Since the release of its first book in 1997, the magic of the Harry Potter franchise seems to show no signs of losing traction. A global fan base and a stream of new announcements, such as the launch of the video game Hogwarts Legacy in February and the upcoming HBO Max reboot, keep the fantasy series relevant even as the years go on.
Beyond the expansion of the franchise, however, the reputation of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has also kept the series in the headlines.
Instances of alleged performative activism, racism and antisemitism have caused many fans to fall out of love with Harry Potter and criticize Rowling over the years. After a series of tweets in June 2020, some have also branded Rowling as a TERF– a transgender-exclusionary radical feminist.
Political science student Mo Nguyen is a former fan of the Harry Potter franchise. Upon learning of the author’s public opinions, however, they became disillusioned with the series as a whole.
“A lot of her beliefs stem from radical feminism, which is a form of feminism or a school of thought that primarily takes a lot of pride in the female anatomy,” Nguyen said. “These instances have made me look back on Harry Potter and reread it more critically. And then I just realized that it really does translate into her work and how bigoted she could be in her work. I didn’t notice that when I was younger.”
Kinesiology student and longtime Harry Potter enthusiast Karolyn Cross shares similar sentiments, though Cross remains an avid fan of the books amid Rowling’s controversies.
“She has shown before that her opinions will override what’s in Harry Potter and what Harry Potter is,” Cross said. “She used to talk about inclusivity and that was a very important thing, and that’s why she introduced Professor Dumbledore as gay, which is totally fine. But I think it’s very hypocritical that she wants to introduce new progressive characters and change characters like that when she can’t include somebody that is trans or accept somebody for being trans. Her personal opinion should not affect her writing, especially if it’s going to hurt others.”
Nguyen also found the author’s retroactive changes to Harry Potter lore to be disingenuous.
“When you are as well known of an author as she is, and your demographic is towards younger audiences, you would want your work to keep being passed on through generations,” Nguyen said. “So you have to keep up with the times and what the public now views as acceptable, even though things like these should have been acceptable in the first place.”
Despite the discussion surrounding her beliefs, J.K. Rowling has been named as an executive producer for the HBO Max remake.
“I did not like the movies because they definitely did not flow with the books,” Cross said. “They left a whole lot of stuff out and a TV show would be much more in depth. But I don’t think [Rowling] is going to do that. I think they should have put in somebody that can actually say what the books are about [because] J.K. Rowling does not stay with her own canon. So while I cannot wait, I think it was a bad choice to have her included because if accuracy is truly their goal, I don’t think she’s going to be able to achieve it.”
Featured image by Stephanie Vo
Jocelyn Truong can be reached via email at email@example.com.