Hogwarts Founders & the Potential for Something a Little More Interesting

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of clickbait articles discussing how fans want a Hogwarts Founders TV show, particularly because of Redditor Njdevils11’s amazing pitch for a HBO-style TV show for the Founders. And with the success of shows like Game of Thrones and the recent expansion of the Harry Potter universe with things like Pottermore and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movie, everyone is kind of wondering—well, why not?

Hogwarts housesThere is a part of me that desperately wants this and a part of me that does not. The Harry Potter universe was such a part of my life growing up it was almost like Harry and I grew up together. The last of the books was published in 2007 when I was graduating high school, and the last of the movies came out when I was graduating college. It made for a very visceral feeling of almost going to Hogwarts and being in Harry’s class. As many people can attest, these books were a huge part of my life, and I both long for more content and fear it. Why am I worried? There are two reasons. The first is that I have grown up and become much more aware of the importance of diversity in media. I’m now much more critical of how few people of color played a main role in the books, and I absolutely adore the new headcanons people have created for a Black Hermione and person of color Harry. And seeing that new things like the Fantastic Beasts movie continue to have very little to no diversity is really upsetting to me. Secondly, I have such particular headcanons for how I think the founders, from their personalities to their appearances, should be portrayed (as I’m sure many Potter fans do) that I worry that no matter how good the show is, I’d be ultimately disappointed.

However, that doesn’t mean that a Founders TV show couldn’t be good or make the Harry Potter universe more inclusive and interesting. Don’t get me wrong I would be excited if something like this show were to happen, but I feel like certain things would have to happen to make the show worthwhile.

art work by nyota45

art work by nyota45

First, there has to be diversity. There absolutely has to be. If all of the Hogwarts founders were portrayed as white I’d be very disappointed. And before anyone talks about how it’s medieval England so there “were no people of color in England then” all you have to do is check out the Tumblr page medievalpoc to see how wholly untrue that is. I think it’s very important, were this TV show to happen, that one if not all of the founders should be people of color. If only one founder was a person of color, who should it be? Well, I would say firstly that Salazar could not be a person of color. I’m sure an interesting storyline about racism could be tied back to his hatred of muggles, but all that ultimately would do is paint a picture of a person of color who, even if they have a reason, ultimately becomes a villain. That would not be good representation. Ultimately, I think any of the other founders would work, with I suppose the possible exception of Rowena Ravenclaw if only because Helena was portrayed as white in Deathly Hallows, but even then I don’t foresee that as too much of a problem because she could be multiracial or biracial.

Furthermore, with Dumbledore being closeted it would be nice to actually see some queer characters show up, whether it’s one of the Founders or another side character. I know in the past I have seen people shipping Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin as one of the rare Founders slash pairings, because fandom seems to love tragic love/hate relationships. But personally I think it would be much better if Rowena and Helga were seen in a relationship. Today the standard for gay characters in TV shows and movies is almost always a white cisgender gay guy. And while there is nothing particularly wrong with gay cisgender males being featured in media they shouldn’t be the only people in the gay community who receive representation. So it would be nice to see queer women take the stage for once. And again, after the Dumbledore fiasco, the Harry Potter fandom deserves some real representation.

There is also a canonical issue if a show like this were to become reality, but the issue isn’t too major. And that is the witch trials and persecution that seems to have influenced the building of Hogwarts in this particular redditor’s pitch. They write,

We know Hogwarts was created approximately 1000 years ago, prior to the ministry and even the Wizengamot, in order to be a safe haven for wizards. We can assume that at this time witches and wizards were being hunted and killed. There was serious religious fervor at the time that sought to destroy any heretical teachings, like wizardry. While wizards are powerful, they are also few in number and mostly unorganized when compared to religiously zealous muggles. In this environment we see the four founders emerge as leaders and our series begins.

However, while this sounds awesome, it actually doesn’t fit with canon. Harry learns in Prisoner of Azkaban that the witch trials were not a big deal to witches and wizards.

Non-magic people (more commonly known as Muggles) were particularly afraid of magic in medieval times, but not very good at recognizing it. On the rare occasion that they did catch a real witch or wizard, burning had no effect whatsoever. The witch or wizard would perform a basic Flame Freezing Charm and then pretend to shriek with pain while enjoying a gentle, tickling sensation. Indeed, Wendelin the Weird enjoyed being burned so much that she allowed herself to be caught no less than forty-seven times in various disguises.

