J.K. Rowling Apologizes for Killing Snape (& Other Characters)

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.

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.

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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’.

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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.

An interesting read: J K Rowling, we all know you didn’t write Hermione as black in the Harry Potter books – but it doesn’t matter

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.

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2 thoughts on “J.K. Rowling Apologizes for Killing Snape (& Other Characters)

  1. James M says:

    I’m gay, and have epilepsy (which has grown much milder over the years). Which could be why I notice passages that suggest that Harry might gay or possibly bi. As for DD, I think that if DD being gay were really important, JKR should have put it in the books. If she didn’t put X or Y or Z in the books, then I infer that X or Y or Z was not important, or not important enough to go in the books.

    I don’t treat the stuff she adds outside the books as canonical: I think of the 7 HP books by JKR as canon; of the 8 films as a canonical alternative telling of the HP story, and as lower-ranking than the 7 books, and as dependent on them. Other stuff I have no opinion on, except that I think both “Cursed Child” and the film of “Fantastic Beasts” ought to become novels, in revised form if need be,

    For those who think DD is gay, there is evidence in what is said of his friendship with Grindelwald. What is said is vague enough to be taken showing DD is gay, or as not doing so. Such non-committal writing seems preferable to clearing up the matter one way or another, unless it is shown, in the books, that it is important to the plot for DD to be gay (or not). The ambiguity ensures freedom for readers to make of such passages whatever they will.

    The reason the issue is controversial is I think a non-literary one: I think people are treating the decisions within, and about, the books, as indicating political positions; political, that is, in the broad sense. There are no epileptic Catholics, gay or otherwise, in the books – does it follow that those of us who are Catholic and epileptic should feel denigrated ? Surely not. But if not, neither need anyone else whose specific details do not get a mention. Not mentioning people of description X or Y or Z or A or B or C…, is not the same as disdaining them – JKR was nor writing an Encyclopaedia of Everything, but a (generally) realistic phantastic novel-series – and in reality, not everyone whom one meets is Chinese or an acrobat or a sword-swallower or fond of curry or a beer-drinker or gay or a Fundamentalist Lutheran. If Fundamentalist Chinese Lutheran beer-drinking gay acrobats had been important to the plot, JKR would presumably have put them in. She did not – presumably because such characteristics, though all real, would have served no narrative purpose. What she did give us was Cho Chang, who is Chinese in origin, even if being Chinese has no clear significance within the plot. The racial diversity of the characters mirrors a reality about society in 1990s Britain, and that is sufficient justification for Cho Chang to be in the books. JKR is good at creating varied, memorable and clearly individualised characters, and Cho Chang is no exception.

    It seems a fair guess that JKR did not foresee that (1) she would have a fandom (2) it would be a colossal one (3) a lot of her readers would “identify with” characters as intensely as they have; and that (4) of those readers, some would be offended that their personal characteristics were not mentioned.

    As for Wormtail: he’s not that loathsome. His death can be read as redeeming the character. I think he is far less odious than James Potter. I think JKR was much too harsh toward Draco – he is far more sympathetic in Book 6 than before, and we see him almost entirely through the eyes of people who despise him. The Golden Trio are not exactly the best or fairest or most merciful judges of character. One theme of the books seems to be, that Harry is slowly learning to see his idolised father as the very flawed, far from admirable character he is revealed to be in Book 5. Again and again we see that Harry is a poor judge of character – he even loses confidence in that of DD, in Book 7.

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  2. gekitsu says:

    i’m with you on rowling’s treatment of minorities – what’s done is done, but it wouldn’t hurt anyone if she dropped in a random interview how it came to be (i can imagine plenty reasons, but a combination of not having had the view on the issue she has today, and never having thought about her books having such large-scale appeal sounds most likely to me), and how, were she to write the books today, this and that is what she’d do differently. when you do things, you’re bound to mess up occasionally. that’s inevitable. what’s important is how you deal with it.

    as for the death apologies: i read the tweet slightly differently. my take wasn’t ‘i wish i hadn’t killed them off’ because as you say, deaths serve a role in storytelling, and i’m pretty sure she’s aware of the necessity behind several painful deaths. the way i read it was ‘i’m sorry (for the character) that this had to happen to them.’ as in: they, as characters, would’ve deserved better. or they might have had it coming, but it’s still sad, for reasons. it’s as if you and me talked about a character, and how there turned out to be more behind our pure-evil-for-evil’s-sake villainous first impression, and that we’re sad they died without doing this or that, or seeing X or Y. except with the addition that rowling also is the facilitator of that death, in a way.

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