JK Rowling Is Not Your Slave

16 Dec

So this article pops up in front of me today. Why Dumbledore must not be the token gay person in Fantastic Beasts.

Must not. Interesting choice of words, isn’t it?

If I am forced to be honest, I am one of those nerds who will happily spend hours creating whole universes, or trying to figure out the real-world implications of a change in history, society or culture. The question of how homosexuals fit into wizard society is an interesting one, well worthy of a reasoned debate. Do they have full civil rights, such as they are in a society that isn’t big on granting civil rights to anyone? Are they tolerated, as long as they produce children? Or are they regarded as traitors for removing themselves from the gene pool rather than helping to expand the population?


But what does this matter?

JK Rowling is a fantasy writer, not a writer of erotic fiction. And she is writing for children, not adults. (Come on – do you think kids won’t demand to go see Fantastic Beasts?) Sex and sexuality was never a very big part of Harry Potter because they were children’s stories, not adult stories. The handful of kisses exchanged during the series is about as far as JKR could reasonably go. Why should JKR focus on such matters when it has nothing to do with the series?

But there’s a more serious point here that needs to be addressed.

JKR is not a slave. Nor are the producers of Captain America: Civil War or Frozen II. Why in the name of all that’s holy do people think they can make demands on them? Why must Sirius Black be gay? Why must the next Fantastic Beasts include a homosexual relationship? Why should Steve Rogers get a boyfriend? Why should Queen Elsa get a girlfriend?

What sort of sense of entitlement allows people to make such demands?

Mrs Rowling gets this a lot, it seems. People complained about cultural appropriation and the absence of Native Americans, then whined that the American Magical Society is apparently an unpleasant place. Such people seem to ignore the simple fact that such appropriation may make perfect sense in-universe, or – for that matter – that British Magical Society is not the sort of place anyone would realistically want to live. Or the racial balance at Hogwarts, even though JKR’s racial balance in the books makes a great deal of sense.

And then people complain about Sirius Black not being gay, having quietly forgotten that there was a perfectly good reason everyone was quite happy to accept the official story of his treachery. You want role models? What sort of role model is a bullying braggart who commits an attempted double-murder at fifteen because he thought it would be funny?

It is a great deal easier to carp and criticise than it is to actually write a book, direct a movie, figure out what sells or build an acting (or whatever) career. What is it that makes the critics think they own the people who do? That they have a right to dictate their actions? Why don’t the critics try to write themselves?

JKR does not have a monopoly on wizard school stories. The first such story dates all the way back to 1953. (TV Tropes has a list of such stories.) If the critics want to write a wizard school story set in America, why don’t they try? Or they could write something more in line with Native American traditions – perhaps a young man, descended from a Native American tribe, is invited to study with his great-grandfather. Why not blend together Native American mythology and Western stories? You could include Native Americans or African-Americans to your heart’s content. Your main character could be homosexual, if you wish. Or bi …

Hell, you could just write a fan fiction. God alone knows how many slash stories there are out there, or stories set in other countries, or stories in different eras, or …

But you have to learn how to tell a story.

There are so many plot holes in Harry Potter that the entire cast of characters could fly their broomsticks through them. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that JKR crafted a story specifically designed to appeal to its audience – young children – that also managed to reach out and touch adults. That’s the true magic of writing. Ticking off boxes on the diversity checklist is not writing. Making your characters one-dimensional, focused on a single trait, is not writing. Writing is creating compelling characters and making readers, just for a while, enter your world.

Harry Potter does not belong to the critics. It belongs to JK Rowling. The idea that JKR has a ‘second chance’ (one assumes to create something more in line with what this critic wants) is absurd. This is her chance to create something she wants …

… And if the critics don’t like it, perhaps they should try to do better.

22 Responses to “JK Rowling Is Not Your Slave”

  1. Fatty December 16, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

    Wonderful comment. I agree with you. I am tired of hearing people complain because it doesn’t meet their specific needs. Either enjoy the book at the author envisions it, do it yourself, or limit your reading to a genre that meets your checkbox.

    Do I agree with every decision the author make? No, buts its your story and more importantly your world!

  2. iheartdeer December 16, 2016 at 9:24 pm #

    Well written Chris (as always). As an aside, I always enjoy reading what you post even if it has nothing to do with book updates because your opinions are well researched and thought out as opposed to knee jerk reactions based on ignorance or “facts” obtained from one source regardless of it’s reliability for accuracy.

