Can We Still Enjoy Harry Potter? | Discussion

Hello friends! I’m back from my long and frankly, unplanned blogging hiatus, but this topic really got me wanting to write again.

I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about JKR and how people are responding to the author’s transphobia. It’s something that we’ve been aware of for a while, but perhaps could ignore a little or tell ourselves that hey, maybe it was just a senior moment. But her essay outlining her unfounded fears of trans people (which, by the way, is not supported by facts or stats) and the plot of her latest Cormoran Strike novel speak volumes about how she truly feels, she has completely lost the benefit of the doubt.

So I think a lot of fans have had to answer the difficult question of, can we still enjoy Harry Potter?

Death of the Author Doesn’t Quite Work

I believe in Death of the Author to a certain extent. For those who aren’t aware, it is a literary theory and it is basically a way of critiquing and analysing texts. The theory outlines that authorial history, background and, importantly, intent does not matter. The text itself is more important and how you interpret the text is what counts. 

This works in academia but not so much in real life.

There are people on the internet pretending that she doesn’t exist, she did not write the Harry Potter books, the books belong to us, the readers. This approach feels like burying your head in the sand because it is too hard to acknowledge that a creator of something you love does not have views that align with yours, and are toxic to a portion of the population.

I understand the feeling of wanting to enjoy the art but not support the artist. However death of the author as a means to separate the two only really works with authors who are actually dead and don’t benefit from our consumption of the art. JKR making money through every official Harry Potter thing out there and pretending she doesn’t exist change that. Pretending she doesn’t exist also doesn’t engage with the problems she poses.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is flourish-e1552513027106.png

Boycott of the Author

Some people are cutting off the HP universe completely, getting rid of anything Harry Potter related in their life and committing to not spending any money in the future on HP and therefore JKR. This is a perfectly valid option. However, I think it’s a difficult, and perhaps extreme choice, and not one we should expect everyone to take because not everyone has the same relationship with Harry Potter.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is flourish-e1552513027106.png

Not Supporting The Author Financially

For me, the answer was pretty simple. I had a childhood love for Harry Potter but I fell out of love with the series soon after the final film was released. I recently reread the series after about a decade and I remember why I loved it. But I’m not a super fan. So, I can pretty much carry on as normal and maybe go back to those books that I already own in a few years when I feel like it.

I think this is a good option, because you have already spent the money and I think the important thing is not to financially support the author. She makes money from the books and DVDs, official merch, cinema/theatre tickets, special editions, library check outs (in the UK, borrowing from the library gives £££ to the author), the Wizarding World. When you live in a capitalist society, where you spend your money is inherently political and opting not to is a political choice. Will JKR lose her fame and fortune if a small portion of her fanbase stop buying her books? No, but we can know that we are not putting money into her pocket ourselves.

Keep what you already own. You have the books and DVDS? Read them and watch to your heart’s content. If you want to buy something, buy it second-hand or borrow from a friend. If you are done with your stuff, sell or donate it for that disillusioned HP fan out there who maybe still wants the t-shirt. Buy fan art and fan merch.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is flourish-e1552513027106.png

Celebrating Harry Potter

So, while the books aren’t tainted for me, it doesn’t feel right to be gushing about Harry Potter in the way that we have traditionally done so. I had a whole bunch of blog posts planned to review the series after my big reread as well as discussion posts about the world but I don’t feel comfortable sharing these anymore. It’s jarring to see beautiful photos of the Harry Potter books on instagram or see the Harry Potter reddit thriving without any reference on JKR’s transphobia. The fact that her latest Robert Galbraith book hit the number spot in the UK is testament to the fact that a lot of people don’t know or don’t care about her transphobia.

Because of this I think people with platforms have a duty to not talk about Harry Potter as much. Being relevant holds cultural currency and inadvertently supports the author. As long as Harry Potter is popular, big companies like Warner Brother, like Bloomsbury and Scholastic, like Universal Parks will continue to invest in the franchise because there is an audience for it. I believe in grassroots change and I think our actions can make a difference. It’s okay to still like Harry Potter but do we want it to be part of the conversation every time?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is flourish-e1552513027106.png

I mentioned at the top of this post I’d been doing some reading, these are really interesting posts – please give them a read!

