No, I’m not talking about the pronunciation of her surname. Is it R-owl-ing or Ro-ling? I’m talking about her problematic behaviour that has reared it’s ugly head, like a Basilisk that just won’t disappear, ever since she published the Harry Potter novels (a.k.a best book series ever, don’t @ me) all of those years ago.
Of course, it’s easy for me to proclaim my love for this book series. The first was released when I was at the age to be receiving my Hogwart’s letter and the last was published when I too started to struggle with my sexually repressed teenage image of myself (come on, we all know how many times Neville beat it over Luna up in that Griffindor dorm). It’s also easy because the representation of characters in the book were widely much like myself – white, English, educated with a (not so functioning) nuclear family set up.
At the time, I devoured each book, claiming First Edition after First Edition as my own and falling in love with each of the characters that were like me or the people I went to school with.
And it’s only 21 years later, as an adult, who now teaches in a school not too dissimilar to Hogwarts. Where I like to think my teaching is magic. And that the children will go on to be great sorcerers in their own fields. Where I realise, just how different things were back then.
Because unlike my school, or other schools I have taught in, or that make up the landscape of today – Hogwarts was not home to the many diverse faces, backgrounds, cultures, gender types and sexualities that schools in the UK are today.
So herein lies, the problem with Rowling.
Post Potter publishing, she has repeatedly fed fans snippets of information to lead them to believe her stories WERE inclusive and diverse. However, in doing so, she further highlights how problematic the lack of diversity was, in stories that were written to stand the test of time.
She has retrospectively announced, among other things, that Voldie and Bellatrix were banging, which house Harry’s son got sorted into and that Hermione would eventually be the Minister of Magic.
More problematically though, she has suggested that Hermione was black and Dumbledore was gay.
So why is that dangerous? HUZZAH for inclusivity, right?
Absolutely fucking wrong.
J.K herself said, during a fan panel, when discussing that Hermione was black, ‘If I’d known (her being black) would have made you this happy, I would’ve told you sooner!’
What she actually meant to say was, ‘In 1997 it was far too controversial to have a leading black character so I made her white as not to offend, now we’re advancing in our outdated thoughts she can be black and I’ll just take the flack for the casting choice in the Daily Mail comments and wipe my tears with my billion pound bank notes.’
When criticised for this revelation, she defended herself by arguing that Hermione was never meant to be white.
Which is great, until you then go back and read the books and see her described as having frizzy hair with huge front teeth and then ‘beautifying’ herself before the Yule Ball by straightening her hair and reducing her teeth. What sort of message does that send?
And now there is another, Post Potter Publishing afterthought that Rowling has recently advertised. Dumbledore’s sexuality.
Again, she announced that she had always intended Dumbledore to be gay. And again she failed to represent this minority in the books the first time round.
Whilst yes, I do understand that the stories were told from Harry’s POV and there would be no reason for a student to be aware of their headteacher’s sexuality, there is now a 5 part film, all about Dumbeldore’s background due to be released as a new franchise.
Fantastic, you’d think, this is J.K’s time to write a screenplay that represents Dumbeldore’s upbringing as a young, gay man and finally give a nod to all of her LGBTQIA+ fans and readers who have felt so wholly underrepresented in this series.
When asked, J.K gave a proverbial shrug of her shoulders when asked whether Dumbeldore’s sexuality would be addressed. After the director David Yates said his sexuality wouldn’t be displayed ‘explicitly’ in the films, she told her fans to ‘watch this space’, where she could’ve used the opportunity to openly celebrate some diversity for once.
There seems to be an arrogance that she has developed Post Potter Publishing where she blocks anyone who questions her actions on social media or cries in defence of her actions that she knows bloody well what she’s doing – she is J.K Rowling after all.
Her problematic nature doesn’t end with retrospective diversification – and what a way to highlight that there was no diversity in the first place than by tokenistically adding some in for canon, but also in her defence of the casting choices that have been made in subsequent films.
Johnny Depp made a brief appearance as the character Grindelwald at the end of the first Fantastic Beasts film. After the films were released, videos and audio of him abusing his then wife Amber Heard were released. She filed for divorce. They both filed a joint statement basically admitting his wrong-doing.
Fans of the franchise then called for Depp to be dropped from the films in the same way other actors were being called out for their abusive pasts. And what did she do? Fellow domestic abuse survivor? The Self-proclaimed (BUT TOTALLY WHITE) feminist?
She released this statement…’Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movie.’
Her understanding? Her interpretation of the tapes? Of the photos of Amber’s abuse? Or of Depp’s admittance that he had a problem? Or did she retrospectively canon her own narrative to the Depp/Heard story, like she did with Potter, to best serve herself?
For whatever justifications Rowling gives for her castings or reactive canon fodder announcements, one thing is for certain.
A woman, who rose up from nothing, to write a billion pound franchise that captivated hearts and minds and inspired a whole generation of young people, really needs to do better at representing those vast groups of people who have gotten her to where she is today and an even better job of listening to what they want rather than dipping her wand in her own Pensieve every time she wants to have her voice heard.