Three Crimes of Grindelwald Reviews

My head is still very much buried in the idea that Newt Scamander may be the long-lost Dumbledore rather than Credence Barebone, but, while I wrestle with that idea, its promise as well as its absurdity, I want to share three critical reviews of Crimes of Grindelwald I have been sent by thoughtful readers. Each represents a point of view that you won’t find at fan sites like MuggleNet or here at HogwartsProfessor and every one of them presents a challenge to lazy reading and acceptance of the film.

Kim Kirby writes in ‘Magic without Wonder: Fantastic Beasts as a Cautionary Tale’ that the Crimes of Grindelwald differs from and is much less satisfying a story than the Harry Potter novels and film adaptations because they lack the originals’ excitement of discovery about the enchanted world in which we live and and of which we were largely unaware.

Kadeen Griffiths explores the tired “tragic mulatto” narrative Rowling employs in the life (and death?) of Leta Strange. Leta Lestrange’s Storyline In ‘The Crimes Of Grindelwald’ Is The Last Straw For Me As A Black ‘Harry Potter’ Fan is worth a read despite its neo-Marxist PC content because it highlights and reminds us of the relative laziness of Rowling in her Cursed Child  bad-dad story and misappropriation of Native American beliefs in ‘History of Magic in North America.’ Will Newt turn out to be as good as he is with animals because his mother was a Native American — and ‘all Indians have a mystic relationship with the natural world’? Egad.

The Rev Ted Giese raises a subject, the proverbial elephant in the reading room, inLosing the Magicthat few have the courage to discuss, namely, the centrality of Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald to the story line and the embedded messages about same sex marriage in the Queenie-Jacob broken engagement. Giese thinks that Rowling and Warner Brothers are trying to satisfy simultaneously the LGBTQ+ members of their audience and the traditional believers on these points (not to mention the Chinese censors…) which deftness requires a subtlety that softens the messaging and blurs the story-telling.

Let me know what you think of these reviews — and please feel free to share in the comment boxes below others that are as challenging and novel!



  1. Kelly Loomis says

    Kirby’s article does help explain the appeal of the Harry Potter series. I think even John has wondered why the Strike novels haven’t been as widely received as HP considering Rowling is using the same types of layers and twists and turns as she did in HP. John has even asked me – as I have not “stuck with” the Strike series past halfway through the second novel – “Why?” I think Kirby sums it up well.

    But I would take it a step further in that we didn’t only learn magic along with the students, we learned about the magical world through two main characters who had not been raised in that world – Harry and Hermione. Especially Harry because of the terrible life he had up to entering Hogwarts. His awe and wonder during his first trip to Diagon Alley was ours also!

    Look who one of the favorite characters is in Fantastic Beasts: Jacob. His delight and wonder in seeing new aspects of magic parallel our own. He’s the only one who has this perspective. In HP, there is little interaction with the Muggle world. So we also experience Ron (and Arthur) and other magical students dismay or incredulity at some things Harry and Hermione describe. What do you mean people stay in their pictures all of the time??? It even makes our world a bit different to us!

    The adult witches and wizards in Beasts move through the Muggle world as if they’ve seen it all. The only real obliviation we see is Frank at the end of FB1. Think how many times the owner of the camping spot for the Quidditch World Cup had to be obliviated in one day! And the old wizard who insisted on wearing a lady’s dressing gown.

    So, after a long comment, I think Kirby’s point makes a lot of sense.

  2. Melissa Aaron (Moonyprof) says

    I can’t speak to Griffith’s perspective because, as a white woman, I have the luxury of not perceiving what she does. I’m very reluctant to dismiss it with, “that’s not what’s going on at all.” It’s very easy to find yourself creating or consuming something without thinking, “hey, wait.” Hey, wait–why is it that in fiction, so many dark-skinned people’s skin is described as like a foodstuff…cinnamon, or caramel, or coffee? Why is that? At least it’s a different perspective, right?