Let me know your thoughts below, I’d love to discuss!

9 thoughts on “Can We Still Enjoy Harry Potter? | Discussion

  1. I think you’ve summed up how I feel very neatly. I’ve always found myself firmly on the side of ‘at a certain point, I won’t put my money behind them’ over ‘death of the author’. I can’t support Rowling in any form at this point; I’m not going to burn my blu-rays as that’s money long since sunk, but I won’t engage with the Potterverse in any commercial format. I even find I now stop myself using Potter reaction gifs; because as you say – visibility matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Why not? We can still enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer even though we know Joss Whedon did some very sexist things, and we can still enjoy going to Disneyland even though we know Walt was an anti-semite. What people need to ask themselves, though, is this: Why must authors and entertainers only have the exact same beliefs as I do, otherwise I will drop them like a hot potato? Because it’s really naive to expect everyone you like to believe exactly what you do. It is a sign of maturity to accept that others have differing opinions, and that they have the right to hold differing opinions.

    Like

    1. As I mentioned in the post, a lot of people cannot disassociate Rowling’s toxic views with the text. And what she believes leeches into her writing and you can see that if you analyse the text.

      As I said in the post, I can enjoy the books still. However, the distinction I am making is between personal enjoyment and personal responsibility. She has a lot of money, a lot of power and a lot of influence. I don’t want to support her financially when she is in a position to harm many innocent people through her words, her money, her influence. Stats show that 50% of trans people have attempted to commit suicide. Imagine someone you look up to believing that you are predatory and a threat to women? This is a huge issue when it comes to young trans people.

      It’s not a simple matter of ‘differing opinions’ it’s a matter of values. Harry Potter fans have given her plenty of opportunities and people are *still* giving her opportunities – you read the open letter that I have linked from Mermaids UK, a trans charity who have reached out to talk to her and educate her – it’s not simply ‘dropping her’.

      I think your comment lacks a lot of nuance and is just not a convincing stance to take IMO.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Arub, your posts are always so eloquent and thoughtful. Thank you for speaking on this topic? I feel like a lot of people are screaming on Twitter, Bookstagram is ignoring everything, and the bloggers have only just now started breaking their silence.

    I think you’re right about there being a spectrum of reactions. You articulated it better than me in your decision to stop financial support and visibility. I so respect what others are doing at the high end level (except when it starts getting abusive to others who don’t share the exact same plan of attack), but the money spent is… spent. Beyond that, it’s a personal choice.

    Love this, love your discussion posts as always. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you Amber, I appreciate that!

      Yeah, twitter seems to be where people congregate for their opinions but there isn’t a lot of nuance on there. The threats and abuse are completely uncalled for and aren’t productive in any way.

      To be fair, in terms of visibility I don’t think it really occurs to people how much of an impact not posting and talking about Harry Potter could be.

      Like, I reread the series last December but have only posted a review of the first book because it felt like every other week she did or said something controversial and it didn’t feel like the ‘right time’ to be posting it. But reading your posts and others, I realised that there would be no right time and actually it would be better not to give it my platform, however tiny it might be!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, it’s actually pennies per check out and a good way to support an author if you can’t buy their book but in this case not an option!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been curious about how every superfan has been reacting about this without looking too much into it myself. I’ve seen her rant, her thoughts, her convinced stance on transsexuality, and whatnot. As someone who has only seen the movies, and read the first book of her series this year for the first time, I tell myself that I want to read the rest of it for the sake of knowing why they were so beloved for so many years and still today. As for authors and their opinions… I tell myself that if I don’t spot it in their books, I won’t have an aversive reaction to them, but I definitely will try to contribute to them financially. At least I have all of her books already anyways… Great post, Arub! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Or you can take my approach: invest in a franchise like Harry Potter but without the unfortunate baggage. Best of several worlds: you have a new franchise to appreciate and you get to take your mind of the Potter guy.
    In other words, stan Percy Jackson. Or J.R.R. Tolkien. Or The Worst Witch. Or The Dragon Prince.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s