Seven Ways Wizards Think Muggles Are Lesser
Grindelwald’s defining character trait is his persuasive capability to tap into people’s vulnerabilities. Like most demagogues, his rise to power is marked by fearmongering and false promises. In the third act of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the titular villain presents his followers with a vision of World War II to showcase the “arrogance,” “power lust,” and “barbarity” of Muggles. For the uninitiated, Grindelwald’s arguments are compelling: He charms Queenie by promising to create a world where Muggles and wizards can love freely. As the audience, we know better. Early in the film, Grindelwald reveals his attitude toward Muggles, and his ideology reflects the Magic is Might statue in Voldemort’s Ministry of Magic. For Grindelwald, Muggles exist to provide slave labor and do the jobs that wizards don’t want to do.
When we’ve won, they’ll flee cities in the millions. They’ve had their time.
We don’t say such things out loud. We want only freedom. Freedom to be ourselves.
To annihilate non-wizards.
Not all of them. Not all. We’re not merciless. The beast of burden will always be necessary.
Contrastingly, the Comic-Con trailer for Crimes of Grindelwald contains a line from Dumbledore, who planted the seed of acting “for the greater good” in Grindelwald’s mind, that didn’t make it into the film or screenplay.
Muggles are not lesser.
When Harry reads The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and is shocked to learn that Hogwarts’ former Headmaster once harbored anti-Muggle sentiments, Hermione argues that Dumbledore changed.
Maybe he did believe these things when he was seventeen, but the whole of the rest of his life was devoted to fighting the Dark Arts! Dumbledore was the one who stopped Grindelwald, the one who always voted for Muggle protection and Muggle-born rights, who fought You-Know-Who from the start, and who died trying to bring him down!
The sociopolitical themes of Fantastic Beasts are timeless but relevant given the current state of the world. There is a distinct visual parallel between the Death Eaters’ robes and the attire worn by the Ku Klux Klan in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the book, Ron describes the Death Eaters as “nutters in masks” (9). Similarly, in the real world, some people have problematically discussed racism as a mental illness, shifting blame from the institutional values facilitating racism.
In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Newt tells Tina what he thinks of Muggle-wizard relations in 1920s America:
I do know a few things, actually. I know you have rather backwards laws about relations with non-magic people. That you’re not meant to befriend them, that you can’t marry them, which seems mildly absurd to me.
The wizards of Harry Potter in the 1990s might have looked back on the 1920s, scoff at the absurdity of intermarriage between Muggles and wizards being illegal, and argue that they had become more tolerant over time. In Muggle American society, Loving v. Virginia, in 1967, was a landmark case for interracial marriage, as was Obergefell v. Hodges, in 2015, for same-sex marriage. However, although society has made some progress mitigating discrimination and racism over time, they still exist and we should not be so prematurely celebratory. To quote Dumbledore, “Yes, yes, well done, Slytherin” (SS 17).
In Goblet of Fire, Voldemort says to Lucius Malfoy, “I am told that you have not renounced the old ways, though to the world you present a respectable face” (33). In the real world, although people are less overtly racist than they used to be, we are surrounded by covert racism. People were shocked by the events in Charlottesville in 2017, but to quote Childish Gambino, “This is America.” When Newt presents Dumbledore with the blood pact at the end of Crimes of Grindelwald, he says, “Grindelwald doesn’t seem to understand the nature of things he considers simple.” A lot of the wizards we see in Harry Potter, even those who seem well-intentioned, think similarly to Grindelwald even if they may not admit it.
Here are seven times wizards in Harry Potter showed what they really thought of Muggles.
1. Undermining Muggles’ Intelligence
Right from the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, McGonagall patronizingly comments on Muggles noticing wizards’ celebrations following Voldemort’s downfall:
‘You’d think they’d be a bit more careful, but no – even the Muggles have noticed something’s going on. It was on their news.’ She jerked her head back at the Dursleys’ dark living-room window. ‘I heard it. Flocks of owls … shooting stars … Well, they’re not completely stupid.’
2. Using “Muggle” as a Derogatory Term
When Hagrid first tells Harry that he’s a wizard, he seems to think there is something wrong with being a Muggle and uses the word “Muggle” to insult the Dursleys, suggesting that the word itself has negative connotations.
‘A Muggle,’ said Hagrid. ‘It’s what we call nonmagic folk like them. An’ it’s your bad luck you grew up in a family o’ the biggest Muggles I ever laid eyes on.'” (SS 4)
Hagrid later says, “If he wants ter go, a great Muggle like you won’t stop him.” The Dursleys are horrible people, but that has nothing to do with them being Muggles.
3. Underestimating Muggle Technology
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we see how wizards underestimate Muggles. When Fred, George, and Ron are rescuing Harry from the Dursleys, Fred says, “A lot of wizards think it’s a waste of time, knowing this sort of Muggle trick, but we feel they’re skills worth learning, even if they are a bit slow” (3).
