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How do we remain fans but acknowledge the problems with Rowling?


mymischiefmanaged

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mymischiefmanaged

I can't find an eloquent title for this topic, but this has been on my mind a lot (i.e. constantly) over the last few days and I thought that maybe it's something we could figure out together. For me, and I'm sure for lots of you, Harry Potter feels like a fundamental part of my identity. I mean, it doesn't filter into my everyday life very much at all, but it's always been my comfort reading, was a huge part of growing up, and I love being here in this community. I know this is all true for most/all people here, to greater or lesser extents.

I've always loved Rowling and, although I know she's tweeted problematic things before, I have usually found a way to justify it to myself or ignore it. This time, I really think she's gone too far. She has chosen to post deeply problematic, prejudicial statements that she knows are problematic because she has been called out on similar things so many times before, and she's chosen to post them at a time when so many people are talking about and fighting against the prejudice that is currently built into our societal structures. I feel so disappointed in her and, to be honest, a little betrayed, because her own views just don't seem to correspond to the values her books always (in my opinion) taught us were important. 

I'm finding it hard to reconcile my love of the Harry Potter books and the role they have played in my life with the person it turns out Rowling has become (always was?). I want to be able to continue to love her work without needing to love her as its writer, but I'm not sure what this looks like moving forward. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this and how we're going to carry on as readers and fans. I know that some of this has been touched on in the wonderful Our Site, Our Identity thread but, as that discussion is primarily devoted to coming up with new names, I thought it might be helpful to have a space to talk about this. 

As well as sharing our thoughts and feelings, I thought that one thing we can do is make sure to widen our reading to include positive representation of the trans community. One book I read last year that I found to be a very moving, thoughtful portrayal of a family doing their best to protect and nourish their trans daughter is:

This is how it always is, by Laurie Frankel

If you have anything to add to this reading list, I'd love it if you'd copy and paste this recommendation and add your own below it at the bottom of your comment, so that we can make sure our reading is varied and representative and show that we're not standing for Rowling's transphobia

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! So grateful to have this space that I can use to talk about this. Lots of love to you all. Emma xxxx

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RonsGirlFriday
Posted (edited)

Great topic, Emma!

I saw this subject come up in a Twitter thread the other day. I'm presently 1) too lazy to go find it, and 2) not on a computer where I can/should access Twitter (oops, sorry, boss), but it was addressing the idea that "the author is dead," and basically saying, well, no, we can't just act like the author is dead, because she and her ideology permeate, perhaps even infect, her works (I am wildly paraphrasing here). And I thought that was a good point. It wasn't saying we need to stop enjoying HP, just intellectually asserting that maybe "the author is dead" isn't realistic or helpful. And I think that's sort of what you're getting at here. That while we can love the works separate and apart from the author, in some sense they're inextricably linked.

Personally, when enjoying anything HP -- whether the books, films, theme parks, fanfic -- for many years, I can't say that I've thought of JK much if at all. That is to say, the story has sort of taken on a life of its own. That's why I write and read fanfic, and why it's the only fandom I currently write for. Now, lately, I do think of JK, but that's because of what she's presently running her mouth about, and of course the fact that everyone is (rightly) talking about it. But for me personally, I have found it easy to separate the universe from her. I realize completely that this is indicative of my privilege because I am not one of the people whose peace, well-being, and lives are threatened by her views.

That said, I think part of the reason it feels easy -- for me -- to separate the HP verse from her, is because of the activity of the fandom itself -- its size, influence, creativity, etc. HP fanfic, for example, has been going strong for, what 20 years? (My God, that number actually sounds insane when you think about it.) Thanks to the fandom, the HP verse has enhanced, diversified, and transcended canon.

Think about it, for decades, fans have been perfectly content to discard canon aspects they dislike. To give an admittedly glib example, half the fandom hates R/Hr and they'll gladly tell you and ship Hermione with whomever they damn well please because they believe JK did Hermione dirty by sticking her with the best character ever (fight me) Ron. People have different opinions on what canon even means -- does it include films? Pottermore? Some say yes, some say no. So for a very, very long time, we have, collectively, indicated and demonstrated that JK's version doesn't have to be blindly accepted. What we all agree on is that the verse is magic and the story and characters touched us (and frankly, yes, the very good themes and values in the document itself -- if we didn't believe that to some extent, I don't think we would feel so strongly about the verse). But where we don't accept it, where we believe it has been infected by her ideologies, we can challenge it (and we do). 

