The Harry Potter series has come under some serious fire over everything from religion to copy write issues. Whether found in the books and films themselves or in the fan culture surrounding them, most these controversies usually stem from people’s beliefs and preferences that they bring to the series rather than anything really wrong with the series itself.
The controversial selection of Ginny Weasley as Harry Potter’s wife, for example, was criticized by many fans as a “Mary Sue” choice, while others point to clear reasons why Ginny and Harry made a smart match. Others argued that Hermione Granger would have been a better choice, something that J. K. Rowling has alluded to on occasion herself.
There will always be debate and even outrage over decisions like Albus Dumbledore leaving Harry to live with his aunt and uncle, film casting choices, how Potter managed to survive the final book of the series (and whether or not he should have lived), whether Neville Longbottom was truly the Chosen One or not and dozens of other hotly contested pieces of the Potterverse, which only points at how deeply beloved the series is among fans.
At the tip of the iceberg stand these 15 Most Controversial Things About Harry Potter, Ranked.
15. Deathly Hallows Nude Scene
Depicting nude teenagers is always going to be a controversial move, and when Ron Weasley’s worst nightmare manifested in front of his eyes during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, plenty of parents clutched their pearls and covered their kids’ eyes in horror.
The scene in question depicts Harry and Hermione in a passionate, nude embrace; it’s not real, nor does it show any body parts. It’s a corrupted vision courtesy of a horcrux, but it still rendered both Ron, and audiences, speechless. Of course, while Ron took action and destroyed the tainted locket responsible for his vision, offended audience members simply complained about it on social media and threatened to boycott the next film. It’s always funny to see how so many parents don’t mind their kids witnessing violent death, blood, gore and cruelty, but God forbid they catch sight of half of a boob!
When interviewed about the scene, Emma Watson made it clear that she and Daniel Radcliffe were far from naked during the “topless kiss,” as so many like to call it. Watson, in fact, had a strapless bra on during the whole time. Both, of course, also wore pants during filming.
14. Michael Gambon Refusing To Read The Book
Michael Gambon as Dumbledore is still considered one of the most controversial casting decisions in the Harry Potter films, but there are multiple reasons why. His gruff, unsmiling portrayal is pretty much the opposite of the eye-twinkling, sneaky joke-telling, compassionate Dumbledore that readers know and love.
He’s also the opposite of Richard Harris, who unfortunately died before being able to continue with the role. Harris both looked and played the part more accurately toward the book and likely would not have demanded, “Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire!” the way Gambon so uncharacteristically did in the titular film.
That one scream turned a lot of fans away from Gambon’s Dumbledore alone. It explicitly says that he asked the question calmly in the book, and most of Dumbledore’s actions come from a level-headed brilliance.
But one of the biggest things that fans hated about Gambon was his simple refusal to read the books. He claimed that there was no point, and that as an actor, you just go by the script. Had he actually done any investigation into the book’s character (as many actors do) he may have made the Dumbledore that fans know and love come alive much better.
13. Molly Weasley’s “Not My Daughter” Scream
Molly Weasley has seen some horror in her life. From losing family members in the First Wizarding War to witnessing Bill Weasley’s attack at the hands of werewolf Fenrir Greyback to losing a child during the Second Wizarding War, she has borne more sorrow than any mother should have to bear.
When she almost lost Ginny to Bellatrix Lestrange, it was too much. Molly screamed, “Not my daughter, you bitch!” and took out the Death Eater. The fact that Molly could dispatch Lestrange so quickly after Lestrange had murdered an Auror (Nymphadora Tonks) is debatable; a mother’s wrath can definitely cause some damage, after all. The real controversy with this scene is how Julie Walters portrayed it on screen.
She’d just lost a son and several friends. She’s in the middle of a massive battle. She’s not going to grin and gloat after murdering someone. She’s Molly Weasley! Her expression should have been one of grim exhaustion or grief, not of triumph. She would not relish in taking a life, no matter whose it was. She takes it out of necessity, not pleasure.
12. Ron And Hermione’s Marriage
A wide variety of shippers make up the Harry Potter fan base, but two main camps emerged following the books’ publication: Ron-Hermione fans and Harry-Hermione supporters. While there are some pretty obvious clues throughout the books that hint at Ron and Hermione’s eventual relationship, it is their marriage that baffles fans. The two are simply so different that many fans don’t think their marriage could last.
Rowling herself has even insinuated they wouldn’t be happy together forever because Ron would not be able to really challenge his wife and meet her intellectual needs, but then again, she said that just before the publication of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Those who’ve read or seen the play know that their relationship is a big part of the work, and when portrayed as unmarried to one another, neither was happy at all. The repair of their relationship was considered one of the big problems resolved, indicating that Rowling may have only mentioned their potential unhappiness as a clue regarding the play.
