Fantastic Beasts: Making LGBT Not an Obscurity
Written by Debra McKenzie
For those who have not yet seen the movie, I have to warn you this will contain spoilers. In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the concept of an obscurial is introduced and becomes a major part of the movie. Oddly enough, it’s not really mentioned anywhere in trailers or summaries found on the web, but it is an undercurrent for the whole film and becomes part of its climax.
An obscurial is a young wizard or witch who has developed a dark parasitical magical force (known as an Obscurus) as a result of their magic being suppressed through psychological or physical abuse. There are already articles out there mentioning that the general underlying theme could very well be related to LGBT equality but I wanted to expand upon that.
Early on we are introduced to some anti-witching characters: a mother who preaches against witches/wizards and her adopted children’s home. She seems to adopt children and also provide somewhat of a soup-kitchen for homeless or needy children, all the while using the children to pass out fliers about the ‘evils’ of the witches and wizards that are hiding in the community. She beats the children if they show any ounce of magic ability or talk about it.
Among her adopted children is a young girl and a teenage boy. One of the major Auror characters who seems to report directly to the leader of the New York / American Wizarding community meets regularly with the boy, asking him to be his "eyes and ears" looking for a magically-suppressed child potentially being the cause of the obscurus that in the film is believed to be the cause of some strange destructive occurrences. And as there are no documented cases of an obscurial living past the age of 10, children are the obvious source of this powerful force. We eventually learn that the obscurial is in fact the boy the Auror confides in and that his advanced age gives him greater power than any obscurial before him.
If you want to know what happens, please watch the movie. It’s very well done. I’m sure I was not the only one struck with the extreme parallel that can be drawn with being an obscurial and being gay or transgender. The self-loathing of the child who knows what they are and wants to embrace it but gets abused daily for even thinking about it. And the letting loose of that suppressed anger and hate when they hit a mental breakdown. In the non-wizarding world (and even in our own world with the likes of the Salem Witch Trials) magic is feared because it is different. For decades the same has been thought of about homosexuality and transsexuality.
Anyone who grew up with other children knows that being different is never good. Our teachers and our parents tell us to celebrate our uniqueness but at a young age, our peers often point out and make jabs at our differences when they don’t relate to them. And so we suppress, we conform, we try to be like other people so we can fit into society. Sometimes we suppress things so well that we even suppress the realization of who we are, setting us back years until we can embrace our true selves and that it is possible to live a happy life.
Another example of this in the film is when the main character Newt tells the story of how he encountered a little girl who had an obscurus inside her on a trip to Africa. He removed the obscurus from the girl and trapped it in a magical bubble- like stasis. Regrettably as a result, the little girl dies. This also relates to being LGBT, it cannot be removed; it is a deep part of us. Unfortunately, conversion therapies want us to believe otherwise; that there is some way to remove the abnormalities others think they have found.
The main difference in this parallel I’m trying to draw is that hopefully there isn’t a breaking point where someone who is LGBT can never be helped. Hopefully they don’t go ballistic on their oppressors and actually do physical harm and yet we have seen it time and time again for gay and trans people. It’s become a constant for them to have suicidal tendencies rather than try to deal with being who they are.
I have to hope that at least some of the people who see the movie and draw that parallel will take it to heart and learn to support their children instead of seeking to conform them to what major society deems ‘normal’. And I also have to give props to J.K. Rowling for the amazing way she drew this theme out in a (dare I say?) fantastic way.