The fandom is so strong that I have headcanons that are based on things I've read in fanfic, not actual canon.

I cannot truly imagine what HP fans in the LGBTQ+ community must be feeling (to say nothing of the racism issues I've also heard discussed), struggling to reconcile their love for the creation with the truths that have emerged about the creator, and I could never profess to speak for them or suggest what they should feel. I do think that, to the extent this perspective can help, we might look at the way the fandom has reclaimed the story, and challenged and transformed it. I mean, look, I love HP very much, but would it be half as fun, me sitting alone in my house reading the books again and writing fanfic without sharing it with anyone or talking about HP to people? No, I continue to be enthusiastic about it in part because of communities like this.

To the extent this might also help, Emma you pointed out that JK has said problematic things in the past and you were able to overlook it in terms of your enjoyment of the story. Now, you might be thinking, justifiably, that perhaps in retrospect you should not have overlooked it. But another thing to consider is that, if you loved the story despite knowing she is awful, you might still be able to do so going forward from here. It's just that right now her most recent transgressions are incredibly fresh and salient and extra appalling not only because of what she said, but how and when she said them. But if the story was always worthy even when the author had already demonstrated herself unworthy, the worthiness of the story might still persist now.

Why do I talk so much.

 

I unfortunately have nothing I can think of to contribute to a reading list, but I'm going to copy your first suggestion/entry here so it doesn't get lost:

Quote

Positive reading list recommendations (please copy at the bottom of your own post and add your suggestion(s):

This is how it always is, by Laurie Frankel

 

Edited by RonsGirlFriday
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Margaret

I don't really have any problem with loving a book or series of books but disagreeing (even very strongly) with the author on certain topics. I grew up reading a lot of old-fashioned British books from the early 20th century and being Irish, was extremely aware, even as a small child of the problematic elements of them, especially the colonialism and classism. When a book series you love includes a passage about a child of your nationality being punished for having the accent of that country, you certainly do see the problematic elements. 

Now, I do think this is a little different as I could write that off as "hey, different era. Society has moved on from then and obviously, people in the past had some views that are obviously problematic today," and it also gets trickier as egalitarianism is so central a theme to the Harry Potter series, but at the same time, I do think works stand or fall on their own merits.

And there is this funny thing about writing that characters take on a life of their own. If I try to make a character spout my views, it comes out as stilted. It sounds as if they are reciting lines put in their mouth by somebody else. And sometimes characters come out with things that I'd never thought of until I write that line. So I think it is quite possible to admire characters without admiring their author or to believe somebody is a good writer but not a particularly good person.

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CambAngst

I think Margaret and Melanie have it right. Over the course of human history, some horrifically terrible people have written some very profound things. And if you're going to start denying yourself the benefit of human creations based on the offenses of the creator, can you reasonably stop at fictional literature? How many advances in the human understanding of science and medicine were discovered in the advancement of horrific causes like war? At some point, I feel like you have to ask yourself, "does forsaking the existing works of an awful human being do anything to advance the cause of the people who suffered from that person's awfulness?" If not, I'm not sure what the point is.

Edited by CambAngst
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abhorsen.

i... disagree with some of what others have said.

the answer to "everything is tainted somehow" can't be to just stop trying altogether, especially since the complacency that breeds can be actively harmful. there are significant long term consequences to shrugging off underlying themes of colonialism or slavery or misogyny or homophobia because "if you just look past that, it's a really good story" - maybe it is, but it also contributes to a broader cultural narrative that often perpetuates the bigotry and misogyny of the past. it's not just one story in a vacuum - it's a decision that gets made over and over and over again. for example, the heavy focus on the stories and achievements of white men throughout much of my time in school and across pop culture has absolutely impacted me in some pretty significant and negative ways.