11. Inclusion Of Christian Values
One of the ideological claims made about the Harry Potter books is that they are too Christian. Rowling, a Christian herself, affirms that there are Christian sentiments expressed in the book since she attended a Church of Scotland while writing them.
The morals included in the story, she says, have always been rooted in Christian teachings, and she has never tried to hide this. Authors typically include much of what they already know and believe in their books and it shouldn’t come as surprising to any readers.
Of course, Rowling’s Christian beliefs, which seem to revolve around loving your neighbor, accepting everyone as they are, helping people who need it, and celebrating the Golden Rule, are a far cry from some evangelical beliefs. This is why people have also cried foul over the books not being religious enough or promoting witchcraft, but more about that later.
10. The Leaked Final Book
If you want to enrage a die-hard fan, threaten to give them one thing: spoilers. This is especially true for book readers who live for the payoff at the end of the book. This is not to say that there are a few readers who prefer to skip ahead, or that TV and movie viewers love spoilers, but it can be a deal breaker for a bibliophile. So when the final pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were released online, “rabidly furious” would have been an understatement to describe fans.
While the Internet had existed well before the book’s release, it was the first time that most homes had access to the web, making it much easier to leak the information. Today there are many more cases of books being stripped and used online to read freely and completely, resulting in a loss for both publishers and authors.
9. Snape Killing Dumbledore
No matter his reasons, no matter how he saved the world, many fans of Harry Potter will always harbor at least a little bit of hate for Severus Snape for killing Albus Dumbledore. That’s the nature of being an antihero, isn’t it? He does the unthinkable to make the world a better place for everyone else, becoming the most hated person in the room as a result.
The ironic thing, of course, is that Snape is ultimately more loyal to Dumbledore and their cause than any other person in the entire series, and willing to sacrifice his very existence in order to maintain their progress. His motives, of course, aren’t the same as the rest of the Order’s: they all stem from his love for Lily Potter as well as his guilt over her death.
Unlike a lot of antiheroes, Snape at least has a large and solid fan base (which may not have existed had he not been played by the amazing Alan Rickman) that appreciates his efforts. Even Harry Potter named one of his sons after Snape, whom he referred to as the bravest man he’d ever known.
8. Books Are Banned As “Doorways Into The Occult”
Some of the controversy surrounding the Harry Potter world is the same old controversy that any great books face, resulting in them getting banned for one reason: they offend some groups of people. In the case of the Potterverse, it’s mostly people who believe that the books promote witchcraft as a religion, which is laughable, of course.
The books rarely depict specific spell work beyond wand movements and magical terminology that Rowling invented for the book. There are zero scenes of anyone performing explicit rituals or rites that a Wiccan coven or solitary practitioner would do, but that doesn’t sway those in favor or against witchcraft. Some Wiccans have even assumed that Rowling is a witch; she is not.
Rowling has explicitly stated that the books are pure fiction and have nothing to do with the Wiccan religion, but clergy, parents and even legislators still insist on banning the “evil” book because it pushed kids to follow witchcraft. Rowling even lost the Presidential Medal of Freedom under George W. Bush because, according to speechwriter Matt Latimer, she “promoted witchcraft.”
7. Regular Fat Shaming
One of the strangest controversies in the Harry Potter series is the constant fat shaming. While Rowling seems to frown on treating anyone poorly due to their differences from anyone else, her writing routinely mocks fat people, makes them into idiotic villains. She uses fat as a derogatory description for characters like Harry’s cousin Dudley Dursley, his father Vernon, and his Aunt Marge.
There are plenty of fat jokes in the books that only further normalize fat hatred, which is baffling since Rowling goes out of her way to promote acceptance otherwise. Then again, people have also argued that she’s done the same against the Slytherin house fairly often, and that there are no sympathetic Slytherin characters in the wizarding world. She remedied that with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, though.
Rowling does have some kind and generous robust witches and wizards, too. From Molly Weasley to Hagrid to Madam Rosmerta, there are a few likable fat characters, but the majority of the characters who are described as portly are done so in an unflattering tone, to say the least.
6. Numerous Legal Disputes Over Copyright And Plagiarism
J. K. Rowling’s wizarding world is so vibrant and full of intricate details that it’s nearly impossible to imagine it as a plagiarized work, but that’s exactly what she has been accused of by some authors.
Nancy Stouffer accused Rowling of stealing elements of Harry Potter from her two works, The Legend of Rah and the Muggles and Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly. The latter was never even published, making it hard for Rowling to plagiarize, and Stouffer not only lost her suit but was fined by the court for committing fraud. It is quite a coincidence about the title, and how Larry Potter was a dark-haired boy with glasses who went to a castle by a lake.
