The week since the presidential election has been extremely difficult. I’m having a very hard time coming to terms with the Trump presidency for myriad reasons I don’t think I need to explain here. The Harry Potter series seems like a natural place to turn for comfort and escapism. I’ve written articles before about my love for the series, and Hermione Granger specifically. And I know the story really speaks to people who are survivors of trauma and abuse.
The epic story of love conquering evil seems particularly poignant right now as we’re facing an upsurge of bigotry, hatred, and division in our country. I’ve been trying to take action and also look for comfort where I can, but one of my safe havens feels like it’s been violated.
This week, when I want to turn to Harry Potter for comfort, instead I feel sick. My love for the series has been soured by the decision to cast Johnny Depp as Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movies.
The presidential election just proved that bullies can win. That nothing particularly bad happens to men who abuse women, who make fun of the differently abled, and who are openly racist. Choosing to hand Johnny Depp – an accused abuser – a major part in a beloved franchise is further proof that male abusers don’t really have anything to fear.
And no, it doesn’t matter that he’s playing an evil, fascist character. He’s going to make an ungodly amount of money, and his career isn’t suffering at all.
Director David Yates has basically said that Johnny Depp is so talented that the abuse allegations don’t matter. What kind of message does that send to abusers, and the abused? Bullies should learn that their actions have consequences, but instead we keep showing over and over again that if they’re rich, famous, or talented enough they can do whatever they want.
Not to mention the implication that Johnny Depp’s career is more important the Amber Heard’s well-being, a lesson in misogyny we keep learning.
And on top of all this, J.K. Rowling – who’s known for standing up to bullies and using her words and influence to confront abuse – has said she’s “delighted” by Johnny Depp’s casting.
I feel like a best friend has betrayed me. Harry Potter now feels like a horcrux – a once-beautiful thing distorted by dark magic. I won’t be seeing any of the films with Johnny Depp. I’m only still attending the first movie because I bought my ticket before the news of his casting came out, and I’m having second thoughts about that.
“Happiness can be found,” Dumbledore has famously said, “even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” But how exactly do we just “turn on the light” in all of this? And not just in this specific case, but anywhere in the entire country right now? I truly believed that we had made progress. Finally, gay marriage became legal, we had a Black president, and a woman won a major party nomination for the first time ever.
Institutional racism and sexism were (and are) still a major, major problem, but it seemed like a dialogue was beginning. I felt like we were moving forward, even though we still had a long way to go.
But on Tuesday, November 8th, my country stood up and told me that it wasn’t happy with any of that, and that it wants to go back to the way things were before, when things were “great.” My country told women to sit down and be quiet, told immigrants they weren’t welcome, and people of color that they didn’t matter. As Van Jones so eloquently put it, there was a “whitelash.”
I thought we had turned on a light. What are we supposed to do now?
I’ve written before about Woody Allen, and my struggle to decide if I can continue to watch his movies even though he’s also a known abuser. This week has thrown into sharp relief for me that no, I shouldn’t support his art or that of people like him, who are abusive, racist, sexist, or homophobic. Because supporting the work of people that act this way just shows them that they can continue to do so with impunity.
I am guilty of shrugging at the offenses of entertainers that I enjoy, making the argument that the art and the person are separate. I am guilty of teaching men everywhere the lesson that they can destroy a woman’s life and get off easy because we, as a culture, value them more than their victims.
Our words matter. Our actions matter. The loss of my one ticket to see the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movies won’t have an effect on the success of the franchise, but if all the disappointed fans decide that our love for Harry Potter doesn’t – can’t – eclipse our disgust with this perpetuation of rape culture, maybe then change will start to happen.
And on a larger scale, we can’t let complacency eclipse our disgust with the result of this election. We turn on the light by refusing to be silent.
Laura Jewell writes for Girls in Capes and has a BA in Theatre from Miami University. She currently lives in Chicago and enjoys many fandoms, including her favorites Harry Potter and Doctor Who. Her favorite weekend pastime is curling up with a book and her fifteen-pound orange cat, Orange Cat.