“I’m surprised all the Mudbloods haven’t packed their bags by now,” Malfoy went on. “Bet you five Galleons the next one dies. Pity it wasn’t Granger…”
Let’s start with a history lesson. In the aftermath of the Great War, Germany was in complete disarray. Forced by the other nations of Europe to pay reparations, the value of the German Mark plummeted to the point where it was hardly worth the paper it was printed on. Even as the economy stabilized over the next few years, resentment over the rules laid out by the rest of Europe in the Treaty of Versailles grew and became conflated with a simultaneous rise in anti-semitism. Germany got a bum deal, the economy was still struggling, and the Jews immigrating from other parts of Europe were to blame – or so the rhetoric went. Then the Great Depression hit, and with it, gasoline was poured over these embers of hostility. These whispers of racism became shouts and the War to End All Wars suddenly found itself on the road to a sequel.
After the Second World War ended, the Allied powers convened to find a way to ensure that the mistakes made after the Great War could not be made again. This time we had to be certain that there would not be a World War III. Part of this plan was the establishment of the European Union: a collective of nations with common agreements for trade, mobility, and laws to ensure a cooperation between Europe and prevent any one country from taking up a campaign of extreme nationalism.
On Friday morning, the United Kingdom, led by a campaign of extreme nationalism, voted to break away from the EU.
Now, let’s move on to a more recent bit of history. In the upcoming play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the role of Hermione Granger was given to Noma Dumezweni, a black actor. The internet, as per usual, collectively lost its minds. Since you’re here, reading this article on a site that generally covers news on the geekier side of the pop culture spectrum, you’ll know this is nothing new. Any time a character who is generally depicted as white is cast as a different race or ethnicity, fanboys come crawling out of the woodwork like cockroaches, spewing racist comments under a banner of maintaining the ‘integrity’ of the source material. It happened with Heimdall in Thor, it happened with the Human Torch in Fantastic Four, it happened when The Force Awakens broke the series’ trend for lily-white casting, and on and on it goes.
We could have the standard talk about why all of this is ridiculous, why it actually benefits everyone when these white-by-default roles (i.e. when race has no bearing on their character) are given to actors of color, but this situation is different. In this case race is deeply important to who Hermione is as a character and her function in the story and themes of Harry Potter. She’s just been depicted as the wrong race up until now.