This summer the new Fantastic Beasts trailer was released at San Diego Comicon. While there has been a fair amount of buzz surrounding this trailer, no one has been buzzing about the one thing I cannot stop thinking about!
Dumbledore never taught Defence Against the Dark Arts!
Let’s back up a little, so early on in the trailer, there is a scene where Newt Scrimandor is seen in a very familiar scene. The defence against the darks arts class is lined up in front of a mirrored wardrobe which contains a boggart; a magical creature which takes the shape of a person’s greatest fear.
This scene is a very clever callback to the original film series, as it directly mirrors the famous defence against the darks arts lesson from The Prisoner of Azkaban (how a boggart was found in the same exact wardrobe is quite a coincidence but that’s not the problem here). The problem with this scene is that Dumbledore is in it.
Here are the facts; while Dumbledore was a teacher at Hogwarts he taught Transfigurations. This is not merely a well-known behind the scenes fact, but canonically in the original books. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets while Harry is venturing into the diary Tom Marvolo Riddle (later anagrammed, The Dark Lord Voldemort) mentions this to Harry.
“Only the Transfiguration teacher, Dumbledore, seemed to think Hagrid was innocent” (p. 312).
Since this tidbit is absent from the films one could argue that this is merely a divergent path between the books and movies. This article http://www.mugglenet.com/2018/07/albus-dumbledore-and-the-career-change/ even argues the case that Dumbledore may have briefly taught the subject early in his teaching career. While I consider both to be lazy excuses they are both fair ones. The movie and book canon do differ, and if the film universe’s plot would be better served with Dumbledore as a DADA Professor then sure; except it’s not.
(warning, for those not versed in the Harry Potter lore, there is a lot to unpack here)
For Dumbledore to have ever taught defence against the dark arts, whether it complies with the canon or not, is a grave misunderstanding of his character and diminishes his series arch which is realized in his final meeting with Harry in The Deathly Hallows. One of Dumbledore’s defining characteristics in the novels and movies was his refusal to accept positions of power; he could have been minister for magic but instead, he was a professor, and then, headmaster. We later discover that Dumbledore denied himself such positions as he feared he would be corrupted by the possibility of power due to his infatuation with the deathly hallows and his past relationship with Grindlewald. Dumbledore very well could have been by his side. But Grindlewald played a role in his sister’s death so Dumbledore most definitely would have been. This became the defining moment in Dumbledore’s life, explaining his character motivations throughout the entire series.
With all of this in his past, it does not make sense for Dumbledore to dive into teaching about the dark arts when he had just escaped from them. Dumbledore himself stayed away from the subject for the same reasons he kept Snape from it: he understood the allure of the dark arts and feared he would succumb to them again. This also explains why Snape’s love for Lily allowed Dumbledore to trust him so definitely. Dumbledore lived his life for someone he lost, someone he had mistreated in life and was directly responsible for the death of. To have Dumbledore teaching DADA, and so soon after Arianna’s death, undercuts his entire character!
Okay, so some underpaid scriptwriter in Hollywood who never read the Harry Potter books wanted to make a reference to the original series to develop Newt’s character for the new series of films and, also needing to develop his relationship with Dumbledore, placed Dumbledore in the role of teacher for this scene. It’s a fair mistake to make- but this wasn’t any writer, this was J.K. Rowling.
While it is very much in J.K. Rowling’s character to introduce plot holes and continuity questions into her own work, her strongest point as a writer has always been her characters. This mistake makes me wonder: at what point did J.K. Rowling become so removed from the Harry Potter series?