Several months ago, when the Golden Trio cast list for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was originally released, JK Rowling tweeted how much she liked that casting.
But so many people were unhappy.
Just a few days ago, photos were released of cast members in character for the play that goes live in less than a week. The first release was of the Potter family, and there were the expected naysayers who forget that Harry Potter existed on the page before he and his world were captured on film.
The second day brought the same uproar, but it was so much worse. It was real, now. The characters had been realized, in hair, makeup, and costume. Hermione Granger was black, and so was her daughter Rose, who—the horror—didn’t have red hair, as all Weasley children should.
But guess what, chickadees.
The original Hermione Granger was not Emma Watson. The original Hermione Granger was a construct in JK Rowling’s mind. And if she was delighted with the casting of Noma Dumezweni, an Olivier Award-winning actress and director, in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the naysayers had better at least not whine about it.
They continued anyway.
My faith in humanity has been restored in recent days, as the initial outrage seems to have been drowned out by people just as delighted with it, at least in the channels I get my information from and the circles I wander through. The voices of outrage have been drowned out, but they are still there.
Beyond the selfish “this is not how I imagined her and therefore this is not what she should be” that drove the conversation on Wednesday, there is something that people have got to remember, particularly when it comes to theater:
Even if JK Rowling had explicitly described Hermione Granger with peaches and cream skin and bushy blonde hair, it would not matter. At all. It’s 2016 and the most popular thing on stage includes black, Latino, and Asian performers portraying America’s founding fathers, the whitest of white men.
The Public Theater is putting on a version of The Taming of the Shrew cast completely female, and a couple of those women are—you guessed it!—women of color.
(People of color have been doing Shakespeare for a century, probably more. Shakespeare only wrote one known non-white character, who has historically been portrayed by a white male actor. Where is the outrage over all those other actors of color playing traditionally white roles? Oh right, that would be racist.)
Fanfiction and fanart creators have been giving us Black Hermione for years. I wonder what would have happened if they’d also used my other favorite thing in fandom: South Asian Harry Potter.
Maybe we’ll get that one in the HP TV series reboot I’m dreaming of, c. 2050.
When I first saw Noma Dumezweni’s photo all those months ago I was sort of like “oh hey, that’s cool!” And I went about my day. And then I saw the family portrait, in full character, and I damn near cried.
This was important. Not just to me, personally, but for families like mine, and people like me.
So, thank you, casting directors, for believing in her, for trusting fans of the Wizarding World to trust in you, and for making a choice that realizes the hopes and potential of women like me, who have dreamed of being Hermione Granger since we were her age, and told we couldn’t. I don’t have kids, but when I do, I will be able to show my child or children a portrayal of one of the most famous fictional families in the world, and it will look like their family.
Meanwhile, I get to headcanon secret Granger-Malfoy children that look like Storm.