Yesterday we found out that Hermione Granger is going to be played by none other than acclaimed actress Noma Dumezweni. The Internet has justifiably exploded about a “black” Hermione, some saying that it disrupts the continuity of the story, and others that it’s a brilliant choice – especially those of us who wanted a person of color to play Newt Scamander in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts franchise. But apart from all of this, what impact does this casting have on the story itself?
In terms of giving the story more resonance, this decision was genius. Harry Potter is an allegory – constantly preaching the values of acceptance and tolerance, so much so that the attitudes of other characters toward Hermione’s “blood status” serve as a yardstick to measure whether they are on Harry’s side or Voldemort’s. Harry Potter is filled with examples of beings who are denied rights in wizarding society; house-elves, giants, centaurs, and werewolves to name a few. Just as Remus Lupin’s lycanthropy was an allegory for AIDS sufferers, “pure-blood mania” stands for xenophobia and racism. The intertextual layering of using an actress who is part of an oppressed minority in our world to further underscore this message was an opportunity the directors did not pass up and is easily the most exciting development so far regarding The Cursed Child.
Everyone remembers the moment Malfoy called Hermione a “Mudblood” in front of Ron – Ron’s reaction was immediate and drastic; and we as readers felt bewildered and then outraged along with Harry. Professor Snape picks on Hermione in class, and even the likes of Mrs. Weasley may have allowed her prejudices to get in the way of her better judgement when she very obviously gave Hermione the cold shoulder after reading Rita Skeeter’s article.
These minor harassments laid the foundation for possibly the best and most chilling scene out of all eight films – when Bellatrix carved “Mudblood” into Hermione’s arm – echoing the brands of slaves in America and Jews in the Second World War.
By casting Noma Dumezweni as Hermione, the directors are highlighting Harry Potter’s message of tolerance and acceptance, and it reminds us that the values the books teach should be understood beyond the realms of fiction, their rightful place not on paper but in the context of our everyday lives.
The fan art used in the cover image is the work of dellbelle39.tumblr.com.