The Problem with Remus Lupin

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Today I’m going to talk about Harry Potter. I have four favourite characters from the Harry Potter series: Voldemort/Tom Riddle (because I always find the villains more interesting than the heroes), Severus Snape (I both like and dislike him and that proves that he played his double role perfectly. I do not, however, turn a blind eye to the many issues surrounding Snape), Arthur Weasley (he’s a good man and he is able to find even the most boring muggle things exciting) and, of course, Remus Lupin. I have so many feelings for Remus Lupin, many positive feelings, but also many complaints about how both the books and the movies treated him (although movie Lupin was criminally underused whereas in the books his role was bigger).

What’s with the title? What’s the problem with Remus Lupin? First of all, he’s fictional and that makes me mad because I don’t like living in a world without Remus Lupin in it! My main issue with Lupin (and I cannot stress the “my” part enough) is that he started off as a character with true potential and until Order of the Phoenix he was fine. Then The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows happened and all of a sudden Lupin started behaving completely out of character.

What do we know about Remus Lupin? First and foremost, he’s a werewolf, bitten at a very early age. The books heavily imply that the wizarding world was strictly socially and financially stratified and after The Chamber of Secrets and The Goblet of Fire (the whole “the blood must be pure” attitude and Hermione’s attempts to fight for the rights of the elves respectively), we can safely assume that the wizarding society was as racist as it goes. Muggles were practically filth in the eyes of the old families and werewolves and other supernatural beings (is supernatural the correct term for the Harry Potter universe? Anyway, you get what I want to say…) were marginalized and even hunted as they posed a threat to the purity and balance of the wizarding world (this is typical racist discourse…). The point I’m trying to make is that WIZARDS WERE RACISTS.

In this social context, Lupin could have easily gone the Greyback route and turn into an angry and spiteful werewolf. After all, he had ALL the reasons. He was bitten and became a werewolf when he was just a child as revenge for his father’s insulting comments to Greyback, he grew up knowing that he would never have a normal life due to his condition, his best friend and his wife were killed by the most evil wizard of all time, his other best friend got murdered by his other best friend who ended up in Azkaban, he had to spend his adult life all alone, impoverished and unable to find a job and when he finally found a job he got fired because an ADULT colleague couldn’t control his teenage grudge and shut his blabbing mouth. It’s all a mess. With this background Lupin had every right to be evil, or at least mischievous. What did Remus Lupin do? He carried on with dignity and strength.

Lupin was kind, compassionate, he understood the importance of chocolate and promoted its consumption, he was the only Defence against the Dark Arts professor who actually taught useful things to those poor kids, he was willing to risk his life and go and live with the werewolves for the sake of the Order and he used all the hatred and discrimination he had faced as a shield. And then he got together with Tonks…and yes, that’s the problem with Remus Lupin.

What did Lupin do after he got together with Tonks? He almost abandoned his wife and unborn child. That’s why I never bought the whole Tonks+Lupin=Love! Remus Lupin would never even dare to think of abandoning his child, not when he saw his best friend die and leave Harry an orphan. Lupin would never marry Tonks, he was too poor and too dangerous after all (his words, not mine), he would just walk away. Lupin would never behave so out of character. I’m not saying that they didn’t like each other, I’m just saying that they got together for the wrong reasons. Lupin was heartbroken and overtaken by grief…gee, I wonder if something awful and tragic happened in The Order of the Phoenix to make him so miserable? Oh wait, that’s right, SIRIUS BLACK DIED. Warning: if you’re a die-hard Harry Potter fan devoted to the book canon stop reading now, you’re about to get angry.

I always considered Lupin to be gay, there, I said it. It’s not that he did something, I just felt that out of the four Marauders Lupin was the one most likely to be homosexual (statistically speaking, one of the Marauders was most likely gay). It makes sense to me, he is a werewolf, he already is a metaphor for marginalized individuals. There’s also the infamous quote by David Thewlis who claimed that Alfonso Cuaron told him to portray Lupin as a “gay junkie”. I have the same concerns about Tonks. Tonks is a fierce lady, she is a metamorphmagus, outgoing, pretty vocal, totally punk. I’ve always pictured her to be gender fluid (I always thought her ability to shift forms was a well-hidden metaphor…). I don’t buy her sudden domestic turn. It’s out of character for both of them. Remus Lupin was grieving Sirius Black’s death and Tonks happened to be there.

