dicta_contrion: (Default)
[personal profile] dicta_contrion
trying a thing where I crosspost meta from tumblr to LJ! also stil working on tumblr posts I promise!

So I was thinking about writing some femmeslash, yeah? Working on it, actually. In part because, did you know, in the entire universe of AO3 there are four fics where Angelina Johnson is in any sort of sapphic relationship? And one of them involves a foursome with the Weasley twins. And I like Angelina a lot, and dislike that state of affairs. And then was thinking about the existence of the femmeslash and ageism panel at Leviosa and thought maybe I'd write a different pairing, with adult women.

I couldn't think of any.

I asked about it on tumblr, and got a few suggestions: Angelina Johnson, Parvati and Padma Patil, Cho Chang, Hermione, the mothers of Blaise, Cho, Parvati, and Dean. But.

Angelina Johnson was born in 1977, Cho Chang in 1979, and Parvati and Padma in 1980. We don’t see Angelina after she leaves Hogwarts at 17. Cho, Padma, and Parvati are 19 and 18 during the Battle of Hogwarts. Adult WOC? Maybe technically, legally. Actual, realized adult WOC? No.

Hermione is not written as a black character. I’ve talked about that at length here. Black Hermione is a fandom creation/interpretation and while (because?) I love it, I don’t want to give JK Rowling credit for representation she didn’t write in to the books. Credit for black Hermione belongs to the fans. Besides which, Hermione is barely an adult in the series - maybe a dozen pages, out of thousands.

The idea that characters whose race we don’t know about might be POC is interesting and good in that it gives fandom room to fix the lack of representation, but I don’t think that’s actually how it’s written. See here again, and prepare for it to get even worse: when I went through the books looking at this, I found that JKR consistently adds descriptors in two cases: when characters aren’t white, and when characters aren’t human.

Professor Sinistra might complicate that because she’s played by a black actress, but her race is not confirmed in the text (which, if that descriptive pattern holds, means she was imagined as white) and we also don’t get a first name or gender, let alone a line of dialogue. (source) She’s become an adult WOC in fanon, but an adult WOC in canon? Not in any definitive sense.

Their moms are maybe even more interesting. Take the five Gryffindor boys - Harry, Ron, Neville, and Seamus all have mothers whose history and reactions become important plot points. What do we know about Dean’s mother? We know that she was a single mother. That’s it. I’m sitting here with a copy of Deathly Hallows - Dean is present when the Trio overhear Ted Tonks and Goblins talking about the Sword of Gryffindor, and he says that he doesn’t know whether he’s Muggle-born or half-blood because his father left when he was a baby, but that’s it. We don’t hear anything about his mother’s reaction to him making a run for it, where she is, any of that. He’s tortured in the cellar of Malfoy Manor and spends weeks with the trio at Shell Cottage, and there’s no mention of his mother, of him trying to get in touch with her, missing her, any of it.  Of the five boys who share a room, the black character’s mother is the only one we don’t learn about. Same with the girls. We know more about Mariette Edgecombe’s mother than we do about Cho Chang’s, even though Harry spends much more time with Cho and has a pretty vested interest in learning about her for a couple of books. Sort of ditto Blaise, as well. He’s the POC character whose mother we know the most about, but we don’t ever see her, and what we know is that she’s famous for being beautiful, having many different husbands, and possibly killing them. Sooo she’s a hypersexual suspected murderer who only accesses wealth by having sex and killing. She manages to play to terrible stereotypes without ever actually appearing in the pages. Which she doesn’t.

So the WOC we see on the page are all young. The adult women who are definitely WOC are only implied, and are implied to be a potentially violent and hypersexual black woman and the single mother of a black child, and neither of them ever says a word.

Is that representation? Can we say there are adult WOC in the Harry Potter series if their race is never confirmed (in a series where whiteness and humanness are not written in but everything else is) and/or they never appear on the page? Is there (maybe, hopefully) anyone I'm fogetting? Or is the HP series actually completely missing confirmed, speaking, adult WOC?

Date: 2016-07-25 08:30 pm (UTC)
gracerene: (HP: Glasses)
From: [personal profile] gracerene

In my whole thinking about my headcanons for POC in HP, I was trying to think of "adults" in the series, and then I couldn't actually think of any canon WOC that were adults during the canon period.

I also found this really interesting article, that is more about POC in the Harry Potter movies, but considering the movies had more POC than the books (Lavender, briefly, Professor Sinistra, as you mentioned) I thought it was interesting. The Amount of Time People of Color Spoke in Every Harry Potter Movie? Less Than 6 Minutes

Date: 2016-07-25 11:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dicta-contrion.livejournal.com
Woowww @ that article. . 47% of screen time. Half a percent. Wow. And that's with the addition of the black waitress Harry flirts with in HBP and Bem. And the vidder counted Ernie the Shrunken Head from the knight bus and Firenze the centaur as people of color, which I would not. So half a percent of screen time counting magical beasts as people of color and with the addition of characters who weren't in the books. I'm am...not less :/! More convinced, but not less :/.

