The ‘Harry Potter’ TV Reboot Is Just Reminding Everyone of the Problems With the Original
Hot take: maybe 'Harry Potter' isn't that great LOL
Because we as a society can’t leave the entertainment properties of our childhoods alone for more than two seconds, Harry Potter is being rebooted as a television series for
HBO Max. The series will be a re-telling of the seven original books while also supposedly delving deeper into the source material in a way the movies didn’t. J.K. Rowling, aka Queen of the TERFs, allegedly has no involvement in the production of this series, but will be attached to the project in a supervisory role. The whole reboot is such a mess as no one understands who asked for this to be made or who the target audience even is. But, Warner Bros. loves money, so here we are.
However, as with Hogwarts Legacy’s release earlier this year, this Harry Potter resurgence has reignited the discourse around the original series and how deeply problematic it was. From racism to antisemitism to body shaming, there are a lot of issues hidden beneath Rowling’s words.
Harry Potter and the No Good, Very Racist Recasting
One of the worst sins from the original movies is the recasting of Lavender Brown, a fellow Gryffindor who became Ron Weasley’s love interest in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. For the first few movies, Lavender was played by Kathleen Cauley and Jennifer Smith, both of whom are Black, before the role was recast for the final time when Jessie Cave took over until the series ended. According to ScreenRant, the recasting occurred because, as Lavender became a more prominent character in the sixth movie, “Warner Bros. decided to go with a more established actress in Jessie Cave [as] the previous appearances of the character in the early films were non-speaking roles [as she appeared] in a few scenes as a background character.”
However, and not surprisingly, a lot of fans took issue with this recasting of a white actor when the character was finally turned into a speaking role and romantic interest. It’s not a new move for Hollywood executives to do this, but it’s still disappointing to see a severe lack of representation in one of the biggest franchises in the world.
Harry Potter and the Terrible Asian Representation
This is a super cold take, but it still needs to be said: Cho Chang absolutely deserved better in the Harry Potter series. First of all, Rowling put absolutely zero effort into her name. In a brilliant video, YouTuber Marcus Turner, a.k.a. Cosmonaut Variety Hour, broke down why Cho’s name is ridiculous, explaining that he asked some of his friends with Asian heritage to double-check if her name meant anything and one person responded, “Cho isn’t a girl’s name in Mandarin, which is where the last name Chang comes from. It’s just Asian sounding gibberish.” On top of that, Cho has such little presence in the books and movies, especially for someone who is one of the only people of color and the main character’s love interest. She’s basically tossed aside once Harry starts crushing on Ginny Weasley and we don’t really hear about her after the fifth book/movie.
And the racist instances didn’t just occur inside the Harry Potter world. Katie Leung, the actor who played Cho, received a lot of racist abuse when she was cast in the movies. When Leung appeared on the podcast Chinese Chippy Girl, she recounted seeing a hate site where people would “click on this button and it was like a count of who disagreed with the casting.” Leung suffered greatly from the darker side of the Harry Potter fandom, but says she was told to keep quiet about the abuse. Leung said that her publicists told her that they hadn’t “seen these websites that people are talking about so if [she was] asked just say it’s not true, say it’s not happening.” It’s not a surprise that an actor of color was harassed by a major movie fandom —Kelly Marie Tran suffered a similar fate from Star Wars fans— but it’s still gross to know that the lack of Asian representation was rampant on both sides of the camera when it comes to Harry Potter.
Honestly, I can spend all day breaking down the many, many issues found in this series. Hermione Granger being bullied because she wanted to end the wizard equivalent of slavery. The fact that the goblins running the bank are an antisemitic trope used to stigmatize Jewish people. The way Rowling would describe any character who was overweight as “gross,” “pig-like,” and “oily.” Harry Potter has a lot of good moments—fantastic even—but, at its core, the story and characters are built on very shaky ground. And, since the movies did nothing to undo these horrible qualities (And Rowling herself has only worked to tarnish their legacy with her IRL bigotry) I have little to no faith that the TV reboot will do something about it, especially with Rowling involved.
I’ll be back to say I told you so when the show airs!
(featured image: Warner Bros.)
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