The ongoing relationship between author J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., and the Harry Potter cast has taken another twist. As the fanbase still tries to deal with the author’s stance on transgender rights, a third-party PR firm seemingly blocked a journalist from asking Draco Malfoy actor Tom Felton about Rowling.
Felton was being interviewed by Claire Gregory for the UK’s Sky News when the interviewer was informed the actor couldn’t answer any questions about Rowling’s ongoing involvement with the franchise. You can see the clip in question here.
Upon further investigation, Sky was told by the third-party PR firm running the event that “JK Rowling is not connected to Warner or Tom Felton, the team felt it was not relevant to the piece,” and they wished to “separate the art from the artist.”
The incident is the latest in an ongoing saga where Warner Bros. has attempted to walk the line between supporting Rowling and distancing themselves from her. She wasn’t interviewed for the recent Harry Potter cast reunion special, and more recently, many on social media called for a boycott of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. The fan backlash was over both Rowling’s comments about trans people and the absence of Johnny Depp. The movie ended up being the worst-performing film in the wizarding franchise by a considerable margin, taking home $405.2 million at the box office.
However, although omitting her name from some promotional materials for Fantastic Beasts, Warner has publicly defended the author and stated they are “proud” to work with “one of the world’s most accomplished storytellers.”
Warner denied that Felton had been stopped from talking about Rowling on their behalf, saying that the statement had been “wholly wrong” and adding that “Warner Bros. Studio Tour London regrets it happened as part of a media event that day.”
The backlash against J.K. Rowling’s views has been significant
The criticism of Rowling began in 2019 when the author came out in support of Maya Forstater, an academic who was dismissed from her post after colleagues raised concerns over her views and how they applied to her work. Forstater had been involved in an anti-trans campaign on Twitter with “crude references to the body parts of trans people” and statements such as “transwomen are male.”
Despite the backlash, Rowling would double down on her views and openly stated in 2020 that she is opposed to “the current trans activism.” The author adds that she believed she was “living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced.”
Rowling’s comments have been condemned by Harry Potter actors, fans, and LGBTQ+ organizations alike, with the European branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (IGLA) saying that Rowling continues to cause “significant damage” to trans rights in the UK.
Meanwhile, Europe’s Equality Index stated last year that “Anti-trans rhetoric continued to cause serious damage in the UK again this year,” adding that “a prime example is repeated transphobic attacks by author JK Rowling, on Twitter and in her writing.”
Her statements have been harshly criticized by trans people, activists, and writers. A growing number of celebrities, including from Harry Potter films, have spoken out in support of trans communities. Some trans people expressed their wish to leave the UK because of the growing hate.
Daniel Radcliffe was one of those who publically opposed Rowling’s views, releasing a statement to say he “[felt] compelled to say something” in response to the controversy.
Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I. According to The Trevor Project, 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity. It’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm.
Both Rupert Grint and Emma Watson also spoke in support of trans communities, as did current franchise star Eddie Redmayne. Meanwhile, Robbie Coltrane, who played Hagrid in the series, defended Rowling.
For their part, Warner Bros. has said that their position on inclusiveness was “well established” and that “fostering a diverse and inclusive culture has never been more important to our company and to our audiences around the world.” However, the statement didn’t outright condemn anything Rowling said.
Rowling has repeatedly denied that she is transphobic, claiming that she “respect[s] every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them.”