    In regards to this post specifically, I’ve read one series that your readers might like if they’re looking for a magical type fantasy series with a bit of a Native American background to it. It’s called the Twenty-Sided Sorceress series. 😀 There are currently seven books in the series, but the author is about to release the eighth.

    • bretwallach December 16, 2016 at 10:20 pm #

      I’ve totally enjoyed the Twenty-Sided Sorceress series as well and that was the first thing I thought off when I saw Native American in the post.

    • chrishanger December 25, 2016 at 9:12 am #

      Thank you!

      I’ll look that series up when i get a moment.


  3. bretwallach December 16, 2016 at 10:24 pm #

    Relative to critics who want the checklist, I take the other side. In the real world, I don’t mind gay people at all, but when I retreat into fantasy fiction (which is totally frivolous anyway), in the worlds I prefer there simply are no gay people. I find their existence in fantasy fiction distracting and not enjoyable. So if ya wanna sell a book to me, keep the gay stuff to a minimum.

  4. Drowe December 16, 2016 at 10:33 pm #

    There is no reason to listen to demands like that at all. Sure authors can take input by their readers into consideration, but they aren’t obligated to do so. I think it would a bad idea to let identity politics influence how an author writes his or her story. There is very little to gain by doing so and it risks alienating an already established audience, especially if it seems forced or just put in to appease some people who aren’t all that interested in the first place. Because those who are fans of Harry Potter, Star Wars or what ever else like the story as it is, they want more of the story, not some identity politics bullshit.

    Where would it end anyway? Will they start calling for gay transgender Muslim women to be included? Or some even more idiotic “identities” coming out of gender studies departments? Will characters in books start having preferred pronouns? There are probably people who would enjoy that, but my guess is, not enough to make up for readers lost because of this nonsense.

    • moo December 16, 2016 at 10:45 pm #

      you may find kameron’s hurley’s work interesting (in about the same way you might find a terrible spider infestation interesting.)

      • Drowe December 16, 2016 at 11:14 pm #

        I was more referring to people demanding authors to do this, than an author doing it because they want it like that. Kameron Hurley apparently started wiriting with those things in mind, though I haven’t read anything of hers, so all I know is from a few reviews. It’s an entirely different cup of tea if an author does it to pander to people who are not the target audience.

  5. Jas P December 16, 2016 at 10:58 pm #

    This is a great article Chris. The work belongs to.the Author, not the public. What is really amusing is that they only pick on Authors and Movies with a decent publicity value as well so it gets the media.attention. These people are constantly demanding things about their rights, and them impinging on the rights of Authors by demanding they change their stories through peer pressure and bullying tactics.
    Really WHO CARES if there is a gay wizard, does.that really have anything to do.with the story??? Stop using kids books and things like that for political gain.
    I have nothing against the gay community, and support a lot of what the stand for (equality etc), but this type of thing really s***s me to tears.
    Good on you for saying something Chris.

  6. Kell Harris December 17, 2016 at 2:10 am #

    This makes me think of the black magician books. In the second book or maybe the third they took time out of the story to follow a secondary character on a trip this character picked up a guy character and over the course of the trip discovered he was gay. Then they went to another country and showed us how gays were executed but they weren’t in trouble they continued on their trip…. Now I don’t mind a gay or bi character the problem was this part of the story had nothing to do with the rest of the plot. The trip itself wasn’t even important. You could remove his entire bit of chapters and not have it effect the story at all. This was what happens when an author has a diversity check list. I found myself skimming it slowed down the pace and I didn’t care. The thing is their sexuality wasn’t an issue it didn’t affect the plot he wasn’t even a main character. I felt like they were just trying to make you feel sorry for them.

    Sexuality doesn’t matter in books except when its a plot device to move the action forward like in the hollows were the vampire ivy is bi and likes are main character rachel. Rachel can’t figure out if she just wants to get bitten (they feel really good in this series) or if she has feelings. This is a problem cause Ivy’s control issues is a big part of her characterization and their friendship is a big part of the series and a big plot issue.

    And why can’t a gay character be bad? I read the article in question they were also mad that Grindelwald was gay and evil. Never mind that he was like Hitler the fact that he was gay was more important talk about hipocrasy.. Its kind of like the magical negro from TV tropes were they had to have one good black guy or girl who was wise or something to show people that black people were good. Sigh just make a character don’t try to give us a life lesson. The best stories do inspire and teach as well as entertain however if your preaching to the reader you have failed

  7. PhilippeO December 17, 2016 at 3:18 am #

    ” Harry Potter does not belong to the critics. It belongs to JK Rowling. ”

    Agree. Author/Producer always own their story. they might ignore/listen to their reader/audience as much or as less as they want.