the idea that our only two choices are "never engage with this work again" and "ignore the problems because lots of people are problematic" is a false dichotomy. taylor's link to that tumblr post is great, and everyone should go read it if they haven't. the tl;dr is that bigotry is absolutely in the harry potter books - they're not somehow a haven completely separate from jkr's bigotry. that's literally always going to be the case, with every author. is everyone problematic in some way? sure, probably, but when we're not looking at how people are problematic with a critical eye, we end up with a bunch of people who are problematic in exactly the same way, and we start seeing bigotry as a foregone, unavoidable conclusion - which ultimately allows us to excuse it.

lack of representation, lack of role models for people who don't belong to certain groups, lack of exposure to different ideas - those are all part of what keeps the cycle going. for example, it's great that white people are taking steps to educate themselves about the history of racism now, but the reality is, a lot of what we're learning is stuff that shouldn't be new. events like the tulsa race massacre and people like fred hampton should be in mainstream textbooks, and they're not - and part of why they're not is that people in positions of power put more effort into telling themselves that they don't need to analyze it rather than into seeking out other perspectives. i'm not blaming any individuals - it's a systemic problem, but that's the point.

so i think it's a big mistake to say that we can separate the work from the author.

that said:

for me personally, when stuff like this comes up, there are a lot of squishy things that go through my mind - first and foremost, though, is how i engage with the material. when the issue is an actor in a movie or series i like, i often just can't watch it anymore - my engagement with the material is too directly linked to the problematic aspects of it for me to enjoy it.

for harry potter, though, my engagement with the fandom is pretty far removed from jkr. she obviously wrote the source material, but most of how i engage with it is through how i and other people have interpreted it - often by twisting around the problematic parts in a way that making them more positive. i'm also really proud of how fandom has responded to her, and i think it says a lot about how we've - well, outgrown her. that's most of why i didn't stop writing harry potter fanfiction or engaging with the fandom when i hit my personal breaking point a couple years ago around fantastic beasts stuff, and why i'm not going to start now. (part of my breaking point was refusing to engage with those movies or any future projects she might be part of that would earn her money, though.)

that said, at this point i'm just like fuck canon i'm gonna do whatever the fuck i want.

 

 

Quote

Positive reading list recommendations (please copy at the bottom of your own post and add your suggestion(s):

This is how it always is, by Laurie Frankel

 

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mymischiefmanaged
11 hours ago, abhorsen. said:

the idea that our only two choices are "never engage with this work again" and "ignore the problems because lots of people are problematic" is a false dichotomy.

I think this is much better wording for what I was trying to say above. I've seen so many people calling for cancelling JKR and getting rid of her books and I don't feel like that's an option for me and also feel very sad about children today potentially missing out on these wonderful stories. BUT I don't think we can ignore what she's said and the problems people have rightly brought up about both Rowling's personal views and some of the themes and gaps within the books. 

19 hours ago, Margaret said:

Now, I do think this is a little different as I could write that off as "hey, different era. Society has moved on from then and obviously, people in the past had some views that are obviously problematic today," and it also gets trickier as egalitarianism is so central a theme to the Harry Potter series, but at the same time, I do think works stand or fall on their own merits.

I also think this is a really good and important point. Sometimes we talk about writers through history and bring up their views, but for them to have held different views would actually have been very difficult and extremely progressive at the time in which they were writing. I think to some extent this justifies the lack of representation in Harry Potter. When the early books came out, it still wasn't legal for UK school libraries to contain books that 'promoted homosexuality' (I forget the exact wording, but it was that kind of nonsense), so I do understand why she might not have wanted to explicitly state Dumbledore's sexuality at the time she was writing. That excuse has long since expired for her though. The world has come a long way in the time since Philosopher's Stone came out.

Since starting this thread, I've come across another excellent tumblr post here (teen) that I think can help us work through our feelings. It's a clever use of Rowling's own words when writing about polyjuice potion to demonstrate how her transphobia is wrong and doesn't really even make sense. To me, it seems a very good example of how sometimes the art can be separated from the artist (at least a little bit) and how in some ways her work can stand alone. 

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Professor McGonagall

I think this is an issue that extends to all fandoms and into our reaction to historical people as well. At a certain point, cancel culture is easy to slip into without deep personal reflection. That's ultimately my problem with it is that people love jumping on bandwagons. It's not always bad, with a few notable exceptions such as Johnny Depp or Geoffrey Rush, but is often a good reaction, such as to anyone who liked Mel Gibson or Kevin Spacey movies. Gibson and Spacey are demonstrably horrible human beings who happened to be middling or fantastic actors otherwise. James Bond had and in some cases continue to have troubling sexist and racist themes, and the Doctor Who fandom has been divided by the casting of Jodie Whitaker as The Doctor. 

