Okay, look, I know everything’s been said about this in the short span since the news about the casting for Harry Potter & The Cursed Child was released.
I’m also all too aware that I’m a white girl from one of the whitest regions in one of the whitest countries around. But I’m just going to add my two cents to the discussion:
I like that this Hermione’s black.
I will readily admit that I was surprised when I saw the casting. I will also readily admit that I was also surprised at how blatantly normal these actors look. They do not, AT ALL, look the way I’d imagine the characters. After all the supermodels in the movies, this is going to take some getting used to from me. The same goes for Hermione being black – it’s going to take some getting used to, but I will be fine, generally. It’s not a world-shaking event for me personally.
Like I said – I’m a white girl in a white region. I’m surrounded by white people (I have a grand total of one colleague with only a slightly different skin colour), there’s barely any need here to think about other skin colours because I’m guesstimating that about 95% of the people in my region are white.
But I do understand that in the rest of the world there are a lot of little black girls with frizzy hair and brown eyes (and an immense intelligence) out there, who finally get to see themselves in a major franchise. I understand that, in a bookseries that defined a generation, there’s a surprising lack of diversity and representation, even retroactively.
And I do want to make this clear: I appreciate JK Rowling going back to retroactively put more diversity in her books. Is it enough? No. Do I appreciate the effort nonetheless? Make that a resounding yes.
People change throughout the years. People learn new things, gain new insights. The JK Rowling that blatantly pointed out the black characters in the books and made almost everyone else, practically by default, white, is the JK Rowling of the past. The JK Rowling that didn’t mention any gay (or other LGBTQ+) people or any religion at all, is a different one from the one we have today.
Aside from that, for me, the character Hermione’s defining traits have always been her intelligence, and her ferocity. She’s a complex character, who (sometimes) gets things wrong, but who definitely has her heart in the right place. She has a lot of insecurities, deals with discrimination & bullying based on her heritage and her appearance, but to me she’s always been an example of how I want to be. She’s someone I identified with, based on her love for books and studying
We live in a time where diversity is more and more present. We live in a time where the biggest Broadway hit is a multi-ethnic hip-hop representation of America’s founding fathers. We live in a time where are a black jedi and a white girl can fight together (or so I’m told, I don’t watch Star Wars, but I’ve seen the cast and damn, I like it).
We live in a time where Hermione Granger is black, and although it’s never been explicit in the books, it makes sense in the story.
And I, for one, love it. If JK Rowling has faith in Noma Dumezweni to portray the best Hermione, then so do I.
(FYI, before anyone asks: no I’m not seeing the play live. I’m way too broke to dish out the money for a two-part highly anticipated theatre performance in a different country. I simply can’t afford going, and am fervently hoping there will be a DVD at some point.)