More Controversy as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’s Granger-Weasleys Revealed

There’s been plenty of insufferably boring controversy since the cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was revealed, namely that a black actress, Noma Dumezweni, would be playing the adult Hermione Granger. Clearly blind to the fact that the Harry Potter film star Emma Watson bore little physical resemblance to the bushy-haired, buck-toothed heroine of the books either, some fans even complained there was no resemblance between the two actresses. The most depressing aspect is that the Harry Potter books have one of the strongest anti-racism themes in children’s literature. Yet fresh complaints abound today with the release of new photos of the Granger-Weasleys on the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Facebook page.

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Ron (Paul Thornley), Hermione (Noma Dumezweni) and Rose Granger-Weasley (Cherrelle Skeete)

Theatre is a very different medium from print or film. Theatre is about pushing boundaries, not maintaining them. J.K. Rowling has stated that culture or skin-colour was never specified in Hermione’s case (and nor was it) but the fact is theatre is not restricted by culture or gender and theatre fans don’t go to see a play and worry about the appearance of the actor. Theatre is about using your imagination.

Ken Nwosu as Silvius and Gemma Lawrence as Phoebe in NTL's As You Like It

Ken Nwosu as Silvius and Gemma Lawrence as Phoebe in NTL’s As You Like It

Ruth Negga as Ophelia and Rory Kinnear as Hamlet in NTL's 2010 production

Ruth Negga as Ophelia and Rory Kinnear as Hamlet in NTL’s 2010 production

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Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Laertes and Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet

Not that theatre is perfect. There has been recent discussion that many supporting Shakespearean roles have been played twice as often by black, Asian and minority ethnic actors as the lead roles in the same play. So we should be celebrating a black actress winning such an iconic role.

This year Glenda Jackson is returning to the stage after 25 years, to play King Lear. When asked if Jackson would play Lear as a man or a woman, director Deborah Warner summed up the spirit of theatre perfectly:

I think she’s playing Lear, full stop. He, or she, who takes the words into their mouth of any Shakespearian character, becomes the character. Boom. Done.

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So if your small mind can’t wrap itself around the fact that an adult Hermione doesn’t look like a grown-up supermodel version of Emma Watson (much as we loved her Hermione) or the colour of someone’s skin bothers you so much, please don’t watch the play. Don’t read the books. And don’t call yourself a fan. Because racists betray the Harry Potter fandom, they do not belong in it.

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About The Author

Olga Hughes is currently pre-occupied with fairy tales, fantasy, misanthropy, medieval history and the long eighteenth century. She has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts and is currently majoring in Literature and History at Deakin. She has contributed to websites such as History behind Game of Thrones, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.

4 Responses

  1. Deborah A. Fleming

    I love how this article give some background on this issue in the context of other plays’ casts, and especially the mention of Glenda Jackson playing Lear – and how it informs and encourages people to be more open-minded or, if they can’t do that, to just be on their way.

    Reply
  2. Sophie

    I think this is the problem with not just strongly describing characters in source material. Whenever I read something and fall in love with one of the female characters, if there is no accurate description of their looks, I end up just fantasising that they look like me, that they are me, that I am experiencing all the amazing things that they are. I read books with images of myself running through them and whenever someone is cast in a movie or tv or play adaption that doesn’t look like me I find it harder on subsequent readings to still pretend the character is secretly me. I still like and admire the character just as much, but I never truly feel one with the character again and I find it incredibly disappointing like a part of me has been taken away. This didn’t happen with the casting of Emma Watson because she has similar features to me (just prettier) so I was still able to kind of pretend it was me having those adventures. This isn’t a problem I have if authors just properly describe their characters then I can just go hey this chick has white blonde hair and green eyes or is Japanese, that’s super cool so I love her, but I don’t automatically start spending the book fantasising that I am her. While there are sadly a lot of racists out there, there are probably also quite a lot of people that like myself just like to build up secret fantasies that the characters look just like them, are practically them, and are disappointed when this is seemingly shattered, especially something like Harry Potter which would have had millions of girls from every country in the world imagining different versions of Hermione throughout their childhood and teenage years. I imagine there are also Indian’s and Russians and Thai and Brazilian girls also a little disappointed by this breaking of their fantasy.

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  3. Esther

    It is not uncommon for people to equate the character in a book with the actor or actress who played that character in the film — for example, try imagining a Rhett Butler that doesn’t look like Clark Gable. I wonder if this is responsible for some of the reaction — and wonder what might have happened if Hermione had been played by a black actress in the films.

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