I was the Fictional Character?

When I was a young child, I wrote myself into many books by assuming that the main character was white and female, even if I was told otherwise. If privilege dictated my view of the race and gender of a main character, wouldn’t I assume that the main character is white and male? While I cannot conclude that all children make themselves the main character (perhaps I was just a particularly self-centered child), this line of thought lead me to wonder, what race do young children assume an ambiguous race, fictional character to be?

I could not find any research on this question, but did stumble upon a debate between Harry Potter fans about Hermione Granger’s race. The only line where J. K. Rowling references Hermione’s skin color is, “They were there, both of them, sitting outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor — Ron looking incredibly freckly, Hermione very brown, both waving frantically at him.” Regardless, she is depicted as white on the cover of Harry Potter books and in the movies. This leads me to believe that ambiguous race characters are damaging because they are presumed to be white by society, despite what young children may  or may not conclude.

Side note: If Hermione was described as any race other than white, perhaps this could have been avoided:

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One thought on “I was the Fictional Character?

  1. I think you present a really interesting argument here. I may be playing right into the exact problem you bring up of the damaging way characters are widely assumed to be white by society, but I have always thought that the great appeal of ambiguous children’s characters is that like you (and definitely like me, I hardly think you are alone in this), most children do enjoy writing themselves into the roles of the characters that they love, and the ambiguity of those characters is what makes that possible. While book covers and films may take the idea that these ambiguous characters are white and run with them, this seem like a separate issue from the way the characters are written in the original literature. To me, it seems that ambiguity in powerful children’s characters is empowering to everyone. It also seems that if even when you were told otherwise you wrote yourself in as having your characteristics, than maybe explicit race of characters is not the issue. If a character like Hermione was black, and somehow engaged with that experience in a meaningful way, that might be a different argument.

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