When You Love the Character but Not Their Movie Version
by Magical Bookworm
I have a problem that’s maybe not so common in the fandom, or at least, I haven’t come across many fans with the same issue. Like most fans, I have a Harry Potter character whom I really love. I grew up with the books but didn’t get properly into the fandom or into the series itself until this character made their appearance. I have since then been absolutely hooked: a true Potterhead. Then, the movies came out, and I found the portrayal of my beloved to be absolutely awful. I’m not going to name either the character or the actor/actress portraying them because it’s not relevant. What I want to know is if anyone can relate at all.
Let’s rewind. Before the character first appeared in the movies, I had read about them in the books. This character does not make their appearance in the first couple of movies, so I had time to build them up in my head, read fan fiction about them, look at fan art depicting them, and shape the image of them in my head. I had also spent many hours discussing and analyzing this character with other fans. When the casting choice for them was announced, I had no opinions. It didn’t fit my mental image, but no one else would have either because it was just that – a mental image, a picture from my brain that didn’t match any living actor/actress. I knew that I was most likely not going to get someone that fit the canon description perfectly, and this shouldn’t matter anyway as characters’ physical characteristics are hardly ever important (aside maybe from the Weasleys, whose red hair seems like such a defining trait). However, when the character was brought to life on-screen, I was disappointed to see they had been stripped of any subtlety they might have possessed and that the traits that I appreciated and drew me to them had been turned into something I could not recognize, being used mostly for comic relief. Each scene was more cringeworthy than the next, and so it continued from movie to movie. I felt like the ”real” character was kept locked up in Moody’s trunk while this impostor was walking around pretending to be them but not in a very convincing way.
Book-to-movie adaptions are hit and miss many times. The Harry Potter movies do justice to many aspects of the books and less so to others. It’s important to be realistic and accept that your favorite scenes will be cut short or cut out entirely, that the actors might not be what you imagined the character to be, or that your favorite ship might lack chemistry on-screen. Not everything translates well from books to movies, and sacrifices have to be made. The cast of the Harry Potter movies consists of brilliant British actors. However, this doesn’t mean that how an actor sees or chooses to portray a character will coincide with how the fans see that character. I was somewhat okay with this. I could live with a different movie version from the canon version.
However, it certainly affected my enjoyment level of the fan community. I was in the minority who didn’t think this actor/actress did a spectacular job, and even some fans of the character considered the portrayal to be accurate. Suddenly, it became impossible to escape this wretched movie version. Fan fiction and fan art now depicted the character as the actor/actress. It was hard to come by any fan art that still used the artist’s own imagination and not the movies as its starting point. Luckily, in discussions, the canon character still prevailed since fans generally agree that movies aren’t canon. While most fan fictions had borrowed the actor/actress’s looks, they didn’t change the character’s book personality to fit the movie portrayal. Small victories here and there. Needless to say, I have not bought any movie merch related to this character even though I enjoy other movie merch in general. I don’t see anything belonging to the movie version (clothes, accessories, etc.) as having anything to do with my beloved. I consume fan fiction and fan art created before the character appeared in the movies.
Perhaps, I was naive, but I expected more readers to want to stick to their version of the characters instead of adopting the movie versions. But really, who even remembers now that Neville’s hair is supposed to be blond? Or that Hermione slapped Draco rather than punched him? Or that she doesn’t have the word “Mudblood” written on her arm in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? I am a stickler for book canon if you haven’t understood this yet. The only complaints I have seen regarding actors in the movies were (aside from some like-minded folks I came across who thankfully agreed with me) about how the movies dumbed down Ron and reduced Ginny’s personality. In those camps, the preference for Rowling’s characters over Warner Bros.’ was still strong. But seeing as now many people who were too young to belong to the first generation of fans get into the series by seeing the movies before reading the books or not reading the books at all, the line between movie canon and book canon becomes blurry.
I have some drama-queen days when I think to myself that I would have preferred for my favorite character to be cut out from the movies rather than given the treatment they got. Mostly, I try to ignore it and seek out content that I can still enjoy. The movies are still painful to watch though in this particular regard. After all this time? Probably always will be.