Harry Potter and upsetting expectations

I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I’ve read the books a couple times and seen the all the movies more times than I can count. When I heard that there was a new Harry Potter installment, I was ecstatic. However, when I read it a while ago, I could barely get through it. I absolutely hated it. I thought the whole premise — saving Cedric to somehow atone for something that Harry didn’t even do — was dumb and unrealistic. I understand that a series about the wizarding world is inherently unrealistic, what I mean is that within the Harry Potter universe, Albus’s decisions are not believable. Most of the people that I have discussed this with feel the same. This is unfortunate because as I reread it, I realized that it actually wasn’t horrible, it was just not what I’d expected it to be. In her interview from the Newsweek article, Noma Dumezweni makes a very valid point when she says that a lot of the negative backlash to the script resulted from people not being used to reading scripts. When all the Harry Potter fans heard about a new book, they were expecting it to be just that, a novel not a play. I, like many others, wanted the same things from the script that I’d gotten from the novel and that just didn’t happen. Trying to read a script like a novel will inevitably leave you feeling somewhat unsatisfied. Once I adjusted my expectations, I found that I liked the script much more because I was appreciating it for what it actually was.

I think this discrepancy between people’s expectations and reality is also why there was backlash towards a black woman playing Hermione. It is true that her gender was never specified, but our default assumption is that she is white. Granted, that is how the movies portrayed her, but that just further illustrates the assumption — when the cast list was released for the movie, I doubt anyone was shocked that they chose a white actress. I am curious as to whether this default assumption results from projecting ourselves onto the character (I am white so I assume the character is white because it makes them more relatable), or if it results from subconscious bias and stereotypes (similar to how we see the word doctor and assume man). Either way, the more we can combat this, the better.

1 comment

  1. I definitely agree that shifting my expectations of the script helped me to appreciate the play much more, though there are also certain aspects of the plot that I take issue with. The article mentioned that the play read a bit like a fanfiction, and I could not agree more. Giving Voldemort a child through Bellatrix LeStrange seems like a stretch, considering those characters’ interactions throughout the series (and Voldemort’s potential asexuality). I would also agree that many of Albus’ decisions seem implausible: creating a problem where one did not previously exist, taking absolutely drastic measures, and coming up with hair-brained schemes and ideas that work out perfectly in the end.

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