Racism and sexism in Harry Potter

Understanding racism and sexism in Harry Potter and Hall’s model of three reading positions


In the Harry Potter book series there are several examples of sexist and racist stereotypes which can distort children’s understanding of reality and therefore cause them to adopt inappropriate prejudices and judgments. The reason for such strong impact on the young readers can be explained with the use of Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding model that suggests three reading positions and, as a result, three different ways of understanding one and the same text. The fact that the oppositional reading, which allows the reader to asses the text critically, can only be adopted by educated and well-read readers explains why adult help is needed in directing the child reader towards a correct interpretation of such deficiencies of a text and offering a grounded explanation.

Key words: child readers, Hall’s model, racism, sexism, stereotypes


The full article can be downloaded from here.

11 Replies to “Racism and sexism in Harry Potter”

  1. Great post. I noted a lot of racism in both the books and films since I first read and saw them but m, being British and ethnic minority, my views aren’t welcome! Rowling and the directors all play innocent but they know exactly what they’re doing! It’s very sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Are you all seriously this butt hurt of a movie about a fake world, in retrospect if it was a real world wouldn’t wizards be superior? In our current world is there not countries that are superior at some things compared to others, just saying its crazy that a simple books about a make believe world truely get under your skin that bad. The generation crying over this bs is the same one telling the newer generation to not be so easily offendable seems kinda contradictive. But that’s just me it seems like there are way more important things to spend your life worrying about than fiction stories.


    1. For the record, I’m a great fan of the Harry Potter books (and films). This is by no means me being upset about how certain races/magical beings are being represented in the books – after all, there are no perfect books and in each one you can find things you don’t agree with etc. This is meant to be more of a guide for how to explain things to young readers (who are only begining to develop critical thinking), to point out aspects of the books which could have been improved or made more inclusive and so on. But none of this diminishes my admiration for the world Rowling created or the pure magic of the HP stories. So, no, I’m, not butt hurt about it. 😉


      1. Brigita I absolutely love your respinse, I didn’t mean to come out of left field or seem to come at any one specifically if it seemed it, but I do love your response a way to talk and explain things without getting so upset it just turns into bickering and fighting. I fully see what you’re saying and where you’re coning from and when explained in a fairly educated manor such as that rather than well I dont like this it shouldn’t happen, I definitely agree with how you put it, made my morning, hope you have a great day.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. The issue being risen is the fact that the series is intended towards kids/teens. It’s normalizing “othering” in so many different ways with a a part of the population who, by and large, is not yet capable of making the distinction.
      No one is butt hurt. Harry Potter is not being cancelled (even if J.k. Rowling has publically taken controversial positions on social issues). It’s o.k. to open discussions and put asterisks on issues like this.
      The author is not saying “don’t read this”, he’s saying “read it but also have the conversation with your kid”.


  3. I just wanted to say that none of the characters are ‘African-American’, they are ‘Black British’. This is a British series.


    1. True, but at the time I wrote this paper, most of the literature about HP was American and the editors wanted me to be consistent in how I referred to the characters and American authors referred to them as African-American so I had to stick with that (this paper was part of a much longer text). But you’re absolutely right, and I would’ve fought the editors on this now – I was much too green to do it back then. 😉


  4. It’s an interesting read but… African-Americans? Really? Just say “black” for crying out loud, even if you don’t want to say “Black British”. Avoiding the term “black” as if it’s something dirty or undesirable is part of the problem. The reasoning of consistency with other authors doesn’t make sense – if other authors are using the wrong term, you don’t have to keep using it to remain “consistent”.


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