In this case, we have an author with pretty horrible views towards trans people who created a world with love as a central element. As far as I know, she has never let her worldview on trans people influence her work beyond omission, which is also true for other LGBT people, Jewish people, and anything more than cardboard cutouts of racial minorities. HP as written is filled with white straight people with no religious affiliation or prejudices other than on blood purity or magic-ness. Despite this, she made a compelling and meaningful story that reflected aspects of her worldview as it could have been acceptable for children (or viewed as acceptable) back in the 1990's and into 2007. She was never a pioneer for inclusiveness and clearly has hatred in her heart, but has inspired many to be inclusive, be kind, and love those around them. She's done many good things with her wealth and influence, such as founding and supporting several charities and being an advocate for women's rights- trans exclusive. 

God it's so complex. Her worldview had been adapted into her world that didn't include all aspects of reality like racism as racism, sexism, and all realms of LGBT-related discrimination except a stand-in for AIDs in the form of Lupin's lycanthropy. She's human, but she's really influential. Harry Potter is a really good set of books with its own problems and issues, and any choice to cancel or boycott it should be based on an individual's opinion, not anything someone else says.

That being said, I respect anyone who drops the fandom based on this. I did in part because Rowling continuously updates her story with her tweets and reveals that I choose to ignore if it doesn't have basis in canon, as well as the cursed Cursed Child and the dumpster fire that was The Crimes of Grindelwald. It's up to your discretion ultimately. I won't say if you don't love it to leave it, because that would be really simplistic. Most people just rewrite or ignore what they don't like about a fandom anyway, such as The Timeless Child or for other people the lack of representation of different communities in Harry Potter. I don't particularly mind the lack of representation in canon but fully support anyone who does. Fanfiction is as much a personal journey as it is for original fiction and other genres and if there's a story that you think needs to be told, I fully support you. 

As with other media, you have to be comfortable consuming it. For instance, I really don't like watching Quentin Tarantino movies because they're so graphically violent and at the same time boring- not exactly on-point, but whatever. I also don't watch movies with Mel Gibson because he's deeply racist and anti-Semitic and it just irks me everytime he's on screen. I can't watch anything with Steven Seagal or Sean Penn for similar reasons. I can however read and enjoy poems by Rudyard Kipling or Edgar Allan Poe despite them being an imperialist and an incestuous drunkard respectively. I appreciate the advancements that Martin Luther King Jr. made for civil rights despite his philandering, or Johnny Cash's music despite his old fashioned views on women. I can watch movies produced by The Weinstein Company even though the company's co-chair was a rapist and misogynist. I will continue to love Rowling's seven books even if my respect for her is greatly diminished. I will not support her charities nor will I endorse her hypocritical views on feminism that excludes trans women, but her books will remain a great source of inspiration for me despite the woman who wrote them. The ability to 'cancel' should rest solely on an individual, and should always be subjective and not an absolute moral imperative. 

If you do feel strongly about boycotting Rowling and encouraging others to do so, don't make them feel bad about it. If you have children or young relatives who want to read Harry Potter but don't want to support Rowling financially, there are other ways to find the books both legally and illegally. 

Please DM or reply to this if you would like to discuss or even criticize my position. 

TL;DR: Rowling is a human, and cancelling her should be on an individual not community-wide basis based on her anti-trans and other problematic tweets and actions. 

