“Crazy.” That’s what human Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) calls his witch girlfriend Queenie Goldstein more than once in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, because she wants to get married and he doesn’t. He just wants to protect her, you see, and Queenie is being unreasonable. Illogical. Hysterical. The bitch is crazy.
So … does J.K. Rowling like any of her own female characters, aside from Hermione Granger and Professor Minerva McGonagall? After watching The Crimes of Grindelwald, I’m honestly not sure! Because every single female character in this movie is either:
b. drastically altered to bear very little resemblance to their former selves in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, or
c. totally unnecessary.
Honestly. ALL OF THEM. Let’s dive deep! [LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD, OBVIOUSLY]
Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), former American Ministry of Magic employee who in the first film crossed paths with Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander, pissed off her bosses, and eventually got promoted to being an Auror. In this film she’s in Paris alone hunting down the dangerous Obscurial Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller). Why is Tina alone? Why doesn’t she seem to have any Ministry of Magic support? Why is the only significant character development given to her a new boyfriend that makes Newt jealous? Ugh.
Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), who is for some reason the center of a very bad allusion Rowling is making to … colonialism … or … something? Basically Leta’s mom was Senegalese and married to another man, she caught the eye of the British Corvus Lestrange, he puts her under the Imperius curse and basically rapes her a bunch, I’m assuming, and then Leta is born, and her mother dies in childbirth, and her father abandons her, erasing all traces of her mother’s life and then marrying another woman, who bears him a young (white) son. And then Leta lives in shame and is bullied at school and causes the death of her little half-brother and then eventually sacrifices herself so the dumbass Scamander brothers could get away from Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald. It’s wild!
Leta is clearly the most interesting character in this whole thing — born out of an oppressive power dynamic (… that no one in the Ministry of Magic seems to be bothered by?), forced into loneliness, caught between two families, inspired to make a choice that would save the people she loves — but the movie burns through her character far too quickly. Also, there is no reason why she would be with Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner), because the only flashbacks we see of her in the film show her friendship with Newt back at Hogwarts. So why would she marry Theseus? Why would she get a job at the Ministry of Magic? Why would she be so convinced that Jude Law’s Dumbledore knew she was “wicked” and “bad”? Ugh, I am going to be angry about Leta forever. (ESPECIALLY BECAUSE THIS MOVIE DOESN’T EVEN EXPLAIN WHY GRINDELWALD IS SO OBSESSED WITH THE LESTRANGES. HE SETS UP A WIZARD NAZI MEETING IN THEIR FAMILY TOMB! WHY? JUST BECAUSE LETA’S DAD WAS A DICK? I DON’T UNDERSTAND.)
Nagini (Claudia Kim). Ooooh, man, fuck this movie’s treatment of Nagini. Fuck it! First of all, Nagini doesn’t even need to be a character. Doesn’t even need to be! There is no reason for it! Nagini was just Voldemort’s damn snake and THAT WAS FINE!
But no, now Nagini is now a sad cursed witch, a Maledictus, who can turn into a snake at will and will one day no longer be able to turn back into a human woman. She was captured in the “jungles of Indonesia” and she’s forced to work in this abusive magic circus and for some reason she has a strong bond with Credence, so much so that they escape the circus together and then go off in search of Credence’s birth mother. But … why? All Nagini does during this movie is look upset while standing by Credence. Sometimes they embrace. She wears this pretty blue dress that looks like snakeskin. But her actual purpose in this film doesn’t exist, aside from being another attempt by Rowling to link these stories to the main Harry Potter franchise. This wasn’t the way to do it!
Seraphina Picquery (Carmen Ejogo). She is in the opening scene. Yup, that’s it! She somehow doesn’t realize that her trusted adviser has been swayed to Grindelwald’s cause and betrays them. Apparently Seraphina sucks at her job now, although she did seem to enjoy torturing Grindelwald for three months, so that’s a thing that happens to her character, I guess.
Unnamed Grindelwald henchwoman. IMDb tells me Poppy Corby-Tuech plays a character named Rosier; I honestly don’t think anyone says her name in the film. I just know her as the woman who hovered by Grindelwald and did his bidding and killed a human toddler for him. Because she’s devoted! To his evil! Get it?
Eulalie Hicks (Jessica Williams), who shows up for literally a few seconds in a book the alchemist Nicolas Flamel pulls out of a locked compartment. She urges him to go fight with Newt and help save Paris. Who the hell is she? Why does her word matter so much to Flamel? Why isn’t she in this movie more? (Rowling claims Williams will appear more in Fantastic Beasts 3. Yeah … OK.)
