As April comes to an end, many of us remember two things: exams that we forgot to study for (oops!) and the Battle of Hogwarts that stole many young wizards’ lives on May 2nd, 1998. But weep not, dear Harry Potter fans! Our loveable heroes will forever live in our hearts, in our fictions and fanarts, in whatever form we like to remember them best, for all eternity.
But sometimes how we—writers, artists, and cosplayers—portray a character doesn’t fit the mold mass media has carved out for him or her. Fan artists have long illustrated their favorite characters according their own artistic vision, but now some illustrators are creating art that portrays the magnificent trio as an array of races and colors to mirror diversity of their fans.
This niche in fandom is called “racebending"—when a character is seen as an ethnicity other than as described in the canonical works—and it's produced some of the best fan works in all of tumblrdom. Read on to see more!
Racebending is exciting for a variety of reasons. First of all, it's rallying cry for fans who feel frustrated that straight and white are too often the default for characters. It's the voice of those who see Hermione, with her frizzy, untamable mane and her Muggle heritage, differently than she's typically illustrated in the media. After all Rowling never quite says one way or the other her skin color – the same can be said for Harry and his green eyes. The most vivid picture we get is of the Weasleys, and that’s simply because natural red hair produces fair skin as well.
Secondly, racebending is another way for readers to understand characters. Every reader has his or her own Hogwarts in their heads – so how can they not have their own Harry Potters? The beauty of reading is that the interpretation comes from the reader as well as the writer, after all.
Racebending also raises important questions. How much does the media influence your portrayal of your favorite book characters? Before the films, how green did you imagine Harry’s eyes? Was Hermione’s hair a mane of dark frizzy hair? How ginger did you see the Weasleys?
Finally, racebending is just really, really cool—and the art it inspires even more so. Here are some of my favorite re-imaginings of our beloved trio.