The Harry Potter series is often hailed as a revolutionary set of novels, and for good reason; on the surface, they seem to promote an inclusive, supportive society where everyone can be their authentic selves.
However, following author J.K. Rowling’s recent series of tweets which prove her to be incredibly transphobic, many fans have denounced her and changed their attitudes towards the series.
Personally, I’ve always noticed that the series shows, in many ways, the Rowling is in fact deeply conservative. Hers is what is often known as ‘white feminism’; not exclusively practised by white people, but mostly, and not by all, it’s a form of feminism that values inclusivity only for themselves, with everyone else, including minorities and the differently-abled, left out in the cold.
While the Harry Potter series does contain some amazing inclusivity that you wouldn’t expect, it is also deeply problematic in many ways. The stories might be about the underdog coming out on top despite incredible odds, but there are some glaring issues.
It might seem like I’m just like Rowling, and unwilling to let things lie, but in light of her recent horrendous comments, I want to put this piece out there. I want people to read my theories and consider them.
I’m not denouncing the series- I still love them, but I feel that, in light of Rowling’s recent proclamation that she doesn’t support the trans community, we should look at the series and how it lets a lot of society down, in more detail.
The Fact That Everyone Marries Before Having Kids
Ever since I first read the series as a kid, I’ve always been struck by the fact that everyone seems to get married before they have kids. I can’t think of any character that had a baby out of wedlock, never mind any single parents who weren’t widowed. Considering that Rowling herself was a single mother for a time, you’d think that she’d be more willing to embrace single parenthood in her work.
Even Merope, Tom Riddle/ Lord Voldemort’s mother tricks her spellbound Muggle husband into marrying her before they conceive a child. It strikes me as odd that there’s such an intense focus on such the institution of marriage- surely love is the only thing you need to become a family?
The Poverty Divide
Another issue that has always bothered me is the stark divide between rich and poor in the Harry Potter books. Mr and Mrs Weasley are poor parents who house, feed, love and care for Harry throughout his school life, yet he has a full vault of gold while they scrape by without much money. Also, money doesn’t need to really mean anything in the wizard world; Rowling could’ve got rid of it as she is the creator of the universe.
In fact, Rowling could’ve got rid of all poverty, famine and everything other issue in the world. Instead, the divisions remain, and some characters still struggle, despite the fact that Harry, the protagonist, is wealthy enough to solve pretty much every poor character’s problems, but doesn’t. It all kind of shows that Rowling still believes in a society with rich and poor. The Ministry doesn’t even offer any kind of benefits or support to wizards, that we’re told, which is a staple of genuine left wing society.
The Lack Of Non-White Representation
Rowling might say that some characters are black retrospectively, or cast them as black in plays and films, but at the end of the day, there’s very little BAME representation in the Harry Potter series. We’ve got Cho Chang and the Patel twins, but they don’t get a lot of time or the ability to truly express their cultures. A young member of the BAME community would only see a few characters that are like them, very briefly. Even the white foreign characters that arrive during the fourth book, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, are stereotypes of the counties that they come from. The Beauxbatons students are from France, and as such they are the epitome of French chic and elegance; they’re almost all women, and are beautiful, slim and wearing pale blue.
The Durmstrang students are from Bulgaria, and again they are stereotypes of Eastern European people, in an extremely offensive way; they’re all stocky men, led by a corrupt former Death Eater. They even live on a ship, meant to invoke thoughts of pirates, while the French students and their teacher arrive in a carriage that’s reminiscent of the one in Cinderella. As such, the Eastern Europeans are literally shown as sketchy pirates, while the French characters are chic, elegant and in one case, half Veela, a creature that ensnares men. Great way to show kids how to think of people from other cultures.
The Lack Of LGBTQ+ Representation
Before anyone starts, I know that Rowling has alleged that Dumbledore is gay, but frankly, I don’t care. If we can’t see it, then it isn’t true representation. I don’t care if she says that Snape was actually a duck or that Hagrid is a pansexual with a penchant for BDSM and a degree in golf course management. If we can’t see it, then it doesn’t benefit those communities. Queer readers don’t get any benefit from these post-publication additions.
In the actual series, there are loads of heterosexual relationships, but no homosexual or bisexual ones. There are also no trans characters, although it’s now obvious why. As such, the Harry Potter universe is completely heteronormative, like the real world still is, despite the rise in queer representation and the popularity of the Pride movement. This lack of LGBTQ+ representation shows that Rowling’s liberalism and post-publication woke additions are simply for show.
