At some point, we’re going to get a Harry Potter and the Cursed Child movie – obviously. The franchise is a super-successful cultural behemoth and there’s no way any studio would leave potentially millions of dollars on the table. The question is whether the movie will have the courage to lean into the emotional heart of the show’s story: it’s a gay romance, and the movie should own that.
For those who don’t have the time or the money to experience five hours of Harry Potter on the stage – I could practically hear my wallet crying the whole time – the Cursed Child is set during the Hogwarts years of Harry and Ginny’s youngest son, Albus Severus Potter. There are cameos from famous Harry Potter characters throughout including Voldemort and Severus Snape but, really, the story focuses on the bond between Albus and Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco.
Both of the boys are sorted into Slytherin, but times have changed from this being the house of the Harry Potter villains. The duo strikes up a firm friendship and, over the course of the play, we see that friendship become what I believe – and so do many others – to be a romance.
This isn’t just me going out on a limb to insert some much-needed LGBTQ+ representation into the Potter world either. This might be the franchise that took 15 years between the announcement that Dumbledore was gay and the first explicit acknowledgment of his sexuality on screen in Fantastic Beasts 3, but we’ve moved on at least a little.
The show has changed since its first performance, with some of those changes clearly suggesting that Albus and Scorpius are more romantic than bromantic.
There’s an abridged version of Cursed Child currently open on Broadway, cut down from the original two-part version to a single sitting. While lots of stuff was cut out completely or shortened, the creators added a handful of very significant lines to the final scene between Albus and his father. This part of the scene isn’t present in the original rehearsal script published in book form in 2016, but it now also exists in the longer version of the play performed in London.
“You do know, right? That Scorpius is the most important person in my life. That he might always be the most important,” says Albus. Harry replies: “I know. And I like it. In fact, I really like him. And if he’s the most important person in your life then I’d say that’s a very good thing.”
It’s a beautiful, subtle moment in which father and son acknowledge the depth of the connection between Albus and Scorpius. By the time this scene happens, we’ve seen the two boys bond over the course of several years at Hogwarts and cause havoc together with a stolen Time Turner. The closeness of their bond and their loyalty to each other above all else is the core of the play, even more than Harry’s struggles with being a good father when he never got to know his own dad.
Brady Dalton Richards, who plays Scorpius on Broadway, told Broadway World that the revised version of the play specifically works to clarify “a deeper and possibly more romantic vibe” between the two teenagers. Audiences had read into it before – and some had accused the show of queerbaiting – but now it has been baked into the story in a clearer way. What was once subtext is now text.
When we inevitably get to the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child movie release date, this core of the story simply has to remain. Without the emotional heart provided by the romance plotline, Cursed Child will feel like fan fiction written by some poor fool who’s watched the Harry Potter movies in order obsessively a few too many times and felt the need to meddle with time travel. The story is deeply silly and needs character at its center to work at all.
That, ultimately, is what made the best movies from the original series so brilliant. They were grounded in the connection between the central trio, whereas the Fantastic Beasts series has floundered by delivering too much plot and not enough heart. Cursed Child has a golden opportunity to avoid that fate by allowing Scorbus – as social media shippers have named them – to show their love for each other.
The Potter franchise has always struggled a little with romance, particularly in Half-Blood Prince. On the page, the story struggles with an over-reliance on the unpleasant British slang of “snogging”, while the movie excises all of the Voldemort backstory from the book to focus more on Ron Weasley’s relationship with Lavender Brown and the beginnings of Harry and Ginny’s love for each other. With the darker tone of the later Potter movies, it just doesn’t fit.
That’s a problem Cursed Child doesn’t have. The romance between Albus and Scorpius is not an irrelevance the story has to stop to address; it’s written into everything that happens. These are two young people discovering their love for each other while going on a terrifying adventure and, in fact, many of the scrapes they get into are a result of their desire to protect each other and save each other. Their love isn’t an added flourish – it’s completely necessary.
At a time in which we see so many of the biggest new movies from major studios shy away from depicting LGBTQ+ romance for fear of upsetting the political right or overseas markets, Cursed Child has a chance to take a clear and welcome stand.
Without a fully-fledged commitment to Scorbus, there’s no way a movie can do the story justice. Here’s hoping they have the courage to do it.
Cursed Child is something we’ll be talking more about very soon. For now, all eyes are on the Harry Potter TV series release date and whether we’ll get to see the original Harry Potter cast on screen again. You can also learn why the Harry Potter TV series has already broken a franchise tradition.
For more magic, find out why we can’t forgive the Harry Potter finale for this book change, or swap the sorcery of Hogwarts for the brutal fantasy of Westeros to find out about House of the Dragon season 2.
The creator of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, has made a number of transphobic remarks on social media in recent years. If you’d like to learn more about transgender equality or lend your support, here are two charities we encourage you to visit: the National Center for Transgender Equality in the US, and Mermaids in the UK.