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The Problem With J.K Rowling

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.

jk rowling

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.

But nope.

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.

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25 Comments
  • Katie
    February 1, 2018

    Oh my goodness, this post is everything and I’m SO glad that you posted it! I agree with everything that you’ve said and believe she’s just trying to please everyone and it’s just making her look stupid. I’m not quite sure how to word this without sounding ignorant and stupid, but I just feel as though she’s trying too hard to be liked by EVERYONE, she’s trying to please ALL communities and although I could be seen as someone with white privilege, as a CHILD it never even fazed me that I didn’t know Dumbledores sexuality or Hermione’s race and equally does it really matter now? It’s a bit like going back on books about slavery and editing them to suit the times today when that just doesn’t make sense because they were written in a time or ABOUT a time when that was acceptable. I know that’s a bit of an extravagant example, but I hope I’m making sense. Again, I’m all for diversity, but what’s the point in going back and editing things that just don’t make sense!

  • Lorna
    February 1, 2018

    Love this so much Vix! You should listen to Witch Please- it’s a podcast talking about the Harry Potter books/films and it talks about all of these issues and more, plus it’s absolutely hilarious (like, laughing out loud on the train kind of funny). I think you’d really like it!

  • Dimitra
    February 1, 2018

    Such an eye-opening post. I grew up reading and obsessing over the Harry Potter series and they influenced me so much. I even have the Deathly Hallows symbol tattooed on me. As an intersectional feminist, who loves reading diverse books, I am embarassed to say that I did not realize until now how NOT diverse the books are. I do remember thinking how stupid the part about Hermione’s teeth was but overall I guess I never cared about Dumbledore’s sexuality or Hermione’s color. I am sure that if the books were diverse, a lot of kids would grow up with a completely different mindset, more inclusive and more respectful. Great post, very thought-provoking, thank you so much for writing it! (P.S. Sorry for my English :O :O)

  • Kerry
    February 1, 2018

    ‪JK Rowling has never said she intended Hermione to be black. She just said it wasn’t specifically mentioned in the books, which it isn’t. ‬It’s not mentioned in the British book that Dean Thomas is black either, nor that the Patel twins are Indian etc. It’s the way the books are written, characters aren’t overly described. The whole issue about her being black was so ridiculous, I mean, we’ve had a black Hamlet FFS, we can cope with a black Hermione…

    In terms of Dumbledore, I think it’s implied he’s gay in the books. The last book definitely gives a vibe, but it’s hardly likely Harry is going to be thinking about that kind of thing regarding his teacher… someone he looks up to as a kind of guardian.

    Also all she has actually said was essentially it isn’t fair she’s getting a tonne of abuse for an interview she wasn’t involved in. We don’t know what’s in the script, and just because it isn’t addressed in the next film to come out, how do we know it won’t be address in film 3, 4 or 5? David Yates said it wasn’t addressed in the film that’s coming out next, that doesn’t mean it won’t be at all. Her point is that it’s not really fair for people to just send her loads of abuse on Twitter when they don’t know what’s coming up in the scripts or stories.

    But with regards to the Depp thing I kinda agree. I don’t think he should be in the films and I do think it shows poor form for the messages she herself has tried to put out on social media.

    • Hello
      March 12, 2018

      I agree with everything you said, and to add, Rowling, at least, might not really have a say on Depp. Though, that still doesn’t explain her defending it I guess

  • Chloe
    February 1, 2018

    Yes! You’ve written down everything I’ve been thinking for so damn long. She is so incredibly problematic and seems to think that running away and hitting the block button will make it all disappear. It’s such a massive shame.

  • Amanda
    February 1, 2018

    A-bloody-men. I was having this rant just the other day!

  • Sweetened Sour
    February 1, 2018

    Yesssss to everything!!!

  • Harry Potter fan
    February 1, 2018

    Some great points but I don’t feel like Rowling could do anything right. Yes, lack of diversity in the time when the books were written so perhaps she is retrospectively trying to add it in. At least she is trying?
    Just remember you clearly loved the books(as do I) even with the lack of diversity- so we could overthink that and write a whole novel about the problem there.

  • Lisa Mae
    February 1, 2018

    I was literally just thinking this! I’ve comlletely separated her now from the Harry Potter of my childhood. I’ll always love those books, but not her.

    Lisa | farawaylisamae.com

  • Sarah
    February 1, 2018

    When I saw you published this first I thought: how DARE she say something like that about Rowling (this was before I had read the post), then I thought, oh no, what do you bet she’s going to have all the good points and going to be right and I’m going to HAVE to agree with her. And yes, I read the post and I’m going to have to agree with you. I had never really thought about it that way (I immediately thought of the example of Dumbledore being gay that’s why I thought at first how could you say she’s not diverse). But I totally see your point and – unfortunately – I do agree with you. IT’s a shame…

    Sarah
    sarahaurorax.com

  • Steph Dring
    February 1, 2018

    I never knew any of this but now you’ve pointed it out, so right!

