ByEleanor Tremeer, writer at
MP staff. I talk about Star Wars a lot. Sometimes I'm paid for it. More ramblings on Twitter @ExtraTremeerial
Eleanor Tremeer

Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon on an almost unparalleled scale. It introduced millions of children to literature, and sparked one of the biggest global franchises. Naturally, Warner Bros weren't about to just let this franchise go when Harry Potter ended, and thus Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was born.

The film already looks pretty good: it's a well dressed period piece set in 1920s New York, and it will introduce us to the American wizarding world, as well as plenty of beautifully CGI animated magical creatures. But there is one pretty glaring flaw in the movie already, though production has barely started on the feature...

If You're Set In '20s NYC, Why Are You White?

Well, I can, and I will. It's no secret that whitewashing is a big problem in Hollywood. I could cite evidence but that would take too long because there are simply too many examples. (But if you need proof, here it is.) Racial representation in the media is still an uphill struggle, with the vast, vast majority of leading characters in TV shows and films being, well, white.

Now, race in Harry Potter is a tricky issue, and one which the internet has argued over at length. So I'm not going to go into that. There are quite a few excellent people of color in the Harry Potter movies. Not as many as we'd like of course - only 0.47% of lines in the 8 films in the series are spoken by non-white characters but hey. And many themes of the story use racial issues as a starting point for many fictional problems, like the prejudices muggle borns face.

Hermione has the perfect response to bigotry
Hermione has the perfect response to bigotry

But the crux of the issue for Fantastic Beasts isn't just that of representation, it's that of accuracy. The film is predominantly set in 1920s New York City, an era known for its influx of immigration, with thousands flooding into the city. And of those thousands, a huge amount where non-white people. But that's not all.

Ignoring History

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them is slated to be set partially in Harlem, an area renowned for its African American population. This is especially true of the 1920s, as the Harlem Renaissance took place in this era. For those of you unaware of this cultural explosion, take a gander at the Wikipedia page. Basically, this alone should merit several African American actors in the cast list for Fantastic Beasts (if not in leading roles) and yet, at IMDB's last count there are only two actors of color appearing in Fantastic Beasts - Gemma Chan and Carmen Ejogo.

Gemma Chan & Carmen Ejogo
Gemma Chan & Carmen Ejogo

So it seems there is hope for the franchise yet. The actresses's roles haven't been confirmed yet, but with any luck they'll have major speaking parts. Of course, the main roles have been released and they're all white but hey, this is a start, right?

And we have more reasons to be hopeful: after she was asked on Twitter if there were any Jewish characters at Hogwarts, JK Rowling confirmed that yes, there was a kid called Anthony Goldstein in Dumbledore's army. A few months later, she revealed the surnames of the two leading ladies for Fantastic Beasts...

Rowling later confirmed that yes, these ladies are distantly related to the aforementioned Anthony. So Fantastic Beasts will represent Jewish wizards/witches too! Fab.

All this isn't much, but it's something. The discussion rages on about whitewashing in Hollywood, and the issue probably won't be solved any time soon. In any case, Fantastic Beasts looks, well, fantastic, and representation issues aside there is no doubt that it will be an amazing and fun film. And who knows, maybe later movies in the franchise will feature an even more diverse cast!


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