The witch burnings and huntings seem more like an inconvenience (to actual witches, at least, not to the poor Muggles who were accused and died) than anything else in JKR’s world. You can understand why witches and wizards want to keep their society private if only to avoid getting caught, put on trial, and then “burned.” But it seemed that no real harm ever actually came to them. Honestly though, and this might be Harry Potter sacrilege, but I am totally okay with throwing out this bit of canon. I just feel like this really trivializes the history of real people who were actually killed or tortured under suspicion of being witches. I remember being annoyed with this part of the story even when I was reading the books as a kid. I thought it lessened the tension between wizards and Muggles, as well as made for a less interesting story. While hatred of Muggles, Muggleborns, and half-bloods was irrational, I’m sure wizards being able to scare other wizards about Muggles helped. I don’t like to believe people are bad at heart, but fear makes people act illogically. It makes more sense that wizards would separate themselves and look down on Muggles, partly out of superiority but also partly out of fear. This might be the more interesting route to take—I’ve read more than one fanfic that also ignored this part of the book and talked about how awful the persecution of witches and wizards by Muggles was. It would create a much more interesting catalyst for the founders to start the school than something like “I’m tired of being tickled by flames. Let’s create a haven to practice magic where Muggles being annoying won’t bother us.”

Another aspect of a Founders TV show that could be potentially interesting and potentially problematic is the intense love Harry Potter fans have for their respective houses. This means if those who identify as a certain house don’t like their founders’ portrayal they could be pissed. Helga Hufflepuff can’t be portrayed as stupid, Rowena Ravenclaw can’t just be a nerd, Salazar Slytherin can’t be pure evil, and Godric Gryffindor can’t be the big damn hero, because that would just make things boring and would guarantee that most Harry Potter fans would hate it. This would be a chance to show the world of Harry Potter in a little more of an adult setting and to add some complexity to these characters, not just turn them into caricatures. Personally, I would love to see Godric and Salazar start as friends and watch the relationship fall apart. It would also be nice to see the Founders really working together and balancing each other out. We never got to see all the Hogwarts Houses work together in the Harry Potter books, because Slytherin was always painted as pure evil, very few Ravenclaws were given much time in the books, and almost no Hufflepuffs get a prominent role. (None who are alive anyway. Yeah, still pissed about Cedric.) It would also be interesting to hear about the other schools. Was Hogwarts the first? Did the Founders visit other schools to figure out how they would set theirs up? Then there are other family dynamics that could be explored. Helena seemed to really hate her mother. Was it just purely that she was jealous of her mother’s knowledge, or is there more to it? And I still want to know how the hell Salazar builds an entire giant Chamber with a statue of himself and puts a huge fucking snake it to kill half the school’s kids, and none of the other Founders seem to notice. My running theory is either they knew about the chamber and it had a different purpose originally or one of Salazar’s descendants actually built it later. Because seriously, that makes no sense. There is just so much to explore, and so much I would love to see, but only if it is done right.

I think a show about the Hogwarts Founders, especially one that is more adult and more inclusive, could be really interesting. Obviously this is just a fan pitch, but I would love if the show was picked up, as long as the creators can avoid certain pitfalls. What do you think? Would you be excited for a TV show about the Hogwarts Founders? Let us know in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “Hogwarts Founders & the Potential for Something a Little More Interesting

  1. I’ve always imagined that Salazar Slytherin might be Middle Eastern or North African (given his first name)…and even if he did hate muggles, I don’t think we can make a 100% parallel to racism and thus conclude that he had to have been white…there are people of all races who might not like–for example–queer people, people of other religions, rich people hating poor people, etc. Being wizard-centric could be yet another bias of that nature, even with the question of “blood quanta,” so to speak–if it were understood as an issue similar to “royal blood” vs. “commoner,” for example. That wouldn’t be a matter so much of racism as it would be of lineage–since muggle-borns can become skilled in magic as well, it’s really then a matter of Hatfields vs. McCoys, so to speak, rather than white vs. Black, etc.

    Given that racism didn’t actually come about on a systemic level until the late 15th century with the “age of discovery,” if we’re talking about this setting being a thousand years before the books, then we’re talking the late 10th/early 11th centuries, which is pre-Norman Conquest. There has always been discrimination against perceived “outsiders” to different cultures, but systemic institutional racism (and, for that matter, the concept of “whiteness”) did not exist until certain Europeans started going other places and taking other people’s land, resources, and selves as their property. But anyway…

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