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Though we still have a long way to go, we as a society are getting better at not accepting bigotry and holding people responsible for their actions. It is especially true for people in the public eye (including celebrities, politicians, etc.) because whether they’d like to or not, they set an example for the people watching them. Now, I’m not exactly talking about “cancel culture” – I find that cancel culture can be harmful and stems more from virtue signalling than actually caring about the issue at hand. People can grow and learn from their mistakes, and their views can change. I’m talking about holding people responsible for their actions rather than making excuses and shielding them.

With a lower tolerance for bigotry, something that has stemmed from this in today’s media is the concept of “separating the art from the artist”; in other words, you can consume and appreciate someone’s work while not agreeing with any complicated things they may have done. It may apply to singers, actors, authors, and practically any art form. And although I don’t have a problem with people doing this to certain extents, I do think there are a few different factors that can come into play with this.

One of the most prevalent examples I have of this is with JK Rowling, whose name you probably already know, given she is the author of the Harry Potter series. The Harry Potter books and movies are great pieces of work that many of us grew up with, so it’s disheartening to know that the author of this series is a TERF – or trans-exclusionary radical feminist. And although she’s been saying some questionable things for a while now, she has more recently been under fire for her numerous transphobic comments, leading fans of the Harry Potter series to separate her from the franchise. I’ve seen many people make jokes such as “Daniel Radcliffe wrote Harry Potter” or “Harry Potter has no author” and things like that, and while I do understand the sentiment, here’s a thing – JK Rowling’s bigotry reflects in her work.

For example, consider Rowling’s description of Rita Skeeter, a clear antagonist in the Harry Potter books. She is described to have a “heavy-jawed face” that contrasted with her curly hair, and “large, masculine hands” in contrast to her painted nails and handbag. This, to me, has clear transphobic undertones because she has deliberately written to contrast her feminine and masculine features to make her seem shifty and untrustworthy. Because of her beliefs, she has written a villain that can be interpreted as a transphobic caricature, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

There are certainly more things that you can dig into with the Harry Potter series reflecting Rowling’s bigotry (such as the anti-Semitic undertones with the goblins, naming the only Asian character Cho Chang, and more). Still, the point is, you can only separate the art from the artist to a certain extent. More often than not, there are traces of them and their views in their work. Of course, you are still allowed to enjoy these things, but it is essential to acknowledge the presence of these problematic ideals rather than dismiss them.

Leah is a fourth year Marine Biology student at the University of Guelph and a writer and editor in chief for Her Campus. In her free time she can be found engaging in activities such as reading and writing, drinking iced coffee, playing video games and staring longingly at the dogs she’s not allowed to pet on campus.
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