A couple of weeks ago, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling engaged in a spectacular display of self-destruction when made transphobic comments first on Twitter and then in an essay on her website, misgendering trans people, making a cavalcade of straw man arguments, and even trotting out the old line that allowing trans people into bathrooms matching their gender would somehow pose a danger to other people, citing no evidence and ignoring how much it would endanger trans people to make them go in other bathrooms.
It was rough, and it’s ongoing. Just the other day, author Stephen King retweeted something from Rowling, a very general tweet about the value of women speaking about their own experiences, something pretty much anyone could get behind. In response, Rowling tweeted in praise of King. ““I’ve always revered @StephenKing, but today my love reached — maybe not Annie Wilkes levels — but new heights,” she wrote.
Then, to clarify his own position, King tweeted something simple, direct, inclusive, and true:
Yes. Trans women are women.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) June 28, 2020
Duh. In response, Rowling deleted her tweet praising him and blocked him, which leaves very little room for sympathy. It’s pretty clear that she doesn’t believe that trans people are valid in their identities, if the tweets and the manifesto didn’t already make that obvious.
Now, lots of people hold transphobic beliefs similar to Rowling’s. But not many people have the enormous platform she has, or the money, or the capacity to make more money. Rowling’s choice to double down on her transphobic statements has many of her business partners getting nervous. They have to say something, but they don’t want to jeopardize their relationship with a woman whose creations stand to make them millions of dollars. That’s how you get wishy-washy statements like this from Warner Bros., which makes the Fantastic Beasts movies:
The events in the last several weeks have firmed our resolve as a company to confront difficult societal issues. Warner Bros.’ position on inclusiveness is well established, and fostering a diverse and inclusive culture has never been more important to our company and to our audiences around the world.
Notice they don’t actually say what their position is, I imagine because if they actually say what basic decency demands — that trans women are women, trans men are men, and nonbinary people are nonbinary — they risk losing a valuable creative resource.
Another Harry Potter tie-in project that may be affected by this is a video game spearheaded by Warner Bros. Interactive. This open world game will allow players to explore a recreation of Hogwarts and the surrounding areas, but according to Bloomberg, the management at developer Avalanche Software hasn’t addressed Rowling’s comments. Some members of the team have grown “uncomfortable” and have started talking about the situation in the absence of oversight from above.
One person on the team stressed that Rowling had “very little direct involvement” with the game, but her stamp is all over anything having to do with Harry Potter. There are also reports that AT&T may be selling Warner Bros. Interactive. In these kinds of sales, pricy projects like this are always at risk of cancellation, “especially something like this that has been in the works for years,” according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Kanterman. If the company also sees the project as toxic thanks to its association with Rowling, that could make cancellation all the more likely.
And if the game does come out, anticipation among hardcore fans, at least, may be diminished. “Based on what I’ve seen from fans, I do believe that Rowling’s comments have had some effect on the level of excitement they have for the Harry Potter RPG or other upcoming content,” said Felicia Grady, managing editor of MuggleNet.. “We’ve seen comments from fans who no longer wish to support Rowling or the brand financially.”
And this is all on top of Rowling comments being condemned by everyone from GLAAD to Daniel Radcliffe to Emma Watson. I say again, it’s been rough, and it’s hard to know if it’s going to end anytime soon.