It Takes a Great Deal of Bravery to Stand Up to Our Enemies, But Just As Much to Stand Up to Our Friends
By Jillian Kurashima
This piece is reprinted (with permission) from the author's blog, The Surrounding Hullabaloo.
I think that it's time to have a serious conversation about JK Rowling. Now, I will start by saying that I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. (Have you met me?) I have a lighting bolt tattoo adorned with the word always inked forever into the right side of my neck. When I dressed up as Ronald Weasley for Halloween at the office, I told my coworker I had at least five shirts I could have chosen to wear to pull off this costume. I have all of the books and all of the movies (and a couple books twice), my own wand (custom made 😉), three different pairs of Harry's glasses and I'm working on a collection of the illustrated version of the books. The wall above my dining room table has a giant Drarry print framed and on display, surrounded by smaller, less overtly perfect prints. I fully believe I could make a living writing Harry Potter smut fanfic. And, in case it wasn't obvious yet, my friends do regularly call me Ronald.
And I'm not about to say that I'm the biggest Potterhead, or that it somehow makes me special. There is certainly nothing special about people of my generation being this deeply in love with this stupid story. We all are, at least a little bit, or at least by one or two degrees of separation. But I will say that my love of this series really has very little to do with the books, and that I do think is a little unique. I saw several of the movies before I even opened up one of the books, in fact, as a kid I wasn't really that big of a reader. (Which will hopefully shock a few people considering my day-to-day adult existence pretty much revolves around what book I'm reading). But I was on the internet and there, in that sprawling expanse of magical interwebs, I found Potter and I found friends and I found myself.
"There is certainly nothing special about people of my generation being this deeply in love with this stupid story."
I started roleplaying online when I was around fourteen years old and I started with Hogwarts Online. Before long I had met some of the most wonderful people in the world. (Yes, I met people online who turned out to not kill me with an axe 😎). I still hold these friendships dear to my heart, these lifelong friendships that started at a young age, deep in the nerdiest parts of the internet, writing stories of witches and wizards and good and evil and love and friendship and life. Okay, maybe my writing wasn't THAT good in the beginning, but it is why I am a writer today. It is actually difficult to put into words what roleplaying has meant to me, how it has shaped and changed me. And roleplaying has always been and will forever be intricately woven into the story of Harry Potter. One cannot exist without the other. It always goes back to those characters, that place, that home away from home.
All of this is to say, when it comes to Harry Potter, the books are just not the end all be all. JK Rowling is not my Queen, nor do I think she should be anyone's. Yes, without her, I wouldn't have the some of the friendships I have. (My college roommate told me that she wanted to room with me because I announced to the entire floor that I was a Gryffindor). Can I say that I wouldn't be the person I am? I don't know, no one can know that. As much as the Potter fandom has affected me you'd think that I'd be bowing down to @jk_rowling on Twitter and all around cyberspace, but us fans have done a terrible thing by putting her up on that pedestal--making her mother of all, a single and struggling white lady inspiration to us Regular Joes looking for a little more magic in our lives.
Right, okay, just give me a moment before you come after me with pitchforks. The United States has gone through the ringer the last few months, pop culture wise, with all of our faves being problematic right in front of our faces. Kevin Spacey was a blow to me, and so was Louis CK, because I had just discovered "Horace and Pete" and it felt so utterly unfair. It felt unfair that they should be able to continue on all these years, and profit off of me, off of their power over me (which is that I'm a sucker for TV dramas like it's no bodies business). And yes I know, it might seem unfair to you, reader, for me to suddenly place JK Rowling in the same category as these sexual predators. She is a self proclaimed feminist after all. She has called out Trump on his own sexual harassment allegations. She's done a whole lot, sure, from her billion dollar platform behind that little blue check-mark on Twitter.
She also stood behind the decision to cast Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts. Johnny Depp, yeah, he's right up there with the best worst of them, being revealed now for who he truly is. (In case you somehow didn't know, he verbally and physically abused his now ex-wife Amber Heard). And JK Rowling is happy to have him play a major character in her films. She said in a statement about defending the casting, "Within the fictional world and outside it, we all have to do what we believe to be the right thing." Well, JK, yeah. We have to do what we believe is the right thing, and that right thing for me right now, is calling you the fuck out. JK Rowling is the epitome of rich white bitch privileged feminism. She is there for women, but only when she believes their stories to be true--which turns out to only be when the abuser is not up for the title role in the next thing to make her millions.
This is the reason why we can't make her our ultimate idol, because sometime soon she's going to let us down. It's inevitable. We took a regular person with regular talents and made them arbitrarily spectacular. It's the same reason my teenage self shouldn't have made Johnny Depp an idol either, or Kevin Spacey, or any of them. And this isn't to say that JK Rowling is a terrible person, clearly she's not. This isn't to put her on the same level as men who jack themselves in front of women who DON'T WANT TO SEE IT! God damn.
It is just to say that the art that we love in this world is nothing if it isn't going to make us better people, and becoming better people is complicated and hard and it doesn't just happen with the wave of a magic wand. And sometimes, what's hardest about becoming better people, is that we have to sacrifice the things that are comfortable and served up right before our eyes, and instead go in search for that thing which is more worthy. We learn lessons from books like Harry Potter and movies like Fantastic Beasts, like we do from any story, but what does it mean when those lessons come from people who refuse to admit to wrong doing? From people who take their immense privilege and use it to stamp out dissent? And, had Johnny Depp not hit his wife, had Kevin Spacey not assaulted Anthony Rapp and others, had Louis CK not skived out of the industry countless comediennes, what other stories could we have to inspire us? No, NOT from those men, from the women who were their victims.
"We took a regular person with regular talents and made them arbitrarily spectacular."
I want to watch movies that matter. I want to read books that matter. And I don't have any extra time to devote to people who stand up for assholes and offer them a job. I don't have any extra time for her constant exploitation of her fans. (How many more millions does she need?) I realize there is a certain level of hypocrisy here. I am very much like JK Rowling in a lot of obvious ways. I have rallied behind her in the past, and I have continued to love this dumb series through all of the times she started to show her problematic self on her social media sleeve. But we're living in a world now that demands we show up and do better.
We can't keep repeating the same mistakes. We'll let Johnny Depp slide this time because, well, because he's not as bad as Weinstein right? And because we want that movie so damn badly. But that kind of half-assed feminism is what's going to continue to allow the Trump Administration to do its damage. It's easy for us to go after Weinstein, even Trump, but it's the JK Rowlings who are building the bridges between us and them, fortifying them under the guise of promoting peace or letting them "get on with their lives," helping them cross, and then, when it is too late, going gently into that good night with her billions.