J.K. Rowling, recently published her thoughts on our favourite Slytherin student, Draco Malfoy. In her musings, she notes that she finds it unnerving that Draco has so many fangirls and, as one of those fangirls (as my fanfiction days can attest to), it made me think about why exactly Draco Malfoy – racist, bully, arrogant twat – was so very appealing.
When we first met Draco, he was eleven years old, sheltered and influenced by parents whom he loved. He has a very warped understanding of the world because of his upbringing, and so when he arrives at Hogwarts and is faced with the reality of his own lack of importance, he’s shocked. As time goes on, we see him struggle to matter, and to be loved by parents that don’t pay him the attention he once was given. We see him become a disappointment to them because he cannot be what they want him to be: the next great pureblood. He exists in a world where that just isn’t acceptable anymore, and though his parents realize this – shown by their secretive nature regarding their loyalties – they still cannot help but thrust their ideals onto him. The revival of their dying world view depends – quite literally at times – on Draco’s success. Draco is in a lose-lose situation: he is struggling against beliefs which are outdated and not his own, but if he renounces these beliefs he is left without a family and without an identity. One could say he is a coward, but we must remember that in the published literature, he is only a teenager. How many of us can say we’ve utterly removed ourselves from our parents’ influence by that age? Even now, at 24, I still try to fix the world to make my parents’ lives better.
I remember identifying with Draco a lot as a young girl for a lot of reasons, but the biggest two for me were the frustration of knowing the people I loved were wrong but not being able to believe anything else because I didn’t know anything else, and the desire for approval. Draco tries to fit in every way he knows how – and every way he knows is utterly wrong. He thinks winning Harry over will be easy because he’s Draco Malfoy and he’s better than everyone, right? Talking down to people is how you interact, isn’t it? Wrong. He’s brilliant, and the best at everything, right? Nope. His parents’ view of the world is proven wrong again and again and as he grows up we’re shown – as we are in the chapter titled Sectumsempra – just how much he’s struggling. He can’t get approval from his parents until he gets approval from everyone else, but he can’t get approval from anyone else because his worldview is tainted by his parents’ beliefs. I remember existing in this vicious circle, and seeing Draco try to escape it meant a lot to me growing up, just as it does now.
Rowling comments that despite the “unextinguished good at the heart of Draco”, she has the
“unenviable position of pouring cold common sense on ardent readers’ daydreams as [she] told them, rather severely, that Draco was not concealing a heart of gold under all that sneering and prejudice”
– J.K. Rowling, Pottermore
but having a heart of gold was never the point. I can’t speak for the other Draco fangirls, but I can speak for myself when I say I never expected him to have a heart of gold. That’s not his appeal. His appeal comes in knowing that I’m not the only person to struggle against my parents’ love. I’m not the only person to feel such self loathing in the battle between my own beliefs and the beliefs of my family. I’m not the only one to struggle with loving someone unconditionally and being loved in return while still disagreeing with them. He gave me hope that people can change, because he does: slowly and imperfectly. People make mistakes, but mistakes can be fixed and forgiven. That as we grow, we can remove ourselves from the things we’re taught to believe by others and believe in things on our own.
That is the appeal of Draco Malfoy.
Edit: I totally forgot to plug my GoFundMe!