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JK Rowling

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Double, double toil and trouble.
Another day, another opportunity for Joanne Rowling to offend a large swath of people for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Instead of sitting quietly in her castle and counting her money, J.K. Rowling decided to log on to Twitter
—JK Rowling's descent to terfdom[1]
The Queen taught us well. For, now we are ready to put the knowledge she gave us to practical use. Beginning with her.[sic]
JK Rowling: From Queen to TERF by the SheThePeople magazine.[2]

Joanne Rowling, pen name J(ust) K(idding) Rowling[note 1] (1966–) is a British author, former billionaire[3] and prominent trans-exclusionary radical feminist.

Harry Potter series[edit]

The logo
Harry's world says that drinking dead animal blood gives power, a satanic human sacrifice and Harry's powerful blood brings new life, demon possession is not spiritually dangerous, and that passing through fire, contacting the dead, and conversing with ghosts, others in the spirit world, and more, is normal and acceptable.
Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged, a DVD incapable of making a distinction between fantasy novels and the occult or even getting what is in said novels right.

Harry Potter, a series of seven (or so) fantasy novels by British author J.K. Rowling, relates the adventures of a teenage boy and of his two best friends who attend a school of "witchcraft and wizardry", learning a whole range of magical skills and fighting Dark Magic and evil, and how Alan Rickman got snubbed of another Oscar.[4]

The series portrays good triumphing over evil and became a literary and critical success. Nevertheless, fundamentalist religious groups condemn it as a harmful work which will seduce children into the occult and witchcraft. In the United States (the so-called "great land of liberty") the books have become the most challenged of the 21st century.[5] Fortunately for Harry Potter fans, magic and witchcraft are only a concern if you're living in the 17th century or living in Africa or Indonesia or Papua New Guinea in the present century.

The response to the books represents an excellent example of modern-day fundamentalism and would-be authoritarianism, with numerous attempts to ban the books.

Themes[edit]

The Harry Potter novels have also been subject to serious social scrutiny, with studies of the series' political intricacies performed by columnists, professors and doctoral students alike. As of 2007, the catalog of the Library of Congress has recorded 21 volumes of criticism and interpretation, and at least seven master’s dissertations and 17 doctoral theses have been devoted to the Harry Potter books. Seriously.[6]

From the concepts of hierarchy and purity found in the relations between pure-blooded and muggle-born wizards to the struggle for House Elf freedom, equality is a central theme of the books. It portrays dishonest and incompetent government and media and paints war as a great evil in which innocent people die. The school which Harry attends, Hogwarts, is multicultural, multiracial, and (seemingly) secular. Some critics have, however, called the books patronising and conservative,[7] or alternatively sexist and neoconservative[8]. This is odd, since 1. Rowling herself is a staunch Labour supporter (though is very critical of Jeremy Corbyn); and 2. Hermione.

Rowling also outed Dumbledore, one of the stories' most important characters, saying "I like to think of him as gay." Notably, she did so not in the text of the books, but during a PR event after the release of the final novel.[9] This must rank as one of the greatest achievements in having one's cake and eating it too, since Rowling gets credit for standing up for LGBT recognition without damaging her book sales or outraging her readership in a world where gay central characters are still a rarity in mainstream literature and taboo in children's fiction. She however seems to be at least sympathetic towards the TERF cause, though[10][11].

Unrelated controversies include comparisons to some older book series such as the Howl's Moving Castle and Wizard's Hall (The Worst Witch is the most commented-on), which have resulted in accusations of plagiarism, or (far worse) being derivative. The works feature frumpy and disaster-prone protagonists, a couple of loyal best friends (one book-smart and rational, one street-smart and slightly problematic), a blond and rich but cowardly and rather inefficient rival, a scary and seemingly unfair potions teacher with hidden depths, a childish headmaster with a penchant for candy, and a big bad guy who desires the destruction of the protagonist after their fateful first encounter. Whether this is more than just a re-hashing of tropes is a matter of debate.[12] Some fans, especially older ones, also believe that Rowling's later additions to the franchise are inferior to the original seven novels, with some outright comparing her work to that of George Lucas on the later Star Wars films[13], though one could hardly throw a rock within geek culture without running into similar complaints regarding one particular franchise or another.