    Steph x
    http://www.wanderlustpulse.com

  • Kirsty
    February 1, 2018

    Incredible post! I feel so conflicted about Fanastic because of the Depp casting but ultimately as you do so disappointed by J.K Rowling’s response to the situation and her continuing to comment on the situation. Really well written post! Also why does she keep answering questions about HP on Twitter of all places – takes all the magic away.

  • Laura
    February 1, 2018

    100% agree with this! i love harry potter, but basically most things rowling has said post-last potter book have been problematic and just infuriating. xx

  • Hanna Andersson
    February 1, 2018

    Thank you Vix! I have read a lot of little pieces on this problem, but you got it ALL DOWN.
    Three things, yes Rowling is trying to please everyone, and as a fellow people pleaser, it never fucking works.
    I’m talking so much about representation and how important it is and that I wish for everyone to feel as included as I always have. She needs to be able to do this better, and constantly.
    Also, the new films (with Johnny Depp who I think is so so so wrong for the part with or without his abusive past) is based on the years after Grindewald and Dumbledore working together, so there’s no relationship, BUT (oh man this is a big but) you can still show little hints of how Dumbledore felt about him! Subtle but important signs of what he once felt, something he might be embarrassed of now, something that has been important to him and has shaped him. It could have been sooooo good but nooooo they wont “explicitly” display it. Bullshit.
    I thought I had three things but no it was just two very long things… this topic really heats me up.
    Keep up the good work Vix! (Love that you’re a teacher, my teachers have always had a big impact on me) xx

  • Fay Louise
    February 2, 2018

    This sums it up perfectly, I, like you, love the series but felt quite dissapointed over the lack of awareness there seemed to be from her around the Johnny Depp issue.
    This post is perfectly written.
    Fay Louise x

  • Rach
    February 2, 2018

    Thank the lord someone finally said this! I totally agree but could never have worded it as well as you did 😀

    Rach
    http://www.gathertherosebuds.com

  • Corinne
    February 2, 2018

    I agree with your points 100%
    I love the Harry Potter series but I can’t stand J.K. Rowling anymore because I’m fed up with her doing this. And don’t get me started on the lawsuit against the guy who made the fantastic beasts encyclopaedia…

  • Laura
    February 2, 2018

    I spent so much time defending Rowling, but it’s impossible these days. She’s just worried about making the next ££ and it’s tainting those beautiful memories we have growing up with HP. So very disappointing, though the books will always be in my heart. Absolutely spot on analysis!

  • Carly Street
    February 2, 2018

    Whenever I hear or see Rowling’s name these days I can’t help but roll my eyes and turn away. However, I was interested to see your viewpoint as a fellow Potterhead, and I agree 100% with you. Loved this post.

  • Sophie Butcher
    February 2, 2018

    Fantastic post Vix, you’ve summed up the issue perfectly! It’s strange to look back at something we all loved so much and realise the lack of respresentation in it. The crimes of grindelwald movie is sure to take a hit because of all of this!

    Ps, I hope you’re enjoying being part time, it’s a joy to see you have more time to spend on your brilliant blog!

  • Lisa
    February 3, 2018

    No, I disagree, specially with your last paragraph. I don’t think JK Rowling is under any obligation to ‘represent’ any group of her readers. Her job as an author is to represent her characters, and she’s allowed to do that in whatever way she likes. And because they’re her characters, she’s allowed to talk about them afterwards in any way she likes. A book isn’t a selfie – it doesn’t have to reflect us or our experience, and the author doesn’t have to give us what we want, either before or after the book is published.

    JKR is phenomenally good at doing ‘show, not tell’ – and, as you say, everything is shown from Harry’s POV. So if Harry never sees any evidence that Dumbledore is gay, it would be wrong for JKR to insert a flashing neon sign telling us ‘Dumbledore is gay’. Same way, if Harry never thinks it’s worth mentioning that Hermi is black, we don’t need the author to tell us either. If she wants to tell us later, that’s her call, and she’s entitled to make it. She can show whatever she wants, and she can hide whatever she wants. We can disagree, we can debate, we can question, but I don’t think we can demand that the author does it differently, just to suit us.

  • Danielle
    February 3, 2018

    I have been saying this for such a long time, but it is hard to get any fans to actually agree with me. As a child I adored reading the books and the excitement of watching the movies, but as an adult I see it through different eyes!

    Danielle xx
    http://www.fashionbeautyblog.co.uk/

  • Liam
    April 24, 2018

    This is such a fantastic blog and I agree with a lot of it.

    It really bothers me that she professes to support inclusivity but then only reveal this information AFTER she’s made her money.

    And don’t even get me started on Johnny Depp.

  • Kerry
    May 22, 2018

    Completely agree, and if she’s criticised she pulls out the ‘I was once poor card’. Thank you for writing this!

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