Voter fraud, disinformation and identity politics: How the movie’s metaphors mirror today’s political landscape

6 mins read

First Release: 4.15.2022 

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Rating: PG-13

While the newest addition to the Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts movie series, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, takes place in a wizarding world, it deals with real-life political issues. 

With a darker feel and a provocative theme, the film loses some of its childish magic. The movie develops a new voice as our favorite characters mature and reveal their secrets. With a more serious tone, the film follows Dumbledore’s past and connects our harsh reality to the familiar wizarding world. 

Fan-favorite Dumbledore, played by Jude Law, appeared in the last two Fantastic Beasts movies. Dumbledore knows that his old friend Gellert Grindelwald, played by Mads Mikkelsen (who replaced Johnny Depp), is trying to overthrow the entirety of the wizarding world and make it his own. Dumbledore teams up with Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the ins and outs of the magical beasts world. Together, with the help of some other wizards and witches, they attempt to take down Grindelwald and his posse, facing many obstacles and new beasts along the way. 

Since its release on April 15, the movie has grossed about $150 million. Audience reviews are just so-so — critics give it a 46 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — and after four years in the making, the movie feels anticlimactic. Some of the film’s strongest scenes are also its most controversial. Its election scene gave me deja vu to the 2020 election, when many rallies spiraled out of control. 

Taking place toward the end of the film, the election scene follows three candidates vying to run the wizarding world. For a candidate to be chosen, a Qilin beast has to see the purity and goodness in the candidates — the Qilin will bow to select the new ruler if they are truly good. But if a candidate has bad intentions at heart, the Qilin will sense that. Beforehand, Grindelwald killed one of the two baby Qilins while the other was in the hands of Newt Scamander. Grindelwald used that magic and forced the Qilin to vote for him before bringing it back to life. Toward the end of the film, in the election scene, the Qilin bows for Grindelwald, causing chaos. 

The scene draws clear parallels to the real world. Former President Trump continues to allege that widespread voter fraud took place in the 2020 election, even as investigation after investigation has shown that no such fraud took place. Grindelwald’s involvement and influence in the wizarding election mimicks those real-life scenarios. 

In a broader sense, the three candidates all stood for very different ideas and beliefs in the movie, much like the divide in the recent 2020 election

Grindelwald brainwashed other wizards, which felt reminiscent of the lying, cheating, and manipulation done by some unscrupulous politicians. Our society has faced many issues with large amounts of disinformation being spread around by social media which has had a damaging effect on not only people, but the political system as well. 

Tackling another relevant issue in our world, it was confirmed that Dumbledore is homosexual. Many fans from the Harry Potter series had assumed that Dumbledore was gay even though J.K Rowling already introduced this notion, but in this movie, multiple scenes emphasize it. In the other two installments of the series and the Harry Potter movies, it is not displayed in the plots at all, making this film more final and conclusive for Dumbledore’s story. This direct confirmation, albeit only a few scenes, was validating to many in the LGBTQIA+ community, and a major revelation in the Harry Potter franchise. Both the Harry Potter films and Fantastic Beasts films have cult followings, and to see representations of all types of people is refreshing. 

The film leans into the power of relationships, portraying Dumbledore’s brother for the first time. We see some old, familiar faces in the movie too: Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), Porpetina Goldstein (Kathrine Waterston), and Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) all come back in supporting roles, although some have returned with a darker demeanor adding to the chaotic feel. Also, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) makes a comeback and helps in taking away Grindelwald’s power with the rest of his friends. Warner Bros. has yet to confirm a fourth film, but fans will likely be excited to see what is in store for all of our favorite characters. 

While many fans, including me, wanted more from this movie, other viewers felt that the characters tapped into themselves and it was a great addition to the series. It breaks the surface level that is the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies, calling out multiple societal and political obstacles that the world faces. This new direction not only suggests a fresh start for upcoming projects in the franchise, but also serves as a more forceful and grim reminder that we live in uncertain times.

Isabella Romero

Isabella is a Guest Author for Kidizenship from Westlake High School in Austin, Texas.

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