I’ve written before about the unfortunate awkwardness and confusion that we fans feel when celebrities/influencers are revealed to be more problematic than once thought. That was years ago, and since then, it’s not gotten easier, nor has the issue dimmed as more are more revered people are outed as Bad. But a lot of the time, even recently, the behaviour in question is from years ago, often a decade or more. So we have to be allowed to forgive and examine recent changes to determine if the person is worth our praise/money/time again. I’ve also written before about how that should be a solo decision and how cancel culture needs to reflect that.
JK Rowling, however, has taken a new approach to problematic behavior. Not only is she recently revealed to be a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist), but she revealed it herself. She alone has tarnished her own reputation and brought it to light herself.
Of course, she’s been lowkey doing it for ages when it comes to Harry Potter. Every year or so she’d share some new tidbit about the Wizarding World and after a while, it got unnecessary. Dumbledore is gay? Okay, we can handle that. Nagini is actually an Asian woman? Um, that came out of nowhere, but alright. Hufflepuffs hold their own sex-ed classes in the dorms? ….What. At that point fans were old enough and could embrace what they want, think critically if they want, and accept that this author is fighting way too hard to stay relevant when she really did not need to because we all loved Harry Potter. We all were totally planning on raising our kids on that magic that we were raised on.
But then the transgender stuff came out. And it’s weird. (For those blissfully unaware, Rowling has for a few years now been thought to be transphobic/supportive of transphobic people, but she had never really confirmed it or acted on it until recently, June 10th to be specific, when she published a whole article about it and her thoughts on trans people and sexuality and women’s rights. The article was not cited and was filled with blatant transphobic beliefs despite the fact that she claimed to support trans people). I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the most educated on trans issues, but even I knew that the stuff she was spewing was dangerously wrong. How she could sit there and say she’s done the research and spoke to her trans friends and all that, and then still feel the need to write a whole manifesto like that is weird. It’s concerning.
And it’s ruining Harry Potter. People are pointing out issues within the books and people are rethinking their beliefs. I can’t imagine how trans Potter fans have been feeling. To know that the person you may have looked up to and who created a safe and exciting escape for you actually thinks you’re a problem and a danger and then is so confident about this that she’ll proudly speak it and close herself off to any criticism or discussion? It’s unfortunate.
I’ve read several blog posts from Potterheads explaining how they’re choosing to act going forward. In this post from Bizarre Brunette, she said she’s going to stop supporting Rowling financially by buying fan art instead of official merch and by not seeing the Fantastic Beasts movies in theaters. And another blogger, Strange Storyteller, said in this post that she has decided to stop engaging with any Harry Potter things fully, as she’s unable to separate the art from the artist.
Both takes are valid, and as I said in my post in cancel culture, it should be up to you personally to take the info and decide how you feel and how you’re going to act. Harry Potter has played such a huge part in so many of our lives, so it’s understandable that it’s hard, perhaps even unfathomable, to remove it fully from your life. Personally, I feel like the magic of Harry Potter transcended Rowling a long time ago for me. I’ve unfollowed her on social media and I’ll certainly think twice before I give money to something Potter-related, but I’m choosing to still enjoy quidditch and choosing to enjoy the books/DVDs I already own. This doesn’t make me a bad person, nor you, if you’re in a similar boat. I’m aware Rowling is problematic and I do not support her or her beliefs. To many, she’s now just another sucky creator we’ll largely dislike forever now.
I encourage you, whether you’re a fan of Harry Potter or not, to educate yourself on trans issues and where Rowling’s beliefs went wrong. Here are three things / really breaking it down / to get you started.
As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Have your feelings toward Harry Potter changed? Do you think people should separate art from the artist?