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Articles > Culture January, 05, 2016

Is Black Hermione Ruining Harry Potter?

Louisa Johnson
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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is still very much alive, even 9 years after the release of the final book and 5 years after the last movie. While it is unlikely that the passionate Potterheads would have ever let the franchise die, JK Rowling has recently relit the magical flame (“Lumos!) by releasing a screenplay of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ and a play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’, giving her devoted fans so much to look forward to in the coming year.

black hermione

Jamie Parker (Harry), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione) and Paul Thornley (Ron).

However, recently there has been something of an uproar about ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’. Written by JK Rowling, Jack Throne and John Tiffany, this play is set years after the final book and follows the story of Harry and his son, Albus, who both face the fear of being subsumed by The-Boy-Who-Lived’s terrifying past. The play will open at the Palace Theatre in London in July 2016.

While many are ecstatic about the upcoming project, some have expressed their immense displeasure with the play’s choice of casting. It was recently announced that Jamie Parker, Paul Thornley and Noma Dumezweni will play the iconic trio; Harry, Ron and Hermione. This has sent some fans in quite a whirl because it means – *gasp* – Hermione will be black.

To all of those in outrage, here’s why a black Hermione makes perfect sense:

I have seen many people on twitter nailing Noma for the ‘lack of continuity’ in the character. In response, I would like to point out that this play is based off of the books – NOT THE FILMS. This project therefore acts as another, entirely separate interpretation of the story. This gives room for more diverse casting because, like JK Rowling – the Goddess herself, has stated, Hermione’s racial identity in the book was never actually specified:

 

On this basis, I would argue that a black casting of Hermione makes even more sense! Although I am a massive fan of Emma Watson’s (who isn’t?), when I go back and read Hermione’s description, I find it hard not to resent the fact that the film franchise didn’t cast a black actress for the character in the first place.

After all, this description resonates more with a black ethnicity than a white one. And the whole ‘mud blood’ vs ‘pure blood’ issue in the book very much acts as an allegory for racial oppression in today’s world, meaning that a black Hermione would be even more in keeping with the book’s themes. We must stop looking at white as the default race.

I think the remarks about the lack of continuity would bother me less if the people saying this were also protesting the difference of appearance in the other cast members. For example, the men playing Harry and Ron look nothing like the book’s descriptions or Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint; both have fair hair instead of the iconic jet-black and ginger hair. Because of this disproportionate attacking of the cast, I’m tempted to say the ‘lack of continuity’ comments are just a way for people to be racist, without actually seeming racist.

“the ‘lack of continuity’ comments are just a way for people to be racist, without actually seeming racist”

Furthermore, are those of you who are upset about the play’s portrayal of Hermione equally upset about the film’s casting of Lavender Brown? In the first few movies, the non-speaking role of her character was played by black actresses Kathleen Cauley and Jennifer Smith, however by the sixth movie, they were replaced by white-British actress Jessie Cave. Where is the continuity there, huh? Surely this white-washing should be upsetting people as much as play-Hermione?

In fact, white-washing is a common occurrence in the movie industry. When minorities express their displeasure, their comments are often met with “Why should it matter” – and, my personal favourite, “Why are you making it about race?”. And yet, when it happens in reverse, suddenly everything becomes about race and white people are the ‘victims’.

Personally, I am completely on board with Noma playing Hermione. The lack of race representation on the stage/screen continues to be a massive issue, but this casting acts as a step in the right direction. Now black children can finally rejoice at their rightful inclusion in the magical franchise.

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  1. S.B.

    Hermione’s “white face” was actually mentioned in the books, so JK must have just forgotten she wrote that.

    Regardless, it’s such a complete non-issue. It’s an adaptation of a source material, focused on the characters of a story. Surely the actors’ ability to bring to life the spirit of the characters matters more than their ability to look like them

  2. Daisy Chan

    I dont mind who stars in the play. As long as it’s good, it’ll be fine 😀 I never read the books but It’ll be interesting to see how the play will turn out xD… But Ron’s not ginger and he looks so old xD

  3. Kamilla Peter

    I think this is a bit unusual but I have no problem with that…

  4. Lucy Bell

    The only thing wrong with the casting is that Ron isn’t ginger!!

  5. Tiffani Maria

    the ‘lack of continuity’ ?

  6. Andrew M

    are you guys crazy or what?

  7. Kei

    Hermione turned into a catperson?! Why can’t she turn black?

  8. Ajuma Sylvester

    of a truth Hermoine was mentioned in the books

  9. Lily Charles

    I don’t think it matters, whether she is good at the role is what really matters. It shouldn’t matter her skin colour. Sure it should stay with the books but it 2016 who cares anymore

  10. Alba

    I think people shouldn’t even care. Hermione and Harry and Ron in the books are also kids/teenagers, and here are represented as grownups. Change is good.

  11. Eleanor Smith

    Personally, I think that the only thing wrong with the casting is that Ron isn’t a ginger.