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toomanycurls

Based on a few read throughs of this thread there are a few assumptions folks are making about each other's intents and actions. Let me recap what I've observed and read on this site: 

  • No one is saying we should drop Harry Potter from the site or pretend JKR doesn't exist. 
  • Cancel culture seems to be a dog whistle these days for people who are condemning a celebrity without putting their own thought and reflection into what and how the issue/words/action at hand have impacted them. I don't see anyone here jumping to a fast or easy opinion about JKR and/or the HP fandom. 
  • JKR's transphobia will have impacted people on this site differently. There are people in and close to the trans community on this site who may feel very betrayed by her words (and how much she's standing by them). I don't think those feelings and reactions are come upon lightly or without cost to the individual. 
  • It's generally easier for people unaffected by a celebrity's issue/words/action to dismiss calls for "cancel" or stepping away from a celebrity's product/platform. Whether it's Bill Cosby, Lous CK, all the movies Harvey Weinstein made, clothes made by unethical companies, people who once wore blackface, JKR, etc. some of these things are harder to look past for some people. If you find yourself on the outside of most calls to cancel or rebuke these folks when they're caught with a problematic position then it might be a time to check your privilege in relation to the topics these people are being called out on. 
  • @CambAngst has an interesting point that many societal goods come from a bad person or time in history. It seems like a fundamental oversimplification of the issue though. Deciding to step away from an author or piece of literature (or an entire fandom) isn't the same as throwing out your microwave as an anti-war statement. There's nothing currently happening with new kitchen tech being driven by military invention (that I'm aware of, who knows) available for consumer purchase. So, having a radical position on microwaves is 50 years too late, imo. Having a strong opinion about using drones for individual use might be a more timely consumer opinion to have (which I don't have a strong one apart from drone military strikes creep me out even if they allow even faster package deliveries of stuff I can buy). 

 

I am still able to enjoy the HP books and movies (even the FB movies) despite all.the.issues. because I've had to learn to turn off parts of my brain to go through life. I hope my kids want to read the HP books with me when they are older. 

Best video on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGn9x4-Y_7A&t=4s

 

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mymischiefmanaged

I think maybe the title I used for this thread is a bit misleading about my intentions. I definitely didn't mean to make anybody feel guilty for their own responses to Rowling's views and am sorry if it came across that way! I'm still very much a fan of Rowling's work and will continue to be, but I've been doing a lot of reflection on what exactly that looks like for me moving forwards as her latest comments have changed my views about her as an author. I have loved reading everyone's thoughtful responses and you've all really helped me think about this so sorry if I've made anyone feel bad! 

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Guest Noelle Zingarella
4 hours ago, Professor McGonagall said:

TL;DR: Rowling is a human, and cancelling her should be on an individual not community-wide basis based on her anti-trans and other problematic tweets and actions. 

I just want to say that I don't really like the concept of "cancelling" anyone. We're all human beings, and I don't feel that anyone deserves to be "canceled". I mean, folks can boycott, ignore, fight with, or debate whomever they like--but "canceling" never did sit well with me. 

 

Moving Rose's video suggestion and Emma's book suggestion to the bottom of the post. Also, fyi, we have some great, diverse book rec threads here+ and  here+ if folks would like to add to them.

3 hours ago, toomanycurls said:

 

On 6/9/2020 at 4:33 PM, mymischiefmanaged said:

This is how it always is, by Laurie Frankel

 

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Guest Tanda
On Thursday, June 11, 2020 at 4:59 AM, Margaret said:

I don't really have any problem with loving a book or series of books but disagreeing (even very strongly) with the author on certain topics. I grew up reading a lot of old-fashioned British books from the early 20th century and being Irish, was extremely aware, even as a small child of the problematic elements of them, especially the colonialism and classism. When a book series you love includes a passage about a child of your nationality being punished for having the accent of that country, you certainly do see the problematic elements. 

Now, I do think this is a little different as I could write that off as "hey, different era. Society has moved on from then and obviously, people in the past had some views that are obviously problematic today," and it also gets trickier as egalitarianism is so central a theme to the Harry Potter series, but at the same time, I do think works stand or fall on their own merits.

And there is this funny thing about writing that characters take on a life of their own. If I try to make a character spout my views, it comes out as stilted. It sounds as if they are reciting lines put in their mouth by somebody else. And sometimes characters come out with things that I'd never thought of until I write that line. So I think it is quite possible to admire characters without admiring their author or to believe somebody is a good writer but not a particularly good person.

My thought is closer to Margaret's. 

As a creator, Rowlings might simply struggle to find the right words for her new writing, she misused the social media, she could have consulted with the other authors or the specialties.

Just my impression is that overreacting to what the author said will not lead to a better place. Even on the way to shifting into accepting the other fandoms, I think some members have already left this community, for they wanted to focus on only Harry Potter fandom.

