Harry Potter is a Beloved Series-So Why is its Author so Hated By Some People?
Just last week, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary – Return to Hogwarts premiered on HBOMax, featuring much of the cast. Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Daniel Radcliffe were all in attendance along with other iconic Harry Potter alumni. Since its first book’s release in 1997, the Harry Potter series quickly grew a dedicated fanbase who call themselves the Potterheads as well as one of the most universally recognizable franchises along with the likes of Marvel and Star Wars.
The woman behind Hogwarts and all its famous characters is 56-year-old Joanne Rowling. Better known by her shortened pen name J.K. Rowling which was coined to disguise her feminine name and thus avoid sexism which was, and in many cases still is prominent in the fantasy genre/publishing world. Rowling is credited as being a philanthropist and feminist, not to mention the creator of a fantasy series that defined an entire generation and is gaining new fans every day, so why is she so hated among Gen Z? 19-year-old Leo Glowczynski, artist and star of Endless Knowledge and fan film Batman: The Mindbreak gave his two cents on J.K Rowling’s controversial past and how he sees the future of Harry Potter.
Q. For those who don’t know, explain the J.K. Rowling incident
A. It’s less of one incident; there’s been a lot of incidents. She said that Dumbledore was gay, there’s no problem with that but the issue is that this was after the fact and there was really no supporting evidence. She claimed that he was dating Grindlewald (the Fantastic Beasts films antagonist) but the film went to no significant lengths to prove this.
The second thing that happened was when she received backlash from fans about Harry Potter lacking diversity-having very few people of color. She then again came under fire after a black actress was cast to play Hermione in the play adaptation of “The Cursed Child”. She said that in the books she never specified that Hermione was a white woman even though she had written that Hermione “turned white” after experiencing a shock. It’s contradictory statements like that.
After this announcement fans were quick to point out that in the books Hermione was one of the only characters to point out the unfair treatment of the enslaved elves and that other characters are happy to uphold the elves’ mistreatment and deny their free will. What really brought her into the public eye though was a tweet she made regarding people who menstruate. The exact tweet said, “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
Rowling was labeled a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and has thus been publicly canceled. After all of this, people took a step back and said like, ok let’s talk about this. There are a lot of issues with the Harry Potter books. Like starting out with very basic things, there are only 4 people of color in a 7 book franchise. The most baffling part was that not a lot of people were talking about it until very recently.
Q. How do her words and actions play into relevant topics of transphobia and performative activism?
A. When you have a prominent figure that has been integral to people’s childhoods it just reinforces and normalizes the hatred of people who are already in danger. Trans people are heavily affected by violence every day and this kind of rhetoric only supports false notions that trans people are dangerous to society. When the news broke about Hermione apparently being black and being the only character who advocated for the freeing of the enslaved elves it’s damaging to communities when you’re putting labels on these characters without really contextualizing the impact.
I think that a lot of artists and writers don’t tend to think that when they create a diverse cast they play into a lot of stereotypes that ultimately keep the conversation stagnant and don’t move anything forward. You can tell that not all creators have malicious intent but with J.K. Rowling it’s hard to tell because she has a history of bigotry and stereotyping.
Q. Were you an HP fan when the news came out? Are you still a HP fan?
A. I got into Harry Potter in third grade. I went to a midnight release of The Cursed Child book. I had Harry Potter pop figures and other merchandise. I was a total dork as a kid. I was obsessed. After The Cursed Child the excitement kind of died down. Once the news came out I was like ok this is my cue to be done with this for real. I was very disappointed in Rowling because she had such an influence on my childhood so it was really upsetting to hear her say these things. I’m actively anti-Harry Potter now.
Q. What do you want to say to those who support Rowling’s writing but not her as an individual?
A. Maybe it’s just because I tend to have more radical views, or because I’m an artist myself, but I don’t really believe in separating art from artist. How I look at it is that art is an extension of the artist’s beliefs. I don’t think you can say that you actively don’t support J.K. Rowling but then you go buy that Harry Potter shirt at Hot topic. Even if you’re distancing yourself from the artist but you’re still engaging in the community and putting the art out there you could be promoting the negative messages from the artist. On the one hand, I never want to prevent an artist from creating.
At the same time though, I do think it’s time we stop with Harry Potter. I think that gen z is not as attached as millennials and I do think that Harry Potter is past its prime. I honestly have no problem with people creating completely new characters and new worlds within the context of the wizarding world but I think that it needs to be transformative and original.
Q. What do you want to say to the trans community who has been affected by Rowling’s words and actions?
A. She’s wrong. I believe that you can identify as whoever you want and I’m truly sorry to the fans who were devastated by her hurtful words. Just remember that people love you and will listen to you. There are much better series you can read I promise.
Q. What do you want to say to very young fans of HP, for example, I have a 10-year-old cousin who loves HP. Do you think young children should be educated about trans rights and issues?
A. I think everyone regardless of age should be introduced to the topic. My young cousins know that I’m gay they don’t care. I’m not saying that they need to know the history of Stonewall but I think it’s important to learn about social issues. What I’d say to young fans of Harry Potter is I’ve been where you are.
The series is great to read because it’s so easy and accessible. At the same time though, there are better books that children can read. One of my favorites is the novelization of The Last Airbender and the Percy Jackson books. There are so many books that aren’t written by terfs that you can show your children.
Q. How can cishet (cisgender and heterosexual) writers be more mindful of trans rights and issues when wanting to write diverse and inclusive stories?
A. One of my favorite writers, Jonathan Sims published his first book 13 Stories. There’s a trans character. They mention it briefly but then it’s not talked about again. I personally would not write a book about what it’s like to be black so my advice is don’t write about what it’s like to be of a certain group just include characters that are diverse and have fleshed out personalities. I think the biggest problem is people not doing their research. If you’re unsure, ask someone, have someone else read it. Don’t ask other writers; ask who you’re writing about.