My head canon (again, emphasis on “my”) is that Lupin had feelings for Sirius, then the whole I-was-framed-and-now-everyone-believes-I-betrayed-my-best-friends happened, Sirius ended up in Azkaban and Lupin was left all alone. After Prisoner of Azkaban I like to think that they somehow found a way to address their feelings (they both loved each other, no question about that) and maybe they even had a couple of happy months together. And then Sirius died and Lupin lost his best friend again and this time it hurt even more. I remember reading the last two books and I kept thinking “this doesn’t feel like something Lupin would do!”. After Sirius died, Lupin seemed completely lost confused and his actions reflect his state of mind.

I know that a relationship between Remus and Sirius would never make it on page. Tiny note I want to make: most events in the books are from Harry’s perspective, so maybe his teenage mind cannot make some obvious connections…like, Harry, no way is your Defence against the Dark Arts professor named REMUS LUPIN a werewolf, no way! In Order of the Phoenix Remus and Sirius live together and they send Harry joint presents for Christmas.  THEY SENT YOU JOINT PRESENTS HARRY, WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED? A SEX TAPE? Needless to say, it’s a wonder Harry lasted 7 books…but seriously, the way the relationship between Sirius and Remus is written in the books is suspiciously close. They always seem to be staring at each other and their movements and actions are synchronized. I also want to point out that even the slightest detail in Rowling’s writing matters!

I don’t know is Lupin’s weird behaviour was accidental. I blame the fact that the movies were made before all the books were out. After The Goblet of Fire the writing changed, it was obvious that everything was more movie-friendly. Rowling added things nobody really cared for (for instance the awkward love story between Harry and Ginny, I always imagined Harry to go the Frodo way, suffer from the ridiculous amount of trauma he went through, travel all around the world and then quietly retreat from the spotlight), gave the most cliché and awful final scene, and kind of destroyed two great characters by bringing them together in a forced, heterosexual union that felt like a last-minute parallel to James and Lily. Yes, I get that we needed an example of another boy who lost both his parents in the Battle of Hogwarts so that we can get all sad and say “oh nooo, just like Harry!”. You know what? Not necessary! There are so many examples of equally tragic anonymous losses. The way Lupin and Tonk were killed off was easy emotion. When I was still in undergrad school, I would often joke that “the text doesn’t know how to handle this character, it’s easier to simply kill him off”. Maybe I should go back to school and transfer all of my writing energy there…

Along with Lupin’s forced heterosexuality, one of my biggest Harry Potter-related issues is Dumbledore. Dumbledore treated Lupin the same way Dumbledore treated everyone: he used him and then tossed him aside. Hey Dumbledore, why didn’t you employ Lupin right after all his friends where either dead or in Azkaban? Why didn’t you offer him a teaching position in your fancy school where apparently the rules don’t matter at all? Why didn’t you hire Lupin back then, especially when you knew about his condition and the racism he faced? I guess you really cared for the safety of your students, that’s why you never hired an ex-Death Eater who pretty much caused the deaths of James and Lily Potter and was being mean and abusive to his students *Snape, Snape, Severus Snape*. Why didn’t you help Lupin when he was in need? Oh, that’s right, because you use people Dumbledore, you use them whenever they happen to serve YOUR plans. “I’m Dumbledore and I’m so smart. Hmmm, should I bring Lupin and Harry together since Harry is about to start his education at Hogwarts? Maybe they can help each other, Harry can learn about his parents and poor Remus can finally have some closure. Oh no, never mind, Harry should be given as little information as possible and Remus is not useful to me just yet. I should better go and hide this really useful but underused time turner and then hire the obviously stable and not suspicious at all Quirrell! Haha, ten points for Dumbledore!”.  I’m not a Dumbledore hater, I just can’t stand everybody glorifying him…

I know that this is just me throwing a fit over a fictional, I repeat, a FICTIONAL character, but hear my point. Harry Potter was and still is a beloved book saga. My generation grew up with it and I’m sure that many kids around the world have fallen in love with Harry’s adventures. The fact that people are still talking about Harry Potter, making up their own theories, writing fan fics, buying merchandise, rereading the books and re-watching the movies proves that Harry Potter still has great power and influence. Two words: REPRESENTATION and DIVERSITY. MORE GAY CHARACTERS. Is it too much to ask for more LGBT characters? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of the biggest literary and cinematic franchises ever had a gay character? No, Dumbledore doesn’t count, he was never explicitly stated as gay in the books. I fear that Rowling felt the pressure of an upcoming movie adaptation and decided to force Lupin and Tonks into a heteronormative storyline, as if there aren’t enough heterosexual narratives out there…still, I’m glad even after all these years Harry Potter still matters-and I really had to test my self-control and not write a silly “Always” quote.

 

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