Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out recently, touted as the 8th Harry Potter book (despite the fact that it is neither a book nor was it written by J.K. Rowling). Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany devised the story, and Thorne did the writing.
Overall, it was pretty good. For those unused to reading scripts, it was probably a very jarring and upsetting experience, but I have no doubt it translated well to the stage, minus a few little tonal inconsistencies.
My big problem, however, has to do with the treatment of two characters. These characters were great individually and together – exceptional together, even. They had verve, they had chemistry. They clearly loved each other – yes, loved, and they would be the first to admit their feelings for each other.
But they never got into a relationship. Why?
Because they were both males.
Had this been a heterosexual dynamic, they would have gotten together (had they not gotten together, that would have been criticized to no end for being totally unrealistic), but because they were both males, the script shoehorned arbitrary heterosexual “attractions” that, had they been completely removed from the story, would not have changed a single thing.
This is the ultimate in queerbait.
BEFORE I GET INTO ALL OF THIS, WARNING: MAJOR, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
If you want to be surprised by any of the developments in the story, STOP READING. I am not kidding. Spoilers ga-freaking-lore ahead.
Still here? Okay, good.
I am, of course, talking about Albus and Scorpius. Albus, Harry Potter’s son, gets sorted into Slytherin and becomes best friends with Scorpius, Draco Malfoy’s son. What follows is a collection of direct quotes from the script. Individually, each of these could be seen as subtle hints. Taken together, however, it is comprehensive evidence of the love and attraction they felt for each other.
Yes, I am aware there is such a thing as being straight and having an extremely close relationship with someone of the same sex. Platonic love, bromance, brother from another mother, whatever you want to call it, I get it – those are very real. You don’t have to look very far for examples (Riggs and Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon come to mind).
This is not one of those relationships.
Why does this matter, some of you may ask. It matters because LGBT representation in popular media is underserved. It matters because the depth of feeling that Albus and Scorpius have for each other is blindingly, stupidly obvious. It matters that, despite such obviousness, the script still finds a way to contort itself into nonsensical dimensions, as if to say, “Ah ha, no gay action here! No, sirreebob. None of that queer stuff, wink wink nudge nudge.”
It matters because there are many LGBT people, especially kids, who could really freaking use heroes and role models in major media, and stories like this do an utter disservice to them. It matters because, as you’ll see with the quotes below, the evidence is there but the story willfully taunted its queer audience rather than celebrating it. It matters because J.K. Rowling, who retconned Dumbledore into a gay man, should have known better and insisted that maybe, instead of having a subtext, we make a gay relationship the text for a change.
It matters because, frankly, there is an embarrassing reluctance to make LGBT characters the heroes of stories like these.
But don’t take my word for it. Take it away, Cursed Child! Show us the signs that Albus and Scorpius are totally into each other:
Albus and Scorpius meet for the first time. Note Scorpius gets flustered upon seeing Albus. (Act 1, Scene 3)
Albus: Albus. Al. I’m—my name is Albus…
Scorpius: Hi Scorpius. I mean, I’m Scorpius. You’re Albus. I’m Scorpius. And you must be…
Scorpius: Hi Rose. Would you like some of my Fizzing Whizbees?
Rose: I’ve just had breakfast, thanks.
Scorpius: I’ve also got some Shock-o-Choc, Pepper Imps, and some Jelly Slugs. Mum’s idea. She says (sings) “Sweets, they always help you make friends.” (He realizes that singing was a mistake). Stupid idea, probably.
Harry, worried about Albus. (Note that the “as long as you’re happy…” line is one often trotted out by straight parents to gay children) (Act 1, Scene 4)
Albus: But I don’t need a Ron and Hermione. I’ve—I’ve got a friend, Scorpius, and I know you don’t like him but he’s all I need.
Harry: Look, as long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters to me.
First mention of physical contact. (Act 1, Scene 10)
Albus hugs his friend. With fierceness. They hold for a beat. Scorpius is surprised by this.
Scorpius: Okay. Hello. Um. Have we hugged before? Do we hug?
The two boys awkwardly dislocate.
Later, same scene, Scorpius willingly follows Albus, no matter what.
Albus: I’m going to do this, Scorpius. I need to do this. And you know as well as I do, I’ll entirely mess it up if you don’t come with me. Come on.
He grins. And then disappears ever up. Scorpius hesitates for a moment. He makes a face. And then hoists himself up and disappears after Albus.