Rowling is a Christian herself. The final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, contains an epigraph from the Gospels (Matthew 6:21), Harry's parents' gravestones display another Bible quote (1 Corinthians 15:26) and Rowling also has a scene where Harry sacrifices his own life and is resurrected and then proceeds to save everybody.[note 2]

Slavery apologism and other nasties[edit]

One of the most understated parts of the books series is the portrayal of slavery and abolitionism. One of the main characters, Hermione Granger, seeks to abolish slavery and is mocked for it. The enslaved group, called house elves, are portrayed as comical relief and who are hostile to the only slave that sought freedom.[14]

Another point of contention is the portrayal of lycanthrophy as an AIDS metaphor, considering the character Remus Lupin contracted the disease by being assaulted by an adult man when he was a child. She attempted to retract this analogy or ofuscate but the results were mixed.[15][16][17]

Fundamentalist response[edit]

Oh noes!

There have been dozens of legal cases concerning copyright infringement, libel and breach of contract involving the Potterworld. Flocks of religious leaders (plus Jack Chick) have fulminated against the series.

Note however that many moderate and some evangelical Christians have spoken out in favour of the books. While the Catholic Church has no official position, many Cardinals are against the books. It seems that once people make the distinction between fiction and real belief in magic, they can see past any objections to demons and witchcraft to realise what the series actually supports.

Islamic fundamentalists have denounced the series. The Islamic preacher Sheik Feiz Muhammad regarded the books and films as "Satanic" and claimed they were introducing young children to pagan rituals (such as the drinking of goat's blood) which Islam forbids. The esteemed Sheik also criticized Muslim parents who allow their children to watch the films or read the books, claiming they were being irresponsible.[18]

Furthermore, the drinking of dead animal blood, Satanic human sacrifice, demonic possession etc. described in the quote at the top of the page, are actions practiced by the book's Wilhelm-screaming [19][note 3] antagonist, Lord Voldemort, the murderer of Harry's parents; the books do not exactly present Voldemort as a morally praiseworthy figure.

As to the claims that the books promote witchcraft by teaching impressionable children to cast spells, well… we hate to break it to you, but the spells described in the books don't work in real life.

Satirical-news source The Onion, in its inimitable style, once ran a spoof of the fundamentalists' claims, saying that children really were converting to Satanism because of the books.[20] As if to prove their own idiocy to anyone yet unconvinced, the fundies took the article as proof that they were right.[21]

Identify however you want but...[edit]

Since 2018, Rowling has been involved in Twitter shenanigans. In March 2018, she had a "clumsy and middle-aged moment" - in the words of her representative, Rebecca Salt - when she liked an anti-trans tweet by @racybearhold that said "Men in dresses get brocialist solidarity I never had. That's misogyny!". Salt claimed afterwards, "this is not the first time [Rowling] has favourited by holding her phone incorrectly."[22]

In June 2019 - Pride month, nonetheless - Rowling was revealed to be following nearly a dozen transphobic Twitter accounts. Twitter user @Persenche looked through the nearly 670 people Rowling followed and tweeted that 11 of them included Julie Bindel and Magdalen Berns, the latter of whom compared being trans to wearing blackface.[23] Six months later, Rowling tweeted in support of Maya Forstater, who claimed she was fired for her "gender critical views".[24] She then doubled down in June 2020, when she affirmed biological determinism[25] Her views were condemned by the actors of her film series and her own fans.[26][27]

She also engaged in petty antics such as deleting a tweet praising Stephen King after he supported trans women[28] and participating in an open letter whinging about cancel culture with James Bennet, who resigned as opinion editor of The New York Times after printing an op-ed by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton which called for Black Lives Matter protesters to be suppressed by the military.[29][30]

