In Brightest Day: Ableism in Harry Potter

In the wizarding world of Harry Potter, some wizards divide magical society based on blood-status, much like some people divide society based on race. The pureblood/half-blood/muggle-born debate is a driving force throughout the series. The bad guys think pureblood wizards are more powerful, while the good guys think the quality of the wizard has no basis in his or her lineage.

This is an accepted fact. Many literary pieces have been written discussing the point. I own several books discussing the psychology of Harry Potter, and I must say that if you want to learn more about the inner workings of the series, you can’t go wrong with Dr. Neil Mulholland’s The Psychology of Harry Potter.

But what about the blatant examples of ableism in Harry Potter? Why don’t we ever talk about those?

For those who don’t know, ableism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities.” While blood-status is commonly discussed ad nauseum, we never discuss the problems wizards have with those who have against the disabled.

Look at Remus Lupin. Lupin was born pureblood. He was disliked by some for being a member of the Marauder’s, but when it came out that Lupin was a werewolf he had to quit his job as Defense professor. Why though? When Lupin took his necessary potion, Lupin could transform and remain docile without threat to students. But when Snape leaked Lupin’s condition to the general public, Lupin had to quit for fear of outcry.

I relate this to if I was hypothetically forced to quit my graduate assistant position because undergrads did not want to learn journalism from an “Aspie.” When I take my necessary medication, as required by my doctor, I am about as normal as anyone. Should I have to resign because I may not take my medication, thereby becoming a potential danger? Is that fair to me? Was it fair to Lupin?

Another example is Gilderoy Lockhart. After Chamber of Secrets, Lockhart was admitted to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries after losing his memory to a botched memory charm. When I was younger, I thought it was comedic and fair karma. My friends also thought this. Now, I feel sorry for Lockhart. He was disabled due to the accident. That is a sad fact, not a funny fact. What’s the difference between Lockhart and the Longbottoms save circumstances? Both lost their memories. Both will never be the same.

There are a ton of examples, but those are the two that stick out to me. Obviously, blood-status is referenced a lot in Harry Potter. But the fact that wizards treat the disabled with disrespect should be focused on too.

6 thoughts on “In Brightest Day: Ableism in Harry Potter

  1. Interesting article. I never thought of blood status in Harry Potter as a disability, but as you point out there are some clear parallels. I also must admit that I had never heard the word ableism before reading this article. +1 to vocabulary!

  2. I’ve written a little bit about the ableism Squibs (http://spacecrip.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/fantastic-ableism-and-disability-no-supernatural-powers/) and werewolves (http://spacecrip.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/fantastic-ableism-and-disability-werewolves/) face in the Harry Potter universe, but I hadn’t thought about the way the books treat Lockhart and his disability. By making Lockhart’s disablement a comic/karmic punishment, the books reinforce the idea that disability is a result of a moral failing rather than a normal part of human life.

  3. Pingback: Disability Blog Carnival – January | A Writer In A Wheelchair

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