Normally when a series ends that you adore, be it a book, TV show, or even a movie franchise, you’d like nothing more than for the creator of that series to give you more. More behind-the-scenes snippets, more of what happened after the happily ever after, more of the character’s lives beyond the adventures they partake in. It’s why fanfiction is so popular on online fansites, with fans taking it upon themselves to fill in those gaps and perhaps even fix the things they thought the original creators got wrong. To have that information come from the original creators, however, makes it canon, or a confirmed part of the original story. That’s the ultimate dream: to have a plot theory or a relationship between characters confirmed as being canon, and to have that endorsed by the creator you love.
When the “Harry Potter” book series ended in 2007, longtime fans of the books were understandably devastated, and would’ve jumped for any other canon piece of HP lore that author J.K. Rowling released. We still had quite a few movies left to enjoy, though, and Rowling remained firm in stating that Harry’s story was told and she wouldn’t be returning to it anytime soon. It was a simpler time then, truly, because if I had known then what would happen when Rowling actually did release her extra content, I probably wouldn’t have been so eager for it.
Let me just preface this by saying I’m really glad for some of the things that have come from the end of “Harry Potter.” The launching of “Pottermore,” with its interactive games and never-released texts were exactly what fans were looking for: an inside look at some of the lesser-known lives of our favorite characters that also allowed fans to participate in their world by being sorted into a house or given a Patronus. Rowling has also published books referenced in the original series, such as textbooks “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and “Quidditch Through the Ages” and the infamous storybook, “Tales of Beedle the Bard,” one again allowing fans to tangibly interact with details of the stories they love. One of my favorite things to have come out of Rowling’s Wizarding World is an actual Wizarding World theme park installed at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. This is saying something coming from myself, a person with rather low opinions of theme parks and heat, of which Universal has both in abundance. But what made the difference at Universal was that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was lovingly detailed; it catered directly to fans of the books, and it inserted me directly inside them.
When it comes to the creation of new media, however, J.K. Rowling has tripped and stumbled at nearly every turn. I’ve talked numerous times about how crucially important representation of a variety of people in media is, and it’s as if Rowling has taken this advice and run with it to an extreme that makes it negative. During further development of “Pottermore” and the start of her new movie series “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Rowling revealed the American Hogwarts-equivalent, a wizarding school called Ilvermorny. That was all well and good, until fans realized she’d based the creation of the school and the houses within it on Native American mythologies, the origins of which she was appropriating for the benefit of her story. As Dr. Adrienne Keene, a self-described “Writer behind Native Appropriations” and a member of the Cherokee Nation, stated, “It’s not ‘your’ world. It’s our (real) Native world. And skin walker stories have context, roots and reality.” That’s the real issue here with Rowling’s appropriation: she’s using the history of a people that have been oppressed for centuries to lend credence to the world she’s creating and profiting off of.
She’s also been rightly criticized for her continued support of Johnny Depp in his role in the “Fantastic Beasts” series, despite the fact that there are multiple, credible examples of his verbal and physical violence towards his former wife, Amber Heard. To many fans, myself included, it’s infuriating and upsetting to again and again witness the lives of abused women be cast aside in favor of siding with supremely powerful men, even more so when women you idolize help to do that. Even Daniel Radcliffe, the title star of the original “Harry Potter” film series, expressed his disappointment, telling Entertainment Weekly, “I can see why people are frustrated with the response that they were given…I suppose the thing I was struck by was, we did have a guy who was reprimanded for weed on the [original Potter] film, essentially, so obviously what Johnny has been accused of is much greater than that.” Given the time we currently live in, between all the events of the #MeToo era and the most recent case of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, I could write an entire piece on this mistake of Rowling’s alone, but, unbelievably, there are even more places where I could encourage her to do better.
There’s even more controversy where “Fantastic Beasts” are concerned; in the final trailer released on Sept. 25 for the newest film, it was revealed that “Harry Potter” villain Voldemort’s pet snake Nagini is in fact a Maledictus. This creature is described by the Harry Potter Wikipedia as “a beautiful, young woman, but she is a carrier of a blood curse that ultimately destines her to transform permanently into a beast.” Another aspect of the Maledictus was explained further by Rowling on Twitter, with a statement that, “Maledictuses are always women…The Maledictus carries a blood curse from birth, which is passed down from mother to daughter.” So not only is Voldemort’s evil snake an evil snake that was originally a woman who was turned evil and had part of Voldemort’s soul placed within her, all against her will, but, as the trailer also revealed, this woman is also Asian. This fact, of the inclusion of a character of color in a predominantly white franchise, would usually be a cause for celebration if not for all the aspects of that character mentioned above. There is such a thing as the burden of representation, and though I am more than happy to support actress Claudia Kim as long as she is comfortable playing Nagini, I can’t help but want more for her. With only Cho Chang (whose name has its own history of criticism) and Padma and Parvati Patil as the other major forms of Asian representation in the entire series, it feels downright wrong to force an Asian woman into a character role that ends in a horrible tragedy.
I’m not saying that J.K. Rowling hasn’t done wonderful things, because her books gave me one of the greatest joys of my life, but at this point I would encourage her to just… stop. Even for just a second. Stop trying to create representation where there is none, as the blatant pandering is only outraging fans more. Take a second and pump the brakes J.K., before I lose my respect for you entirely.