Gay matters[edit]

While praised for bringing queer representation with Dumbledore, Rowling's poor management of the character in the Fantastic Beasts prequels has been described as a betrayal[31][32] due to refusal to make the character explicitly gay on-screen.[33]

Johnny Depp[edit]

She also alienated a lot of fans for supporting the employment of actor Johnny Depp in the Fantastic Beasts films, despite allegations of domestic violence against him by his ex-wife Amber Heard (these allegations have been the subject of a lot of court cases without much clarity).[34]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. JK Rowling was made up as a pen name and the K doesn't stand for anything. Wikipedia confidently states that her surname is pronounced /ˈroʊlɪŋ/ ROH-ling but feel free to ignore this, as most people do.
  2. We're kind of over-exaggerating a bit, because it's implied in the final epilogue that he lived a fairly normal life after that.
  3. Though, technically, the scream isn't actually the Wilhelm.

References[edit]

  1. J.K. Rowling Says Gay People Are Experiencing ‘a New Kind of Conversion Therapy’ in Twitter Rant, Chris Murphy, Vulture, July 5, 2020
  2. From Queen to Terf, dated to June 9, 2020
  3. From billionaire to millionaire, New Zealand Herald, 12 Mar, 2012
  4. Spoilers!
  5. Harry Potter tops list of most challenged books of 21st century, American Library Association
  6. Pottering Around, Inside Higher Ed
  7. "Why Harry Potter doesn't cast a spell over me", The Guardian
  8. "Hogwarts is a winner because boys will be sexist neocon boys", The Sunday Times
  9. J.K. Rowling at Carnegie Hall Reveals Dumbledore is Gay, The Leaky Cauldron
  10. JK Rowling Confirms Stance Against Transgender Women, Medium, 24 June 2019
  11. https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2019/12/19/jk-rowing-maya-forstater-tweets-transphobia-accusations/
  12. See the Wikipedia article on Harry Potter influences and analogues.
  13. Farrow, Max. "J.K. Rowling Is Turning Into George Lucas." ScreenRant, 25 November 2018 (recovered 30 April 2019).
  14. Harry Potter and the problematic slavery parable
  15. JK Rowling stirs controversy with AIDS metaphor
  16. Never forget when JK Rowling likened being a werewolf to having AIDS
  17. JK Rowling's allegory fail: Werewolves are not a useful metaphor for AIDS
  18. Harry Potter — Sheik Feiz Muhammad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JHc6m3Y2ss
  19. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rVA4zwVmPw
  20. Avada Kedavra, bitches!
  21. Harry Potter and Satanism, Snopes
  22. https://www.indy100.com/article/jk-rowling-tweet-transphobic-men-dresses-harry-potter-8268111
  23. https://www.femestella.com/jk-rowling-transphobic/
  24. Maya Forstater: Woman loses tribunal over transgender tweets, BBC, December 19, 2019
  25. Insider:JK Rowling claims trans activism hurts women and lesbians, dated to Jun 7, 2020
  26. Slashfilm:More stars condemn Rowling's trans comments, dated to June 11th, 2020
  27. HP fans sites distance themselves from JK Rowling, The Guardian, dated to July 3, 2020
  28. Rowling deletes tweet after Stephen King supports trans women
  29. ‘Whiny BS’: letter signed by JK Rowling, Margaret Atwood slammed as out of touch, The New Daily, July 7, 2020
  30. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/cancel-culture-harpers-jk-rowling-scam_n_5f0887b4c5b67a80bc06c95e
  31. Insider:LGBT backlash against Fantastic Beasts, dated to Feb 2, 2018
  32. SBS:Rowling omitting Dumbledore being gay is a slap in the face to her queer fans, dated to 19 Mar 2019
  33. Insider:Fantastic Beasts director says movie will not address Dumbledore being gay, dated to Jan 31, 2018
  34. JK Rowling endorsed Johnny Depp and betrayed millions of women, Biba Kang, The Independent, UK, 8 December 2017