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  • Writer's pictureBayLeigh Routt

She Who Must Not Be Named

With the recent announcement from HBO about the first ever scripted Harry Potter television series, there has been a lot of online discussions about the series and She Who Must Not Be Named. For many, the series fostered their love for reading. It helped many people make friends and helped many fans through difficult times. It reminds them of their family and past loved ones who bounded over the series together. Many feel hurt and saddened that a book series that taught them so many great lessons about love, friendship, and strength is tainted by the very person who wrote it.

Many fans are upset because the Harry Potter series is such an integral part of their childhood; many fans found themselves because of the series and they are struggling with the author's comments about a community many support or are a part of themselves. Now many people are rejecting the author because of her stance on the trans community. This conversation has been ongoing for many years, predating her comments about trans women in 2020.

For example, many critics and fans alike have called out description of the goblins as being anti-semantic. This is a common discussion beyond Harry Potter in the fantasy genre as it's a pretty common trope that spans decades. I encourage you to read "The 'Harry Potter' Anti-Semitism, Explained" written by Dani Di Placido for Forbes. In addition, the way she describes the house elves as "enjoying enslavement" and a lot of wizards or witches (including Ron Weasley) shrugging it off as "that's just the way things are" is very problematic. Dobby is seen as anomaly for wanting to be free. This is heavily pointed out in the fifth book with the S.P.E.W. plotline, which was totally tossed and ignored in the final two books. (That's another conversation for another day.) In Order of the Phoenix, Winky the House Elf is described as a crying mess because she misses her master Barty Crouch Sr. From the way it's written, it's as if we're supposed to feel bad that Mr. Crouch abandoned her.

From the house elves to goblins and female characters to villains, there were various elements that I recognized as an issue but I didn't have the language to identity the root of the issue until I was older. For example, a lot of the female villains are also described in very anti-feminist ways while protagonists are often not described that; for example, Aunt Petunia is described as having a horse face. As evil as she is, Dolores Umbridge is also impacted by this; from the over use of pink clothes and cats, her hyper femininity is used to vilify her.

In recent years, the author of the beloved novels has found herself in quite the predicament because of anti-trans tweets and comments. Understandably so, a lot of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies have spoken out against her and completely distanced themselves from her as well as the book series. Other members of the community are still active in the fandom. Regardless, many are left feeling quite confused and hurt by the author's comments. Many, like myself, have been hurt by those comments because we support the trans community and LGBTQIA+ community as a whole.

“I am what I am, an' I'm not ashamed.” -Rubeus Hagrid

Many have proposed separating the author from the story, but I counter that statement but asking: Is that possible? When there are problematic elements within the text, can the author truly be separated from the story? I'm not here to tell people to let go completely of a beloved childhood story. In all honesty, I've struggled with so many feelings and thoughts as I've revaluated my own connection to the Wizarding World. The series helped me in many ways growing up, and I can understand the struggle of knowing how to move past it. I'm not here to tell people how to feel or what to do; that's your choice.

How did we get here? Many of us are asking this question because we grew up reading about Harry Potter, an orphan who taught us—along with his friends in the Wizarding World—incredible lessons including the importance of kindness, a strong support system, and defending others. So, how did we get here as the author explicitly says things that go against what we learned and how many of us feel? Many of us feel conflicted and confused because the book series we grew up with holds such a special place in our hearts.

As a kid, I learned a lot from the Harry Potter series: the importance of kindness, community, friendship, facing your fears, and never giving up. I learned even more as I got older and I could read the books with a critical lens. There's a lot of firsts I don't remember when it comes to the series, but I do remember when I started doubting the author and feeling disconnected from the story. I remember recognizing that certain elements weren't good—even wrong—when I was in high school. In college, I learned a lot and I was able to better pinpoint other aspects of the story that hadn't been sitting right with me for years.

I don't remember when the story of Harry Potter—the Chosen One—first entered my life. I don't remember the first time I picked up the first book, Philosopher's Stone. For that matter, I don't remember reading most of the books or watching most of the films for the first time. The Wizarding World has been a part of my life since I was six-years-old; I grew up with the characters and cherishing the story of the Boy Who Lived. I know it sounds cheesy, but this book series often felt like one of the only constants growing up. Hundreds of thousands people across the world can relate and it leaves us all wondering how we can move on.

Nevertheless, I implore you to think deeply about this question and think critically about what the author has said—on Twitter and within the text. I recognize this conversation and situation is nuanced. If you chose to keep engaging with the Wizarding World, I encourage you to engage primarily with fandom made content. Listen to podcasts produced and hosted by fans. Read fanfiction (if that's your thing!). Purchase fan art or other fan-made merchandise. If you engage with or purchase official Wizarding World content, please do your research and consider the impact. If you chose to disengage completely, I support you and your decision. Things are hard and confusing now with Harry Potter, but I am doing my best to support the trans and queer community in all aspects of my life. All we can do is our best. Hang in there, friends.


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