What “Harry Potter” Taught Me About Imagination
One of the most fascinating topics, in my opinion, surrounding the Harry Potter series and its characters is the idea of how we imagine characters in our heads. What provokes us to conjure up characters the way that we do? Moreover, what role does our imagination play in creating deeper connections with our favorite characters?
When I think about this topic, one of the things that stands out to me the most is the idea that many fans imagine Hermione as black. Coming from the perspective of a black woman, when I read the novels, I always imagined her in the way that she was presented in the films. The reason for this is that I did happen to watch one of the films before I actually read the books. I will say that this put a damper on my creativity in terms of imagining characters based solely off of their description in the novels. When it came to Hermione, I had always imagined Emma Watson and no one else. It didn’t bother me that her hair wasn’t perfectly bushy or that she didn’t have buck teeth. At the time, it only mattered that one of the main characters was female and that the story didn’t center around her being saved by a man every time.
The idea that Hermione could have been a person of color didn’t even cross my mind until about a year ago. I looked into the debate more, and the points were valid. Reflecting on my reading experience, I didn’t even remember seeing anything that said she was white. I thought that the movie’s job was to do the book justice, and if Emma Watson was who fit the role perfectly, that was whom Hermione was meant to look like.
So why is it okay that people still have different assessments of Hermione and her physical appearance? There isn’t really a right or wrong answer. I will say that diversity is important in anything that causes you to use your imagination. In fact, people of color need to see themselves represented as characters like Hermione. They need to know that they can save the day, that they are brilliant people, and that they can achieve the unthinkable. Rowling’s decision to not blatantly say Hermione is white accomplishes so much. Hermione has so many identities that people can relate to. With her being the first witch in her family and attending Hogwarts, first-generation college students can relate to her being thrown into a new world and navigating it as she goes. I also see a woman with ambition and drive, hoping to break barriers and rewrite her narrative as she goes on to prove her brilliance throughout the series. If seeing Hermione as a reflection of self helps readers to form a more personal and meaningful connection to the series, then I am definitely here for it.
What I appreciate the most about the series is that I didn’t feel like the character whom I connected with the most or had similarities with had to be any of the black characters. With a series rich in imagination and fantasy, I felt like there were no rules or barriers that called for me to be subjected to identify with whichever characters looked like me.
When I was introduced to Luna Lovegood, I instantly saw a resemblance in our personality and traits. I didn’t have to have long blonde hair and wide eyes to know that this was whom I wanted to be in the novel. Luna taught me that it is okay to be a little weird. Sometimes, the weirdest people make the best contributions and teach us to look at the world in many different ways. Luna helped me to be okay with not having the same interests as the girls in my class. She helped me to be at peace with not being into the same movies, music, or TV shows that people my age liked and to be proud of my ability to think outside the box. Had I not been invited to see past physical description in order to see parallels, I might not have transformed into the optimistic and charismatic person I am today.
There are so many reasons as to why the series means so much to me. However, I think the lessons it taught me about having an open mind and being creative are two of the most important. I was able to form a sense of who I am through reading the series and making it my own. When it came to my approach to the series, my identity was not solely my skin color, rather it came from having an open mind and a ton of imagination.