So, we should be careful to choose the right name for this community and the archives. 

Just my thought right now for the new site name, I prefer the name related with Phoenix which has welcoming mood for the earnest Harry Potter fans as well.

 

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Guest Noelle Zingarella
13 minutes ago, sibilant said:

Also re canceling not sitting right: I also see that. I think that it can be framed in a way that feels more aggressive than it actually is. I think of canceling as unequivocally condemning offensive behavior.

Canceling is a form of shunning. I don't think you can frame it in a way that makes it non-aggressive. 

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abhorsen.
5 hours ago, mymischiefmanaged said:

I think maybe the title I used for this thread is a bit misleading about my intentions. I definitely didn't mean to make anybody feel guilty for their own responses to Rowling's views and am sorry if it came across that way! I'm still very much a fan of Rowling's work and will continue to be, but I've been doing a lot of reflection on what exactly that looks like for me moving forwards as her latest comments have changed my views about her as an author. I have loved reading everyone's thoughtful responses and you've all really helped me think about this so sorry if I've made anyone feel bad! 

fwiw, you definitely didn't come across that way to me! ❤️

i gave a broader comment above about the broader societal paradigm, but since i'm seeing cancel culture brought up, i want to talk a little bit about where my breaking point was with jkr (bc it wasn't here).

the north america stuff has a lot of cultural appropriation that the more i read about, the less i could overlook, and the straw that broke the camel's back was her defense of johnny depp's casting in fantastic beasts. to me, as a bisexual woman, there was something so incredibly painful and hurtful about having half of the first canonically queer pairing in the hp universe be played by a man who used his wife's bisexuality as an excuse to abuse her - especially as someone who took until my late 20s to really start to come to grips with my sexual orientation in part because several men i dated made me feel uncomfortable and fetishized even time i made any comment related to how maybe i wasn't totally straight.

i don't think there are words to express how deeply harmful those experiences were to me and how much lasting damage they did. and while i get that those experiences are personal and not everyone else's problem, having an author i liked excuse behavior that runs along similar lines to behavior that has so deeply hurt me in the past was really, really difficult.

i say that not to deflect attention from her transphobia now - this moment is not about me - but to speak to a lot of what rose is talking about re: differences in impact, because their post hits the nail on the head. the further one is from being directly impacted by an action or comment, the less ground one has to judge whether people are overreacting. again: when you (general you, not a specific you) don't have the experiences necessary to understand why people are hurting, it's not reasonable to decide that they're overreacting.

because here's the thing: it is deeply, deeply upsetting to be told that who you are as a person is just invalid. it is deeply, deeply upsetting to be told that you don't matter. if you have never experienced that, i envy you; i have not been that lucky. and those experiences have a cost - to the individual experiencing them, and to the broader community. some people are able to insulate themselves from that cost, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. it's there in the average life expectancy of a trans person. it's there in how many Black people in this country have had the cops pull guns on them for no reason. it's there in the street harassment/violence girls start facing in elementary or middle school. many of us are insulated from these costs; that doesn't mean they aren't there.

no one is saying that you can't like harry potter, but you can like harry potter and still acknowledge the damage jkr has done to members of this community - and honestly, failing to do so can leave people feeling like you're more interested in excusing a powerful woman who has no idea that you exist than validating the basic humanity of someone you know who is standing right in front of you. (virtually, anyway.)

 

1 hour ago, Noelle Zingarella said:

Canceling is a form of shunning. I don't think you can frame it in a way that makes it non-aggressive. 

if that's your framework, i don't see how you can frame her transphobia as anything but aggressive, which makes shunning self-defense against a vastly more powerful person.

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Professor McGonagall

I want to say now that my opinion has changed about all of this as I tend to jump into things without really thinking about all the implications of what I input. I apologize for bringing up cancel as a term. The term I mean to use was boycott, as it is a much less dismissive term for this sort of action. Individuals and groups should boycott against things that they feel strongly about and should do it for a good reason with evidence. We have that here in spades and in other corners of Rowling's troubled worldview. I keep using worldview, but I think it fits.

