On 17th November it was announced that the original cast of the Harry Potter series would gather together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first installment in the franchise. Titled Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, the reunion is scheduled to be released on 1st January 2022.
The legendary cast of the series including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Tom Felton are all said to be participating in this journey down nostalgia lane. While the cast returns to celebrate the monumental journey of the franchise, J.K. Rowling, the writer and creator of the Harry Potter wizarding universe remains excluded from the event. Although it is speculated that she will appear in the show through previously archived footage, Rowling has seemingly been avoided from participating.
Why is Rowling excluded?
This exclusion perhaps doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone because of Rowling’s problematic anti-trans essay published on 10th June 2020. The essay is a “defense” against the backlash she got for supporting Maya Forstater on twitter earlier that year. Maya Forstater is tax specialist who, when fired from her job due to transphobic tweets wanted the judge of an employment tribunal to protect the lack of belief in gender identity which is a belief that everyone’s gender identity takes precedence over sex. She insisted that her belief in the absence of gender identity be legally acknowledged.
This lack of belief in gender identity conflicts with the rights of transgender and non-binary individuals. In the essay, Rowling’s critique dismisses the existence of gender identity and focuses only on biological sex. By simply excluding trans and non-binary individuals from the conversation, Rowling states that only those assigned with a female sex at birth deserve women’s rights which includes cis-gender women and trans men but not trans women.
This is problematic because trans men do not need women’s rights, they need trans rights whereas trans women desperately need women’s rights. So, excluding them simply on the basis of their assigned sex is highly transphobic. Moreover, she not only reinforces the fact that biological sex is real multiple times, but also disregards gender identity and misgenders trans women while publicly supporting people who are extremely transphobic.
The Harry Potter literary and cinematic universe has been a safe-haven for a lot of LGBTQIA+ individuals, and Rowling herself added to the inclusivity after the publication of the seven books when in October 2007 she declared that “Dumbledore is gay.” This added to the agitation against her in 2020 because on one hand her books gave the LGBTQIA+ community a feeling of belonging and on the other hand, she openly discriminated against their identities. But after her anti-trans comments, her previous attempts at inclusion comes off as queer baiting where it seems that she uses LGBTQIA+ characters only as a marketing technique.
After the essay was published and heavily criticised, fans also started noticing other problematic tropes that Rowling vehemently used in the books. The characters of Cho Chang, Parvati and Padma Patil are criticised for being stereotypical representations of Asian and South Asian characters that remain under-developed at best throughout the series.
The sprinkles of off hand racism and blatant body shaming that she used throughout the series on minor characters were criticised too. Pansy Parkinson’s physical features are at times referred to being “pug-like” and Dudley is continuously compared to a pig, with a intention to generate humor.
Considering Rowling’s public comments and her bigotry, her exclusion from the reunion seems justifiable. But many fans have expressed their disappointment. Though Rowling has not commented on it, the internet seems to be divided on the matter. Some are arguing that prohibiting the creator’s presence in a reunion is unnatural as the credit for the existence of the Harry Potter Universe can be credited entirely to J.K. Rowling. The refusal to include the author in the upcoming show is unacceptable for many.
Why the exclusion is justified
The association of the artist with the art makes this entire dilemma more complex. The exclusion of J.K. Rowling is necessary because of the damage she has and can do via her comments. In the past one year, her comments have validated many Trans Exclusionist Separatist (TES) movements which disregard transgender and non-binary identities.
In her position of influence, comments and support towards causes that infringe human rights are unacceptable. Her role as the creator cannot be dismissed but the Harry Potter universe is more than just Rowling. The reunion will celebrate the larger than life aura of the universe that might have been created by her, but at the end of the day is sustained by the readers and the audiences.
Rowling’s anti-trans stance and her tweets dismissing the term “people who menstruate,” makes her association with a beloved cinematic universe all the more problematic. Daniel Radcliffe spoke up against the author and said, “To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you…If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe… if you believe that a particular character is trans, non-binary, or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred.”
Even though it is her creation, it is not and cannot be necessarily associated with her bigotry and transphobia because throughout the years, the characters and the elements of the magical universe have outgrown their creator and become independent entities with their own associations.
J.K. Rowling is only the writer for the books but Harry Potter has become more than just the written word. So it is quiet justified that the Warner Brothers have decided to exclude Rowling from the endeavor. The outrage around this is definitely not justified because her inclusion in such a big event will definitely validate her anti-trans and TES views.
Her contribution to the franchise cannot be denied but that doesn’t mean that her prejudicial opinions are needed to be validated. If to some people this exclusion comes off as too radical and unacceptable, despite, it is justified because the comments the author made were exclusionary and unacceptable as well.
Featured Image: Metro