Director John Tiffany Addresses Accusations of Queerbaiting in “Cursed Child”

Ever since the premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in the summer of 2016, fans have been divided over the play. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it canon? Among the more serious accusations launched at the play is that of queerbaiting, which has sparked heated debate among fans for the last two years.

When J.K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay after the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007, many fans hoped that future iterations of the wizarding world would have more queer representation. So far, that has not been the case. Just as fans have been disappointed by reports that Dumbledore will not be “explicitly gay” in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, many fans argue that the relationship between Albus and Scorpius in Cursed Child is subtextually romantic but that the script goes out of its way to insist that both boys are, in fact, straight.

But while the nature of the relationship between Albus and Scorpius has been a frequent topic of discussion for fans, we have heard less from the production side of the play. Now, in a recent interview about Cursed Child‘s upcoming debut in Melbourne, Australia, director John Tiffany has addressed the controversy.

As reported in the Guardian, Tiffany – himself a gay man – has said that it “would not be appropriate” for Cursed Child to directly address the sexuality of Albus and Scorpius, who are 11 when the play begins and 15 at its conclusion. Still, Tiffany does not rule out the possibility that their relationship might be queer, hinting that it could be something Scorpius or Albus realizes about themselves when they are older.

We don’t say how [Scorpius] is going to carry on with the rest of his life. It is a love story between Scorpius and Albus in lots of ways, but that does not mean it’s sexual. I suppose the whole queerbaiting thing is just people saying ‘I want more representation’ and ‘I want explicit representation’. But also that would become the story.

While it’s refreshing for Tiffany to bring up the issue at all, his answer is unlikely to satisfy critics of the play’s representational politics. For all that Tiffany claims broaching the topic of sexuality would be inappropriate, the play already addresses the boys’ sexuality in Scorpius’s crush on Rose Weasley and Albus’s infatuation with Delphi – not to mention that many people already know they are queer by age 11 (and definitely by age 15).

His claim that a romantic relationship between the two of them would necessarily “become the story” is also contested by many advocates of queer representation in popular media – the boys’ nominal straight crushes do not monopolize the narrative, and there’s no reason to think that the same couldn’t be true if either Scorpius or Albus were queer.

In what may be slightly more hopeful news for fans, Tiffany confirmed in the same interview that actresses of color would continue to be cast in the role of Hermione Granger as Cursed Child opens in venues around the world.

I never want to drop what kind of quota of diversity we have got. I think it’s really important that we say: no, we need that number of non-white actors in this cast. But that’s not to say that I can’t do some mixing up.

Despite Tiffany’s unfortunate decision to refer to this commitment as a “quota of diversity,” this is still good news for fans who believe that representation of all kinds in Harry Potter is important and are hoping the franchise feels the same way. You can read the full interview here.