With all of the Harry Potter movies being on both Netflix and Stan at the moment, I feel like we are in some kind of weird, lockdown-induced HP renaissance. And I’ve come to shit all over it, with the fact that Bill Weasley was literally a coloniser.
There’s a lot of problematic things about the Harry Potter universe. I’m sure by now you’ve heard of at least a few of the issues with J.K. R*wling‘s writing – the racism around the name ‘Cho Chang‘, the constant transphobia littered throughout the series, the fact that the hook-nosed, money-obsessed goblins are anti-Semitic stereotypes come to life, etc.
The entire universe is built on real-life bigotry, which has always saddened me as someone who read the books a million times and absolutely adored them.
THE GOBLINS: we’re short, hook-nosed bankers who control all wizarding money and speak in a guttural language called gobbledegook! what’s that? we sound like a grossly antisemitic allegory for jewish people? but how can that be when we love money so much?
— dylan morrison (@dylan_thyme) August 2, 2020
Criticising Harry Potter is definitely not new, but there’s something about the books I almost never come across in conversations around their problematic characters – and that is Bill Weasley and his profession.
Bill’s official title is a ‘curse-breaker’ for Gringott’s bank. What that job entails is basically travelling around the world undoing curses on valuable artefacts/tombs/etc. so they can be collected by the bank for profit. He explores dangerous, ancient lands, finds valuable items, breaks the curses placed upon them to prevent theft in the first place, and then brings them home to England.
Which, to me, seems like the cleaned-up, romanticised, modern-day version of British imperialists pillaging Eastern land they’ve colonised and sending ‘artefacts’ back to the British museum.
Bill Weasley’s actual job, canonically, as a white man, was to break into Egyptian vaults and steal artefacts for a British bank. He is a whole-ass coloniser and I feel like nobody talks about it!!
Today I listened to a podcast that talked about how Europeans would eat mummies and this is just your reminder that Bill Weasley being a curse breaker for Gringotts and taking stuff from Egypt does not make him cool it makes him part of a long system of imperialism ????
— Aidan Chase (@HPEveryoneLives) July 8, 2019
I know, I know, you’re thinking ‘what? how did I miss this?’ and the answer is, because there was already so much racism, transphobia, antisemitism and internalised misogyny in these books. It’s honestly hard to keep track of. And also, maybe some people don’t want to see the problem with Bill Weasley, because he’s supposed to be one of the good guys, and he’s hot, and we like him.
Ah, white men getting away with anything because they’re ~cool~.
What I find most fascinating (read: infuriating) is that R*wling invented a whole universe with magical creatures, unique spells, an entire lore – and yet she was not only unable to imagine her way out of colonialism, but also added it to the canon of her book. Oh, and tried to make it palatable by introducing us to colonialism through a cool, worldly, hot punk guy that we are actually supposed to like.
There’s an entire list of things I’ll never forgive R*wling for, but this one is close to the top – because Bill Weasley’s character raised a whole generation of children to think that pillaging was cool and adventurous, and as someone who comes from a culture pillaged by the Brits, it hits just a little too hard.