Like a lot of young people these days, Harry Potter has been in my life for a very long time; 17 years, to be exact. I remember being 12 years old and an outsider. I was extremely shy and anxious, and I had a lot of difficulty making friends. A girl in my class walked to the bus stop with me one day, unusual in itself, and told me all about this book she was reading, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Hermione was her favourite character and she told me I had to read the book. She loaned it to me when she was finished and I never returned it. It’s still on my shelf with her name in it (Thank you Lindsay, I didn’t mean to steal your book). I was sucked in. I strongly identified with the trio: outcasted and abused Harry, awkward and fumbling Ron, and smart and ambitious Hermione. I was all of these things and these characters felt like friends for me.
Outside of the books, the Harry Potter world was huge. There was this whole community of people who loved the same thing I loved and were open and accepting and happy to include anyone. I made friends online, something I had a lot of difficulty doing face-to-face. I could be myself without fear. I was safe and comfortable and I think a lot of other people felt the same way. The Harry Potter community was our safe haven from a world that made us feel small and scared, and often unworthy.
As the Harry Potter universe expanded, so did my confidence. Some of my anxiety fell away and I found that I really could be a person in the world. I went to midnight book launch parties, lining up for hours with like-minded individuals, talking to actual human beings about how excited we were for the new books. When the movies started coming out, they expanded my world even further. Now I wasn’t just the girl with my nose in a book, I was one of many at my school and in my class who were excited and enthusiastic. On my darkest days when I thought I wasn’t going to make it I picked up a book or put on a movie and got on the train to Hogwarts.
In short, the safe space that the Harry Potter community created for me, and others like me, allowed me to escape from the horrors of my everyday life and grow into a functioning member of society. I knew I could do anything, be anything, because Harry Potter and his friends saved the world. They saved me.
You might be asking yourself why any of this matters in an article that claims to be about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This film, and its sequels, are a continuation of that universe that helped me so much as a kid, so casting someone who is known to have abused his wife in an important role affects me and other people like me. You’ve let an abuser into my safe space.
While J.K. Rowling herself might be “delighted” about Johnny Depp in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise, I am not. I am uncomfortable and worried, two things I did not think I would ever be in the Harry Potter Universe. How can I be comfortable here again? How can I lose myself in the Harry Potter Universe? Every time I see him on the screen I’ll remember what he did. And then I’ll remember my own pain. And then my safe haven won’t be safe anymore.
Of course, my personal feelings are not the only thing that is important here. This man is seeing no consequences for what he’s done. Despite his violence, he’s been cast in a movie that is for children, given a role in that will be in all five Fantastic Beasts films and the pay cheque that comes with that. His crime has been glossed over and forgotten. What does this say to young women who are in a dangerous situation? What does this say to young men? The only saving grace is, at least this monster was cast as a monster who looks just like Food Network star Guy Fieri. We don’t have to like him.