Wizard Karen

Who Did J.K. Rowling Become?
https://www.vulture.com/amp/article/who-did-j-k-rowling-become.html

Rowling had never been a particularly controversial figure. Her books sold hundreds of millions of copies, they inspired films that brought in billions of dollars, and she used the money she made to save children from orphanages. In 2012, she gave enough to charity and paid enough in taxes to knock herself off the Forbes billionaires list. In 2020, she was tweeting links to a store that sold pins that said F*CK YOUR PRONOUNS.

Read another way, though, the latest turn in Rowling’s story looks perhaps less perplexing than inevitable. It is the culmination of a two-decade power struggle for ownership of her fictional world — the right to say what Harry Potter means. The Harry Potter books describe a stark moral universe: Their heroes fight on behalf of all that is good to defeat the forces of absolute evil. Though the struggle may be lonely and hard, right ultimately beats wrong. For fans, when it came to the matter of trans rights, the message of Harry Potter was clear. For Rowling, this was no less the case.

“She absolutely believes that she is right, that she’s on a mission, and that history will eventually bear her out,” Anelli [the administrator of a prominent Harry Potter fansite] told me. “She thinks she’s doing good work right now.”

Yikes.

I started seeing posts attacking Rowling on Tumblr in early 2018, but none of them actually explained why people were so angry with her. When I tried asking what was going on, I’d get vague answers along the lines of “she liked the tweet of a bad person a few years ago and then said it was a mistake.” 2018 was a year of people on the internet becoming extraordinarily upset about space wizards, so I brushed the accusations against Rowling into the same category as assertions that fictional characters in Voltron and Steven Universe and Star Wars were “abusive.”

I assumed that Rowling, who is active on Twitter, had probably made a few tweets about British politics or politicians that didn’t make sense to young Americans and left it at that.

Wow was I wrong about this. I was so wrong.

This became embarrassingly obvious when Rowling made her stance on transgender rights clear toward the end of 2020 in a way that was so public and performative that it was picked up by mainstream news outlets, but plenty of signs were indeed there beforehand. The article I linked to above is quite lengthy and does an excellent job of explaining exactly what’s been going on, and I appreciate that it provides the context for this discussion in a way that isn’t centered on American culture and politics.

Re: A Golden Mean

Okay, I’ll admit it. There’s one thing Twitter is extremely useful for, and that’s organizing grassroots protest movements. I wish, though…

…and I’m not saying that everything needs to be SERIOUS BUSINESS all (or even most of) the time, because lord knows life is hard and we all need a break, but…

…I wish that conversations about social justice on social media were less about attacking people who like “abusive” fictional characters and more about sharing concrete resources (not to mention specific times and places) for civil disobedience. I’m so fucking scared of mentioning anything even remotely related to race and gender and sexuality and disability in fandom that sometimes I forget how incredibly empowering it feels to actually be a part of a real social movement.

That being said, I’m happy that I’ll be moving to Philadelphia, where community action and organization tends to be easier to access and join in person. I’d like protest to be an aspect of my daily life, not something I can only learn about and join when I get the news that something is happening on Twitter.

As a bizarre side note: This was a weird time to learn, without doubt, that J.K. Rowling does in fact spend time on TERF blogs and forums. Yikes. I hate call-out culture when it’s directed against independent creators in marginal positions, but this is the sort of thing I would in fact like to know.

Harry Potter Retcons

I know a lot of people are upset about J.K. Rowling retconning Hermione’s race and Dumbledore’s sexuality, but I’m all for it. In fact, let’s have more canon retcons! Here are some suggestions:

– Harry Potter belongs to an ancient wizarding family that came to England from India. His great-grandparents believed in fostering stronger local wizard-muggle relations, which is why they changed their family name from “Patil” to the stereotypically British “Potter.” Parvati Patil, who is obviously way out of Harry’s league, only went to the Yule Ball with him because he’s her distant cousin and her parents told her to be nice to him.

– Cho Chang is a lesbian, and her relationship with Harry helped her come to terms with her sexuality. Her actual name is Chomei Zhang, and “Cho” is just a nickname. She went to grad school in Hong Kong, where she received a doctorate in Physics. She returned to Hogwarts as a professor before eventually becoming the Head of Ravenclaw.

– Draco Malfoy was a big kid, and one of the reasons he wanted to be the Seeker for Slytherin’s Quidditch team so badly is because it was important to him to prove that you don’t have to be slender and muscular to be a good athlete. Although Lucius Malfoy is a racist and a certified asshole, he loves his son and supported his ambitions by buying the entire team equipment that helped them train and enjoy themselves regardless of their body shapes.

– Gellert Grindelwald is Jewish, and he hates Muggles because of the ultranationalist anti-Semitism that was so prevalent in Europe in the early twentieth century. Dumbledore didn’t want to fight him not just because he was once in love with him, but also because he understood all too well that Grindelwald’s anger was justified.

– Nymphadora Tonks is queer and genderfluid. Remus Lupin is gay, and he met Nymphadora during a period when she was presenting as male. The beginning of their relationship was awkward not because Lupin is a werewolf, but because conversations surrounding the validity of bisexuality within the gay community were still evolving in the 1990s and early 2000s.

– Sirius Black’s family disowned him because he had trouble presenting as neurotypical. He was able to survive Azkaban because he already had experience dealing with the symptoms related to the mental and emotional strain caused by dementors. Also, Azkaban got really good wireless reception, and Sirius used the skills he gained while creating the Marauder’s Map to pioneer the magic internet, which is how he became independently wealthy and was able to have a Firebolt delivered to Harry for Christmas.