- For many readers and fans, “Harry Potter” became a safe escape and supportive community.
- Controversial author J.K. Rowling has since spread transphobic messages, killing some of the magic.
- It’s hard to replicate the effect of the series for the next generation with its real-life context.
“Harry Potter” needs no introduction. It was a once-in-a-generation phenomenon.
As the millennial Potterheads grew up, the books provided an idealist escape to the less complicated world of childhood. The Wizarding World became a safe place where magic was real and bravery, brains, and friendship always won.
For early and late adopters alike, it seemed like a given that such a treasured series would be passed lovingly along to the next generation. But as often happens as we age, the real world began to seep in.
J.K. Rowling’s transphobic viewpoints left many Potter fans disenchanted
In 2020, in a now-infamous series of tweets and a subsequent essay, the controversial “Harry Potter” author issued a spate of contentious statements about biological sex and gender. Rowling’s opinions led many to label her a trans-exclusionary radical feminist.
A TERF is generally characterized as a person who says they’re a feminist while espousing trans-exclusionary views. Common examples include saying that trans women aren’t women, barring trans women from women’s spaces, and conflating sex with gender.
These comments weren’t her first foray into transphobia. In addition to liking a couple of offensive tweets in 2018, she also tweeted in 2019 in support of a British woman who was fired over making transphobic comments.
Then, amid the backlash of her 2020 tweets and essay, the author published a poorly received book under her pseudonym, Robert Galbraith, that follows a male serial killer who lures his victims by dressing as a woman.
Her actions disenchanted scores of fans, who have struggled to figure out what to do with their love for the series given the controversy around its creator.
As Rowling’s personal beliefs became harder to ignore so, too, did the biases embedded in her books
As fans reexamine the books and amplify long-quieted critiques in the wake of this backlash, it’s become increasingly clear that Rowling’s personal views and biases made their way into the subtext of the series.
Like so much of the media of yesteryear, the books are rightfully subjected to critiques and criticisms. Everything from the naming of Cho Chang, to the injustice that was the Patil twins’ Yule Ball look, to the absence of prominent Black and queer characters dulls the series’ luster.
Rowling’s attempts to revise history by sharing postcanonical details about characters and the Wizarding World at large — such as Dumbledore being gay and a minor, unknown character being Jewish — did little to quell these claims.
In a series that spans thousands of pages and often provides minute details, the thought that Rowling couldn’t spare a few words to mention a character’s race or sexuality already seems preposterous. But to imply that these facts were always present and that fans merely missed or failed to imagine them feels mildly insulting.
Rowling, like any person, is only human. Although some of the series’ flaws exist as overt bigotry, other coded messages may have been the result of unconscious biases or internalized stereotypes.
But intentional or not, the implications of these problematic portrayals left a stain on the series that even the most ardent Potterphiles can no longer ignore.
With each offensive comment Rowling shares, the Wizarding World becomes less of an escape.
Some fans who were raised on ‘Harry Potter’ faced an existential reckoning, and the path forward isn’t clear
Suddenly, fans were reckoning with the literary equivalent of having a racist uncle: What do you do when someone or something problematic is unwittingly and inextricably entwined with your world?
It’s difficult to truly separate art from the artist when the artist’s views color her world in so many fundamental ways.
Some fans treasure their existing copies of the beloved series while refusing to purchase anything new to support Rowling financially. For others, the books lie obscured and discarded, awaiting a fate yet to be determined.
As the original generation of fans has children, some may choose to omit the books entirely, opting for more inclusive family reading. Others may still introduce the series but ensure that it’s accompanied by disclaimers and caveats.
This intrusion of real life means the series can’t be a safe haven for the next generation. When we introduce the real world to the Wizarding World, we inherently drain some of its magic.
‘Harry Potter’ can never be what it once was for the next generation of readers
As we look for ways to carry the best of the books into the future, we’ll have to leave some of their splendor in the past — like a literary “you had to be there” moment.
We don’t have a Time-Turner to rectify these wrongs, so we’ll look upon “Harry Potter” with the kind of melancholy nostalgia that accompanies the lost days of childhood — a yearning for a time when the series was unburdened and uncomplicated.
As we look to the future, the best we can hope is that these conversations inspire the next generation to foster fully inclusive magic and create a more perfect version of this fantasy world.
Rowling and her representatives have declined to comment.