books, harry potter, rant

In Defence of Draco Malfoy

Something that (maybe irrationally) irritates me is J. K. Rowling’s refusal to let go of her prejudices against Draco Malfoy. Yes, she is his writer, but at the same time, she deliberately shaped him to be seen as such a negative, “bad” character, and did him a massive disservice in the process.

Trying to shape a character to be seen a certain way is understandable, and it’s something I understand myself, as a writer. However, when you place a book in your reader’s hands, that story is no longer solely yours. That story belongs to the world and the interpretations that your readers create. Whatever you intended for your characters can easily be flipped on its head.

Draco Malfoy is, perhaps, the most classic existence of this. [Quick note before I continue: I don’t like Cursed Child, I have no interest in reading it, I really don’t want to consider that in my explanation for this blog post, because in my opinion, it shouldn’t exist. You can love it, I don’t mind, I just won’t call on it here.] 

Draco is in Slytherin – the House set up to be the house of evil from the beginning. Hagrid says it himself:

“There’s not a single a witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin.”

And from that moment in The Philosopher’s Stone and on, we are pushed into perceiving Slytherin to be wholly negative. Many, many people misinterpret this quote as saying that everyone in Slytherin is bad. I, myself, had a massive argument with a (now ex) friend on a train ride to sixth form because he said Slytherin was a bad House.

Slytherin’s representation is not representative of its inhabitants. Remember, we read all the books through Harry’s eyes. Harry has, from Hagrid, from Ron, and from all the other Gryffindors he becomes friends with, learnt to see Slytherins as bad people.

Draco Malfoy’s characterisation as a bully and a coward is intrinsically unfair. Harry Potter is an unreliable narrator, he is biased, as any person would be when faced with something they have been conditioned to fear and hate. Hagrid says Slytherin is somehow bad from the outset, because a “bad” House is needed to provide suitable dramatic tension, and Voldemort’s House is the easiest option.

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[angsty teenager alert: definitely more relatable than harry and his weird growling at ginny and dean in harry potter and the raging hormonal sixth book]

We are not able to sympathise or empathise with Draco because we are not allowed inside his head. J. K. Rowling does not let us. We can’t say a character is intrinsically evil when we can’t see inside his head.

What many forget when they read the books, is that Draco’s family are not nice people. It’s popular fanon that Draco was emotionally, or even physically abused growing up, and there is some evidence of emotional abuse by his family within the books itself (mostly from Bellatrix, I would argue). He is not given the choice as to whether he wants to become a Death Eater or not.

In a deleted scene from Deathly Hallows Part 2 we can see that Draco does actually show some evidence for helping Harry. This isn’t in the books, but I thought it would be interesting to add in, especially as in the final film, Draco is seen hurrying away with his parents, without a single look behind him.

Dudley, Petunia, and even Vernon Dursley are all given moments to show their “good” sides as they disappear from Harry’s life. Draco is not given that luxury (except in aforementioned deleted scene). It is up to us, as readers, to take all of the evidence we are given, and draw our own conclusions, not just blindly leap to what we’re “supposed” to read into these novels.

I don’t know about you, but I choose to believe that Draco Malfoy was, perhaps, the most misunderstood character of the entire series. And Tom Felton is bloody beautiful.

19 thoughts on “In Defence of Draco Malfoy”

  1. Well first of I completely agree with your view on the Cursed child, I haven’t read it, It’s fan fiction that made it to the publishing house. Isn’t Draco’s role supposed to be that, I mean he does become a death eater and kinda two faced by the end, and starting out in the philosophers stone when he challenges harry to a duel and tells on them with the dragon you don’t like him. Sure when Tom Felton plays him I would agree with you, but then the book is the book and the movie be the movie right

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reading Cursed Child is something I’m morally opposed to that I’m likely to continue being morally opposed to for quite a while. Yes, Draco’s role is supposed to be negative, but I think it doesn’t have to be, by any means. Both in the book and the film (and, honestly, with the dragon thing, I would argue that Draco didn’t do anything massively wrong, and it was probably better for everyone that the dragon was safely taken away…)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Same here, but I’ll probably never ever read it. Even the fbwft movies are stretching it too much. True Draco didn’t do anything wrong, but J.k. Rowling did give him a chance when he is going to kill Dumbledore and that entire scene

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I mean, she was still in control of that scene, and I don’t think he could have done much, to be honest. I will admit, though, I love the FBWFT movies (at least the first one), so I can forgive that, at the very least.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I just love Eddie Redmayne, and although I do know that she’s just milking the cash cow, I’m a sucker for a good magical film. Also, I think it was done really well (if we ignore Johnny Depp as Grindlewald…)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. He’s had some accusations of physical/sexual abuse made against him by some women that he’s worked with (and I think his wife as well) and I don’t personally choose to support anyone who does that

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Actually it was just his wife. And that doesn’t make him any less talented than he is. And his previous wives testified that he’d never do something like that. But each to their own I guess

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Fair enough, but I feel like (especially with all the Weinstein stuff) we shouldn’t be supporting people that abuse anyone… But then again, like you said, each to their own. I do love Pirates of the Caribbean

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Yeas weinstein and like even spacey fine. But with Depp it was one person – his ex wife – and most people like his other ex wives and people who dated him said that he’d never do that, and she even wrote a detailed letter about it.
        Love potc but only the first three. After Gore Verbinski left, its not been so good

        Like

      8. Just because it’s only one thing? And people show different sides of themselves to different people. I don’t know, I just don’t think Depp is a particularly nice guy, and I’m not going to choose to support his work, because I find it unlikely that his ex wife would lie.

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  2. Whatever you wrote, just . . . MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY!!!!! I mean, Draco doesn’t deserve to be cast off as the bully ALL the time (when I tell people this they just roll their eyes or gape like a fish). Draco IS the most misunderstood character.
    . . . And yeah, Tom Felton is gorgeous. I still haven’t gotten over my, ahem, movie Draco crush ; )
    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. THANK YOU!! Yeah, where I do agree that he is a bully some of the time, he is definitely not the worst character in the series, by a long stretch. And thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! I’d say I somewhat prefer him to Snape in some ways, but they’re both brilliant characters that definitely deserved better. Thank you for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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