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Why I’m Done with J.K. Rowling But Still Love Harry Potter

In my last article, I said that the reasons I don’t stan J.K. Rowling anymore were best left to another article. Unfortunately, Joanne is back on her nonsense, and now seems as good a time as any to unpack why our childhood heroes don’t always hold up over time.

Tragically, I was not a part of the “Harry Potter” fan base when it was at its peak. Mostly, I was too young, and too ignorant to know what I was missing. But I did join the party in time to see “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2” (2011) in theaters, and I remember experiencing a distinctively bittersweet feeling. Sad, because it was over, but happy, because it was a (mostly) satisfying conclusion to a deeply important series that meant a lot to many people. When Rowling’s new website Pottermore was announced, I was thrilled, and constantly checked for new updates. In 2014, “Rita Skeeter” wrote an article reporting on the activities of Harry and friends, a fun extra glimpse into what the characters might be doing post-epilogue. Then, in 2015, came the announcement of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

Initially, of course, most fans were excited. The play was performed in London starting in 2016, and the complete script was later published for those who couldn’t make it to the production. Speaking as a fan, and admittedly someone who has only read the script, this play is a complete and total disaster. The plot is straight out of a (very bad) fanfiction, and retcons aspects of Harry’s character in a way that is disloyal to the books and frankly makes no sense. It’s a disappointing entry in the Harry Potter canon, and most fans (including me) choose to ignore it completely.

After that, when the “Fantastic Beasts” movie franchise kicked off in 2016, I walked into that theater expecting the worst. I had been burned before, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up. To my relief, the movie was good, great even, a fun, magical journey through 1920s New York that introduced new creatures and characters while maintaining the integrity of the original seven books. I began to be cautiously optimistic about the rest of the movies.

Detracting from my optimism was the last-minute reveal that Colin Firth was actually Johnny Depp. At the time, allegations of abuse against his ex-wife Amber Heard were constantly in the headlines, and Rowling’s silence was concerning. (Now, the situation is slightly more complicated.) When she finally released a statement in 2017, it was a nothing statement, sweeping fans’ concerns under the rug and essentially telling them to get over it. As a person in an enormous position of power and influence, as a “feminist,” and as a human being, she ought to have shown a great deal more compassion and consideration to such a sensitive topic.

Thus far, I’ve somehow avoided talking about the most well-known Rowling retcon. I refer of course to the “announcement” that Dumbledore, everyone’s favorite questionably responsible magical father figure, is gay.  Obviously, this is problematic: it doesn’t really count as representation if it’s so subtle that you’d never know it just from reading the books. But it especially doesn’t count if, when creating a prequel series chronicling the life of Dumbledore and his lover Grindelwald, Dumbledore won’t be portrayed as “explicitly gay,” according to director David Yates.

On top of all of this, “Crimes of Grindelwald” is just a bad movie. The plot is convoluted, there are cameos from characters that are either unnecessary or impossible, and previously admirable characters become one-dimensional and frustrating. The movie has two stars on Rotten Tomatoes, and Slate called it “flat-out terrible.” Perhaps in an effort to distract from this (but really, who knows why she keeps speaking!), Rowling is now claiming that Grindelwald and Dumbledore had “an incredibly intense,” “sexual” relationship (quoted on the Blu-Ray commentary of “Crimes of Grindelwald.”

All of this to say, I’m tired of her. I haven’t even talked about the time she told us that wizards used to go to the bathroom wherever (no one asked!), or how she blocked fans on Twitter who called her out. And yet, I still love “Harry Potter,” books one through seven. I got a “Harry Potter” tattoo a month ago, I read the series at least once a year, and the movies can always be turned on as comforting background noise. Walking into Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando makes me tear up, because it’s incredible, this world that she’s created. It’s brought so many people together, and quite frankly, it doesn’t belong to Rowling anymore. It belongs to the fans who see Harry as Indian, who see Hermione as black, who feel Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan as having a (gay! intense! sexual…?!) relationship. The death of the author is alive and well, and we shouldn’t let the existence of Twitter tell us otherwise.

“Harry Potter,” like “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight,” and “Lord of the Rings,” is a global phenomenon. You can pretty much buy “Harry Potter” branded anything (including spatulas and bath bombs). Hogwarts houses are nearly as ubiquitous as Meyer-Brigg’s personality types, as important in the nerd community as football teams are for sport fans. Rowling has created a legacy, and while she’s doing her damnedest to ruin that legacy, I won’t let her.

I associate “Harry Potter” with tons of good memories. The first book was a gift from my mother, and I remember her smugness when I liked it. She tells me she read the books when I was a baby, so I’ve literally grown up with them. My best friend’s family and I have spent many hours discussing and debating the series, and the anticipation building up to Universal trips has never been negative. I use the audiobooks to both fall asleep at night and to stay awake on long car drives, and even still, Rowling’s statement that “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home” holds a certain amount of comfort. Frankly, I love “Harry Potter,” and I won’t let that be taken from me.

My grandmother once noted, with surprise, that J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter have the same birthday, and therefore the same star sign. “That means Harry is a Leo,” she exclaimed, as if that means anything. It doesn’t. But it’s only a matter of time before Rowling declares that because Harry is a Leo, he turns into a werelion, and unfortunately attacked and ate everyone he knows, including his and Snape’s illicit child who was created from thin air from the power of their intellectual bond. When she does, we’ll just have to sigh, scroll past, and pretend like “Harry Potter,” too, is a creation without a creator.

 

All images via the author