A few days ago, during the ‘anniversary’ of the battle of Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling tweeted an apology for having killed Snape. In the last years, she also tweeted apologies for having killed various characters in the books. Personally, I find these apologies pointless. You can almost say that I find these apologies riddikulus.
OK, here it is. Please don’t start flame wars over it, but this year I’d like to apologise for killing (whispers)… Snape. *runs for cover*
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) 2. Mai 2017
Now, even if Snape’s death was a mistake that created plot holes or didn’t serve any particular purpose for the development of the story or characters, I still don’t think Rowling should’ve apologized for killing a character. I mean, could you imagine J.R.R. Tolkien or Goerge R.R. Martin apologizing for having killed a fan favourite? No, of course not. So what purpose does Rowling’s apology serve other than pleasing whiny fans?
There are, however, other issues in the Potter series that truly deserve an apology, but more on that in a few moments.
Now, let’s go back to why I think that each death in the Potter universe serves a valuable purpose, even if the death has no effect on the plot. Despite a readership of all ages, the Harry Potter series is aimed mostly towards children and young adults. When young readers are confronted with a death in the Potter novels, whether it being a beloved or hated character, they learn that death is an inevitable part of life. Young people also learn that there are bad people out there killing for fun, and that there are people sacrificing themselves to fight the bad ones.
All this is part of our life. In the real world, no matter how much you wish a person to be alive again, there is nothing that can bring you a beloved person back. There is rarely a ‘happy ending’ where all the bag guys are dead and where all the good guys ride heroically into the sunset. Life is full of ambiguities and is certainly not fair. So, to me, each death of a character serves an important message.
So what should JK Rowling apologize for?
Instead of apologizing for killing off characters, Rowling should rather apologize for the lack of diversity in Harry Potter. Of course, the novels are written. We have no time turner to go back and change the novels and films. Still, an apology would mean that Rowling takes her fans belonging to a minory as serious as those fans complaining about the death of Snape. An apology would mean that she is aware of the issues caused by the lack of diversity.
I’m a disabled person, one-handed, to be precise, and the representation of disabled people in the Wizarding world is not without trouble. The two most prominent physically disabled characters are Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody and Peter “Wormtail” Pettigrew. While Moody is a good guy, he is described as deformed and inhrently frightening. Wormtail, on the other hand (yes, pun intended) is among the most despised characters the entire series. I’m glad that I discovered the Potter books as a 22 year old and not as a 12 year old. Growing up as a disabled person is difficult enough without having one of the greatest book series promote the stereotype of the ‘despicable and deformed disabled person’. I could also go on a rant on the representation of mental disabilities solely as being ‘so mad you need to be locked up’.
Moreover, while I’m not a member of the LGBTQ community. I still find it disappointing how Rowling dealt with Dumbledore’s homosexuality. Instead of incorporating his homosexuality into the novels, she confirmed his sexuality in a random interview.
Also, Rowling’s treatment of racial minorities in the novels isn’t the best either. Recently, Hermoine’s race caused an uproar among Potterheads. Noma Dumezweni, a black actrees, has been cast as Hermoine in The Cursed Child. Personally, I love it. However, there are many that disliked it. I believe that Hermoine’s racial ambiguity in the novels is the cause of the controversy and not the fact that Hermoine’s race suddenly changed. In the novels, Rowling described Hermoine, in addition to having curly hair, as follows:
“They were there, both of them, sitting outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor — Ron looking incredibly freckly, Hermione very brown, both waving frantically at him. ” (The Prizoner of Askaban)
This passage in itself is ambiguous enough for people to argue that Hermoine is black. However, let’s just look briefly at how Rowling describes other characters: “And this is Kingsley Shcklebolt’ He indicated the tall black wizard, who bowed” (The Order of the Phoenix). When it comes to minorities, the Potter books are not ambiguous. Rowling makes it very clear whether a character is white or not. Hermoine’s description is ambiguous enough to assume that she is white and just got a tan over the summer. This was futher solidified by the casting of Emma Watson as Hermoine. If Rowling intended Hermoine to be black, she could’ve easily vetoed and demanded a black actress to play Hermoine in the films, but she didn’t.
Rowling’s ambiguity is, as written earlier, at the centre of the Hermoine controvercy. This ambiguity, is also at the centre of my frustration. In the recent past, Rowling’s treatment of minorities came across as rather half-heartedly, only after pressured by fans. Her ‘revelations’ about race and sexuality came only in hindsight after fans brought these topics up. This doesn’t give the impression that Dumbledore’s sexuality or Hermoine’s race were part of Rowling’s big plan where Rowling is in control of each detail. Instead, it gives the impression that she tries to weasel herself out of a corner when confronted about the lack of diversity in her novels.
As said, we can’t go back and change the books. It is what it is. Still, instead of apologizing for having killed characters, it’ll be nice to see that Rowling finally acknowledges that her novels lack diversity.
What do you think about this issue? Leave a comment down below.