The Harry Potter series tackles racism very directly — which is why it is so shocking to see how little representation people of color had in the series itself.
The Harry Potter series is almost universally admired, respected — even beloved. Both books and films have introduced a generation of children to the powers of love and friendship, to the fantasy genre, and more specifically, to the poor bespectacled Boy Who Lived who fought against racism and injustice.
A brand new video created by Dylan Marron cuts together every word spoken by a person of color in the Harry Potter film series. Spoiler alert: It isn’t very long, which basically tells you all you need to know.
As Marron explains in a post on Facebook, the Harry Potter films run for 1,207 minutes, only 5 minutes and 40 seconds of which show people of color speaking (and sometimes they are offscreen). That means that these 12 characters only speak for 0.47% of the entire series. Of course, the rest of the films aren’t entirely comprised of dialogue (there are many long action sequences, for example). But it’s safe to say that the time taken up by white characters speaking is much, much higher.
No matter how much fans might love them, the Harry Potter films don’t have a great track record for showing diverse representation. Remember when filmmakers recast Lavender Brown (from Kathleen Cauley, to a non-speaking role by Jennifer Smith, to Jessie Cave) just at the moment when her role was upgraded from background character to love interest in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? And the all white cast of Fantastic Beasts indicates that these same filmmakers aren’t doing anything differently this time around.
Yes, we could (and do!) argue that J.K. Rowling should have included more diversity in the Harry Potter books themselves. But looking specifically at the films, what excuses do filmmakers have for not casting more broadly? Race was not a big factor in the characterization of Cho Chang, Dean Thomas, Parvati and Padma Patil, or any of the other characters included in this video. It also wasn’t a factor in the lives of literally any other character in the Harry Potter world (not in the same way their blood status was).
So why not include more people of color in the films, and improve on the books. What difference would it have made to the characterization of say, Professor Flitwick, Sirius Black, or hell, Hermione Granger, if they were portrayed by people of color? If anything, it would only serve to make them more layered and interesting characters (especially in Hermione’s case, given her creation of S.P.E.W.).
Given how little representation the films (and books) offer, it’s no wonder that Harry Potter fan artists are illustrating versions of their favorite characters that better reflect themselves. Check out this beautiful drawing by Tumblr user loquaciousliterature and tell us that you wouldn’t love seeing this version of the trio getting into trouble all over Hogwarts.
In a world where we can expect flying broomsticks, dragons, and a magical talking hat, it is absolutely unforgivable that we can’t expect to see diverse representation for, you know, people. Magical nonexistent creatures are given more representation in the Harry Potter films than actual people of color. In fact, if you added up all of the screen time given to creatures like Dobby, Kreacher, and Hagrid’s assortment of dangerous beasts, we wouldn’t be surprised if it surpassed the length of this video.
Harry Potter was such a huge part of many of our lives, and everyone deserves to see themselves represented on screen — and at Hogwarts. After all, J.K. Rowling tells us, “You all went to Hogwarts,” but when none of the students there look anything like you do, that possibility might seem a little less magical.
Related: The case of Jane the Virgin, and why diversity on TV matters
More on diversity in film:
The Harry Potter series isn’t the only film to be subjected to Marron’s keen eye. Make sure to check out the rest of his “Every Single Word” series, which includes The Fault In Our Stars, The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which did especially poorly), and Maleficent, plus many more. The lesson? We can all do better.
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