and it had LGBTQ+ diversity and much better racial diversity than what’s in Harry Potter, so… clearly, she CAN write that stuff. She just chose not to.
I guess I’m just frustrated because she created a pretty amazing magical world, and she could have done so much more with it. But she didn’t, and now she’s just trying to get attention (yes, I said it), and Internet-people are falling all over themselves praising her.
(Seriously, all of her recent “big reveals”? Whether they’re related to diversity or, I don’t know, pairing Harry and Hermione together, it’s still like… who cares? If this stuff really mattered to her, why didn’t she include it?)
I wish I’d found more diversity in the Harry Potter series. But I didn’t, so now I find interesting HP ideas in random corners of the Internet, and they’re much more satisfying. Ideas like “What if Beauxbatons was a predominantly Muslin school?” or “Wouldn’t Hermione’s subplots have much more meaning if she were black?” or “What is magical transition like?” (If you’re interested in the last one, I suggest that you read this fantastic article!)
I’ve come to realize that I like what Rowling created, but I’m not really a fan of what she did with it – I prefer to read others’ versions, rather than the original. And I suppose I’ll continue to do so until/unless she writes something better.
And on that note, PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT YOUR DIVERSE IDEAS FOR HARRY POTTER. Or theories that you’ve heard. Whatever. I’d love to hear them!