Thursday, February 25, 2016

Noma Dumezweni cast as Hermione in "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child"


On December 20th, the casting was announced for the play "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child", which premieres this summer in London. The Cursed Child is based on a new original story by J.K. Rowling herself. Though the story has not yet been released to the public, the play's script will be published in book form on July 31st- a date which Potter fans will recognize as the birthday of both Harry Potter and his creator. will continue the story of the Golden Trio as adults, focusing on the middle child of the Boy Who Lived- Albus Severus Potter, whom we met briefly in the Deathly Hallows epilogue.

While J.K. Rowling did not write the script for the play, this has in no way detracted from the enthusiasm regarding this new insight to an entire generation of Potters which was only touched on in the series'  final chapter. Many fans are treating "The Cursed Child" as the equivalent to the long-hoped for eighth Potter novel.

There is, however, one thing that has caused some stir in the Potter fandom.

Hermione Granger. She is the brightest witch of her age, a muggleborn with frizzy hair and large front teeth (despite both her parents' being dentists). The most practical of the Trio, she's saved their lives on countless occasions through her quick thinking, magical prowess, and tendency to memorize her school course books. And she looks like this:
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Well, according to the Warner Brothers films. Other fans imagined her a little bit differently.
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Fans have been "race-bending" Harry Potter characters- with Hermione being the most popular choice- for years, and the casting of a black woman to play the older Hermione in the Cursed Child was the realization of something many fans had only dreamed of. Although people who create fan art or write fan fiction often face criticism for changing the race or sexuality of their borrowed characters- something that is done quite frequently, as there is rarely enough canon representation of POC and LGBT+ characters- any claims that Hermione Granger can only be interpreted as white were shut down by JK Rowling herself with this tweet:
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This twitter conversation was prompted by the aforementioned casting announcement for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. In the play, a black actress, Noma Dumezweni, will portray the adult Hermione Granger, something which has sparked a lot of conflict between Potter fans on social media.
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There have been many arguments in the last two months about this decision. Many focus around whether Hermione is white in the books- based on cover art depicting her as such- with fans questioning whether or not this means she has to be white in every interpretation of the character. Others say that as Hermione's race is never explicitly stated in the series, Rowling left the subject open for interpretation, to allow readers to more easily connect with the character, or perhaps she herself imagined a non-white Hermione from the beginning.
Many people who call themselves fans of the franchise (who also, apparently, don't understand how movie adaptations work) seem to be in support of the Cursed Child casting, but are using this as an opportunity to attack the author, "calling out" Rowling for not casting a black actress to play Hermione in the films. They claim that the author is only taking advantage of this opportunity to make herself look better, since the casting of Emma Watson in the Warner Brothers films "proves" that JKR visualizes Hermione as white. Others have taken a different side to the issue, arguing that Hermione should not be black at all, because previous casting directors and book illustrators have not interpreted her that way. While it is clear that the artistic vision of the directors of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone included Emma Watson as Hermione, in the books themselves there is very little racial description of Hermione- or most of the other characters. In fact, one of the rare moments in which the skin tone of a character is mentioned is in the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Harry spots Ron and Hermione in Diagon Alley, and describes the former as looking "very freckled", and the latter as "very brown". Interesting.

In any case, whether Hermione is canonically white, black, or if this was intentionally left to reader interpretation, has no bearing on the cast for Cursed Child. As with the films, Rowling did not make the casting decisions. Emma Watson may have been the artistic vision the directors on Potter had for Hermione- Noma Demezweni is another, that of a different directing team, for a different adaptation. The great thing about books is, they are open for interpretation. And when there is no direct textual evidence to support either white or black Hermione- and when the author supports both- nobody really has a right to judge either.

-From the restaurant at the end of the universe

Rationale:

3 comments:

  1. I thought it was interesting how you brought several opinions but gave counter-arguments to the ones you don't agree with. Love the continuation of Harry Potter in your blog.

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  2. This is a very relevant, or "timely" article, with all of the discussions going on about race and Black Lives Matter. This is a great example of how far into our society these discussions go.

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  3. I got my Harry Potter and the Cursed Child book today.
    I brought it from Amazon and they delivered it in just 2 days!
    Check them out:
    Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2

    ReplyDelete