The Disappointing Heteronormativity of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

August 16, 2016

I picked up the newest Harry Potter book this weekend completely by accident. I knew there was a new installment in J.K. Rowling’s beloved series, and I knew it was written as a play, but beyond that I hadn’t done much research. I loved the Harry Potter series when I read it, just a few years ago, in my late twenties. I was mesmerized by the storytelling and fell deeply for the characters, but I never became invested it in the Potter world the way that many others have. So, when a new book was released I knew I’d get to it someday, but it wasn’t an immediate priority.

As luck would have it, however, a friend had purchased a copy and knew she wouldn’t get to it right away. As I prepared to head to the Jersey shore for the weekend, she asked me if I’d like to bring it along. And so, with absolutely no idea what to expect, I immersed myself in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and was immediately pulled back in to the magical world of Hogwarts.

There is no denying the fact that J.K. Rowling (this time joined by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany) is a masterful storyteller. Cursed Child has all the brilliant and terrifying twists and turns that we expect from Harry Potter. This time, the story focuses primarily on the offspring of the original characters, specifically the sons of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy find each other on the Hogwarts Express on their way to school in year one and instantly form a bond. As the play unfolds, these two find themselves in increasingly dangerous scenarios ultimately having to find the strength within themselves to make things right, much the way Harry had to again and again in the first seven books.

The circumstances Albus and Scorpius find themselves in are scary and compelling, but what really draws the reader in is the depth of the relationship forming between these two boys. It is clearly a love story from the very start. And yet, the play inexplicably ends with Scorpius giddily telling Albus that he’d asked Hermione and Ron’s daughter Rose to the ball.

It is not that the play didn’t include a gay storyline that I take issue with. It is that it did include a gay storyline and then decided to ignore it. It is impossible to read this script and not recognize that these boys are developing deeply special feelings for one another. It requires absolutely no imagination whatsoever to see that this is a classic romantic arc. The two love interests find each other, they grow close, they are pulled apart for reasons out of their control, they realize their need for each other, they reunite. It’s all there, complete with needing each other to save the world and intense hugs that last far too long. To ignore the story that is explicitly set up makes absolutely no sense.

When I first put the book down after finishing it I felt a slight sense of disappointment. I really thought the script was heading in that direction, and I really wanted it to. I was bummed that I had been wrong and that I hadn’t gotten the satisfaction of seeing them together. But as the minutes and hours passed, I grew angrier and angrier that the opportunity to tell such a beautiful and important story had been squandered. The universe of Harry Potter means so much to so many people, but a lot of them don’t feel themselves represented by any of the characters Rowling has created. Here was a chance to include gay kids across the world in the magic of Harry Potter in an incredibly powerful way, and they didn’t follow through.

Additionally, and perhaps even more importantly, it would have been an opportunity for non-LGBT youth to see gay kids in an exceptionally positive way. It’s not just about representation, it’s about acceptance and love. Hate and homophobia come mostly from ignorance and lack of exposure. How many children has Harry Potter reached/does it continue to reach? How groundbreaking would it be for some of them who have never met a gay person before to read this story and see the beauty of how this relationship came to be?

It’s 2016. The world needed this story to be told right. I watch a lot of television and read a lot of books. I know what romance looks like. I am a hundred percent certain that if either Albus or Scorpius had instead been a girl the ending would have been different. I am a hundred percent certain that in writing this play the relationship being depicted was intended to appear as more than mere friendship. We were taken to the brink and then deserted in a way that made it feel like something to be ashamed of, rather than proud of. I am sure that many across the globe would have been upset had the ending happened the way I believe it should have. That’s no longer a good enough reason not to do it, if it ever was at all.


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One comment on “The Disappointing Heteronormativity of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

  1. Becki Aug 19, 2016

    Well said! I just read the play and maybe it’s because I was influenced by all the talk about it before reading but the whole time I was like “okay, when do they kiss?”. That’s probably my shipper heart speaking a bit, but all the references to them being heartbroken without each other and needing each other seemed like they should have been indicative of them being in a relationship. I was actually kind of surprised how blatantly obvious it felt. It’s as if it was written with them in a relationship but in the end someone decided that Rose should be given more of a role and that Scorpius liked her instead. Truly baffling stuff.

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