JK's worldview and her narrative feed off eachother: she says things perhaps to sell more books, and she uses her opinions in her own writing, as increasingly troublesome elements of her captivating and groundbreaking narrative. This of course isn't the first time, as easily I have forgotten the other times. She made Goblins the wizard bankers, greedy and hook-nosed and segregated from Wizarding society. She named an Asian character with two She introduced Dumbledore as gay; some were fine with it, many have embraced it, others were not and few have not embraced that.

After the books ended, she continued adding on to her world. She jumped onto the bandwagon for their being a black Hermione, though her minority characters were stated as such and unfortunately lesser in impact than the default white cohorts of Hogwarts. Hermione wasn't stated as white but Rowling would have said she was black. In my opinion a black Hermione would be great, just that she didn't exist in Rowling's narrative. Moving on, she made Anthony Goldstein (a really subtle character to choose) to be her one and only Jewish wizard at Hogwarts though it never came up and he was pretty much a cardboard cutout backdrop character anyway. She appropriated Native American culture to 'authenticate' her own narrative in what others have called neo-colonialism. On that point, there really wasn't anything besides anything she said that couldn't have been more offensive; that is, most anything was better than the offensive something she said Native American magic was like in her world.

In the latest controversy, she then storms out the gate with transphobic comments which she has made plenty of times before that exist entirely (at least implicitly) outside of her narrative. 

She IS problematic. She IS dangerous. She ought to be criticized and her forum and future works boycotted until she recants and makes substantial amends. She ought not to get the attention she seems to desperately crave, nor our money. Did she intend to make Goblins hook nosed and greedy? Did she intend to make house elves stand ins for human slaves but claim they were willing? No one can tell but at some level it doesn't matter, since these are troubling. One might have to turn their brain off to enjoy the work its presented in, especially if their in one of those communities affected implicitly or explicitly.

 But is Harry Potter problematic? Is it dangerous? Perhaps in the wrong hands it is dangerous, but it is definitely problematic. Works can stand on their own merit as reflecting a corner of the author's reality as a force for good in the case of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, outright evil as in D.W. White's Birth of a Nation, or insidious as in this case. Without rewrites, a lot of us cannot interpret or accept Harry Potter as representing a world that we're entirely comfortable / glad to be a part of. 

The problematic elements and plot devices aside, Harry Potter is a compelling story that fundamentally might be fantastic given the right treatment. What can we do? We can fix it of course, establishing a free baseline that reconstructs and retells Harry Potter from the ground up and release it for others to work off of. Call it something other than Harry Potter and the _______. It is a radical solution that will require a lot of time and effort but I think that in the end it can solve the dispute between despising the author and loving her work and in some part rip the power of creation out of this woman's hands. 

The original books will still exist and must still exist as a historic step in fantasy, just as Lord of the Rings should be for that matter. The shortcomings of the author and her work should be discussed, but the text itself ought to be revised to be the final nail in the coffin. 

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Ineke

I am gon respond later bc im at work and on mobile but re this

Quote

She jumped onto the bandwagon for their being a black Hermione, though her minority characters were stated as such and unfortunately lesser in impact than the default white cohorts of Hogwarts. Hermione wasn't stated as white but Rowling would have said she was black. In my opinion a black Hermione would be great, just that she didn't exist in Rowling's narrative.

Jkr had zero say in the casting and only met the cast after they had been cast. This actually makes it worse for her bc she had no say in it whatsoever. This is also the case bc the chars of scorpius and yann have at several points in time and location been played by a trans and or nonbinary person (or in the case of yann been played by both men and women) and she was not aware of this until afterwards. The cast and those people ij general have been speaking up about it but point of the matter here is that she only went on with it because she had no choice and otherwise would have to condemn the casting after it was announced. I doubt she fully Agreed with it.

 

Full response from me will follow later but i had to point this out bc i agree w her statement that a black hermione did not exist in her narrative. 

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sibilant
8 hours ago, Professor McGonagall said:

It is a radical solution that will require a lot of time and effort but I think that in the end it can solve the dispute between despising the author and loving her work and in some part rip the power of creation out of this woman's hands. 

