A plus-sized woman claims she visited the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” and was denied entry onto the Hogwarts ride because her size did not meet safety standards.
In a piece for the Huffington Post, Jana Schmiedling of the “Woman of Size” podcast says that she mostly enjoyed her experience at the theme park until a dark cloud descended upon her day when she attempted to participate in the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride.
When Jana reached the front of the line, she and her friends allegedly made it all the way into the seats until “one of the 20-something ride managers walked over and asked us all to step off because of a ‘safety’ issue.'” It should be noted here that prior to Jana’s entry, a plus-sized friend who previously made the venture cautioned her that this might happen. Jana, however, decided to take her chances.
“We were ushered through a door to what looked like a backstage area where another 20-something employee rattled off a spiel about ‘safety’ and ‘three clicks’ and having to ‘try out a safety seat,'” she writes. “That’s when we all knew that I hadn’t actually made it onto the Hogwarts ride.”
Following that, Jana and her friends were subjected to a test to see if a restraint covering the rider’s chest could click down three times. Here’s how she described the experience:
I took the bullet and pulled the restraint over my shoulders, pressing down as tightly as I could, my precious E-cups getting smashed into my chest and up around my neck. One click. That’s all I could manage. So I got out of the test seat and negotiated with my dear friends, who in solidarity were about to walk away with me. I demanded that they go on the ride and I waited for them at the end, watching several other people, bigger than me or with breasts as large as mine or with children in tow, walking away from Hogwarts dejected.
Jana took it well, for the most part, but she attributes this to her podcast where she discusses these sorts of issues weekly and her community of friends that can relate. Other people, she feels, would have found the situation to be a “humiliating shock.”
For Jana, the experience indeed “fat-shamed” her and she feels that some of that stemmed from how the Harry Potter series presents “big characters,” which reflects the broader culture. “Upon further investigation, the books and movies have only a few big characters and most of them are antagonistic,” she writes. “The Fat Lady painting is obnoxious and bossy. The Dursleys are lazy and entitled. Crabbe and Goyle are both fat dunces who follow the orders of the lithe, vampire-looking Draco Malfoy. Hogwarts absolutely condones this and so does the general public.”
Being unable to participate in the ride made Jana feel like a victim of “size-based discrimination” that she and her community have been combating for years. She claims this discrimination is so insidious that it made her actually wish she “were small enough to take the Hogwarts ride.”
“That’s the impact of exclusion: It makes a person internalize an entire system of institutional hatred,” she writes. “Exclusion and shame are not motivational techniques; they’re forms of bullying. Exclusion makes me, a logical and educated person, believe that I’m at fault for not fitting into this ride instead of recognizing that rides should accommodate all people’s bodies. Apply this thinking to race or gender discrimination or disabled accessibility, and you have yourself the hot stew we’re in today.”
Jana calls for a “more intelligent and inclusive” conversation about the way communities design “spaces and experiences for people.” She rejects the idea that the Harry Potter ride and other experiences reject plus-sized people for “safety” reasons, instead theorizing that it is to keep the “general public safe from our fatness.”
“In this case, rather than turning people away daily from an incredible Hogwarts moment, Universal Studios could have simply designed and built a ride from the start that welcomed a diverse range of body sizes, especially as more and more Americans identify as fat or plus size,” she writes.
Jana concludes that “fat-shaming” should have no place in a fantastical land like the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” because that is a place “beyond reality.”
The Los Angeles Times discussed this very problem in 2016. As it turns out, people commonly experience this embarrassment when attempting to embark on the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride. In 2010, the Universal Studios Orlando ride modified their seats to accommodate plus-sized guests.