Not So Magical: The Impossibility of Separating JK Rowling from Harry Potter

Shay Martin, Staff Writer

Everyone knows Harry Potter. It is the best selling book series in history. The books themselves have sold over 500 million copies and made 7.7 billion dollars, the eight total films making about the same amount. The author of the series, JK Rowling, has received endless praise, both due to the success of the series, as well as how her own success has empowered young women writers. 

The praise Rowling received was endless, and for a long time, she was considered one of the best young adult authors ever. Until recently, when she became vocal about her opinions on issues involving the transgender community. The issue started when she retweeted an article on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting “people who menstruate.” She stated in her tweet:  “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” This comment was unnecessary and transphobic, enforcing the idea that Cisgendered women are the only people who menstruate, when that could also apply to trans men or other non binary individuals. 

After this, Rowling doubled down on her statement, and her hateful statements and remarks went even further. She recently announced a new book, where the story is that a cisgendered man dresses up and poses as a woman in order to murder other women. This enforces another harmful stereotype that trans women are just men crossdressing in order to assault and harm other women. 

While JK Rowling may be a hateful person, people are able to differentiate the artist from their art and enjoy the Harry Potter series for what it is. However, in a situation like this, you have to look at the art that the problematic artist made, and understand the possibility that the art itself may also be problematic at its core. The Harry Potter series is full of harmful and racist stereotypes towards pretty much every group that isn’t a white Englishman. 

The most obvious stereotype in Harry Potter is in the first few chapters of the first book. At the magical bank, all of the bankers are goblins. Since their creation, goblins have been an anti-semetic stereotype. They are described as hook nosed creatures who are obsessed with money, which are both incredibly harmful stereotypes towards Jewish people. While this may seem like a simple mistake, where Rowling just played with the stereotypes of fantasy creatures, not knowing the anti-semitism in their history, this is not the only racism and stereotyping in the series.

Other examples include: The only East Asian main character is named “Cho Chang”, a mashing together of many Asian cultures, which sounds similar to what someone trying to do a stereotypical and racist east Asian impression would sound like. 

There are some anti-Irish stereotypes in the books as well, such as Slytherin, the “evil house,” being founded by an Irishman, and Gryffindor, the “good house,” being founded by an Englishman. This implying that the Irish are evil and the English are heroes. Another one of these Irish stereotypes is in the character Seamus Finnegan, a name that’s about as stereotypically Irish as someone can get. Finnegan is seen as stupid, and constanty accidentally makes things explode when trying to cast spells. It should be mentioned that Harry Potter was written in the 90s, when the Irish Republican Army was active in Northern Ireland, carrying out terrorist attacks using explosives. 

The examples given don’t even scratch the surface of the discrimination in the series, which also contains racism towards Indians and Eastern Europeans, ableism, classism, and homophobia. 

It is almost impossible to separate the artist from the art in the case of Harry Potter. JK Rowling’s hate and discrimination is rampant throughout it. While one may enjoy Harry Potter, it is important to understand how it is inherently problematic, and they should speak out against the hate and discrimination that is both written into Harry Potter, and exists in our real world today.