by Zeba Blay
The charm and wonder of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” begins to crumble when you consider the fact that it’s set in New York City in 1926.
It takes place during the height of the Jazz age and the Harlem Renaissance. And yet its cast, led by Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterson, is abundantly, blindingly white.
Hollywood’s so-called “diversity” issue has been a trendy, hot-button topic for some time, but the whiteness of “Fantastic Beasts” is indicative a problem specific to fantasy and science fiction film: they’re metaphors for real-life racism and oppression that erase non-white people.
Written by JK Rowling and set in the “Harry Potter” universe, “Fantastic Beasts” follows British wizard Newt Scamander as he navigates the American wizarding world for the first time, attempting to collect a bevy of magical beasts that have escaped from his enchanted briefcase. He does all this, for the most part, in a New York City that is eerily whitewashed ― even in a scene where he visits a Harlem speakeasy.
Last year, when fans on social media voiced concern about an all-white cast, JK Rowling assured them via Twitter:
She’s right. There are a smattering of non-white characters throughout the film, though few have speaking roles and only one, Carmen Ejogo as MACUSA president Madame Picquery, has a major speaking role. In one scene, a black female house elf sings a jazz song at a magical speakeasy. A house elf.
Genre films are all about shifting perspective and pushing the limits of our imagination. They’re all about suspension of disbelief. So, why is it so hard to believe in a future or a magical past that includes people of color?
So often these films create very little room for the presence of black people and other people of color. The irony of this (and what makes it so incredibly frustrating) is that these narratives mirror the real-life oppression of marginalized groups.
It can be argued that, at its core, “Harry Potter” is a story about fighting against oppression and fascist rule. Throughout the “Harry Potter” series, we see the discrimination of wizards with non-magical ancestry, derogatorily referred to as “mudbloods.”
Just as Voldemort looms over the entire “Harry Potter” series as a kind of Hitler-esque figure, so too does the character Grindelwald in “Fantastic Beafsts,” a dark wizard who believes in the supremacy of magical folks over Muggles, who wants to spark an ostensible race war between wizards and Muggles “for the greater good.” The parallels to white supremacy are obvious.
And yet, all the major players in the film are white.
SOURCE: The Huffington Post