The Harry Potter fandom has had quite the emotionally turbulent morning, what with the release of the first photos of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child cast. And while we have already examined the images upside down and backwards for possible hints about the plot, there is one feature that is genuinely striking: Harry Potter's hair.
Harry's hair is somewhat of an ongoing joke in the series. Inherited from his father, his "jet black, permanently untidy" hair was a point of contention with his Aunt Petunia, who once shaved it all off and found it completely regrown overnight, much to her dismay. This was only made more of a punchline when J.K. Rowling revealed that Harry's paternal grandfather Fleamont Potter was the inventor of Sleekeazy's Hair Potion, the same invention responsible for Harry's small inherited fortune. Needless to say, Harry's hair already has a bit of a rep.
But the remarkable thing about Cursed Child Harry's 'do has nothing to do with the ongoing jokes about his hair in the series, and everything to do with the feature closest to it: the scar Voldemort gave him when he was a baby.
Early in Philosopher's Stone, when we are introduced to Harry and he still has no idea of the true origin of his scar, he is actually rather proud of it:
"Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair and bright green eyes. He wore round glasses held together with a lot of Sellotape because of all the times Dudley had punched him on the nose. The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead which was shaped like a bolt of lightning."
Despite this, the book establishes that most of the time, the scar isn't visible. When he meets Ron for the first time and he asks if he's really Harry Potter, it takes effort for him to push his hair back and show it to him. The films obscure Harry's scar with his hair as well most of the time, even from the very beginning.
As we all know, Harry's feelings about his scar fluctuate drastically throughout the course of the novels. He knows as early as his first year that it is the mark of his mother's love, the very thing that saved his life when Voldemort tried to kill him as a baby. It is the most enduring evidence of the parents he can't remember, and a testament to the power of love over evil.
But as the series progresses, the scar begins to manifest into much darker and more sinister connections. It ultimately becomes a tie to Voldemort, through which Harry can experience his pain, anger, and terrifying joy. It becomes a tool for Voldemort to manipulate Harry, which eventually causes the death of Sirius. It pains him constantly toward the end of the novels, and always remains a dull ache. And in the very end, it represents the unthinkable: that Harry is, in fact, an accidental Horcrux. The scar essentially marked him for death when he was a baby.
And yet, despite the huge role Harry's scar plays in the narrative, in the books, he frequently swipes his hair over it to avoid being recognized. In the movies, we hardly ever see it past his bangs, with the exception of the fifth movie (when he briefly morphed into Teenage Harry "Come Fight Me" Potter). This scar he loved so much as a kid becomes an impossible burden, an instant marker, and a reminder of everything he has lost. It only makes sense that he unconsciously covers it up, even in his final battle with Voldemort.
None of this would be so noteworthy or remarkable, of course, if it weren't for the strikingly different Harry we see today.
Here we have Harry Potter at 36 years old, with his hair not just out of his eyes, but directly — even defiantly — pulled back from his face. He certainly has enough hair to cover his forehead, and yet his scar is, for the first time, unapologetically visible. In this picture, it seems to take on a completely different life; not just a mark of his mother's love, not just the tether to his mortal enemy, but evidence of every trial he faced in connection to it. In this picture it no longer looks like a scar that happened to him, but one that he earned.
In the interview accompanying the photos, Jamie Parker, the actor playing Harry Potter, describes the scar as "iconic." And yet this is the first time we've seen a Harry Potter who is capable of shouldering the burden of that legacy. It's not just the solemnity of his gaze, or the reservation in his posture, or the way he seems slightly aloof from the invisible person behind the camera. It's the way he wears the scar without apology, without embarrassment, but with an almost grim acceptance that this is who he is, and there is no point in trying to hide it anymore.
J.K. Rowling already shared with fans that adult Harry will be "grappling with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs." And as subtle as it is, nothing could have conveyed that idea quite as succinctly as his hair in this image, with his scar finally on full display.
Images: Courtesy of Charlie Gray; Warner Brothers