TV

How the Harry Potter TV series can fix the wizarding world

HBO Max is about to turn Harry Potter into a prestige TV series. Here's how they can fix the problems with the films – and the books.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Photo: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Photo: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Harry Potter is coming back. HBO Max has announced they will be turning JK Rowling’s astonishingly successful book series into a prestigious Game of Thrones-style, decade-long TV extravaganza, creating “authentic” adaptations of the seven Potter books. To some this feels absurd – the last cycle of Potter movies seems like it only happened five minutes ago, though it’s worth remembering that if you’re 12 years old right now Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is an old movie that came out 10 years before you were born. Maybe it is time?

Like it or not – and there are some very vocal people who definitely don’t like it – it’s happening.

Given that, maybe we should see this as an opportunity? The previous round of Potter movies, gigantically successful as they were, mangled the source material in several ways. And, let’s face it, the source material itself wasn’t without its problems. Here’s eight ways the new Harry Potter TV show can actually improve the franchise.

Fix the diversity issues

This is the hippogriff in the room, so let’s get it out the way first. There’s a very vocal faction of people who are extremely mad at JK Rowling. The message of the books is of acceptance, but there’s a lot that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. None of the main characters are people of colour and the only queer representation happens off screen. “Dumbledore is gay!” declared JK Rowling, after publication of the final book… which was a surprise as there’s zero mention of this on the page, despite it making the background of the final book far more interesting. All of this needs to be brought to the front.

In the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage show a Black actor always plays Hermione – we’re going to need to see more of that sort of thing in the new version. The show is also going to need to extend a substantial olive branch to the trans community, given Rowling’s much-publicised views on that issue, though you suspect for some people that’s a relationship that will never be repaired. It’s a factor that’s always going to cloud anything Potter-related.

Fix the plot holes

There’s a lot in the Potter universe that doesn’t add up. Fred and George Weasley have a map that tells them where everyone is, but spend two years not noticing that a middle-aged man is sleeping in their young-brother’s bed (albeit disguised as a pet rat). Why is the Philosopher’s Stone protected by spells that first-year students can do? Why, in Goblet of Fire, does Barty Crouch Jnr not just turn Harry’s tea mug into a portkey at the start of the book, kidnapping him straight away instead of orchestrating a year-long plan involving posing as a teacher and actually teaching classes? For a year! Are portraits of people actually alive? If so, shouldn’t they have rights? If you can make an “unbreakable vow” that magically prevents you from spilling secrets lest you actually die, why doesn’t Voldemort make all of his cronies take it? The more emotionally complex later books are full of stuff that doesn’t seem to sit in the same world as the kid-friendly earlier ones.

Fix the Goblin problem

This is a biggy for a lot of people. Rowling’s books have been accused of playing into antisemitic stereotypes with the descriptions of “goblins”, the creatures that run the wizard’s banks. The films pour oil on this by depicting them using pretty-much every antisemitic visual stereotype in the book, with quasi-masonic symbols, long fingers and hooked noses. The TV show will need to go out of its way to avoid any of these associations in its character design.

Fix the house elf problem

The wizarding world runs on slave labour! In fairness this is absolutely explicit in the books, and Hermione campaigns tirelessly for house elf rights. It’s barely mentioned in the films though. The longer running time should mean we can finally see Hermione’s S.P.E.W. (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare).

Fix the adult’s age problem

In the Harry Potter books a huge tranche of characters are supposed to be in the same school year, more or less, but the casting in the films was all over the place. Ten years separates Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman, for example. This is a nice opportunity to even all of that out.

Give Dudley Dursley a character arc

There’s a lovely evolution of Harry’s bullying cousin that happens in the books but is completely ignored in the movies. Let’s bring that back, please.

More quidditch

Quidditch is a solid fact of school life in the books, but disappears from several of the films. Given that it’s the only exercise these kids seem to get, we should be seeing a lot more of it.

Make Hogwarts feel like a real school

It’s not a problem in the earlier Harry Potter books, which are essentially just The Worst Witch, but in the later ones the wizarding school feels like a completely weird place to send your children. Only a handful of kids in every year do any sport at all. No-one is taught maths or science. Or English, despite reading and writing being pretty vital skills even for wizards. You could argue that this is all to create a self-perpetuating society that keeps the wizarding world in its place, or you could argue it’s because JK Rowling didn’t really think it through. Either way, there’s no way Hogwarts would pass an OFSTED inspection.

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