- I love “Harry Potter,” but I don’t want my kids to absorb the fat-phobic aspects of the series.
- The characters who are described as fat or large are often evil or painted as less than.
- I went from omitting the remarks as I read to them to pointing them out and starting conversations.
I wish I could ignore the blatant fat phobia in “Harry Potter.” But as a fat millennial mom, I can’t pass that harmful language to my kids.
“Harry Potter” is part of my identity, so I introduced the books to my children before they were even old enough to appreciate them.
But when J.K. Rowling, the series’ controversial author, started spreading transphobic beliefs online in 2020, the magic bubble around “Harry Potter” popped.
As I figured out my own relationship with the series moving forward, I knew I had to change how I shared “Harry Potter” with my kids.
Once I noticed how Rowling described and treated fat characters, I couldn’t let it go
After being disillusioned by Rowling’s transphobic remarks, I began noticing places where “Harry Potter” fell short – including the books’ fat-shaming.
I have a history of an eating disorder that I’m dealing with in therapy as an adult, and I want my kids to be free of diet culture. It’s hard to pass on that lesson when I’m reading them a book series where Rowling repeatedly puts down her fat characters.
Dudley and Vernon Dursley are vicious bullies. Rubeus Hagrid is overemotional and dumb. Molly Weasley is controlling and overprotective.
On the very first page of the first book, Vernon is introduced as a villainous, “beefy man.”
Hagrid, one of the “good guys,” is later described as “simply too big to be allowed” because he’s a half-giant, not a normal wizard. He’s also regularly put down for his perceived lack of intelligence.
Noticing these fat-phobic moments changed the series for me. I don’t want my children to learn to see fat characters as evil or less than.
In later chapters, Dudley – a bully who’s “very fat and hated exercise” – is pitted against the “small and skinny” Harry.
When Hagrid meets Dudley, he jokes about the child not needing any more food and gives him a pig’s tail on his “fat bottom.” Hagrid isn’t remorseful about this abuse. In fact, he meant to turn Dudley completely into a pig.
Dudley is a bully in many moments, but Hagrid – an adult – set a bad example for Harry. At the end of the first book, Harry strategizes the ways he’s going to torment his cousin over the summer.
I don’t want my kids to think they can be mean to anyone, even people who are mean to them.
Then we have Molly Weasley, who is pretty much depicted as powerful only in her capacity as a mother. She’s first introduced as “the boys’ mother.” Then more than once, she’s referred to as “the plump woman.”
I want my kids to see moms as powerful and strong, and as more than their soft figures and traditional gender roles.
Instead of ignoring the series’ problems, I began having conversations with my kids about fatness
Once I started educating myself about why fat bias is unacceptable – with resources such as the “Maintenance Phase” podcast – I started to omit the fat-shaming language when I read the books to my kids.
But since it’s still present in the movies and audiobooks, that clearly wasn’t enough.
So I turned to other “Harry Potter” communities, such as “The Gayly Prophet” podcast, which created a guide for how to “fire” Rowling and still love her stories. In following it, I stopped monetarily supporting Rowling – but boycotting the author also doesn’t keep her already present fat-phobic language out of my kids’ lexicons.
Now, I’ve chosen to point out the problematic moments in the series. I ask my kids questions: “Is this a kind way to talk about a character?” “Should it matter what someone looks like in this scene?” “Is it OK to treat someone this way because of how they look?”
We don’t have deep conversations about it, but I don’t let it slide because I want them to start noticing the issues. They’re too young to read books such as “Harry Potter” by themselves, but when they can, I hope they’re comfortable questioning biases of all kinds.
If “Harry Potter” loses all of its magic for my family, I’ve already started researching more diverse and inclusive fantasy books for us to enjoy, such as “Snapdragon,” “Akata Witch” and “Children of Blood and Bone.”
More than anything, I want to foster the initial inclusivity I felt when I first escaped into the Wizarding World. But that magic isn’t the same anymore, so I can only let my kids live in the Potterverse with caveats.