So it’s been quite a while since I had a good old-fashioned rant about JK Rowling, hasn’t it. But now, only a few weeks after JK Rowling and David Yates caused a stir by brushing off the controversy surrounding Johnny Depp’s continued presence in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, the Harry Potter author is pissing off her fans once again. Over recent years, I’ve sort of become disillusioned with Rowling. Yes, she does a lot of great things and has used her money to aid some fantastic causes. That doesn’t mean she can get away with anything, though. Whether she means to or not, she has allowed herself to gain a certain sense of entitlement that only goes with becoming the world’s richest author. Just look back on the moment when she acted like a victim when it was revealed she had written The Cuckoo’s Calling.
Rowling always seems like the kind of person who will happily dole out the criticism to other people but isn’t so happy when it comes back her way. Like in this latest uproar, which surrounds the statement by Fantastic Beasts 2 director David Yates saying that Dumbledore’s sexuality won’t be “explicit” in the upcoming sequel. Understandably, this has seen a major reaction (both positive and negative) from fans. Rowling herself has made no statement about it but has said the following on her Twitter page.
Being sent abuse about an interview that didn’t involve me, about a screenplay I wrote but which none of the angry people have read, which is part of a five-movie series that’s only one instalment in, is obviously tons of fun, but you know what’s even *more* fun? pic.twitter.com/Rj6Zr8aKUk
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 31, 2018
So, it’s your classic ‘stick my fingers in my ears and pretend I can’t hear you response’ then. How very Harry Potter of her. I mean JK Rowling is a woman in her 50s and her response to her much younger fans is basically just a massive “FUCK YOU!” She’s acting like a spoilt teenager.
Now I know, I know, JK Rowling doesn’t owe her fans anything but she’s always made it seem as though everything she’s done has been for them too. Yes, Harry Potter is her baby and she can what she wants but she’s always tried to sell an image of herself as an author who puts the fans needs front and centre. Well, until it causes her problems anyway. When fans of the franchise had, I believe legitimate, concerns about the continued casting of Johnny Depp after his abuse accusations Rowling’s responded with the following statement:
The agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected… Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.”
Yes, everyone should be allowed to “get on with their lives” but should a potential abuser be able to keep his high paying role in a multi-million dollar franchise without anyone thinking it’s dodgy? I’m not so sure. Added to the sentiments of David Yates, who basically said “he’s never hit me or anyone near me so he must be okay”, Rowling was basically admitting that she didn’t give a shit as long as the films were bankable. Maybe that was something that had been pushed upon her by the film studio but it was still disappointing from someone who created a whole series of stories about why you should stand up to violent bullies.
So, the writer already has a history of putting her business gains before her popularity but, again, the Depp thing is a pretty complicated issue. So, as much as I disagree with her, I’m willing to give her a slight pass on that. This latest one is different. Way back in 2007 Rowling made the bold statement that she’d always seen Dumbledore as gay. This was an important moment for the LGBT community back then because, finally, they were able to have some actual, canon-approved representation for themselves. Yes, it was slightly half-hearted because it wasn’t important enough to be made explicit but it was some kind of victory. Leap forward to 2013 when it was announced that JK Rowling would be writing scripts for not just 1 but 5 Fantastic Beasts films that would deal with the rise and fall of Gellert Grindelwald. Finally, this would be the time that we see an openly gay Albus Dumbledore and JK Rowling can finally put her money where her mouth is. Until David Yates came stomping into view.
“Not explicitly,” Yates replied when asked if the film makes it clear that Dumbledore is gay. “But I think all the fans are aware of that. He had a very intense relationship with Grindelwald when they were young men. They fell in love with each other’s ideas, and ideology and each other.”
Now I get that it is up to Rowling and Yates if the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald will be significant to the plot of this or any upcoming film but to treat it in such a wishy-washy manner is bullshit. It’s like saying “Now, kids, Santa doesn’t explicitly exist but I think you are aware that he is”. It doesn’t mean Santa exists. This isn’t the fucking Candyman. Saying Dumbledore is gay five times won’t magically make it true. It’s all very well and good JK coming out after the books have been published and outing a significant character but, by not letting this come through in a story when his romantic relationship with Gellert is FUNDAMENTAL, she is showing how meaningless a gesture this was. She isn’t making a statement for LGBTQ+ rights when she doesn’t have the courage to stand up for her convictions when her Hollywood film stands to lose out.
Now, I have to agree with Rowling when she says we haven’t read the script yet so, I say desperately trying to play devil’s advocate with myself, it is possible the relationship will be explored super explicitly later on. We’ll have to wait and see. To be honest, as annoying and stupid as Yates’ statement was, it is not the reason I’m so worked up. Yes, I think it’s the perfect opportunity to get LGBTQ+ representation in a powerful and important Hollywod franchise but I’ll always support story first so if it doesn’t make sense the so be it. My true anger comes from Rowling’s own reaction. There are a lot of headlines out there saying “JK Rowling shuts down Twitter critics”. No, she didn’t. What she actually did was ignore them. For someone who makes a good show of being there for her fans, the whole ‘I’m gonna shut you up now’ reaction is just super fucking childish. She’ll be there for her fans when they blindly follow anything she says but the minute they see past the facade then she’s outta there.
Now, I think I lost a large part of my respect for Rowling when I first read Deathly Hallows. You all know that I have long been a critic of her desperation to present Severus Snape as a hero instead of the snivelling, creepy stalker he really was. I also think her overly schmaltzy epilogue was a disgusting way to end such a complex and emotive series. Since that point, Rowling has gone from being one of the most important writers in my life to something of a hack. With every passing year she becomes a little more like George Lucas. She’s become so adored around the world that she’s started to believe her own hype. She thinks she is infallible now but, deep down, she’s still just a mediocre writer who got lucky with a great idea. I’ll always be grateful to her for writing a series so dear to my heart but I can’t say I’m a big fan of her anymore. Hell, I’ll always love Annie Hall but that doesn’t mean I don’t think Woody Allen is a creepy pervert.
Ultimately, both the decision to not make full advantage of Albus’ sexuality and Rowling’s reaction to commentary on that decision proves one thing: the Harry Potter franchise is moving further and further out of the grip of its own fans. The Cursed Child was enough proof to show that, when there’s a chance to make more money, the fans come second. Once upon a time, JK Rowling stated that she would only return to the series if she had “a great idea” but, as we know after reading The Cursed Child, that lacked any kind of “great idea”. That whole debacle proved that if it’s going to get people to part with cash then she’ll put her name on fucking fanfiction. The series doesn’t belong to its fans, I know, but this was a series of books in which people found so much hope. They saw so much diversity and people being able to be free to be themselves. Fantastic Beasts 2 was the perfect chance to make a huge step in representation for LGBTQ+ people so it’s sad it isn’t happening. What’s even sadder is that JK Rowling refused to make a statement explaining or defending that decision. Instead, she took to Twitter to act like a petulant child. The kind of thing she continually berates Donald Trump for doing…