Ten years later, Rowling was sued by the estate of Adrian Jacobs for supposedly plagiarizing parts of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which had a few similarities with the author’s work, The Adventures of Willy the Wizard: Livid Land. Again, the suit was dismissed without sufficient evidence that plagiarism had ever occurred.
5. Neville Snogging Luna
Anyone who has read the books knows that Neville Longbottom and longtime friend Luna Lovegood are just that– friends. Fans who have kept up with the Potterverse since the final battle at Hogwarts also know that, per Rowling’s own admission, Neville went on to become probably the coolest Herbology professor Hogwarts had ever seen and marry Hannah Abbott. Luna traveled the world as a naturalist and married Newt Scamander’s grandson, Rolf, later in life. It’s not unimaginable for the two to have shared a kiss in the heat of battle, but it kind of cheapens their friendship.
Male and female characters are too often thrown together as a couple in films just because they’re opposite genders. It’s not that Luna and Neville wouldn’t have been well-matched, but that here was a perfectly good friendship that showed how people can, you know, just be friends, and movie makers simply saw the opportunity to throw in a random smooch.
The moment also takes away from how far Neville has come since The Sorcerer’s Stone; in fact, the lack of his continuous growth in the movies is another common reader complaint. Finally, the moment changes both characters’ narrative, something that fans are not quick to forgive.
4. The Books Are Considered Too Conservative
Some readers have also complained about the books leaning too far to the conservative side. It’s true that there are plenty of conservative sentiments expressed in the series. Most of the government officials are portrayed as either incompetent or tyrannical, supporting the conservative idea of creating a very small and limited government. Eventually the wizarding government is so corrupt that even some of the Aurors within it secretly work for The Order of the Phoenix in order to subvert it from within.
English critics have even called the series a paternalistic, Tory representation riddled with sexism. It’s true that most of the major heroes are male (some have wondered what it might have been like had Hermione Granger been the star of the series) and that there’s a pretty strong lack of diversity.
3. But They Are Also Too Liberal!
Remember the episode of Parks and Recreation where the town tried to make a time capsule? When a father demanded that they include a copy of the novel Twilight in order to connect with his teen daughter, part of the town deemed it too religious while others claimed it was not religious enough to be included.
That issue seems to come up within a lot of literature, and there’s really no mystery as to why: an author brings her own opinions and experiences into the creation of the book (whether unconsciously or not), which is then filtered through each reader’s own opinions and experiences, resulting in a pretty wide world of interpretation.
There are plenty of liberal values to be found in the Harry Potter films and the movies, of course. From accepting people (whether wizard or werewolf) as they are to promoting equality among everyone from wizards to house elves, Rowling’s politics are scattered throughout. There’s nothing wrong with the series being conservative or liberal, as it is her creation, but there are controversies associated with both from fans and critics alike.
2. Newt Scamander’s Gentle Masculinity
Viewers walked away from the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with a sense of awe and wonder, but the feelings weren’t merely associated with the magical creatures and glimpse into the adult world of wizardry.
One of the best things about the movie was Newt Scamander himself, a quirky, gentle fellow who still managed to be a hero without any macho swagger or even violence. Eddie Redmayne brought a confident yet caring presence to the role, proving that an adventurous hero need not be a typical tough guy–or that a tough guy could simply tough without also being physically or verbally aggressive. In fact, plenty of fans revel in this depiction of a hero, and hope that it paves the way for similar characters like him.
On the flip side, however, some critics claimed that Scamander’s capable yet gentle demeanor was dull and unimpressive, saying that the film bored them and that they would not look forward to other movies featuring Scamander as the lead hero. In fact, some reviewers, obviously quite used to the over-used “hostile hero” trope, even claimed that Redmayne’s talents were watered down and wasted on the non-confrontational character.
1. Dumbledore Is Gay
While it may not seem very controversial, many people went nuts when J. K. Rowling announced that the popular headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Albus Dumbledore, was gay. Fans claimed that they “just couldn’t see it,” despite other fans saying that they suspected it for years.
Indeed, when it was revealed that Dumbledore nearly became an evil wizard along with the second darkest wizard to have ever lived, Gellert Grindelwald, speculations regarding his motivation for the relationship between the two often included romance. After all, it’s one of the most common reasons why people behave irrationally. Dumbledore decided to sever ties with Grindelwald after a duel resulted in the death of his sister, Ariana Dumbledore, and later he was the wizard who ultimately brought Grindelwald down.
In the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films, Jude Law is set to play a young Dumbledore. Fans are eager to not only see the epic battle that took place between him and Grindelwald (played by Johnny Depp, whose casting is another source of controversy), but to also find out about his early life, any partners he may have had, and his relationship with Grindelwald.
What controversy surrounding Harry Potter surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments!