How Orphan Black's Helena is Harry Potter Without Hogwarts
This post was contributed by Constance Gibbs.
Orphan Black's Helena has lived a rough life. Every episode opens up a new way in which her horrible childhood led her to be the dangerous, awkward, socially inept, starved for love, clone-killer that she is and was. In Season 3 Episode 5, “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations,” Helena reveals this little tidbit: “In convent, I lived for 4 months in a broom closet. I do not rot.”
My Harry Potter-obsessed brain immediately thought of another character who was forced to live in a broom closet as punishment, Harry himself. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Helena is Harry without his Hogwarts education. (I’d also say, without magic, but there’s definitely something more about Helena.)
Both Harry and Helena are orphans.
Of course Helena's is a special case, but either she nor Harry have parents, having lost contact with them at a young age. They were also both placed into the care of abusive guardians, probably by someone who meant well, but didn't really think about who they were giving the helpless child to or follow up in the intervening years. Therefore, much of the below occurred.
Both Were Physically and Emotionally Abused as Children
Helena has made a few comments on the corporeal punishment doled out by the nuns who raised her. She notably attacks Alexis, the Prolethean midwife (played by Tatiana Maslany’s acting double, Kathryn Alexandre) when she sees her physically punish a child. We know the Dursleys abused Harry and allowed Dudley to punch and hit him whenever he wanted (often as a game). Both were, as mentioned earlier, locked in closets as punishment. Helena’s quote from 3x5 shows that she is used to small spaces and imprisonment (and she’s been caged at least twice in the series itself), and Harry was once locked in the closet/house so long that, “by the time he was allowed out of his cupboard again, the summer holidays had started…” (Sorcerer’s Stone, Chapter 3). They are both lonely characters before we met them, having been denied human companionship by their guardians for fear others would discover who they truly were.
Both Are Scarred
Harry is known in both the Muggle and Wizarding worlds for his trademark lightning bolt scar on his forehead. Helena’s own scars are self-inflicted and shaped like angel wings. She seems to do it when she needs to make penance or as a cathartic action. They wear these scars as a mark of their past and what they are trying to overcome. Harry is looking to beat Voldemort, while Helena is trying to undo the years of torture the nuns inflicted upon her.
Both Were Starved For Food
In addition to the physical punishment, Harry and Helena are often denied food. Harry’s food was often given to Dudley and by the time we meet Harry in the series, he is thinner than most boys his age. Helena doesn’t mention being starved, but in addition to its likelihood based on her upbringing, her relation to food now when it is made readily available tells you all you need to know. She eats with her hands, chews with her mouth open, and eats everything put in front of her. She’s only just learned she likes donuts!
learly Helena has only recently been able to eat with freedom and for pleasure. While Harry has more table manners, his mouth still waters at the sight of the food in the Great Hall during his first Hogwarts feast, a similar experience to Helena, finally able to eat to their satisfaction after obtaining freedom from their abusers.
Both Were Lied To About Their Pasts
Helena was brainwashed into believing that she was the original clone, then told to kill the others for they were abominations. She hunted her sisters for months, if not years, until she met Sarah. If Harry hadn’t received his Hogwarts letter, he could have ended up much like Helena: starved for affection with a hatred for his own kind. The Dursleys were intent on keeping Harry in the dark about all magic. He was never even told the truth about how his parents died or who they were. With Voldemort working towards his comeback, world events could have ripped the veil of magic for Harry at some point in the next few years. But with Harry living with the Dursleys, he could have internalized anti-wizard sentiments. It’s obviously not that black and white—Harry never sided with the Dursleys—but the possibility is there with how messed up poor Harry was.
pinning the story of Lily and James' death the right way, the Dursleys could have pitted Harry against all magical people.
Helena talking to Pupok the Scorpion could be very similar to Harry’s experience talking to snakes. Perhaps Helena is the reptilian version of a Parseltongue? Arachnatongue? f course, Harry’s ability to talk to snakes is a real (in-universe) ability, while Pupok is imaginary, so it only loosely compares.
Helena’s parkour as she escapes Dr. Coady’s military camp is reminiscent of when Harry leapt to the roof of his school to escape bullies.
Harry and Helena both get adopted into large, welcoming families — Harry into the Weasley family, Helena into Clone Club. It’s scary to think about how similar Molly Weasley is to Alison Hendrix. That fierce mama complex…
Helena and Harry have such strong similarities. It’s not a perfect comparison—nature and nurture and all of that—but both characters grew up needing so many hugs. In the past couple of episodes of Orphan Black season , we see Helena actually receiving and giving a few hugs of her own, finally beginning to heal her after years of solitude. Harry was introduced to love, affection, and the truth long before Helena, so it was a little easier for him to overcome his childhood abuse and isolation. Hopefully Helena’s induction into Clone Club remains stronger this time: she’s connected with Sarah and Alison now (basically her Ron and Hermione, respectively?); as long as she sticks with them, I believe Helena can enjoy better emotional health. Have you mentally hugged your favorite tortured fictional characters today?
Connie (@ConStar24) is a Hufflepuff who keeps getting sorted into Ravenclaw. She is not about that lofty tower life. If she's not sorting characters from every single source of media (TV, books, the founding fathers via Hamilton the Musical, the Bible, her co-workers, etc), she's writing about television and all sorts of nerd stuff all over the internet, including on her blog: constarwrites.tv.