The Do As I Say, Not As I Do Attitude Of Most Of The Adult Characters
As someone who grew up with hypocritical ‘role models’ who would inform me that what they did wasn’t important, as long as I didn’t do it myself, because they knew and were better than me, I understand the manipulative nature of this form of parenting and child rearing. Parents and caregivers need to set a good example, or to explain the rational behind their actions, or else they’re just hypocrites.
Pretty much every adult that supports Harry and his friends says one thing and does another. Sirus is constantly urging caution while living recklessly and leaving the house on every possible occasion (to accompany him to the train and to the Ministry, where he met his death). Dumbledore regularly tells Harry that he needs to know everything about his adventures, while at the same time withholding a lot of information that could help make Harry’s quest easier. Even Arthur Weasley, one of my favourite characters in the whole series, is a serious hypocrite. The man works for the Misuse Of Muggle Artefacts office, but he has an enhanced Ford Angela! The ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach is basically parenting dictatorship, and it doesn’t set a good, supportive example to kids.
The Entire Plot Of The Cursed Child
One of the things that annoyed me the most about Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, aside from the other issues such as the extortion of making it two parts, so that people have to pay for two sets of tickets, was the lack of change. Rowling has been needlessly adding to the Harry Potter universe for years, trying to make herself seem more woke. However, in the play version created long after the original series was completed, she doesn’t add any homosexual representation, and while she does turn Hermione into a black woman, which is awesome, it’s kind of pointless.
Hermione is clearly a white woman in the novels, so rather than just turning her black, she could have included more representation in the form of new BAME characters. She could also have included new strong female characters or some LGBTQ+ representation. Instead, we get black Hermione, who is now Minister For Magic but still with Ron, a misogynistic, lazy character who got pissed at their wedding and is clearly still a douche. Rowling had a unique opportunity to improve the series and represent more minority communities, but instead, she just carried right on and didn’t do anything more to show her legions of fans how supportive she is of the communities that need her support more than any other.
By not adding more representation to her follow-up, Rowling shows that she hasn’t evolved or enhanced her opinions at all. After all, we’ve all grown over the years; I’m sure I said some problematic things back in the day when I was a kid, and I’ve definitely had some bloody odd opinions about a lot of things (I went through a phase of loving mullets and dating poets- it was a weird time!). But I grew, and changed, and my writing changed too. Rowling’s, unfortunately, has not.
Look, at the end of the day, I’m not in any way saying that Rowling is a vile person, or that her books aren’t phenomenal pieces of young adult fiction. However, there are gaping problems with them, as shown above.
While the time in which she wrote the work, and her own generational bias and that of her editors/ publishers might have all had an impact, I believe that the novels provide a number of interesting insights in the morals of their author. I hope this article gives you something to think about.
Ultimately, be a Weasley in a world full of J.K. Rowlings. Be genuinely supportive of and delighted by the transgender community, like they are by Muggles. Below is a list of resources to help you get started or continue on that journey.
2 thoughts on “All The Ways In Which The Harry Potter Series Shows J.K. Rowling’s Conservative Bias”
This is good stuff. I’d add the whole British public school system hierarchy, too. It just sort of sits there, unremarked. I mean, what if you’re of the wizarding world but you don’t get into Hogwart’s? Presumably you’ll never make it into the Ministry of anything, and even if you’re clever in your job, your accent and wizarding manners will always hold you back…
The mudblood caste system was confronted (more or less), but how was it NOT a really big deal that Dobbie was enslaved? How was that just accepted?
Harry, to his credit, is appalled and connives to free Dobbie, but how is he the only one? How come no adult commented on this horrific part of the wizarding world? How were there not student demonstrations or petitions? How was the Ministry of Magic not hotly debating slavery? How did no one take Malfoy’s father aside and ask WTF?
Obviously, I read the books, and enjoyed them. But the questions kept piling up, undermining that enjoyment.
I also found myself at times wondering why the book was about Harry and not Hermione. He’s the chosen one (the boy who lived), but she’s clever, resourceful, brave. She gets herself, Harry and Ron out of countless scrapes. (And she has the greatest purse ever!) She’s battling the stigmas associated with the wizarding caste system–and winning!
You’re right James, there’s so much I didn’t cover in my piece, but the house elves I felt were an obvious representation of human slavery and so many bits of it just feel so conservative and old fashioned!