Harry Potter and the Public Scandal
By Serena Yuan
"Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic."
This line of wisdom comes from Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, a powerful wizard from the Harry Potter series which changed the world of children’s literature since its debut over 20 years ago. Since being published, Harry Potter has, all jokes intended, cast a spell on teenagers all over the world. The story of three young heroes banding together to protect the wizarding world from permanent destruction, all while juggling complex personal lives, hit home for millions of fans as the fantastical universe indulged in their wildest imaginations.
The seven-part series followed alongside readers as they grew up; with each new book, the characters matured and the plotlines became more intricate. For the passionate fan base of Potterheads, many have seen Harry Potter transform from a single novel to a best-selling series that has sold over 500 million copies worldwide. However, the entire fandom has recently been forced to reevaluate their relationship with the beloved series after the author, JK Rowling, made transphobic comments on Twitter.
Her anti-trans stance comes at a time when the world is waking up to the injustices suffered by transgender and black minority groups, and her words have been condemned by the fandom and corporations that have professional ties with her. Despite these actions already taken against Rowling, many fans struggle in their relationship to Harry Potter. This is in part due to “cancel culture,” where followers completely denounce and abandon all the works associated with a problematic creator. There is the belief that supporting Harry Potter would be a moral offense—but it’s not.
To start, it is important to recognize that Harry Potter is almost completely out of the hands of JK Rowling already. The fandom has grown so large that it has come to govern itself. With or without Rowling, Potterheads would continue to enjoy and explore the Wizarding world. Of course, she is still the source of new official content, but there are innumerous high quality fanfiction spin-offs, merchandise-sellers, and other content creators that exist independently of the author. Furthermore, the Harry Potter universe has no toleration for hatred and divisive ideology. Rowling’s own harmful beliefs are not reflected in the series—her work lives and breathes on its own. This means that supporting the HP fandom doesn’t necessarily support JK Rowling, but even if it does, here’s why it is still valid.
The meaningful relationship that you cultivate with a book is between you and that book alone—whatever inspiration, comfort, or value you derive from it is untouchable. Literature is a medium for individuals to reflect on their values and paint the portrait of themselves; the Harry Potter Phenomenon has especially connected people through compassion and shared imaginations. These things were not facilitated by the author, rather, they are unique to each reader and created by the bond between story and reader, fantasy and fantasizer.
In the end, it is possible to continue loving the Harry Potter series while condemning the harmful actions of its author. By unfollowing Rowling on social media to remove her platform and discussing the uncondonable impacts of her statements, we have the power to overcome transphobia, one bigot at a time. The fight against discrimination is a long, uphill battle—along the way, we will have to make certain sacrifices, but a meaningful connection to a story that has supported us throughout our lives is not one of them.