With the unveiling of the next installment in the Fantastic Beasts series of movies in March, I want to take a look at Newt Scamander’s character. He is different from most male leads and doesn’t fit the usual types that main characters usually embody.
Most obvious is his introverted nature and this can be seen in his social awkwardness and his low voice along with his inability to maintain eye contact. In the American magical community, he stands out as someone who places moral rightness over the rigidity of law. While the other characters in the magical community define their roles and actions through the law, he uses his empathy which is why he is able to connect with his animals. In a society where weakness is death, as the wizarding community has to constantly hide for fear of a witchhunt, his pragmatism seems to endanger their very existence. For a male lead, his power doesn’t stem from his physical power or his strong personality. Rather, it is a gentler understanding of the world and his vulnerability that gives him a human quality rather than one of a hero.
We’ve grown up with cowboys and space heroes who proclaim their abilities in flashy ways. Even when the heroes are in trouble, they don’t show visible emotional distress, instead, they power through or react with violence. Newt is different in that he is a very emotionally present character and he shows characteristics that are typically associated with female characters like sensitivity and nurturing. This makes him “lacklustre” to those who expect the same sassy, brave character as Harry Potter or the spontaneous Ron Weasley. Newt, as a Hufflepuff, embodies the House’s core values of friendship, hard work and humility in particular, something that audiences used to Gryffindor leads aren’t used to in the main character.
Newt doesn’t follow the typical hero character arc either. There was no grand destiny that was put upon him, no journey to discover oneself, no special powers. The film also didn’t portray his introverted nature and his subversion of the hero trope as something that needs to be fixed. For me, it was refreshing to see because there is nothing wrong with being quiet or shy or “nerdy”. At the end of the day, Newt still helped save the day even though he didn’t manage to stop Credence from suffering at the end.
In a series where the central message have always been about prejudice and discrimination (purebloods vs mudbloods vs muggles, the magical community vs the nonmagical, etc.), Newt is someone who is able to bridge the gap and reach across to the other side. This is what makes his character so compelling because his power is quiet. He’s not an underdog to be brought up. He’s already a fully-fledged wizard, confident in his abilities but we don’t see much of it. The magic in the movie was nonchalant and the only awe we see is from Jacob. Instead, his character arc comes from him forming bonds with Tina and the rest of the gang, something that’s heartwarming and something he’s had trouble doing before. Most importantly, it’s a human struggle.
Already, this film is drastically different from the other films so I’m excited to see what comes next. With the recent emphasis placed on self-care and self-awareness, this is a character that we need to see. Being sensitive isn’t a weakness and not being socially adept isn’t a problem. When the world is divided and fear is the headline of the day, it helps to remember that no matter what, everyone is more alike than different.
Here’s a video that I really liked that also talks about Newt’s character:
Also, Pickett is adorable and it applies to him that pets take after their owners.