Critics react to JK Rowling’s absence in Harry Potter reunion special: ‘Her importance is downplayed’

There has been speculation that Rowling has been distanced from reunion due to her views about the trans community

Maanya Sachdeva
Thursday 30 December 2021 11:43
Return to Hogwarts: Harry Potter 20th Anniversary HBO special trailer released

Reviewers have been critical about JK Rowling’s distance from the highly anticipated Harry Potter reunion special.

In some reviews of Return To Hogwarts, which is set to premiere on 1 January 2022, critics noted that the reunion special was “missing a key ingredient” in reference to the author of the novels on which the films are based.

There has been some speculation that Rowling has been distanced from the reunion due to her views about the trans community, with tabloid reports claiming that she had been “snubbed” by the show’s producers.

In the past few years, Rowling has come under fire for her comments on gender identity. Earlier this month, the author reacted to news that police in Scotland would record rape cases based on the attacker’s self-declared gender identity, with a caption that many said was “upsetting and disappointing”.

Rowling’s caption read: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The Penis-ed Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman.”

Rowling’s name does not appear on any of the promotional material for Return To Hogwarts and she does not make an in-person appearance. Rowling can, however, be seen in a video clip – filmed in 2019 – discussing the process of casting the famous boy wizard.

In a review for the The Telegraph, Ed Power wrote: “What’s ultimately missing is any genuine insight into Harry and what it was about him that transfixed so many readers. And, to be honest, only JK Rowling could have offered that kind of insight.”

He added: “Even a muggle will have concluded that the lack of time given to Rowling in this documentary has something to do with the public rebuke by the series’ stars [Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint] in response to her views on trans people.”

Radcliffe and Grint have publicly denounced Rowling’s comments in the past.

Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Ruper Grint, with author JK Rowling

A critic for Variety wrote: “Return to Hogwarts is smart to emphasise how these adaptations came together and impacted the world as blockbuster movies more than how Rowling’s vision inspired it.”

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In an otherwise positive, four-star review of the “long, twinkly, nostalgic love-fest”, The Times’s critic noted that leaving Rowling out was a “key and strange omission”.

The Independent noted that cast members do, in fact, address the importance of Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

“I think it’s very easy to forget that at the time, people were talking about ‘the death of reading’,” Radcliffe says at one point.

Robbie Coltrane – who plays Hagrid – adds: “One of the many reasons I admire JK so much is that millions now read books who would never have lifted a book up in their lives, and you suddenly realise the power of writing.”

The special will be streamed exclusively on Sky and will be available to watch on NOW from the morning of New Year’s Day (1 January), in the UK.

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