Bunty (Victoria Yeates), Newt’s assistant who is clearly in love with him and who appears for one scene to stare at him lovingly and then gets saddled with all the work of caring for Newt’s animals — who bite her! and are kind of mean to her! — while Newt skips off to Paris at Dumbledore’s behest. (In the above picture, that’s her at the top of the stairs with Newt.)
And finally, Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), a character assassination that is extreme and infuriating. Hot damn! What the hell caused this?
Let’s back up. So, in the first film, Queenie is introduced as Tina’s sister and roommate, a flapper sort and Legilimens who can read minds. She is attracted to Jacob, but because the American Ministry of Magic doesn’t let witches or wizards marry humans, Tina essentially warns her against getting too attached. Still, Queenie is brave — she teams up with Jacob to save Newt and Tina from being killed in the American Ministry of Magic — and she tags along throughout the rest of the film as they try to track down Credence. The end of the film ends on a bit of a question mark: After Newt wipes Jacob’s memories, Queenie visits him in his bakery and smiles at him; she clearly hopes he can remember her.
The Crimes of Grindelwald picks up three months after the first film ends, and suddenly Queenie is a totally different person — she’s no longer just a sort of goofy, free-spirited woman looking for love; she has now bewitched Jacob to be in love with her and want to marry her. They suddenly arrive in Newt’s home, and Queenie cooks them a meal and is feeding Jacob, and Newt immediately realizes that she’s cast her lover under a spell, which when he draws out of Jacob, disappears in a heart-shaped cloud of smoke. It’s revealed later that Jacob doesn’t want to get married but Queenie does, and she won’t take no for an answer, so she put Jacob under a spell and spirited him away to London.
First of all, what the hell. There isn’t much in the first film that would imply that Queenie would go this route of breaking wizarding laws and essentially kidnapping her boyfriend after only dating for three months, and yet here we are. After they fight and Jacob calls her crazy, Queenie grows despondent — she tries to find Tina, but the French Ministry of Magic won’t help, and so she’s spotted by Rosier, who follows her through the streets of Paris as she weeps in the rain and then brings her to see Grindelwald.
It only takes one conversation with Grindelwald for Queenie to turn to his cause. ONE! CONVERSATION! He basically says some stuff about changing the wizarding way of life and letting people do what they want, and she takes this to mean that she and Jacob can get married, so she basically abandons all other thoughts and motivations and turns against her sister and Newt. She shows up at the Nazi wizard meeting place in the Lestrange tomb. She tries to get Jacob to stand by her side and pledge allegiance to Grindelwald, although it’s clear in his speech that he thinks humans should be subservient to wizards. And when Jacob refuses — again calling her “crazy” — she decides to leave her entire life behind and walk through Grindelwald’s magical blue flames for true believers. By the end of the film, when they’re all hiding out in Nurmengard Castle in Austria, Queenie is shown as Grindelwald’s primary supporter, now by his side and coaching him on how to treat Credence.
WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK IS THIS SHIT? None of this tracks! Why change Queenie in this way? Why make her so desperate for love that she would agree to hate? You’re going to turn a character with a Jewish last name into a wizard Nazi because she and her boyfriend got in an argument? This is so clearly just a manipulation on Rowling’s part to show that Grindelwald’s persuasiveness can work on anyone, but it’s also a huge slap in the face to a fan favorite character who is charming and lovely and would never make this choice.
In a lot of ways, how Rowling treats Queenie here reminds me of how she treats Lavender Brown in the Harry Potter books and films, too, as a flighty, superficial girl whose only memorable quality is how annoying she was during her relationship with Ron.
Sure, Lavender was in Gryffindor (so she was supposed to be brave), and sure, she joins Dumbledore’s Army (so she actually was brave), but what do you remember about this character? It’s how she yelled “Won-Won!” at Ron while they were dating and how she hung all over him all the time and how offended she got (rightfully so) when Ron mumbled Hermione’s name in his sleep instead of hers after his Quidditch injury. And don’t forget that Lavender Brown dies after being attacked by the werewolf Frenrir Greyback in the Battle of Hogwarts, even though Hermione tries to save her. So basically Hermione remains heroic and wonderful while Lavender, the ditzy one and the lovestruck one and Hermione’s romantic competition, had to die.
The Crimes of Grindelwald is a movie with a host of problems, and more than anything else it feels like a filler chapter for a series that will probably continue long past its sensible end. But its treatment of its female characters is particularly infuriating, and another confusing choice for Rowling as she attempts to rewrite the history of Harry Potter — to not very good results.
Image sources (in order of posting): Warner Bros. Pictures Publicity, Warner Bros. Pictures Publicity, Warner Bros. Pictures Publicity, Warner Bros. Pictures Publicity, Warner Bros. Pictures Publicity