Or woman of colour.
Or, you know, just a woman.
Growing up, I loved Harry Potter. I read it till I was blue in the face. I watched all the films as they came out and was on tenterhooks for each book to be released.
Harry Potter. Just the name gave me jelly legs and goosebumps. It wasn’t a story, it wasn’t investment in the characters.. it was an overall feeling. As though J K Rowling had beckoned her wand and invited me into her magical world, asked me to be a part of it, and created a bubble of exclusivity that nobody else would know.
Huh, those muggles.
I would stare out into the desert on the way home from school, heatwaves radiating off the tarmac, and dream that I would be whisked away to Hogwarts on a broomstick. Any second now, and Harry will come flying by my window, and I would push it open, much to the shock and envy of my classmates (who were all muggles, of course) and I would climb out and zoom off, wind whipping through my hair.
Harry Potter dreams? I am sure we have all had those.
However, as I have grown up, I have distanced myself from Harry Potter. Namely because of the ‘fandom’. The ‘potter heads’, with their judgements and their excitability and I don’t know, maybe the internet overhypes things to a sickening degree. Obsession, infatuation, I think to be overly obsessed about something is dangerous. And they all encourage each other and justify it.
I am a firm believer in moderation.
Let us get back to Hermione.
Warner Brothers started making the Harry Potter films halfway through publication of the books. So we got the first Harry Potter before the fourth book was released.
Naturally we were all on a journey together, movies and books. So to see Emma Watson bring Hermione to life was to have this caucasian image imprinted on young and impressionable minds. Who am I kidding, even I saw Hermione as white, whereas before I’d watched the films I was a little dubious about it.
I distinctly remember wondering what race Hermione was in Chamber of Secrets, way before I watched the movies, when she was described as being very brown from holiday in Diagon Alley.
That isn’t the point, though. The point here is that an actress named Noma Dumezweni, a black lady, has been cast to play the role of older Hermione on a stage play. I’ll admit that even when i first saw her, I was taken aback, so white was Hermione in my mind. But then I sat back and thought, huh, kudos to her. They clearly chose her for a brilliant reason. I wish her well! And in my mind, Hermione slowly began to morph into more than just a white character; she began to become an actual .. well…. character. She is a character! Not a white girl who is nerdy. She is a personality! A fictional personality whom anybody can impersonate and bring to life. Huh. What a crazy concept.
There has been some furious outrage from those who call themselves avid fans.
So much ignorance among people who just can’t envision a black character in place of a white one. They argue about it being a matter of continuity; oh we had a white Hermione all along why does she have to be black now. They berate Rowling for trying too hard to be ‘relevant’ or ‘politically correct’, disregarding the fact that white people have played black characters in famous productions for years without anybody batting an eyelid.
There are a lot of people justifying their anger and upset over the race of a character whose race has nothing to do with how smart and strong she was. It’s all wrong, they say. I am not racist, how is it racist to want the people in charge to not change somebody’s race. I am just outraged! Nobody was outraged when Lavender Brown became white in the sixth Harry Potter film, despite being black in previous ones.
In fact, if you watched Harry Potter blind, you wouldn’t be missing out because Hermione’s race adds nothing to the plot. Their outrage and justification is unfounded because so what if she was portrayed as ‘white’ in the books? EVEN if the books said she was ‘A CAUCASIAN FEMALE’, it would still be ok for Noma, a woman of colour, to play her. Because, again, Hermione is not real. She is a personality.
People are showing outrage even though nobody has watched Noma’s performance yet, because no matter what they say, it is not a matter of continuity or a matter of being politically correct; it is a matter of racial outrage. They can deny being racist until they are hoarse, but it doesn’t change the fact that such an outrage over something so insignificant as skin colour stems from a buried aversion to the skin colour. It also doesn’t deny the fact that much of the Hermione fan art interpreted her as being WoC.
I am sure they would not have been as outraged if Hermione was cast as a red head for the play, because she would have still been white, despite the fact that she couldn’t have been a ginger.
They released the photos for Ron and nobody went mad because he was a blonde. I am shocked at the world, and not very surprised.
I hope Noma wows their socks off, and may she have a great time playing Hermione. I for one am rooting for her, and congratulate her on landing the part.