How I Learned to Stop Caring and Love the Gay Subtext in “Cursed Child”
When Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was announced, I was hungry for a new Potter story. When I got my hands on a copy of the script in 2016, I was disappointed. Yet five-star reviews poured in after the play debuted on Broadway. I was intrigued and knew I needed to see this story on stage.
I finally made the pilgrimage to the Lyric Theater last year. As the play unfolded before me, I fell in love with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and not for the reasons I expected. What I experienced and adored was the budding love story that underlies Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy’s relationship.
In moments throughout their adventure, it became clear: This was a sweet high school love story. While some may disagree, I was convinced the moment a staggering “Always” entered their conversation about their relationship, a single word that hearkens back to Severus Snape’s devotion for Lily Potter in the original series (CC 144). Snape draws this parallel again in an attempt to motivate Scorpius to fight off the Dementors: “You’re giving up your kingdom for Albus, right? One person. All it takes is one person. I couldn’t save Harry for Lily, so now I give my allegiance to the cause she believed in” (CC 193).
If Albus and Scorpius were a male/female couple, I wouldn’t be making this argument online. The romance is written into the script. Albus tells Scorpius: “You’re probably the best person I know… You make me stronger,” calls him “kind…to the depths of your belly, to the tips of your fingers.“ Scorpius remarks to Albus, “If I had to choose a companion to be at the return of eternal darkness with, I’d choose you” (CC 143).
Maybe I didn’t pick up on this romance between Albus and Scorpius initially because I am conditioned to see only heterosexual romance when reading “canonical” Harry Potter content. We don’t see queer characters in the series – unless you count J.K. Rowling’s post-Deathly Hallows announcement that Dumbledore lived his life as a gay man. In the wizarding world, heteronormativity rules – on the surface anyway.
Looking for proof that the Harry Potter fanbase longs for queer representation and will make their own if necessary? Head over to Archive of Our Own or FanFiction.net. While they are a niche group of Potter fans, fan fiction authors are a mouthpiece for how culture reflects the story. Fan fiction sites boast tens of thousands of entries, and many contain queer interpretations of Potter characters. Drarry, or the romantic pairing of Draco and Harry, is an overwhelmingly popular pairing in the fan community. You’ll also find stories with Lupin and Sirius as the centric couple, Dean and Seamus, Ginny and Luna, or Dumbledore and Grindelwald. There are some incredibly written, creative stories out there.
What I missed in the media coverage of Cursed Child was that so many other fans felt Albus and Scorpius were more than just friends – the word “queerbaiting” is used. John Tiffany, the original co-author of the story and director of the play, said that due to their age, it “would not be appropriate” for Albus and Scorpius to have a romantic relationship – though he doesn’t rule out a future where they discover their feelings for one another. This feels like an excuse as we see crushes, flirting, and dating between heterosexual characters in the original Potter series by year four.
The Potter universe’s attempts at diversity have been historically well-received. Despite the lack of textual evidence, fans love gay Dumbledore, and many want to see him this way in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts films. Why wouldn’t Rowling want to include more diversity in her upcoming works? Readers might look to Rowling’s recent, deeply offensive comments towards transgender people on Twitter as a sign: We may never see LGBTQ+ representation in canon wizarding world works. It saddens me to think society may move on past Potter if Rowling and her team don’t take initiative to diversify the universe in future expansions.
For young readers, literature provides both an escape from reality and a channel through which to see themselves. Seeing a romantic relationship between two same-sex characters in such a popular franchise would be groundbreaking. LGBTQ+ visibility in the media provides a voice for a historically disenfranchised group. Telling queer stories, especially happy ones, can inspire confidence and pride in LGBTQ+ readers. If “Scorbus” were legitimized by their creators, it would be a whole new level of representation in the media for gay flirting, crushes, and all the innocent, lovely ways young people learn to love one another.
Albus and Scorpius are unlike anything we’ve seen in the wizarding world. They depict vulnerability between two male characters and a knowing of and devotion to one another that inspire them to face all odds to be together. I’ll always see these two as boyfriends. As Pride Month comes to a close, I invite you to do the same.