By Olivia Favreau
Quick little disclaimer: this opinion piece deals mainly with the Harry Potter book series which doesn’t belong to me! Also a reminder that yeah, this article contains spoilers, but how have you not read these books already? They’re like, decades old.
Here’s a delightful fun fact: Cho Chang is one of the only Asian characters to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that is mentioned. The only two others that come to mind, at least for me, are Parvati and Padma, the Patil Twins. Another delightful fun fact is that “Cho” and “Chang” are both surnames. More interestingly, Cho is a Korean last name and Chang is a Chinese last name.
Listen, I love J.K. Rowling. She is an incredibly talented, life-changing author who has gifted the world a great book series but in her extensive novel research, was it really that hard to find a Chinese first name? Or a Korean first name, for that matter? Cho’s ethnicity isn’t even confirmed on the official Harry Potter Wikipedia page. Nowhere does it say that she is confirmed to be Chinese, Korean, or of any other East Asian blood. Her birthplace is (and please realize that this is a quote) “Great Britain or Ireland”. That’s how much detail was put into Cho Chang. Even Wikipedia’s unsure of where she was born. What makes that worse is we find out in her short biography, that she is a fan of the Tutshill Tornadoes Quidditch team. We know more about Cho’s Quidditch preferences than her place of birth. Tell me that’s not at least a little disillusioning?
Cho’s quality as a multifaceted character is redeemed, at least in part, by the fact that she is a seeker for the Ravenclaw Quidditch team and the only female on the team, which I think is awesome. All the power to her! It would be great if I wasn’t so distracted that Ravenclaw, the house known for its “wisdom, cleverness and wit” (according to the Pottermore Wiki) was so stereotypically fitting for an Asian girl. It is literally the math-loving, nerdy Asian trope that we all know so well. Let me guess, her parents are super strict and want her to be a doctor too, right?
At the Yule Ball in the fourth book in the series, The Goblet of Fire, Cho appears as Cedric Diggory’s date. I looked up some photos of what she wore in the film, and at first glance, she appeared to be wearing a cheongsam, which is a traditionally Cantonese dress, therefore confirming her identity (at least, I hope) as Chinese. Unfortunately, after looking for a little longer, I discovered it was actually just a dress made to look the perfect amount of “ambiguously Asian” while not helping the audience to understand her ethnicity. Actually, it has as many Asian features crammed into one outfit as humanly possible, like her long sleeves that resembled those on the traditional outfits of Japanese Geisha girls and the silk material her dress is made of that is another throwback to a cheongsam or a qipao, the Mandarin equivalent of a cheongsam. There’s even some little Sakura-looking flowers at the bottom of her dress! How adorable!
I agree that Harry Potter changed the world and touched the lives of countless children, but would it be so hard to do a quick search on Google for specifically – Chinese names instead of mixing a Chinese and Korean surname and hoping for the best? J.K. Rowling, by the way, if you by some kind of destiny and malevolence of the universe get to read this, you are welcome to send me a quick letter. Whether it contains a lawsuit or an explanation, I’d take it both ways.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on the Patil twins.