Growing up in my tight-knit family, Harry Potter was one of the many things we bonded over. Sitting at the kids’ table eating dinner while the Philosophers Stone or the Chamber of Secrets runs in the background until my dad bursts in when he finishes his dinner to eat his food was a very mundane scene in ur house. Harry Potter was taken very seriously. Reanactmets of lines and scenes like Professor Lockhart’s first lesson and Cedric Diggory’s death that came straight from the series were common in my house. It’s not just me but millions of people’s childhood. Frankly, I’ve been stuck in a Harry Potter bubble my whole life and it wasn’t until recently, recently being Draco Tiktok, to fully delve into the issue Harry Potter has.
The series Harry Potter itself, for the 0.01% of people that don’t know, is a story of an orphaned boy named Harry Potter who lives underneath the staircase in a cupboard at his aunt and uncle’s house. When he’s 11 he learns that magic is not only real but that he is not just an ordinary wizard. He is the boy who lived. He gets admitted into Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry and through 7 books and 8 movies we follow this story and world that JK Rowling created before our eyes. Harry Potter is gorgeous and personally makes me dream of Hogwarts every night. But, as the series came to an end, and the series as well as Rowling, began to be examined more, the blatant racism, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-Semitic, and frankly problematic tones that run deep were exposed more outwardly.
Here is a list of each topic that will be covered:
- JK Rowlings Transphobia
- LGBTQ+ Stereotypes within Lycanthropy
- Goblins and Anti Semitism
- The naming of Characters, specifically her Asian characters
- Sexism/ Misogyny
- Ilvermorny and Indigenous Issues
- The Redemption Arc of a Bigot
JK Rowlings Transphobia
I think the most apparent and public “scandal” that JK Rowling has ever had, has to do with her slippery Twitter fingers when talking about the trans community. She has spoken multiple times on her support for TERF (trans-exclusionary racial feminism) using “#IStandwithMaya”, a supporter of transphobic policies in the UK. By using this hashtag, JK Rowling shows her support for someone who is currently receiving backlash for holding transphobic views, meaning that Rowling herself views that the backlash Maya is receiving is inherently wrong.
Because of this, Rowling experienced massive backlash on Twitter. From her devout fans to even stars from the film series, people began to show their outrage. This was one of the first public moments that fans began to uncover. It was covered by many news outlets and human rights organizations.
JK Rowling herself has always been seen as this inclusive writer who made a world that kids got to grow up in. Harry Potter was this story of people who didn’t fit the “muggle societal norm”, and was in turn shown in a positive light; so why is someone being transgender so bad? Why can wizards exist in peace and in their society but when someone is transgender does that narrative fly out the door?
LGBTQ+ Stereotypes within Lycanthropy
Now one of my absolute favourite characters in the whole series was Remus Lupin, James Potter’s best friend, werewolf, and the best Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Hogwarts has ever seen. Remus Lupin himself was a poor man, never able to find a job due to workplaces not being accepting of his condition, that being lycanthropy (what makes him a werewolf). The entire werewolf plot in the novels was so beautifully done. We discover Lupin’s backstory of being bitten by the only other werewolf character within the series as a child, this werewolf being Fenrir Greyback. Fenrir Greyback specifically sought after children to shift to lycanthropy and was the only her were world death eater. Now, why is this important?
After the series ended, Rowling discussed how her inspiration for Lupin’s “condition” was HIV/Aids. The reason why this is so problematic and frankly homophobic is that this shows Rowling’s internal views of people who are gay. They, in her mind, are either sweet human beings or child predators who turn into a monster once a month and justifies how they view their condition as being a disease and danger to society.
Rowling’s own definition of a werewolf is meant to be scary. By why is someone who suffers from HIV/ Aids meant to be seen as scary in a children’s book. Why are the only people who we see suffer from this are either kind of sweet men or actual child predators? He internalized homophobia is so routed into her writing it’s honestly sickening how much she can’t view these thoughts as being homophobic.
Goblins and Anti Semitism
Goblins. Two-faced, greedy, sneaky, and frankly scary creatures we see in the series. The first time they show up, we are in the first book and Harry is at Gringotts bank to retrieve his money, a place runs fully by goblins. Rowling herself writes these creatures as being money hungry and greedy, as well as visually have larger hooked noses. They are creatures everyone would prefer to be away from if that makes more sense.
