Thursday, August 20, 2015

Harry Potter and the Invisible People of Color

Description: From left to right are screenshot of the character of Lavender Brown from the Harry
Potter movie series In the first two pictures, she is played by a black girl. In the 3rd picture, the character
is portrayed by a white girl. A comment sarcastically asks "Did she get a haircut".
The Harry Potter film series has been a worldwide blockbuster, spanning 8 films and a cornucopia of related merchandising tie-ins. The entire series has many allegories for hatred, genocide and racism. Which, as the Every Word Spoken project points out, is really weird considering that there are so few characters of color in the movie series, and the characters of color that are in the movie barely have any speaking lines. They released a video supercut tallying up how much screen and speaking time people of color got across the entire 19 hours & 39 minutes of the films. POC speaking time, in comparison, was just a little over 5 minutes and 40 seconds. Here's the video:

The tally:
  • Total POC talk time: 5 minutes and 40 seconds
  • Total run time of all films: 1,207 minutes
  • That comes out to 0.47% of screen time in which POCs speak throughout the entire series. This is split among 12 characters and 13 actors (Parvati Patil was played by two actors, Sitara Shah & Shefali Chowdhury)
  • Of these 12 characters, 2 were CGI bodies voiced by POC actors (Firenze & Shrunken Head)
  • On average, each POC character speaks for 28.33 seconds. 
The books aren't that much better, sadly. Looking at the 200 most mentioned characters in the series, here’s what you’ll find:

  • Number of POC characters: 9 (4.5%): Cho Chang, Dean Thomas, Angelina Johnson, Parvati Patil, Lee Jordan, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Blaise Zabini, Padma Patil, Hassan Mostafa 
  • Number of POC characters in the top 50: 2 (#44 Cho Chang, #45 Dean Thomas)
  • Number of non-human characters in the top 200: 26 (13%)
  • (4 more characters are described as being part giant or part veela, but are white-appearing.)
As they point out this means that even in the books, there is better representation of centaurs, house-elves, giants, and goblins in this series than there are of human characters of color. Dobby and Kreacher in particular get way more page time and deeper character development than any of the POC characters. And unlike the series you can't fixit by waving a wand, but maybe we can address it better by pointing it out so the next fantasy series has plenty of different kids from all sorts of backgrounds, too.

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