As Sirius Black says in
, "the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters." A person can be a "good guy" or "on the right side" and still exhibit behavior that is toxic in other ways. So while it's easy enough to say Voldemort or Bellatrix Lestrange is evil, it's harder to admit that these seven Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Harry Potter characters are also extremely problematic.
Not every character in Harry Potter is perfect. In fact, none of them are; most of them exist in shades of grey. In writing characters that are toxic in different ways (while sometimes, still being "good"), J.K. Rowling gives readers the chance to explore how these dynamics play out in the real world, too. But, that can only happen if readers are frank about the ways in which these characters are problematic.
None of this is to say that readers still can't look up to these characters in other ways — some of them changed their behavior and did good things. But, first, readers must recognize recognize the ways in which their behavior changes and improves over the course of the story. But first, let's take a look at seven characters in Harry Potter who truly problematic:
The level of abuse that Uncle Vernon directs at Harry is often downplayed, or overshadowed by the abuses suffered at the hands of Dudley or, well, Voldemort. But let’s be frank: Harry is constantly being physically attacked, gaslit, and emotionally undermined by his uncle, and that is not okay.
Aunt Petunia is not only complicit in Uncle Vernon's abuse of Harry, but she also abuses him a fair share herself. Let’s not forget that in the first scene of 11-year-old Harry, he dodges an iron skillet that Petunia swings at him.
Of course, Severus Snape is a walking, talking gray area. While some fans believe his actions on behalf of the Order counteract the evil he performed on behalf of Voldemort, I disagree. (Remember, he was a legit Death Eater for years before he made his deal with Dumbledore.) Not to mention, his mistreatment of Harry, Neville, and other students is actually quite cruel. Plus, I also believe that Snape’s insistent and obsessive love for Lily is
actually pretty creepy.
It's hard not to have a soft spot for Ron, but he can be very problematic. Coming from a place of relative privilege, his deference for the status quo often lead him to either defending or ignoring systemic problems with the wizarding world. Take, for instance, the attitude that he exhibits towards house elves during the bulk of the series. He often claims that house elves
like to be enslaved, and treats Hermione's efforts to liberate them like a joke. Plus, in The Cursed Child, he emotional manipulates Hermione, who is now his wife.
OK, I love Dumbledore, but he knowingly endangers the children of Hogwarts on more than one occassion. Let’s face it, if a real-life headmaster put a ferocious dog in their school (three heads or otherwise), they would be arrested immediately. Plus, he knows about the Durlseys abuse of Harry, and does nothing to stop it. Also, who leaves a baby on a doorstep?
OK, why would someone so intent on torturing students be allowed to work at a school? There's being strict, and then there's Filch's thirst for being able to do terrible things to troublemakers at the school. The caretaker's attitude often gets downplayed as a quirk of Hogwarts, but it's actually super problematic.
I have sympathy for Merope, I really do. She was a victim of abuse. But I feel like not enough attention is given to the fact that she magically date-rapes Tom Riddle Sr. for
years. Can we please acknowledge how entirely screwed up that actually is?