With more scrutiny the series has faced, many have come to the conclusion that the Goblins themselves are supposed to be envisioned as Jews, many even claiming that looking at the floor within Gringotts Bank they can see the Star of David. At first, this statement was difficult for me to understand. JK rowing has always been one to actively speak against anti-Semitic and has even said her more evil characters within her works are based on Nazis.
The reason why this connection is made was because of the stereotypical Jew that is commonly perceived in media. The hooked noses, the beady eyes, and olive skin, the intelligence but greed for money are all stereotypes that many Jewish people had to face growing up and these stereotypes are extremely similar to antisemitic propaganda images that occurred in Nazi Germany. It was and still is viewed as “Jew coding”. many pointing out that although Rowling claims she is anti-Semitic, these portrayals of her creatures prove to not be true.
Naming of Characters
I must admit something now. JK Rowlings naming of character is so creative, up until she decides to name POC and anyone that has a cultural significance to their name. The most obvious we see in this is the naming of the only Asian character in the series, that being Cho Chang and the naming of South Asian characters like Parvati and Padma Patil.
Cho Chang, Harry Potter’s first crush was the only East Asian character Rowlings East Asian readers could “relate” to. Her name itself was extremely offensive. With characters like Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall, why was JK Rowling so extremely lazy, as many readers have pointed out, with the naming of this character. Why is it that when it comes to having the only apparent East Asian character does she get given an extremely stereotypical name to confirm that she is in fact Asian?
The same thing can be said for the Patil twins. These names are extremely lazy. Rowling’s lack of creativity and care for her BIPOC characters is so odd when the naming of her very prominent characters is done with such precision, specifically her white characters. Not only this but the portrayal of the Patil twins made it extremely difficult for South Asian, specifically Indian characters to relate to. Many proclaiming this would have been such an amazing opportunity to showcase how a character’s culture would more realistically be apart of Hogwarts and the magical world.
Now the next time we experience an Asian character in the series is in the second installment of the Harry Potter prequel series, Fantastic Beasts; Crimes of Grindelwald. Now, this is going to be a bit complicated to go through if you haven’t seen Harry Potter but here is some background:
Wizard Hitler Voldermort split his soul into 7 parts and that last intentional split he made was put into a snake named Nagini. Nagini was always viewed as being Voldemort’s “pet snake” doing his bidding for him in killing anyone Voldemort wanted her to. In Crimes of Grindelwald we get a look into the Naginis back story and to oversimplify it, she is a woman who is cursed to turn into a snake. We see her in a cage like a circus trick and she is revealed to be an Asian woman. Now, why is this wrong you may ask? I will tell you right now.
The typical stereotype of Asian women is the idea of the “submissive woman”. She sits idly as the man does and says and exerts his power over her. And what is Nagini? A pet snake that does Voldemort bidding for him and sits idly while he commits mass murder. She is also seen to be the stereotypical “dragon lady” as she appeases a crowd of people and is essentially there for their entertainment and purposes. Stereotypically speaking, Rowling wrote this character as a submissive woman and even Rowling admitted that in her eyes, Nagini is specifically Korean.
Rowling’s explanation of having her Korean was entirely factually wrong, however. Rowling claims that the name Nagini comes from the word “Naga” more specifically the “Naga” myth, claiming this myth comes from Indonesia. Furthermore, she states that Indonesia is a country made of people from all over East Asia, including Korea. However, with a quick google search, we see once again, Rowling is wrong.
The Naga myth Rowling is referring to is actually an Indian, more specifically roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. So essentially there is no justification Rowling has for putting her only other East Asian character in her work as a submissive, stereotypical “dragon lady”, snake.
Sexism and Misogyny
Now in the series, we see lots of strong and empowered women for example; Hermione Granger, Nymphadora Tonks, Ginny Weasley, Lily Potter, Minerva McGonagall, Amelia Bones, Luna Lovegood and so many more. In our minds, we view this story as bringing women and their roles within society at the forefront. However, multiple women were put into negative lights for no apparent reason.
Growing up my least favourite female character other than Umbridge was Cho Chang, why? Because according to Rowling, crying after your boyfriend has just been killed in front of the whole school is wrong. I also very much disliked Lavender Brown, a typical schoolgirl who was in love with a boy who loved someone else, Fleur for being too pretty, and frankly, any girl was “girly”. This may sound childish, but if the character in the book acted like any person, male or female, in that situation they would immediately be perceived as annoying, girly, and not attractive to males.
