Before we continue I would like to take the time to warn you formally that this article will be incredibly spoiler heavy, and those who have yet to see the movie should keep their obliviate spell handy.
#FantasticBeastsAndWhereToFindThem was released over the weekend and surprised absolutely no one by apparating straight to the top of the box office. Following the adventures of Newt Scamander as he navigates the Wizarding World in New York City, Fantastic Beasts winds its way through a complex new pre-Harry Potter universe. We learn about Grindelwald wreaking havoc in Europe, the fragile relationship between American No-Maj/Wizard-kind, and a heartbreakingly destructive example of what happens when magic is suppressed. Is this #JKRowling subtly educating moviegoers about the dangers of suppressing who we are? Here is where those major spoilers kick in...
During the run-up to the movie, Ezra Miller's Credence Barebone was somewhat of a mystery. He is a member of the sinister Second Salem Philanthropic Society, a fanatical, semi-religious anti-Witchcraft group hellbent on exposing the Wizarding World. As the adopted son of Second Salem's Mary Lou Barebone, Credence was abused and repressed his entire life, turning him into a timid and afraid young man — allowing himself to be co-opted by the false promises and affection of MACUSA's Percival Graves.
We only learn of Credence's power towards the end of the movie, when Graves refers to him as a Squib (magical without abilities). Traumatized by Graves's betrayal, Credence reveals himself to be the #Obscurus that has been terrorizing New York — the one Graves is desperately hunting.
The Obscurus is hinted at early on in the movie, when Newt talks about the one currently residing in his case. It's revealed that an Obscurus is created when a witch or wizard is forced to suppress their power. The suppressed power overwhelms them, creating a deadly and malignant force which eventually kills the host. Most Obscuruses don't live past childhood, which is why Credence's reveal was such a surprise — but also why he is so uniquely destructive.
The Obscurus Is A Metaphor For The Closet
The concept of the Obscurus seems pointed, particularly when we glance an eye over the tidal wave of altruism J.K. Rowling has been involved in over the years — especially with the #LGBT community. While Rowling has received backlash over her lack of diversity in the #HarryPotter novels, Credence's tragic storyline might be a way to make amends — even if it does leave us with lots of unanswered questions.
More Fantastic Beasts news & theories:
- 'Fantastic Beasts' Suggests That Dumbledore's Sister Could Be The Most Important Witch Of Her Time
- The Answer To These 7 'Fantastic Beasts' Questions Are Still Obscur(To)us
- Who Is Leta Lestrange And What Does She Mean For The Future Of 'Fantastic Beasts'?
Almost all LGBT people have repressed who they are at some point in their lives — usually when they're young. It's a way to keep yourself safe from those who may not embrace you, who may hurt, abuse or deny you the right to be who you are — and it can be deadly. Several studies have shown that suicide is much higher among LGBT youth, and between 30 and 40% of the community have attempted suicide at one time. We may live in a more accepting world, but recent history has shown that the battle for acceptance and equality is far from over.
This is the story I believe J.K. Rowling was trying to tell using Credence. When someone's personality and love is suppressed — be they queer or magical — only bad, destructive things can happen. The governing body, and the laws that restrict magic, reflect real world laws restricting LGBT rights all over the world — and as Graves/Grindelwald said, who are those laws protecting? We might not be able to destroy great swathes of New York, but the damage that repression can cause is exponentially damaging to families, communities and the world as a whole. Credence did not get his happy ending, because so many LGBT youth don't, either.
It's not like J.K. Rowling hasn't used metaphor in the Harry Potter universe before. In fact, Potterheads still find new meanings hidden in the depths of the series — look at the theories surrounding the Dementors as a metaphor for depression, the racism of Mudbloods and Remus Lupin's tragic HIV/AIDS analogy.
When Dumbledore came out of the closet, it was a grand gesture to the community, but Credence's storyline is more subtle than that — and ultimately more meaningful. Not everyone will see the parallels between Credence's story and the day-to-day struggles of the LGBT community, but perhaps those that do will glean some meaning from the damage hiding who you really are can cause.