I agree with all of this and want to push on this thought being radical, because I don’t actually think it is. All fanfiction is rewriting. We’ve always had the power to write better versions of her stories; we just haven’t really been aware of the imperative to do that until now. I don’t want us to think of reinventing the world of Harry Potter as a radical or fringe thing, because that makes it feel a lot harder than it actually is. It’ll certainly require time and effort, but I don’t think that time and effort is more than what we would normally put into our fics. If someone can write a 500k+ fic that does not challenge any of JKR’s views, then they can certainly write a 500k+ fic that completely destroys all of these problematic paradigms. It just requires you to be more *awake* as a fic writer.

And for my thoughts on black!Hermione: read this essay.

Anyways, I think I’ve started too many fires in this thread, so I’m going to shut up.

Edited by sibilant
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toomanycurls
23 hours ago, mymischiefmanaged said:

I definitely didn't mean to make anybody feel guilty for their own responses to Rowling's views and am sorry if it came across that way! I'm still very much a fan of Rowling's work and will continue to be, but I've been doing a lot of reflection on what exactly that looks like for me moving forwards as her latest comments have changed my views about her as an author

This is very much my reaction as well. I have a hard time respecting her POV and I'm sad that her experiences have pushed her away from viewing transwomen as women. There are some ideas that are very, very powerful in this thread that I love about self-advocacy and how to take action as an individual and as a collective group.

I agree with @Noelle Zingarella's point on being thoughtful on how we talk about disengaging with something we find problematic and people who are still coming up to speed on an issue.  Using harsh and alienating language can push other people away who may have open hearts towards and issue but are not fully educated. or they are educated but need time with the material to let it sink in and really become theirs. 

For instance, it was hard for me to unfollow jkr - it's a bummer for me not to engage with the new stuff being put out on the new potter sites everywhere - it was easier not to buy that book they put out where you could unlock Potter secrets (idk, it seemed a bit whack and I was done spending money on Potter things at that point). It's really hard for me to judge someone else's journey here because I've started from square one on literally every topic under the sun with an open and curious heart. 

 

On another topic -- 

5 hours ago, Aphoride said:

So to me, it's not really an issue of taking back or reclaiming or being radical - HP and everything in it, good and bad, has always been ours because HP is just a book comprised of thoughts and themes and tropes and things which were parts of our societies and literature before HP existed and alongside HP and still are now. Yes, the exact words in the books are JKRs, but really, the rest of it has kinda always been ours and if we want to change it, there's never really been anything stopping us ^_^ 

 

7 hours ago, sibilant said:

All fanfiction is rewriting. We’ve always had the power to write better versions of her stories; we just haven’t really been aware of the imperative to do that until now. I don’t want us to think of reinventing the world of Harry Potter as a radical or fringe thing, because that makes it feel a lot harder than it actually is. It’ll certainly require time and effort, but I don’t think that time and effort is more than what we would normally put into our fics. If someone can write a 500k+ fic that does not challenge any of JKR’s views, then they can certainly write a 500k+ fic that completely destroys all of these problematic paradigms.

 

16 hours ago, Professor McGonagall said:

The problematic elements and plot devices aside, Harry Potter is a compelling story that fundamentally might be fantastic given the right treatment.

 

20 hours ago, sibilant said:

we reinvent and retell the story to embrace those themes. The power of fandom is the ability to reclaim narratives; I'm personally devoting myself to realizing visions of justice and equity in ways that JKR never could, because she doesn't actually understand either of those concepts.

I love love LOVE how much people are looking at the HP fandom as something to reclaim and challenge. It's really how fanfic got its start (I had a coworker who was early in the Star Trek fandom and how expanding the universe through fanfic was her way of bringing more diversity and self expression to a world she loved). Redirecting and taking ownership is such a strong thing to do here ❤️  This is the kind of focus I love for us to have as a site. 

 

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  • 3 months later...
la_topolina

Hi folks. I just wanted to come in this thread and issue a public mea culpa with regards to my former support of JKR. I was pretty dismayed and disgusted by the subject of her upcoming mystery novel, and I regret having supported her. 

It was brought to my attention that I ought to have issued this apology immediately upon rejoining the community. I did not say anything because I did not know if it would be appropriate for me to do so, and I did not want to make the issue all about me or my feelings. I'm sorry for not saying something earlier. 

I am listening, reading, learning, and finding my way through the dark the best I can.

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