Parvati and Padma Patil wanted to have a good time at the Yule ball and rather than view that as a normal thing, they were viewed as a nuisance. Fleur Delacour was a gorgeous girl wanting to marry Bill Weasley, yet the family (specifically Molly and Ginny Weasley) called her “Phlegm” behind her back and claimed that she was”using” Bill. Cho Chang cried 6 months after her boyfriend died when she was 16 and Harry couldn’t comprehend why. There are so many other cases of girls who fit the mage of being “emotional” or “girly” are immediately put off and why? JK Rowling claims she is a feminist but why does bringing other female characters in her books down help that image? Frankly, they don’t.
Ilvermorny and Indigenous Issues
In 2016 the Wizarding community was brought forward a new Wizarding school apart from the three that were already present in the series, this new school is called Ilvermorny. Ilverymorny is the American school of witchcraft and wizardry and has a completely different sorting system set in place.
As we see with the misuse of the Naga myth, Rowling continues on with her theme of misuse of myth with the Indigenous community. She cherry-picks what she wants to use and then twists them to fit her narrative and her storyline. Regarding the house names within Ilvermorny, there are four of them, Pukwudgie, Thunderbird, Wampus, and Horned Serpent; all of which are Indigenous mythological creatures.
What Rowling did was take Indigenous mythology, their culture, and in turn, made the majority of these characters of this new setting to be non-Indigenous; in fact, the only Indigenous character with a name is a wandmaker called Shikoba Wolfe. She then proceeds to strip the mythology of its meaning and provides it with a new meaning under her context to fit her narrative needs.
Rowling, a white woman, who took Indigenous culture, distorted and majorly changed it, failed to give Indigenous people any significance in her storyline and thus profits off of it.
The Redemption Arc of Bigot
I could talk every day and write 10 full blogs about how much my dislike for Severus Snape runs deep in my blood.
Severus Snape, potions master as Hogwarts, Deatheater spy, and in Rowling’s eyes, the reason why Harry Potter and the order won the war against Voldemort. Throughout the books and movies, you as the audience were meant to view Snape as being rude, shady, and frankly evil; when it is proven later on in the books that he isn’t and that he risked so much for his “love” for Lily Potter. However, the majority of people within the fandom view the latter as not true.
Snape himself was mistreated by James Potter, Harry’s father, growing up and was Lily Potter’s best friend up until he called her a “mudblood”, a wizard slur, while they were in school. He hated James Potter and reflected this hate onto Harry, a child, while he taught him. He berated and bullied not just him but Neville, and Hermione Granger and was some children’s biggest fears.
Snape himself was never a good person in my eyes, yes he ended up on the good side but he bullied children, he called the “love of his life” (frankly I think it was an obsession) a slur, he outed Remus Lupin as being a werewolf in front of the entire school as an adult male and was the only person who knew Harry’s mom well and never even tried to give Harry some information on his mom.
Now reading all of that, you would think this man couldn’t possibly receive any justification but in reality, Rowling figured out a way to do that. She completely romanticized his entire character. Stating that he was a hero, had Harry name his child after him, and forgave him for being a blood supremacist only because “he did what was right in the end”.
These books are here, They are a representation of her thoughts and feelings, and the fact that she views that being a blood supremacist and a severe bully is redeemable in any sense is wild to me, especially because James Potter bullied him as a child. How is this redeemable?
Now, are these all the issues that are present in the series? No. There is the issue of queer-bating as a way to sell books when claiming Dumbledore was gay but provided no evidence when given the chance. There’s her actual pen name “JK Rowling” and a second pen name under “Robert Galbraith” that she made because she believed that having her name under Jo wouldn’t sell books. But, I could honestly take your whole day discussing every issue there is.
She wrote this series and made this world that consumes my life to this day. In fact, I’m listening to the audiobooks as I write this. I live and breathe this world, I memorized full movie scripts. But, me and millions of other need to realize that the ideals that JK Rowling is perpetuating in this series is inherently wrong and simply put, dangerous. Part of loving something or someone is being able to hold them accountable for their actions.
I get it, it’s hard to let go of this series, it’s hard to have it tainted by a backstory that makes the essence of the work so dark, but there are ways to consume the story without supporting Rowling herself.
- If you’re going to buy books, buy them secondhand from Facebook market and other websites.
- Find a way to view the movies that don’t put money in her pockets.
- Support those that have been affected by her works; from the Asian community to the Indigenous, and to LGBTQ+.
I guess all I have to say now is:
Mischief Managed /*