I want to propose that we dethrone an elected official from the monarchy of fictional authors. In order to do that, let's discuss why you shouldn’t feel torn about your support for a fictional universe that exists without its creator. It’s a living organism that breathes and breeds just like you or me. God gave it life, and gave it free will, or so says Genesis.
I’m talking about Harry Potter. You don’t have to feel torn about liking Harry Potter just because you don’t like JK Rowling.
As we all know, Rowling has been under fire for posting transphobic tweets under the guise of defending womanhood and feminism. And yes, somewhere still whistling through the wind is Rowling’s fiery arrow fizzling to ash as it entirely misses the point by at least fifty feet.
But what’s most interesting is the turn she has taken from being outspoken to being spiteful. While she dons herself in menstrual padded armor, declaring herself a warrior for Women everywhere—as if the personal experiences of a transgender person can somehow invalidate her own—she has decided to double-down on her messaging with worsening language that has harmed many people who previously sought her words for acceptance and love. She’s proof that attempts at edification (which she claims has come from extensive research) do not always reap the benefits of knowledge or wisdom.
This isn’t the first time that Rowling has been the face of controversy, and it won’t be her last. I’m not even talking about the Maya situation. We’re going further back than that. We may have made a mistake in giving her a crown, but as she continues to wear it crooked on her head like a wayfaring traveler, her first offense was retconning. We got a little taste of it more than a decade ago when she said Dumbledore was gay. That headcanon of hers lives in infamy as a sorted part of her queerbaiting the LGBTQ+ community by only ever telling and not showing this evidence of such an open-mindedness. And when you tell someone something but never show them, that’s called bad writing.
Funny how that still hasn’t been a visible plot-line despite the insistence that previous canonical characters have to exist in the Fantastic Beasts series now, huh?
If Rowling's not bastardizing her own creation like Dr. Frankenstein, looming over pages of her Scholastic series with sweat on her brow and hands on an experimental lever, she’s doing much worse to actual people by alienating them. I personally don’t find it difficult to ignore her while she continues to retcon and tweet controversial ideas—especially when she isn’t interested in an open dialogue. We are fighting much bigger issues in our world.
Rowling has proven, with increasing measure over the years, that she does not want to understand the world around her with compassion or complexity. She has built a career off of a middle grades series that placated people through surface-level positivity. Sure, we saw character deaths and relationship woes, but I wouldn’t call any of it more nuanced or theatrical than another series of similar storytelling stock. What it offered to me as a child only lingers as nostalgia now as an adult. Because I’ve found that the world feels like a cruel take on magical realism for how many fires my generation feels responsible to have to extinguish.
The problem with Rowling’s type of shallow positivity is that it never provides any direction or resources, to the reader or characters, for getting through an obstacle. There isn’t anything constructive or symbolic about the use of an Invisibility Cloak that can be applied to real-world circumstances. You can’t even use a Remembrall in a helpful way in the HP universe, as proven by Neville. And while these in-universe objects aren’t supposed to be symbols to that degree, this only exemplifies and reinforces how simplistic it all is at times. Still, these books and films are full of beautiful sentiments that offer the reader just enough to hold onto as a child still grappling with the darkness in the world around them and their place in it.
I’ve said “thank you” to Rowling before, but I’m done doing so. The universe she created isn’t one only born of her mind. Someone could have made something like Harry Potter one day. The fantasy elements stitched together by Rowling weren’t uniquely hers. And with the involvement of the fandom, it’s blossomed beyond and without her for years. (Thank you, fanfiction.)
As fandoms congregated in forums, Tumblr communities, and other social media, the phrase “Rowling is our Queen” or “Queen Rowling” was a popular statement as early as 2009. Maybe earlier. Whenever, we handed her a scepter, cape, and crown made of our finest jewels. We uplifted her as the proprietary reason for our fanaticism and thanked her profusely for offering us all a home: a place where anything was possible, the world was immersive and accessible, and the themes experienced by the characters weren’t unlike the hard and fast lessons of normal adolescence.
It’s clear now why calling Rowling our queen was always going to come back to bite us in the end. Even she proved, through beloved characters like Dumbledore, why pedestals are often unearned. In her defensive argumentation over the term TERF, I found it easy to pull back that childhood curtain and see her for the fully developed person she was. Not the person I made her out to be. We all have to learn that people aren't always as they appear. I don't think that one or two decades ago I would have been able to contend with this letdown, but at this point I'm not even surprised.
Go ahead and relegate your opponents—who, by the way, are only asking that you respectfully regard them as people—to hive mind cells following the lead of the head of the insidious parasite that is progressive youth. Or, in a more managed approach, you could consider that not everyone who recognizes the admonishing actions and words of TERFs are bullies. Unsourced claims of aggression hold little weight here, Jo. However, the fight against TERFs is to stop people from saying, “Ironically, radical feminists aren’t even trans-exclusionary – they include trans men in their feminism, because they were born women.”
I can say all of this and still hold the stories she wrote dear. I can appreciate the art, separate it from the artist, and not contribute to her wealth where I deem it unnecessary. In my own re-reading of the Harry Potter series, I’ve found that it’s a series that leaves a lot open for interpretation. Children and middle grades books often take this approach in order to allow the creativity and imagination of the children who read it to gravitate towards it and find their own connections with the atmosphere and cast of characters. The villains are evil for tangible, but uncomplicated, reasons. Voldemort’s prejudice and draw to power being two themes that any child can understand. The protagonists have motivations and personalities, but they are just bare enough in their descriptions and personal voices that any child can plant themselves in their shoes and explore the story as them.
The lessons between the pages tell you “But you know, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Or that “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home”. That works for a while, but at some point, those kids—who teared up hearing Rowling say the latter—grow up and realize that the world is an orbiting mess of grey areas where blanket positivity and spiritual bypassing can only bandage so much pain. When the conversations get much harder to have, having someone spout recycled lyricism can start to feel like that troll under the bridge who won’t let you cross until you solve their riddle.
We're grown up now. We realize our welfare is set on an imbalanced socio-political scale that we cannot fully control. We’re made to face racism, sexism, and tyranny in ways that extend far beyond just one nose-less man’s desire for power. Rowling's response feels like one that fears a world that is moving on without her—one that doesn't need her stories or her opinions. (But even the notion that gender and sexual identity in the Western world has somehow spiraled out of control, despite millennia of anthropological studies proving we’re but a speck in the conversation, is laughable at best.)
Yes, we get loud, in person and online, and we fight for what we know is right. Just as the faculty and staff at Hogwarts encouraged us to do. They taught us to love one another, to make space for each other, to uplift each other, to highlight each other's strengths. Everyone has a valid place in this world, and their light can’t stamp out your own. The spell lumos isn't about finding the light in the darkness, it's about creating the light.
We are the light.
In this time of revolution, I guess this is my call for fictional dethroning. Tear it all down and move on. Fuck it. Despite the rigid and timid way she lives her experiences as a woman, I’m not threatened by someone else asking for inclusivity and love.
Just because we're removing her crown doesn't mean Hogwarts is any less our home.
Here are two fantastic ways the community is looking out for everyone in spite of the words JKR has shared recently:
Where you can donate: