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My Reckoning with J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling used to be a name that I admired, but after her newest scandal, I knew that I needed to express my opinion about her antiquated beliefs and transgressions.

Once again, J.K. Rowling has rocked the world with the news about her latest book that dropped on Sept. 15. The plot follows a male serial killer who disguises himself as a woman. While it is written under Rowling’s pen name, Robert Galbraith, the name was outed back in 2013 and she continues to use it. The internet blew up, and transgender activists spoke out. What makes things worse is that this is not the first time that Rowling has blatantly disrespected the LGBTQ community.

For those who may not know, Rowling came under fire—rightfully so—in June for a transphobic tweet that exploded the internet. Many of the actors in Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts spoke out against her tweets, expressing their distaste and disagreements with Rowling’s view. For example, Daniel Radcliffe gave a beautiful statement about how trangender women are women directly to The Trevor Project. In the past, Rowling also has demonstrated a lack of knowledge about the transgender community through supporting a woman who had been fired for invalidating trangender women by stating that sex is real back in December 2019.

The December incident angered me, but I held onto the hope that Rowling would educate herself. However, after the June incident, my support for this woman ceased to exist. It is clear that her uneducated views about the transgender community are not going to be changing. This new book has officially severed any connection I had to her. In addition, I have also come to realize that there are issues buried within the Harry Potter books, and I admit that I did not want to hear them when I was younger. I always heard rumblings of different issues, but since I have decided to write about Rowling now, I knew I had to educate myself further.  

Rowling has tried to add diversity to her books after the fact, from a Black Hermione to Dumbledore’s sexuality. I applaud her efforts for trying, but they are not enough to do after the books have been out for over 10 years. She has also been accused of queerbaiting, creating prejudiced characters, such as Cho Chang and appropriating Native American culture. Realizing these things has—for lack of a better word—disgusted me.

It is difficult for me to cancel an author that had such a large impact on me because of the Harry Potter books. I wrote and performed a speech admiring Rowling’s perseverance for a public speaking class. She inspired me to write and hopefully be a published author someday. She taught me about love, friendship and magic. What I have since realized is that while she may have written the series, reading the books taught me these lessons, not Rowling. It was my choice to pick up the books, and I interpret them how I want.

Since Rowling is cancelled, there are questions about what to do about her beloved book series. People are boycotting Harry Potter because of Rowling. Fan sites cut ties with her as a person and many people said they would not be buying anymore merchandise or reading the books. I cannot go that far. While I now see many of the issues that the books have, I educated myself on these issues. I can acknowledge what is wrong. I think that Harry Potter still has many lessons to teach readers. I could not imagine future generations not learning about themselves alongside Harry, Ron and Hermione; however, I do feel that parents need to talk to their kids about all the issues that the books have too. Kids can and should learn about race, sexuality, and other major topics from a young age. Most importantly, the books and their fans are part of a universe that stands on its own.

The idea of Harry Potter becoming its own universe brings back one of the biggest debates about whether art becomes its own entity separate from the artist. Once an author has released their words into the world, they leave it up for readers to interpret. While I am still unsure if writers should have a say in how people view their books or even if they can keep tweeting about Dumbledore’s sexuality among other things, writers have to know that at some point, they need to let it go.

While I originally loved the Fantastic Beasts spin-off series, I wonder if it is necessary to keep bleeding this universe dry. I have not even watched the most recent movie. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—which I do not count as canon—has some new ideas about a queer relationship, but it is such a poor package that I feel like I cannot accept it as anything but attempts to get more money, keep Rowling relevant and try to fix diversity issues.

I know many people feel that cancel culture is ridiculous. Sometimes, it may be, but in this case, it is justified. Rowling has had many opportunities to educate herself, but she continues to make the same mistakes. While I will always love Harry Potter, I can no longer give my support to Rowling. Perhaps if she shows concrete proof of change, I will reconsider.

It is hard watching an idol fall from grace, but at some point, people need to grow up, learn and change. I just have to accept the fact that J.K. Rowling obviously does not want to be one of those people.

Rebecca is a senior and the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Geneseo. She is a double major in English (Creative Writing) and Communication. Rebecca is also the Copy Editor for the student newspaper The Lamron, Co-Managing Editor of Gandy Dancer, a Career Peer Mentor in the Department of Career Development, and a Reader for The Masters Review. She hopes to work in the publishing industry and pitch articles to different magazines. When Rebecca is not reading, writing and editing, she can be found dancing with OGX on campus. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @Becca_Willie04!
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