Hey, Joanne — a dementor’s got a kiss for you
( @tmx_tv / Instagram)
It seems Joanne never knows when to stop. But with a WASP-mom name like Joanne, what did we really expect?
In December 2019, Rowling tweeted in defense of Maya Forstater, a woman who was fired from her job for intentionally misgendering someone. Rowling followed Maya’s defense with a slew of transphobic comments. Rather than facing the backlash and letting her contentious tweet get lost on the timeline, Rowling dug her heels into the ground — an action that would prove to be an ongoing trend.
On June 10, 2020, Rowling emerged once again from the shadows and released her worst, most controversial piece of writing since The Cursed Child — a 4,000-word blog post detailing her stance that can only be described as a transphobic manifesto. And who can forget her insulting tweet mocking the use of the phrase “people who menstruate.”
Since then, the Harry Potter series as a whole has been placed under considerable scrutiny, but leave it to Joanne Kathleen herself to disrupt her own cancellation with yet another piece of grossly mistimed news.
Another book! Because apparently the Harry Potter royalties aren’t enough. Troubled Blood, the fifth book in Rowling’s thriller series Cormoran Strike, came out on September 15th. And trust me, there’s a lot to unpack (Literally, the book is 944 pages. How she managed to exceed the brick that is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is beyond me).
First off, the book centers around a “cisgender male serial killer who fetishizes women’s clothing.” In one scene, he disguises himself as a woman in order to abduct and murder a subject — a disgustingly obvious allusion to the stereotype of trans individuals as pedophiles or creeps.
And if Rowling’s pen name, Robert Gailbraith, sounds familiar, you may be thinking of American psychiatrist Robert Gailbraith Heath — a pioneer in electroshock and gay conversion therapy.
But with the fire of criticism surrounding JK Rowling burning ever brighter, many have begun to thrust the flames in the direction of another group: Harry Potter fans. At this point, the topic becomes far more complex.
With the understanding that JK Rowling’s ever-present transphobia, racism, and anti-Semitism is inherently integrated into her work, at what point does supporting her content become a hateful act in itself?
If you look to Twitter — the breeding ground of cancel culture — the line is not so thin. But for those who grew up alongside The Boy Who Lived, grappling with the knowledge that a world they once found comfort and solace in was created by someone who directly opposes their very existence was heartbreaking.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione have grown to exist in a realm of their own creation — a realm established by fans themselves. Continuing to place your Hogwarts house in your Twitter bio, reblogging a Marauders headcanon, or reading a 55k Wolfstar fanfiction (no judgment allowed) are not inherently transphobic acts. They’re a desperate reimagination of a world that once offered necessary escape and a reclamation of a story poisoned by its author.
We have to let appreciating the Harry Potter series and condemning JK Rowling’s vicious bigotry coexist, as long as that appreciation doesn’t put dollars in her pocket. But, hey — archiveofourown.org is free. I won’t tell.
With 13 years of Harry Potter under my belt, I don’t take the Unforgivable Curses lightly. But I would Avada Kedavra the fuck out of JK Rowling.
Veronica Nocera is a Staff Writer at Rowdy Magazine. Her simple pleasures include hoarding stationary, rewatching 90s rom coms, and romanticizing the lives of 20th century female authors. She's intensely passionate about the power of language, social justice, and the overlap between past and present. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!