Jewish Wizards & Inclusiveness in Jo Rowling & Tim Burton’s worlds

The new Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, has a character named Porpentina Goldstein with brown eyes, thick brows, and curly hair hair.

We never see Goldstein go to synagogue, or eat challah, or drop Yiddish. But we have a pretty good idea of what demographic this girl probably represents.

And you know what it felt like to see her on screen? For lack of a better word: magical. She has my hair and my eyebrows. She acts like me. For once, I get to be part of the wizarding world.

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This, I hope/imagine, is what it felt like to people of color when they cast a black woman as Hermione in The Cursed Child. A feeling of finally getting to join the wizards.

Of course, anyone can identify with anyone on screen. I identify with male characters, people of color, cartoons, etc, on-screen all the time.

But it’s not the same as seeing someone who looks like you. Especially if you never see people who look like you up there. It can be lonely.

The recent casting choices are a huge leap forward.

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I just wish Rowling didn’t try to take credit for them as something she’d meant all along. “Well, I never said she was white,” is a bit silly, seeing as she had a huge hand in the creation & casting of the movies.

If she wanted a black Hermione from the beginning, she should have led her illustrator and casting director in that direction back in 2000 when they were making the first movie (released in 2001). The movies are, at this point, just as much “canon” as the books.

Which is why I’m a little miffed about the “Dumbledore is gay!” revelation. He’s not gay in the books or the movies. If she meant for him to be gay, maybe it should have been in the work itself.

She has an opportunity, in the prequels, to actually depict him as a well-rounded gay man, and I hope she does so. Because then it’s canon, and not just empty words about gayness.

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Tim Burton, in contrast to Jo Rowling’s half-hearted ret-con, doesn’t even try at inclusivity in the slightest. His most recent film, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, has one black character — who’s the villain.

Burton could have said something like “well, I prefer to cast Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter exclusively in literally everything, and they happen to be white,” and left it.

It could have even maybe been his excuse for casting Johnny Depp as a Native American character. (Ugh.)

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Nope. Burton didn’t take that approach. He said he prefers not to get “all politically correct“:

“I remember back when I was a child watching ‘The Brady Bunch’ and they started to get all politically correct,” he said. “Like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black. I used to get more offended by that than just… I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.”

He doesn’t seem to see the difference between a family looking alike and an orphanage of people from various backgrounds looking alike.

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That magic of seeing someone on-screen who looks like you will never happen in a Tim Burton movie. Unless you’re white. Very, very white. And Johnny Depp and/or Helena Bonham Carter.

I’m casting my lot with the wizards. At least they’re trying.