    That said, I’m very leery of assuming what Rowling is thinking. I don’t know if she’s explicitly trying for more diversity. Rick Riordan does that very well, but he is a huge Harry Potter fan himself, who frequently has to remind his fans, “I’m not J.K. Rowling.” Griffiths, Giese, and a lot of fandom critics have been assuming that she’s cynically trying to please this or that segment of her audience, trying for diversity without caring about it, trying to thread the needle of pro-LGBT/anti LGBT, when the real lesson here is that *some people will never be happy no matter what she does.* For what it is worth, I think the parallel of the Jacob/Queenie story is much more like anti-miscegenation laws. Considering when it’s set, and considering that at least one of them is Jewish, I get distinct overtones of Cabaret. Jacob may not be Jewish, but Queenie is, and so is Dan Fogler. He’s said that playing Jacob is like stepping into his great-grandfather’s shoes. It is very disturbing when your loved one breaks into “Tomorrow Belongs To Me.”

    This ties into the third review. It’s true that Rowling created the perfect narrator in Harry, and the moment when he and we see Diagon Alley for the first time allows us to experience magic through his eyes. At the same time, we miss a lot of things because everything is from Harry’s tight third person narration. How many times does he fool around with Ron during Professor Binns’ lessons when the subject is something that will turn out to be important later? Always. It would have been helpful to know about those giant wars, kid.

    A film is almost never told from that kind of unified perspective. We go through the movies with Tina, with Queenie, with Newt, with Jacob, with Dumbledore and with Grindelwald. The main character finds magic in creatures, so perhaps that is why I like the movies and why I can talk to Jason Crean all day. It was so exciting finally to see an Erumpent.

    However, anyone who loves fantasy accepts that in many universes, magic is expected and accepted all the time. It’s nothing unusual. My Little Pony runs off the stuff. It’s used to raise the sun and moon. This is also why the Great and Powerful Trixie, clearly modeled on Gilderoy Lockhart, is one of my favorite characters. She makes a living doing stage magic while everyone around her does magic all the time. This takes chutzpah. Discworld is filled with so much magic that its witches and wizards don’t do very much of it. Their attitude is much like Hagrid’s: people would be asking them to interfere all the time, and magic usually makes a hash of things. Best to leave it alone, really.

    Fantastic Beasts is a chance to see more magic, greater worlds, the things that only a geeky, animal-loving adventurer like Newt would see. We have moved from the Hobbit to Lord of the Rings. Also, I suspect that the whole narrative is summed up in one little bit: the Zouwu is rampaging around in its agony and Newt reaches into his case and pulls out…a cat toy. Suddenly, the Zouwu is distracted and he re-directs its attention onto the toy. This is what I think Rowling has been making us do the whole time. She has pulled the cat toy out of her bag of magical tricks and made us look. Some of us are very irritated, because we think we ought to be smarter than that, but honestly, we’re not.

  3. Jan Voetberg says

    The Reverent Ted Giese thinks that Rowling tries to appease the LBGTQ community and that Rowling and Yates at the same time want to maximize their earnings by not alienating traditional families from their movies. I’m afraid he doesn’t understand how Rowling has been writing through the years. I remember having read an interview with Rowling years ago, long before Deathly Hallows was published, in which she was asked (I do not remember the exact wording of the interview, but it was something like:) how much influence sales and the readers’ reactions had on where every next book was going. And her reply was that she had the whole series planned out until the last book, and that it would theoretically be possible that only one reader in the whole world would be happy with the last book, and that that would be OK with her. No, Rowling doesn’t try to please anyone but herself. No, Rowling is doing something else. And now I quote from John’s Deathly Hallows Lectures, chapter FAQ: at question 19 (What about Dumbledore being gay?) John gives quotes from Rowling’ s Adeel Amini interview. I give here the essentiel outtakes: “Dumbledore flirted with the idea of racial domination, that he was going to subjugate muggles. (…) I know why he did it. He fell in love. And whether they physically consummated this infatuation or not is not the issue. The issue is love. It’s not about sex. (….) And it’s relevant only in so much as he fell in love and was made an utter fool of by love. He lost his moral compass completely when he fell in love and I think subsequently became very mistrusting of his own judgement.” The interviewer then adds: “he isn’t a gay character, he’s a character that happens to be gay”. And then finally John writes about the alchemical aspect: “We know, too, that an alchemist, at least an accomplished one, is a qualitative androgyne or rebis. This kind of hermaphroditism, a resolution of contraries, is usually represented sexually as a man-woman. If I had to represent this kind of figure in story form, I confess that I would probably have chosen a celibate man with a history of same sex attraction.”
    I am afraid that this is all a lot of quotations, but these wordings handle this recurring issue in a very wise way. Better than I could express it myself.

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