The Harry Potter series is no doubt an outlier when it comes to it’s immense popularity and longevity of success. For those who grew up reading the books or watching the films, it has a special place in our hearts.
The final film came out when I was in year seven, and served as a harsh reality check that my childhood was nearing an end. I mourned the series and was genuinely confused about my own sense of identity in a post-Harry Potter world. Since then, I have reread the books countless times and can recite most of the lines in the films (to the annoyance of my friends and family). My house is filled with Harry Potter inspired games and other paraphernalia. I am a proud Slytherin and a strong advocate that Gryffindor is by far the most boring house. But recently, my feelings towards the franchised have started to sour.
JK Rowling, whose story to success is so inspirational and profound, has become her own worst enemy. Her polarising opinions on Twitter and her compulsion to add random tidbits of history to the Wizarding world has served as a cancer to the series. Not to mention the fact that her characterisation of some of the female characters just doesn’t age well.
Though there is a multitude of examples of when JK Rowling would have been better served to have simply kept her mouth shut, I will only be reliving a few of them. My Harry Potter heart can only endure so much pain.
For Harry Potter fans, these moments come more than they should. However, the most ludicrous of these stemmed from a tweet by Pottermore, explaining an issue that literally nobody asked about; how wizards took care of their faeces before plumbing.
Hogwarts didn't always have bathrooms. Before adopting Muggle plumbing methods in the eighteenth century, witches and wizards simply relieved themselves wherever they stood, and vanished the evidence. #NationalTriviaDay
— Wizarding World (@wizardingworld) January 4, 2019
I would just like to ask why? Who would have possibly wanted this information. Not me.
But this isn’t the first time that JK Rowling has provided information after the fact that just feels a little off. Shortly after the release of the final film, Rowling revealed to the world that Dumbledore was gay. The problem here lies in the fact that Rowling claims to represent the queer community in her works, although they aren’t actually visibly represented anywhere.
Similarly in 2014, Rowling was asked whether there were any Jewish characters in the series. In response, she stated that there were characters of every race and religion, and specifically cited Anthony Goldstein as a Jewish Wizard in Ravenclaw.
.@benjaminroffman Anthony Goldstein, Ravenclaw, Jewish wizard.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 16, 2014
To everyone asking whether their religion/belief/non-belief system is represented at Hogwarts: the only people I never imagined there 1/2
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 16, 2014
I have read the series front to cover more than ten times and can confidentially say that Anthony Goldstein barely utters a word.
The Harry Potter series lacked representation. It is okay to admit that and still think that is is largely a story of acceptance. Instead of revising history, Rowling would be far better served admitting the fact that diversity was simply not on the forefront of her mind, instead of pretending she was Woke the whole time.
JK Rowling regrets Ron and Hermione ending up together
This one is heartbreaking. Ron and Hermione went through so much together, and you can palpably see their attraction and affection grow throughout their development in the book. They have a deep understanding of each other that undercurrents their whole relationship.
Which is why, when Rowling revealed that she regretted the pairing, I immediately disagreed. You can draw whichever conclusion you want on their relationship, but for me they will always be each others one true pairing.
This is a controversial one, but as a die hard fan- I can confidently say that the Fantastic Beast franchise is never something I wanted, nor will I ever be thankful for it. Not only does it revise the history which has been stated in the original series, but it presents an entirely different world to what we’re used to. Gone is the warm, comforting feeling we get inside the walls of Hogwarts. Absent is the easy to love protagonist and his ragtag group of friends. Missing are the bonds of childhood which unite the characters against the insurmountable evil they face. In essence, it is lacking all the intricacies which make Harry Potter special.
However, this is not the greatest blunder of the series. Johnny Depp is. Regardless of what you think of him as an actor, it is obvious that he is not right for the role of Grindelwald. He is much too famous as an individual to entirely embody the role of the famous villain. It is clear you are watching Depp, rather than becoming immersed in the character. JK Rowling was heavily involved in the casting process and defended her choice amongst the backlash of Depp’s casting:
The filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.
Please note, there was and remains to be a considerable amount of scrutiny in the decision to continue to cast Depp amidst claims of domestic violence. Since the initial claims, the case between Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard has become increasingly complicated and it is still ongoing. Hence, I have decided not to include these allegations in the critique against his casting.
Is JK Rowling a TERF?
A TERF is an acronym for a Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminist. Speculation had been growing regarding whether JK Rowling supported Transgender rights since she first liked a tweet which implied that “Trans women are rapists” in 2017. At the time, her representatives stated:
“I’m afraid J.K. Rowling had a clumsy and middle-aged moment and this is not the first time she has favorited by holding her phone incorrectly.”
However, when she tweeted her support for researcher Maya Forstater, her stance on transgender rights was all but confirmed.
Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
Live your best life in peace and security.
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 19, 2019
Forstater was let go from her job at an international think-tank after tweeting her opposition to a government proposal which would make it easier for Transgender people to change their legal sex. The words in Rowling’s tweet and her support for the researcher shook the transgender community; many of whom had tattoos of Harry Potter symbolism or quotes about acceptance.
It’s one of the few loves that my mom, brother and I share. We got tattoos together at Harry Potter world, where I took my family, our first trip together, when I finally found success. We read the books together, watch the movies every Christmas … I’m not losing all that. pic.twitter.com/4RzcuRNaMN
— Jen Richards (@SmartAssJen) December 20, 2019
However, I would argue that JK Rowling is not a TERF. While her progressive liberal politics certainly seem trans-exclusive, I don’t consider her to be a radical feminist either. Perhaps it would be more accurate just to label her a TEF. Trans-Exclusive Female.
Though written by a woman, the Harry Potter series is almost exclusively dominated by males. In fact, the reason Joanne Katherine Rowling goes by her initials is because her publishers were worried that a female author wouldn’t attract a wide enough audience. Perhaps it was that knowledge that affected how Rowling characterised her female characters, because in hindsight, it is problematic.
While all the main characters are fitted to a stereotype; Harry is the hero, Ron is the sidekick, Hermione is the know-it-all, these labels are obviously gendered. Hermione saves the gang’s lives countless times and is usually the sole-reason they are able to solve the mystery, yet she is relegated as the bossy and annoying female. Not to mention the way Hermione’s intelligence suddenly disappears in the face of a handsome man like Gilderoy Lockhart or Cedric Diggory.
Ron’s language towards women, especially his own sister, is definitely sexist. He repeatedly slut-shames Ginny, to the point of almost calling her one, “D’you think I want people saying my sister’s a — “. And while Ginny is a fierce and independent character (in the books), her only real purpose is to serve as an object of desire for Harry. She never really comes in to her own, despite being one of the most talented witches at Hogwarts.
Don’t get me wrong- these characterisations are definitely a sign of the times, and I still love and identify with Rowling’s characters immensely. However, the fact that she has never addressed the shortcomings in her works means that I can never accept Rowling as a feminist, no matter how much she craves the title.
Where do Harry Potter fans go from here?
I think fans now have the difficult decision of deciding whether they can separate the artist from the art, or whether JK Rowling’s actions have tainted the whole series. That’s something I’m still struggling with. Personally, Rowling’s comments about Transgender peoples was the last nail in the coffin. I no longer see her as a role model or an inspiration, but severing my connection to her works is not that simple. It is part of my identity.
All I know is that the Harry Potter community is one of unconditional love and acceptance, whether JK Rowling agrees with this or not.
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