domestic violence

Harry Potter and the Problem of Domestic Violence

What to make of the controversy Johnny Depp has brought to the wizarding world.
January 28, 2018
8 mins read

Due to its strong connection to viewers’ memories of childhood, the “Harry Potter” franchise long ago gained the love and respect of many; to this day, it’s still one of the rare franchises that isn’t famous for its scandals. Still, no series goes without a hitch, especially not one such as “Harry Potter” that has gone on for so long. For all the tiny controversies the eight-film epic experienced though, none of them compare to the amount of negative attention the series is receiving now.

When the addition of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” hit theaters a little over a year ago, Johnny Depp appeared in a brief cameo near the end of the film causing fans to speculate; at the time, his appearance caused a little bit of a stir but not much attention was given to it. Shortly after he appeared in the film, he was cast for the upcoming sequel, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crime of Grindelwald,” as the titular character himself. Not long after the news of his casting, the actor made headlines again due to accusations of domestic violence involving his now-ex-wife, Amber Heard; Depp has denied the allegations and has continued to be a part of the franchise.

Potterheads have protested keeping Depp in the films and were outraged to find out that he has the support of Rowling herself. On her website, the author said, “Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.”

Her statement only seemed to stoke the fire of the protesters, many of whom accused Rowling of betraying them; after all, they claimed, Harry Potter is essentially the story of a boy who was abused. Rowling made the statement nearly a month ago, and though fans were unhappy about it at the time, the controversy of it all quieted down for a while. That is until Daniel Radcliffe spoke out.

domestic violence
Allegation of Depp’s domestic violence against his ex-wife did spark protests among Potterheads (image via Breitbart)

Radcliffe didn’t say anything for or against Depp, at least not explicitly. Instead, he only stated his confusion about the situation, acknowledging the complexity of the dilemma.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Radcliffe said, “I’m not saying anything that anybody hasn’t already said…the thing I was struck by was, we did have a guy who was reprimanded for weed on the original Potter film, essentially, so obviously what Johnny has been accused of is much greater than that.” He compared the confusion surrounding the studio’s inaction with how some NFL players get apprehended for minor infractions, while others’ more serious offenses are ignored because they are famous.

In other words, it’s a messy situation, one that won’t be resolved without leaving some fans unhappy. However, having Radcliffe, the star of the franchise, respond to the situation at all seems to have reassured the fans, as many saw him as the voice of reason.

For a franchise defined by its loyalty, it’s surprising to see so many fans at odds over the situation. “Harry Potter” has come to represent so much to an entire generation; the beliefs, morals and values of the books and films resonate so deeply within people that many feel hurt by the decision to keep Depp involved in the series.

However, some critics feel that there isn’t anything to be offended by, while still others have found themselves stuck in the ideological middle, unable to decide whether Depp’s casting is appropriate or inappropriate. If there’s one good factor to come out of this confusing controversy, it is that it has brought into discussion an issue that is usually avoided: domestic violence.

Whether you believe that Depp is innocent or guilty, whether Radcliffe’s response resonates with you or not or whether you stand with Rowling or not, having Depp in the films is still going to happen. The important matter, though, is discerning what to do with that information. The Depp fiasco is hardly the first time that domestic violence has been brought to light, and it isn’t the first time that it’s being ignored because the individuals involved were famous.

So what does that tell people? That it’s time for a change. It’s time to address these issues head-on and try to prevent them from happening, as no one deserves to be abused. This past year especially, public figureheads have been trying to bring attention to issues such as domestic violence and abuse, and maybe this controversy can be a way to show people how to deal with them.

If you believe the franchise was wrong in choosing to keep Depp, then think about what could be done to prevent something like this again. Paying attention and listening to people who say they are being hurt, to victims, is one step. In this particular situation, Amber Heard was ridiculed and accused of wanting attention, and many people denied her the chance to prove herself, which says a lot about us as a society. It says that people aren’t willing to listen when someone is asking for help — determining whether that cry for help is false comes later, because people first have to be willing to listen.

The response to this controversy is an example of how people, macroscopically, deal with domestic abuse on a personal level. While uncomfortable, hearing the voices of Depp, Rowling and Radcliffe has brought the issue into discussion; the dialogue has caused people to pay attention, and even though there are disagreements as how to handle the problem, at least a conversation is being had about it. All that’s left to do now is actually deal with it.

Valeria Garcia, University of Texas at Austin

Writer Profile

Valeria Garcia

University of Texas at Austin
English Major, Creative Writing Minor

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