Harry Potter and the Death of a Franchise

JK Rowling is killing Harry Potter. Our hero is not dying at the hands of Lord Voldemort or the Death Eaters, or from doing his taxes and the other general life struggles of being an adult. The woman who created this franchise is destroying it. With slow and painful whispers of secrets no one asked for, JK Rowling is challenging fans to hang on for as long as they can before their souls become as withered as someone’s post-Dementor kiss.

If this is news to you, just go and check her Twitter. Maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but at least I didn’t announce to 2.1 million followers that wizards actually used to shit on the floor.

And if you still have no idea what I’m talking about, let me break down a bit of a timeline… It seemed to all start when Albus Dumbledore became gay. There are 3,407 pages in the Harry Potter series and not a single one mentions Dumbledore’s sexuality. So, naturally, it was a surprise to everyone when JK Rowling came out (pun intended) and revealed that the Hogwarts headmaster had been homosexual all along. The reaction was mixed, with homophobes criticising the franchise and refusing to accept this reality for the character, whilst allies and members of the LGBT+ community lauded Rowling for this representation. Rowling got a taste for this power – she had created one of the most famous fictional worlds in existence and she could change anything she wanted about it with a 180-character tweet. And when these changes seemed to make people happy, why wouldn’t she want to do it?

Then The Cursed Child was released. Hermione became black, Harry became an arsehole and Cedric Diggory became… a death eater? Everything about this was a mess – not to mention the fact Rowling didn’t even write it. It had never been clearer that the continuation of the saga was a desperate attempt to claw more money out of it and remain relevant in a world that Rowling used to rule. The Cursed Child tore everything we thought we knew to shreds and was a big ‘fuck you’ to fans of the franchise – I mean, Voldemort and Bellatrix having a daughter?! I’m sure there is fan fiction that exists that is more respectful to the lore of the original series.

As they were with Dumbledore being gay, people were happy with Hermione being black, but started to question why these changes came out of nowhere – and where the evidence of representation was in the physical copies: Hermione was only black because she ‘wasn’t white’, Dumbledore can be interpreted as gay because there are never explicit references to a heterosexual relationship. JK Rowling could have admitted that her books lacked diversity and been open about her attempts to remedy this, rather than saying these facts were the reality all along and that she just never published them – thus making these revelations nothing more than empty gestures. Representation by omission is not representation.

Rowling once shared this photo when reassuring a fan that Hogwarts is an LGBT+ safe space, but I can’t help but feel the irony in that. Dumbledore literally spent 7 books in the closet only to be outed posthumously when it became convenient.

Imagine a world in which these facts had been established in the actual books (granted, it is not a fact but an interpretation that Hermione can be black, but for the sake of representation let’s take it that way). Sure, the first book came out in 1997, in a world perhaps less accepting of a central LGBT+ character, but if anything, that is even more reason to shout it from the rooftops. Imagine the strides that could have been taken if a generation of children grew up idolising an openly gay headmaster and a highly intelligent young black woman.

Instead, it seems these facts were added as afterthoughts; an attempt to garner affection from a politically correct culture which would celebrate these announcements. There is no authenticity to these revelations, just pure attention-seeking. I would give JK Rowling the benefit of the doubt and say that her aim was to create a character that we would fall in love with before revealing this aspect about them in order to emphasise the way we can identify with characters we are different to. Maybe she even wanted to change the hearts of those who disagree with homosexuality, by displaying Dumbledore as simply a good man – who, surprise, happens to be gay. In an ideal world, Rowling sees herself as championing inclusivity through concealed diversity.

imageIt is difficult to accept this view, however, when most of the other revelations she announces are absolutely bonkers. With the release of the Fantastic Beasts movies, Rowling continues to upheave everything we thought we knew without actually showing us anything different. She tells us that two of the central characters (Dumbledore and Grindelwald) had an intense and sexual relationship, yet we are just supposed to take her word for it. She also introduces a new Dumbledore family member who was simply nowhere to be seen or heard of previously in the franchise. It has gone beyond being outlandish representation to a full-on source of mockery and literal meme.

It should be exciting to learn new things about our favourite characters or the world we grew up with, but instead it is exhausting. Long ago I unfollowed Rowling on Twitter in an attempt to gain some blissful ignorance by simply pretending it wasn’t happening, but the ‘clapback queen’ has about 5 BuzzFeed articles written every time she blocks someone new so it’s pretty difficult to avoid.

I don’t want to have fallen out of love with Harry Potter. These books and films meant the world to me growing up. I have distinct memories of walking into class on my 10th birthday, reading Deathly Hallows as I opened the door, eyes glued down and fully absorbed in the action until the mixed chorus of my classmates singing happy birthday whilst laughing at my dedication brought me back into the real world. I’ve been lucky enough to visit both the Warner Bros set tour in London and the Universal resort in Orlando, and to buy myself my very own wand from Ollivanders. Every year when ITV re-runs the movies at Christmas I watch them like it’s the first time, their magic enchanting me all over again. The truth is these books and movies were a massive part of my life and they remain a part of me to this day. Unfortunately, it is the things that followed that have tarnished the franchise to the point where it has lost the warm and homely feeling it once had. Whatever happened to ‘all was well’?

by Georgia Carroll

Georgia Carroll is a Broadcast Journalism student from the University of Leeds, currently living and studying in Wellington, New Zealand. She is a proud Mancunian who loves radio, film and pretty much anything sci-fi or 80s. You can find her on twitter @georgiacarroll_ and letterboxd.

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