Because the Harry Potter books and movies played such a central role in so many of our childhoods, it’s hard to believe there might be anything problematic about them. But even J.K. Rowling herself has admitted that the story didn’t turn out exactly the way it should have (Harry should have ended up with Hermione? Wait, what?!). A recent analysis done by Every Single Word, which edits movies down to only the speaking parts of people of color, discovered something much more upsetting about the beloved franchise. Across all eight films, POC speak for only a total of 5 minutes and 40 seconds (that’s 0.47% of the 1,207 minutes there are in total).
According to Every Single Word, there are only a total of 12 minority characters in all the films, and each one speaks for an average of a little more than 28 seconds. Although this lack of diversity is hardly unique to the Harry Potter series (it’s a rampant problem all across the film and television industries), it just seems particularly ironic here, considering the story’s main themes of love and acceptance. The central conflict of pureblood wizards versus Muggle-born wizards (and those who see them as equals) is a metaphor for acceptance of others, regardless of race, creed, sexuality, social class or physical form. It’s an excellent metaphor, but why couldn’t these lessons of acceptance also be taught by representing different types of people we actually see in our real-life Muggle world?
The series has often been praised for depicting Hermione—who is outspoken, clever and unapologetic about her intelligence—as a heroine, when these types of female characters are typically caricatured as insufferable know-it-alls. It’s important for girls like Hermione to see themselves depicted onscreen. But what about people of different races and cultures? Shouldn’t they have been able to see reflections of themselves in the Wizarding World as well?