Scorpius starts to realize the depths of his feelings. (Act 1, Scene 19)
Scorpius: My point is, there’s a reason we’re friends, Albus—a reason we found each other, you know? And whatever this—adventure—is about… [he then notices a clue for the puzzle they’re trying to solve]
Scorpius feels intense jealousy upon seeing Albus talk to a girl. Worth noting that, later in the scene, he convinces the girl to stay behind while he and Albus move ahead, alone. (Act 2, Scene 4)
Scorpius appears at the back of the stage. He looks at his friend talking to a girl—and part of him likes it and part of him doesn’t.
Scorpius isn’t enjoying the Delphi-Albus double act.
Scorpius tells Albus how much he means to him. (Act 2, Scene 6)
Albus: And then you got [to Hogwarts] and it turned out to be terrible after all.
Scorpius: Not for me. All I ever wanted to do was go to Hogwarts and have a mate to get up to mayhem with. Just like Harry Potter. And I got his son. How crazily fortunate is that.
Albus: But I’m nothing like my dad.
Scorpius: You’re better. You’re my best friend, Albus. And this is mayhem to the nth degree. Which is great, thumbs-up great, it’s just—I have got to say—I don’t mind admitting—I am a tiny bit—just a tiny bit scared.
Albus looks at Scorpius and smiles.
Albus: You’re my best friend too.
When Harry tells Albus not to see Scorpius anymore, it is devastating to the both of them. And it’s obvious to others. (Act 2, Scene 9)
Albus: Just—we’ll be better off without each other, okay?
Scorpius is left looking up after him. Heartbroken.
Even Draco sees it. Think about it – Scorpius CRIED TO HIS DAD ABOUT ANOTHER BOY. SO MUCH TO THE POINT WHERE DRACO WILLINGLY CONFRONTED THE MAN HE HATED THE MOST ON THIS EARTH. If this doesn’t sell it, I don’t know what will. (Act 2, Scene 13)
Draco [to Harry Potter]: I’m not here to antagonize you. But my son is in tears and I am his father and so I am here to ask why you would keep apart two good friends.
Even the DAUGHTER OF VOLDEMORT, the guy who knew nothing of love, sensed this. (Act 2, Scene 14)
Delphi [to Scorpius]: You’re best friends. Every owl [Albus] sends I can feel your absence. He’s destroyed by it.
Delphi: That’s the thing, isn’t it? About friendships. You don’t know what he needs. You only know he needs it. Find him, Scorpius. You two—you belong together.
Their reconciliation is the most emotional thing in this play, which includes Harry seeing his parents get killed. (Act 2, Scene 17)
Albus: …you’re kind, Scorpius. To the depths of your belly, to the tips of your fingers. I truly believe Voldemort—Voldemort couldn’t have a child like you.
Beat. Scorpius is moved by this.
Scorpius: That’s nice—that’s a nice thing to say.
Albus: And it’s something I should have said a long time ago. In fact, you’re probably the best person I know. And you don’t—you couldn’t—hold me back. You make me stronger—and when Dad forced us apart—without you—
Scorpius: I didn’t much like my life without you in it either.
Scorpius extends his hand, Albus pulls Scorpius up into a hug.
Snape, a guy who knows a thing or two about holding a torch, sees this in Scorpius. (Act 3, Scene 9)
Snape: Listen to me, Scorpius. Think about Albus. You’re giving up your kingdom for Albus, right? One person. All it takes is one person.
There are several other quotes that I didn’t include here, but this post is getting long enough. One last thing I’d like to highlight is a comment from a person who saw the play:
I saw the play and compared to that, the intimacy was seriously downplayed in the script.
On stage it was way less ambiguous, especially from Scorpius’ side. On the script we don’t get to see the body language, stolen glances, jealousy and all the pining that went on. There were moments after the later hugs where they sort of [disentangled] when still staring at each other faces all close, and the final scene (the Rose one) they were sitting so close to each other they almost were on each other, and that scene had one moment with the boys’ faces just inches from each other.
And the staircase pining scene is just absurdly romantic – it goes on for at least five minutes. The music is on Youtube, it’s an instrumental version of Imogen Heap’s Half Life, that should give an idea of the tone of the scene.
Again, what does it matter? It matters because it’s fundamentally dishonest to draw out the relationship with Albus and Scorpius in such an overt manner, and then not have them end up with each other romantically. Had this been a straight couple, there is no doubt that Albus and Scorpius would have kissed.
