Seven long years have passed since the release of the last Harry Potter book. Thankfully, author J.K. Rowling has chosen yet again to slay the devoted fans of her wizarding series, the self proclaimed “Potterheads”. Genius author, queen, and goddess that she is, Rowling has announced the production of an eighth Harry Potter story.  

The play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will be showing in London’s West End over the summer of 2016. It will focus on Harry’s child, Albus, as well as the original trio of Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Harry Potter. The official synopsis that was released on October 23, 2015, states:

“It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.”

While Hermione, Ron, and Harry will grace the stage, their familiar faces will not. The trio’s original actors, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Daniel Radcliffe, are taking on adulthood and a Voldemort-less life, and consequently will not be playing the characters that launched them into stardom. Instead, stage production veterans Jamie Parker (Harry), Paul Thornley (Ron), and Noma Dumezwenzi (Hermione) will portray the threesome. Parker is currently starring in the West End’s production of Guys and Dolls, Thornley starred in London Road. Dumezwenzi has no less experience—in 2005, the Swaziland native won the highly esteemed Olivier (the British equivalent of a Tony) award for her role in A Raisin in the Sun, according to the Huffington Post.

The biggest controversy to grace the series so far is Dumezwenzi’s portrayal of the character Hermione. While Hermione was originally played by Emma Watson, a white actor, Dumezwenzi is black. Many are confused by the new Hermione’s skin color because of Watson’s portrayal of the witch throughout the eight movies. Potter fanatics are familiar with Hermione’s mane of unkempt brown hair, constant cleverness, and, apparently, her white skin. Nothing, however, can condone the negative backlash that Dumezwenzi is receiving for playing Hermione. Many are comfortable in a bubble of what they want to see, and are ignorant and abrasive towards what they don’t.

The actors that were cast were cast based off of experience, talent, and fit to the part, not how similar they look to their predecessors. The actors that were cast as Ron and Harry look nothing like Grint and Radcliffe. The reason Dumezwenzi’s casting recieved so much backlash is clearly racial.

The ignorance of racist Harry Potter fans never stopped them—nor anyone else with something offensive to say—from learning how to use social media. Naturally, Rowling has received scores of negative tweets about casting a black Hermione.

Throwing blatant racism aside, and using “practicality” or “literary justification” to justify the casting of a woman of color to play the part of Hermione, there is no consensus that literary Hermione was supposed to be white in the first place. Throughout the entire series, there is never a mention of her skin color.

1st image: courtesy of Rakiel Børnstad
2nd image: courtesy of Eli
3rd image: courtesy of Devyn Park
4th image: courtesy of Marta Herrera
The fact that so many presume that Hermione should automatically be white proves why Dumezweni’s casting was vital for our progressive world. “Fans often seem to believe that if a character is changed from white to black, they will no longer be able to identify with that superhero,” says Aaron Kashtan, who teaches a course on transmedia storytelling at Georgia Tech. He calls this reaction “unconscious or overt racism.”

This racism is no less harmful than blatant slurs.

In the books, Hermione experienced the Wizarding World equivalent of racial profiling for her “muggle born” status. Throughout all of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, she was tormented, labeled a “Mud Blood” and eventually even petrified for her heritage.This does not seem too far off from some of the racial inequality and profiling that many minorities continue to experience today.The casting of a black actress ties Hermione’s experiences from the world of Hogwarts to the real world, which adds richness, depth, complexity, and relatability to her character.

The ever brilliant Rowling stayed level-headed as she tweeted in response to the negativity. “Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione.”

I have never loved someone more. 😍

 

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January 2, 2016

Comments

This is so well written! I’m so stoked that Hermione is being seen in this different light. Especially since it was never specified, only assumed. Amidst the backlash I’m so excited to see the success of Dumezwenzi!!!!

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