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Neville Longbottom mural incites 'white power' complaint at UW-La Crosse

Young Matthew Lewis went from pitiful underdog to a walking allegory of cis white male privilege, all in a single mural at a Wisconsin dorm hall.

Young Matthew Lewis went from pitiful underdog to a walking allegory of cis white male privilege, all in a single mural at a Wisconsin dorm hall.

Matthew Lewis, the actor who played Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies, famously grew from a geeky, buck-toothed little squirt to what many women might consider to be something of a dreamy beefcake.

Student artists at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse celebrated Lewis’ transformation with a mural in the Laux Residence Hall showing the actor before – and after – puberty. The “after” portrait depicts Lewis as a rather bland, young white man in an innocuous collared shirt (a universal symbol of straight white male privilege, if you squint). 

The mural was supposed to illustrate the transformation one undergoes after living in the luxurious Laux dorms. 

But it deeply offended at least one student, who submitted an anonymous complaint to the university’s Hate Response team:

“It represents white power,” the student wrote. “Man power. Cis power. Able power. Class power. ETC etc. I am angry that I know the people who put this mural up, and I am angery because I know the people who let this mural be put up. Like I said earlier, maybe I am being a little sensitive, but it is how I feel. This represents, to me, our society, and I do not want it up on this wall.”

The libertarian British news site Heat Street, which has assumed the mantle of exposing  “trigger warning” gaffes at U.S. colleges, found the Neville Longbottom complaint after submitting a record request for bias complaints on campus.

The Hate Response team reportedly could not follow up on this particular complaint because the offended student didn’t leave contact information. It’s not even clear if the report was filed in earnest, or if the student meant to do it as a hoax.

The University of Wisconsin–La Crosse received 192 reports of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability-based discrimination over the 2015-2016 academic year.

A typical example of a reported incident last year came from a student who took issue with a reading assignment that “was disturbing to read … the rape culture article was triggering to me personally, causing a panic attack during class. Given the anxiety I was feeling, I did not feel free to leave the room and take care of myself, which forced me to sit and listen to their insensitive lecture.”

According to the university, most reports of hate or bias came from white, female students.