Similar to McGonagall in Sorcerer’s Stone, in Chamber of Secrets, Molly, who is unaware that Arthur had magically modified it, makes a backhanded comment about the Ford Anglia.
Muggles do know more than we give them credit for, don’t they?” (5)
Speak for yourself, Molly. Since Muggles lack the magic that wizards take for granted, they are forced to be more technologically innovative.
4. Ridiculing Squibs
In Chamber of Secrets, when we learn that Filch is a Squib, which is evidently a sense of shame for him, Ron says, “It would explain a lot. Like why he hates students so much” (9). Again, similar to Hagrid’s comments on the Dursleys, Filch is a sadistic jerk who finds pleasure in torturing children, but that has little (little, not nothing) to do with him being a Squib. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when Mrs. Figg is called as a witness at Harry’s Ministry hearing for performing underage magic, Fudge is described as “eyeing her suspiciously,” as if Squibs are to be mistrusted.
Speaking of underage magic, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we learn that the Trace only applies to Muggle-born witches and wizards, or those who live in Muggle neighborhoods. This gives children from wizarding families an unfair educational advantage over their Muggle counterparts since they are able to freely practice their magic at home.
‘But how come the Ministry didn’t realize that Voldemort had done all that to Morfin?’ Harry asked angrily. ‘He was underage at the time, wasn’t he? I thought they could detect underage magic!’
‘You are quite right – they can detect magic, but not the perpetrator: You will remember that you were blamed by the Ministry for the Hover Charm that was, in fact, cast by –’
‘Dobby,’ growled Harry; this injustice still rankled. ‘So if you’re underage and you do magic inside an adult witch or wizard’s house, the Ministry won’t know?’
‘They will certainly be unable to tell who performed the magic,’ said Dumbledore, smiling slightly at the look of great indignation on Harry’s face. ‘They rely on witch and wizard parents to enforce their offspring’s obedience while within their walls.’
‘Well, that’s rubbish,’ snapped Harry. ‘Look what happened here, look what happened to Morfin!'” (17)
5. Ignoring Muggle Events
If the wizarding world had taken a more active interest in the events in the Muggle world, then they might have been able to delay Voldemort’s return to power in Goblet of Fire. Dumbledore tells Harry, “There was a third disappearance, one which the Ministry, I regret to say, does not consider of any importance, for it concerns a Muggle. His name was Frank Bryce, he lived in the village where Voldemort’s father grew up, and he has not been seen since last August. You see, I read the Muggle newspapers, unlike most of my Ministry friends” (30).
6. Disrespecting Muggle Professions
Another time wizards showed a complete lack of respect toward Muggles is when we visit St. Mungo’s in Order of the Phoenix. When Harry asks Ron if the “witches and wizards in lime-green robes were” doctors, Ron replies, “Doctors? Those Muggle nutters that cut people up? Nah, they’re Healers” (22). Clearly, Ron, who unlike Harry and Hermione grew up in the wizarding world and is implicitly biased against Muggles, thinks that Healers are more competent than Muggles. Later, when Arthur tries to use stitches to heal his Nagini-inflicted wounds, Ginny shows that she isn’t a fan of Muggle medical practices either.
‘Typical Dad,’ said Ginny, shaking her head as they set off up the corridor. ‘Stitches … I ask you …’
One could argue that since there seems to be no higher education in the wizarding world and the fact that becoming a doctor is one of the most rigorous career pathways in the Muggle world, doctors are probably more intelligent than Healers.
7. Not Prioritizing Muggle-Wizard Relations
Speaking of institutional injustices, in Goblet of Fire, Molly says, “We know what Fudge is. It’s Arthur’s fondness for Muggles that has held him back at the Ministry all these years. Fudge thinks he lacks proper wizarding pride” (36). Some fans may argue that Arthur lacked ambition and that there were Ministers before Fudge who were less prejudiced toward Muggles. However, the only other Minister of Magic in the books (discounting Voldemort’s illegitimate Ministry), Scrimgeour, seems just as dismissive of Muggles. When we meet Scrimgeour in “The Other Minister,” his behavior suggests that he doesn’t think meeting with the Muggle Prime Minister is worth his time. In fact, he says as much:
Well, that’s really all I had to say. I will keep you posted of developments, Prime Minister – or, at least, I shall probably be too busy to come personally, in which case I shall send Fudge here.
Since Fudge had been removed as Minister following the events of Order of the Phoenix, the fact that Scrimgeour is keeping him on to liaise with the Muggle Prime Minister suggests that he considers this responsibility unpleasant or insignificant. Fudge himself isn’t pleased with being a point of contact between the Muggle Prime Minister and the Ministry of Magic:
Fudge attempted to smile, but was unsuccessful; he merely looked as though he had a toothache.