OPINION: Newt Scamander is the Protagonist We All Need Right Now
In 2015, the world was introduced to Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The film has, unfortunately, been forgotten about in a lot of geek circles, including my own. The movie, and Newt himself, didn’t really strike me when I sat down in the cinema and watched the seemingly lackluster wizard blockbuster back in 2016 either, but last month, I revisited Fantastic Beasts in preparation for the upcoming sequel. Upon further reflection and a fresh pair of eyes going in, I discovered not only one of the most fun blockbusters in recent memory, but one of the strongest, most important, and most relatable protagonists ever put to screen.
Newt Scamander is a sheepish and timid former-Hufflepuff Hogwarts graduate turned magnificent beast catcher and “magizoologist,” and boy does his character intrigue me. When he first graced the screen, many audience members worldwide started a theory and headcanon that Newt was actually on the autism spectrum. Given J.K. Rowling’s newfound want for diversification in the Wizarding World and Newt’s specific mannerisms and speech patterns, this character has been taken in by the Harry Potter fandom as the perfect example of autistic representation in cinema.
I absolutely adore this concept. Not only is it a perfect vessel for more representation in this universe, but its a perfect example of how to represent autistic and disabled characters. Rather than presenting Newt as an otherworldly outcast or someone who is inherently different, director David Yates and Rowling herself just present Newt as . . . Newt. He’s not some spectacle who exists just to tick representation boxes for Rowling or a social outcast, but he's a normal character living his life with a very normal and common disorder. The way this is handled is absolutely graceful and should be admired and praised by directors, studios, and fans alike.
Another wonderful and heavily-documented factor of Newt’s character is his complete deconstruction and disregard for social and gender norms placed upon him. Multiple times throughout the first Fantastic Beasts film, Newt defies all masculine traits and ideas that are forced upon him, creating a unique and refreshing look at a male protagonist in such a large fantasy blockbuster.
He is the perfect representation of not only disregarding what others think about your sexuality, masculinity, and abilities and disabilities, but exceeding every expectation that someone might have for you along the way. Watching an autistic, socially awkward, and gender-norm breaking male character be the hero of the story was an incredibly important and refreshing moment to me when I rewatched this movie. It’s different — and it’s important as well.
I grew up on Harry Potter and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series, and although the male protagonists of those series aren’t exactly typical, there is something undeniably different and charming about Newt Scamander. The disregard for his forced masculinity, the autistic representation, and a possible sexual identity that also doesn’t conform to his heteronormative wizarding society, Newt Scamander is truly the perfect protagonist for the modern age.
Despite the movies and the cast and crew of the films having their faults and problematic castings, Warner Brothers, Rowling, Yates, and Eddie Redmayne himself have created one of the most relatable and important heroes of the 21st century.
Fantastic Beasts as a franchise, like Newt, is disregarding the expected norms forced upon it and is creating something truly beautiful and incredibly relatable along the way.