But it didn’t happen here, despite the fact that all evidence points to the notion that Albus and Scorpius have strong, deep feelings, and expressed the depth of their feelings in romantic, not platonic, language. As a result, not putting them together is deceptive. It willfully ignores the very real emotional needs of the characters, and worse, taunts the LGBT community with winks and nods when the audience could obviously see through the charade.
These characters clearly belonged with each other. And Cursed Child didn’t give them that satisfaction. Albus and Scorpius deserved better.
4 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Is Major Queerbait, And That’s Not Good”
Hello! Thank you for posting your text, for saying all this outloud (so to speak). I’m just a HP fan from Russia, who was absolutely appalled by the way this obviously passionate romantic relationship (you rarely see something that intense, in any work of fiction, between two heterosexual lovers) was treated at the end of the play. Although, it has to be said, reading the play, I sensed that all those heteronormative tropes (like Scorpius trying to make Rose notice and like him while making a fool of himself, or those playful interactions between Albus and Delphi…) would eventually lead to a sort of ‘no-homo’ ending.
That being said, I’d like to point out two interesting (I think) moments in the play.
1) The penultimate scene with Albus and Scorpius exchanging their views on who will start dating (girls) first, ends not only with a hug, but also with an enigmatic ‘new version of us’. Moreover, for the first time ever, there is a gay joke, an actual reference to their relationship being more than a friendship (kind of : ask Rose if it’s okay with her that we hug) :
“SCORPIUS reaches in and hugs ALBUS.
What’s this? I thought we decided we don’t hug.
SCORPIUS: I wasn’t sure. Whether we should. In this new version of us — I had in my head.
ALBUS: Better ask Rose if it’s the right thing to do.
SCORPIUS: Ha! Yeah. Right.
The two boys dislocate and grin at each other.”
2) One of the most annoying things in the play was how many times the word ‘friends’ (‘two friends’, ‘best friends’, ‘are we friends?’, ‘friends forever’, ‘your only friend’; litterally, the word was used like a thousand times…) was expressly used in reference to the boys, which felt especially ridiculous when uttered in relation to their suffering, while kept away from each other. So I felt almost relieved reading the scene in an alternate reality when Ron, married to Padma, meets Hermione and tells here how strange Albus mentioning Ron and Hermione being married is, because they are ‘only friends’.
“RON: Only — friends. Funny word — friends. Not that funny. Just a word really. Friends.
Friend. Funny friend. You, my funny friend, my Hermione. Not that — not my
Hermione, you understand — not MY Hermione — not MINE — you know, but…”
Since this little interlude is supposed to show how obvious it is Ron and Hermione love each other and are NOT just friends, I thought it was a sort of clue for the reader not to be mistaken on the account of Scorpius and Albus being called ‘good friends’.
Anyway, thanks a lot. Sorry my comment turned out to be this long.
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Thank you so much for your comment!
Your examples are terrific, and definitely help reinforce the idea that this is more than “just” friendship, particularly the Ron/Hermione exchange. Actually, I think that makes the case for Albus/Scorpius even stronger than most of the things I included in my post, because here the play defines for us what “friendship” can entail, and that’s true romantic love.
Personally, I find it frustrating that the play took a half-measures account on the Albus/Scorpius relationship. Like, if you don’t want to make them gay, that’s fine. Make them straight – Ron and Harry is a great example of a deep, hetero friendship. But don’t tease us either, with all of this innuendo, and then shove these hetero “crushes” that feel wildly off-note. It would be as distracting if the director of the play walked on stage in the middle of a scene and yelled, “NO HOMO!” before walking off.
Either make them gay or don’t. Just commit to a direction!
Anyway, again, thank you for your comment. It was very thoughtful and insightful 🙂
Thanks for such a quick reply 🙂
I’ve been seeing people all over the internet talking about the queerbaiting between Albus and Scorpio, and it sounded like they were onto something from the way they described it, but now that I read the actual quotes all together it…seems kind of platonic, or at least ambiguous. Like they were just trying to make a big point of the Malfoy-Potter conciliation and overshot the mark a little. Except for the fact that Snape compares his feelings for Lily to Scorpio’s feelings for Albus. The quote here is a little murky though. But if he said more than that or if the context makes it clearer then yeah, seems like an obvious romance thing. They blew a big opportunity but if there is a movie of this later on maybe they can change it.