A video game or an attempt at reparations?
Although the magical world she created seemed utopic, J.K. Rowling’s world-famous book series has been tainted by her history of transphobic views.
However, the Harry Potter franchise continues to bring in revenue today, from an amusement park in Florida to a studio tour in Watford, U.K., with Rowling ultimately earning royalties on anything branded with the official Harry Potter name.
Ever since she first started showing her true colours online, fans around the world started to take differing stances. From tossing her books to boycotting any new project of hers, or still supporting the author, the public was divided — but it definitely opened up a conversation on separating the art from the artist.
Hogwarts Legacy, “an immersive, open-world action RPG set in the world first introduced in the Harry Potter books,” launched at the beginning of the month.
And although Warner Bros. stated that Rowling was not involved in the project, the author will still profit off the new video game because of the Harry Potter brand being attached to it.
In a world that feels ever-changing, with Gen Z being more and more involved in politics and social issues, the launch of the game could not go without controversy.
Discussions around the ethics of purchasing or playing the game were everywhere online, leading the game creators to include a trans character, Sirona Ryan, in the story.
According to different sources who worked on developing the game, the character was only added as a response to critics.
They really thought that adding a trans character would eliminate the association of Harry Potter with transphobia and suddenly “excuse” Rowling’s own transphobia.
But if they are so adamant that she is not involved with the project, then why feel the need to do damage control? Because, in a way, Rowling’s continued success with the Harry Potter franchise makes her believe that many hold the same views as her — and that’s what makes supporting the brand problematic.
In a way, it makes sense that Warner Bros. would still go ahead with the launch. At the end of the day, they know that the people ready to boycott the game would not have purchased it regardless.
Their target audience is the older millennials, who grew up with the franchise and therefore have more attachment to it. They are the ones still purchasing official branded merchandise and that, whether they like it or not, supports Rowling in the process.
As a zillenial, someone that identifies with both Gen Z and millennials, when it comes to popular culture I sometimes fall in the middle of intergenerational conflicts. But this one is more than that.
I understand the sentimental attachment to the franchise as the Harry Potter books are what fuelled my love of reading. However, I just can’t help but pass on the message to the ones who can’t let go: it’s okay, you can let it go.
It is time for our society to tell, read and embrace new stories. More importantly, saying goodbye to the franchise and no longer supporting projects that are connected to it also means taking a stance on what we believe in. It’s protecting our friends, sisters, brothers, parents, partners, and neighbours of the trans community from harm. It is dreadful to have to explain to fans why this is more important than them virtually living out their fantasy of attending Hogwarts.