Trouble in Paradise: Diversity and Inclusivity in Fantastic Beasts

Olivia looks at the latest instalment in the Harry Potter Franchise to consider whether added on inclusivity does more harm than good

In a new age of campaigns for inclusivity and diversity, there is no doubt that there is a new found motivation for individuals who want to be involved in the push towards modernity. Yet, the way I see it, it is important to do this carefully so that your audience does not misinterpret what you are trying to imply.

J.K. Rowling may just have missed the mark on this, as for me, her multicultural characters are merely written on a whim, the majority of them failing to have much psychological depth. In my opinion, they appear to be used by Rowling in the latest instalment as a way of appearing ‘on trend’ with what is going on in the world.

For example, as perfect as she is for the role, Zoe Kravitz’s interpretation of Leta Lestrange – supposedly a relative of Helena Bonham-Carter’s Bellatrix in the first franchise. The two don’t have similar appearances in the slightest, Carter, for instance, being a (dare I say it) white actress. It’s all just a bit confusing, especially for audiences who know Harry Potter so well, or at least until now thought they did. The new mix of characters in the Fantastic Beasts sequel all feel rather random rather than purposeful. There is a lack of consistency between the new characters who are supposed to have ties with the Harry Potter universe, with them being totally unrelatable to each other.

“Rowling has failed to “frame” her new characters who represent inclusivity in the most appropriate way”

As it has been argued, Rowling has failed to “frame” her new characters who represent inclusivity in the most appropriate way, something which has also occurred in the past. Dumbledore, for instance, she announced in 2007 is “gay, actually”. To Potter fans who read the novels dating back to 2001, there was no clear implication that this was the case in the slightest. It seems like an almost kind of an afterthought with Rowling coming up with this notion later on when the world started crediting trailblazing campaigners just to fit in with the overall image and gain recognition. The statement may even have left some readers feeling offended, with its bluntly rushed reconsideration.

The role of Nagini (Voldemort’s pet snake) for instance is another example. With new actress Claudia Kim only being included in order to “kick up the diversity quota in a franchise that has been mostly white”. As I’ve said before, this newfound path Rowling is on with inclusivity is rather random.

There are elements of Rowling’s new franchise that we can credit for understanding the need to bring actors from all cultures to the big screen in our current progressive world. Nevertheless, just as it has been observed from Rowling’s Potter works, “she rarely fails to specify when a character isn’t white, and often does so by using painful stereotypes”.

If she wanted to change her image as a writer with being seen as an inclusive author, perhaps she should’ve started a whole new franchise with different characters altogether.

Olivia Morel

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Media courtesy of Heyday films, Warner Bros via IMDb. 

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