No, the cast of Harry Potter don’t owe JK Rowling anything

Problematic views must be challenged, regardless of whether the person holding them has sold millions of books

Olivia Campbell
Sunday 02 January 2022 13:01
<p>Piers Morgan claimed that these ‘Potter stars are such a bunch of ungrateful little twerps’ for criticising ‘the woman who made them rich [and] famous’ </p>

Piers Morgan claimed that these ‘Potter stars are such a bunch of ungrateful little twerps’ for criticising ‘the woman who made them rich [and] famous’

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Ever since JK Rowling tweeted #IStandwithMaya in 2019, the prolific author has stood firm with her controversial stance regarding trans individuals.

Members of the LGBT+ community (and those outside as well) who once found comfort in the series about a young wizard have left the fandom in droves, hurt by a number of comments that Rowling herself has made, despite pleas from individuals and charities imploring her to see just how problematic some of her views are.

With Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts airing on Sky and streaming serving NOW, and (unfounded) rumours that Rowling had been snubbed from the reunion circulating, the debate is ramping up on social media in a maelstrom of transphobia and toxicity towards one of the most marginalised groups in society.

One notion that seems to be cropping up over and over from those who agree with Rowling’s stance is that the cast of Harry Potter, many of whom have publicly distanced themselves from her, “owe” the author their entire careers and every opportunity that has come their way since appearing in the franchise. This is, of course, in the context of Rowling being criticised, something that many seem to believe demonstrates the utmost disloyalty.

It’s a view that has been swimming around for a while on social media and gains traction every time #JKRowling trends on Twitter. Lately, it is the fact that Chris Rankin, who portrayed Percy Weasley in the film franchise, has become the latest actor to speak out that has triggered backlash. He joins a growing number of individuals, including Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe, who have come forward in support of the transgender community.

Piers Morgan is one such person, claiming that these “Potter stars are such a bunch of ungrateful little twerps” for criticising “the woman who made them rich [and] famous”. Another, journalist Hadley Freeman, tweeted: “Funny how these actors’ determination to distinguish themselves from JK Rowling never extends to giving back the money and career her films gave them.”

There is an underlying implication here, and not just in these comments but many others, that the cast members should be good little actors and stand by Rowling, no matter how problematic her views are, out of some perceived notion of indebtedness. Barbs like these suggest that the author is untouchable and should go unchallenged just because she created Harry Potter.

While I do not doubt that without Rowling, the uber-successful Potter franchise would not exist, and by consequence, the roles that brought the likes of Watson and Radcliffe fame, it is absurd to basically argue that she is untouchable and owed loyalty at all costs.

Had Rowling started making comments against another marginalised minority, would loyalty even be considered? I don’t think so. Yet for some reason, when it comes to transgender rights, the likes of Morgan and others believe that it’s a major affront for actors to distance themselves from Rowling. Even though they are their own individuals with their own moral stances, it appears that Rowling should have the loudest voice.

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This also now becomes a question of free speech, something which Morgan himself has banged on about for years now. Why should the cast not be allowed to voice their opinions on something that bothers them? The fact that Rowling wrote a successful series is irrelevant. If gender-critical individuals want their right to air their views to be respected, even though some stances can be harmful, is it not only fair that their views should also be up for debate?

When these actors, many of them barely 12 years old, signed up to the franchise (which didn’t have anything to do with Rowling, by the way), did they also sign contracts declaring that they would swear unwavering loyalty to the author? No, they did not and it’s ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

It is clear that some cast members feel that Rowling’s views are problematic and go against their core beliefs. They are perfectly within their rights to make their stance known. It is Radcliffe’s opinion that “transgender women are women” and that “any statement to the contrary erases the identify and dignity of transgender people”. That’s it. That’s his position and should have nothing to do with his involvement in a billion-dollar franchise.

People with gender critical views often complain of being silenced, yet is the same thing not happening here by accusing the cast of being disloyal? Problematic views must be challenged, regardless of whether the person holding them has sold millions of books.

As Rowling has decided to ignite a toxic and distressing debate for many trans people on social media to her 14 million followers, she should be prepared for the conversation that comes with it.

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