Harry Potter books provoke questions about ‘fat phobia’

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Bridget Gray

Freshmen Elijah Lemon and Alex Torres Holloway watch a clip from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Sika Hounfodji and Bridget Gray, Contributors

The sound of students from Ms. Brittany Cousins’ classroom could be heard as they discussed fat phobia by describing multiple overweight characters in Harry Potter books and how their author J.K. Rowling used the characters’ size as an excuse for readers to hate them. 

“I think fat phobia is a real thing and fat people are treated badly and we should accept all body types, but in Harry Potter I think J.K. Rowling is just using imagery to describe her characters for her book because people can’t see them,” said Reese McMullen, a freshman.

After discussing students’ opinions about the fat phobia represented in Rowling’s books, the students watched an informative video about how the author’s descriptions of fat characters do not portray them well.

When the video finished, students were able to share their thoughts about the subject and discuss the topic freely in a safe environment.

In the class, “Harry Potter in the Age of Cancel Culture,” Ms. Cousins, an Upper School math teacher, and her students tackled controversial topics and social justice issues that appeared in the famous book and movie series.

“Harry Potter aside, everything we consume has kind of like these underlying messages and implicit biases,” Ms. Cousins said. “If we don’t pay attention to it, it just becomes normal. If I can get these kids to just kind of be even slightly more aware when they’re reading a completely different book, then I think they probably took something away from this class.”

Another topic that they focused on was diversity, and students created a list of the characters in Harry Potter and their races. They discovered that the white characters filled up the entire board, but the black, Asian and non-human characters did not even make up half of the next board. 

“I think it’s a bit of an issue because I think having like representation and diversity is really important, so the fact that there’s not a lot of major characters is just kind of disappointing, you know, as like an Asian person,” Freshman Penelope Gustafson said.

Additionally, whenever there were non-white characters, Rowling would specifically explain their race, but when a character was white, she would let the readers assume that was the “main race” by not clearly stating that they were white.

The students also discussed how Rowling has been affected by cancel culture, a movement of ending the support for a certain person because of offensive behavior.