Separating Art from Artist: There is no Harry Potter without J.K. Rowling

Karl H Christ
5 min readFeb 13, 2023

You can’t separate art from artists. Not truly. You can enjoy the art, love it, so much that it’s a part of your personal identity, and dislike or hate things about the artist that created it, but the creator and their creation are ultimately inextricable.

J.K. Rowling is the creator of Harry Potter. That is a simple “no shit” statement that everyone familiar with either the author’s name or the books knows. But, many people, in the Potter fan community, do not seem to fully understand what that means.

Because of statements that Rowling has made about trans people, specifically trans women, disputing their status as “real” women, she has become a pariah among many Potter fans.

I do not agree with Rowling’s views on trans people. Initially, only having a cursory understanding of the issue, I thought that she had a point. The point, as I understood it, was that biological and anatomical sex has an effect on people’s lived experiences, and that the personal experiences of a trans woman and a biologically female cis woman would by virtue of those differences diverge. There is truth in that, I believe. The way that one appears, presents themselves, the ways they are perceived by others in society, is deterministic of their experiences, how they are treated, their interactions within society. A trans woman or girl will likely be treated differently from a cis woman or girl, in much the way people are treated differently based on their height, weight, perceived attractiveness, skin color, or any other attributes. The way that we are regarded and treated by society affects who we are.

However, Rowling went further, and conflated being a woman with being female, expressed a misunderstanding of feminism, made the comment, “grow a pair,” implied that humans have strictly binary sexes, made some other dubious scientific claims from arguably unreliable sources, expressed some fears about men pretending to be trans women for violent ends, which I don’t know to be substantiated at all by evidence, and generally presented as self-righteous and defensive. While I think she is wrong about quite a few things and did a poor job of building her case, which she clearly spent a good deal of time on, I don’t believe there was actual hate in what I’ve read of what she wrote, or that the level of anger against her is justified.

But that opinion isn’t important at all. What is important is that Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. She is the creator of books, characters, and a world that millions of people love, that had a profound impact on their lives, and over which some feel a sense of ownership. The important thing to understand is that that last notion is simply false. Fans own nothing. It is absurd for Harry Potter fans to act as though they are entitled to remove Rowling from Harry Potter. There is no Harry Potter without her, and if you love it, you have to accept that it came from the mind of a person you think is hateful or toxic or stupid or simply incorrect.

A recent news story discusses how a trans artist has made a business of taking people’s Harry Potter books, removing their covers, replacing them with covers that don’t have Rowling’s name, and selling them back at a substantial markup. This, I find, apart from being possibly illegal, is unethical, stupid, and childish. It’s not the right of a fan to remove a creator’s name from their creation, nor to profit from it. I also wonder whether they removed her name from the title and copyright pages.

It is not the right of fans to kick the author of a world out of the world the author created. Uninviting Rowling from Harry Potter events, while it’s understandable why many people wouldn’t want her there, is unfair and stupid. It’s like uninviting someone from their own party, or kicking them out of their own house so you can have a party in it, and play with all their things.

There are people, as well, who have called for boycotts against products of the Harry Potter franchise, so as not to give Rowling even more money and, in their view, support anti-trans activism. This has been exhibited most recently in protests against the new Hogwarts Legacy video game. People have gone further than personally boycotting the game, with some trolling/harassing/threatening/cyberbullying those who do play the game, specifically streamers who share gameplay and review videos. It’s sad, cruel, and again childish that people would attack and bring other people to tears for playing a video game. A fucking Harry Potter game. It makes one wonder if these harassers ever read a Harry Potter book, watched a movie, did anything else Potter-related, and can recognize their own hypocrisy. Despite the boycott, or perhaps in part due to it backfiring, Hogwarts Legacy is currently the highest selling game on every platform. Incidentally, I had no immediate plans to buy Hogwarts Legacy, not because of the controversy, but because I don’t buy new games (everything goes on sale at some point) and I never pre-order games (because they might be shit), but my girlfriend, very impatiently, did, for my Playstation, and we will play it and delight in the magical world together.

If you delve into the personal histories or public statements and actions of any artist or celebrity, you will find things that are distasteful, even horrible, about them. J.K. Rowling has said some stupid things. But there are famous figures who’ve said and done worse. John Lennon is said to have committed domestic abuse, Jerry Seinfeld dated an underage girl, David Bowie and Jimmie Page and many other musicians fucked young teenage girls (sometimes the same girls), Quentin Tarantino says the N word all the time. And those are only ones we all know about. Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci could have been rapists or murderers or god knows what else. You can find something horrible about virtually any public figure that will completely twist your image of them. Does that mean that we shouldn’t enjoy their work? Or that we can enjoy it but pretend that they had nothing to do with it? That it is somehow ours and not theirs? No, we have to accept that the things we love are the products of flawed people’s diseased minds and that they would not exist without them.

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