I still can't think of any adult WOC :/ For men, there's Kingsley. Is that it too? I think it might be.

Date: 2016-07-25 11:21 pm (UTC)
gracerene: (HP: Glasses)
From: [personal profile] gracerene
Yeah, kind of disappointing. :(

I also found this tumblr post that lists out all the POC from all the HP canons, specifying which are speculation and which are non-book canon. Apparently Gwenog Jones (who is mentioned in the books but no lines) has been depicted as a black women in illustrations. And Kendra Dumbledore reminds Harry of Native Americans apparently when he sees her picture, so potentially her? Though, again, not a large character, and I don't know what the exact line is.

ETA: Okay, found it, in DH: "The mother, Kendra, had jet-black hair pulled into a high bun. Her face had a carved quality about it. Harry thought of photos of Native Americans he'd seen as he studied her dark eyes, high cheekbones, and straight nose, formally composed above a high-necked silk gown."
Edited Date: 2016-07-25 11:24 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-07-26 02:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dicta-contrion.livejournal.com
That post is fascinating!! On levels. Three of them are just from the movies/videogames. An additional three, at least, never speak. Another two are centaurs; do centaurs have the same conception of race that humans do? I don't remember anything about that in the books.

I'm really unsure of what to make of the interpretive ones. On one hand, I don't want to erase the presence of POC when there are so few of them. On the other, after she called Newt Scamander swarthy and then he turned out to be Eddie Redmayne, I'm wary of assuming that her descriptions of someone as "the dark one" or referring to their tan or brown skin means that they're of color as opposed to having dark hair and eyes/having spent a lot of time in the sun. And given everything to do with how she's written magic in North America, I'm similarly wary of assuming she took the description of someone as reminiscent of a Native American very seriously, and can certainly believe that she meant to evoke a stereotypical look without saying anything about the Dumbledores' race. Though we know she's sat on information about their identities before...

Feel a bit like banging my head into a wall mostly. And I think now feeling safe in concluding that, indeed, there are no adult WOC in all 1,000,000+ words and 7 books of the HP series. Which. Wow.

Date: 2016-07-26 03:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fantasyfiend09.livejournal.com
I love this and will be thinking and stewing and may reply again. But for now I would add that I, too, assumed that Blaise's mother is a POC, but someone else pointed out that we don't know that for sure. Blaise could have a white mother and very dark-skinned father and still have an appearance Harry would call "black". But as you point out, we simply never meet her. Although I believe that in Jo's mind Blaise's mother is a POC and that all your points are valid. Much like with Hermione, there is what canon allows and what Jo intended.

Date: 2016-07-26 04:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dicta-contrion.livejournal.com
Please comment any time! I maaaay like these discussions/find them interesting. You know, just a smidge.

You're right, I did assume that about Blaise's mother. I thought that it was in the books but yeah, I'm pretty sure it's never actually said. That possibility did occur to me about Dean's mother though, and while I also believe that in Jo's mind Blaise and Dean both have black mothers, it would seem not to be in the text for either of them. In which case we're actually back down to zero confirmed adult WOC in the entire series. Which again. Wow.

Which is not to say that canon doesn't allow for more. I do think canon allows for more, and am v grateful for that and glad that fandom has taken initiative there. But, doesn't make it canon, and doesn't mean that people who aren't engaged in fandom will ever experience those interpretations.

Date: 2016-07-31 06:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] j-lunatic.livejournal.com
What about Celestina Warbeck? Her Chocolate Frog Card on JKR's official site depicts her as black, and according to Pottermore she's based on Shirley Bassey.

Date: 2016-07-31 10:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dicta-contrion.livejournal.com
Interesting! Is she described as a POC anywhere in the text, or is it all extra-textual sources? I've seen her depicted as black outside of the books, but don't remember there being anything about her other than her voice on the radio (and Molly Weasley's attachment to same) in the series itself.

Date: 2016-08-06 10:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fantasyfiend09.livejournal.com
I didn't know that her Chocolate Frog Card specified. Good to know. At Potterworld in Orlando, FL, the actress they hired to be her in Diagon Alley was black (and amazing!) and I had wondered if that was canon. I don't know if we ever see her in the books for Harry to describe.

Date: 2016-08-13 06:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dicta-contrion.livejournal.com
I don't know if this is the official one vs fan art, but there's a picture of her chocolate frog card at the HP Lexicon, which does make it clear. But I think you're right that neither Harry or anyone else sees her in the books such that she would be described, and then...how does representation factor in when it's in extended canon and not book canon? Whole additional can of worms!


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