    ” Ticking off boxes on the diversity checklist is not writing. ”

    I think the problem is Conservative exaggerate the problem of diversity/progressive pandering.

    entitled fans always exist. There are Hermione-Harry fans who angry at Ron-Hermione pairing. There are Little Women fans who angry at who Jo ended up with. There are Sherlock fans who angry he get killed at waterfall.

    Diversity advocate is NORMAL behavior of fans. some fans/reader is black/gay and want black/gay character in what they read. They fairly tame. Draco Malfoy fans (girl who want bad boys), Hermione-Harry fans (usually women who want the clever girl to get the “prize”) is way way more active and loud.

    i think Conservative problem is they regarded media produced during 1870s-1970s as Normal Media, they are not. Media at the time is indeed pioneer at mass media, they make great achievement, but they also fall to mistake of their time. That time was Redemption Era in the South, Democratic Party hold Solid South in their hands. The era is called “nadir of american race relation”. They impose highly religious and racist worldview on media at the time. Hays Code and Comics Code is imposed on author.
    This also happen outside America, critics banned “Lady Chatterley” by making argument “do you want your wives or servant read it ?” That era was height of Imperialism, White Domination, and Victorian morality. the only one who held power (and can purchase books or bring their family to movie) are white man.

    women now read and buy books. so does LGBT people. so does non-white people. it is natural that fans arise from this group and want author pandering to them.

    Its entirely normal.and fairly minor, there are only at most 3% of readers are LGBT. outside Conservative Media they are fairly unimportant. in most Harry Potter website, virulence of Hermione-Harry fans is the issue, not diversity pandering.

  8. Kevin Moore December 17, 2016 at 5:34 am #

    As far as I know, Charles de Lint is the originator of Urban Fantasy. He DID mix both European and Native American folklore and mythology in his stories. He was a bit too early for the whole gay rights thing. But overall, I think he was not only the first, but, so far, the best urban fantasy writer. Writers write what they write. If someone doesn’t like it, then let them write their own stories, as you said. I wholeheartedly agree with this blog, and would only point out a seemingly forgotten genius who created an entirely new genre of modern fiction. RDWHAHB!

  9. Stafford1069 December 17, 2016 at 6:53 am #

    “There was a mixed reaction when JK Rowling revealed the Hogwarts headmaster’s sexuality in 2007. Now she has a second chance to get this right”

    The ARROGANCE loaded into this single sentence made me angry. Tomorrow I shall elevate (lower?) myself to Ben Child’s arrogance level and go and herd cats!!!!!!!!!

  10. Anarchymedes December 17, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    ‘… And if the critics don’t like it, perhaps they should try to do better.’
    Exactly, and all the trollback – oops, sorry, feedback – can go to hell. An author says what he/she can’t help saying; don’t like it, don’t read it. That simple. Reading one post after another emphasising the importance of feedback for a writer, I wouldn’t have dared to say anything of the sort on this blog. Thank you, Chris, for saying it yourself.

    • chrishanger December 25, 2016 at 9:14 am #

      You’re welcome.

      There’s so much Potter Fan Fiction that you can find anything there.


  11. David Graf December 17, 2016 at 2:33 pm #

    Harry Potter does not belong to JK Rowling. She lost him when she set him free in the minds of all those who read her books. Her readers have their own understanding of Harry and who he is and what he is like just as we do today with Sherlock Holmes. It must be grating to a writer to find that his/her creation has taken on a life of its own but that’s the secret of great books. They give readers a wide canvas on which they can paint their own works of imagination. JK Rowling and her acolytes may try to be the last word on Potter but that’s a futile effort at best. And when the copyright finally expires, it will be evident to all.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard December 17, 2016 at 2:42 pm #

      Until she dies, hers is the official word on the Potter-verse and she decides what the characters are like.

      Nobody has (or should have) the power to force her to make changes to the Potter-verse.

      This is what Chris is talking about.

      You want Harry to have a Gay-Love-Affair?

      Fine. You can write Fan-Fic where he does.

      What you can’t do (or shouldn’t do) is force Rowling to accept your Fan-Fic as Canon in her universe.

      • David Graf December 19, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

        JK Rowling is free to do whatever she likes with her characters. In fact, I hope that she does not give in to those who would hector her over how her characters should or should not behave. However, let’s not forget that we’re talking about stories not scriptures where whether something is or is not in the canon can have real world consequences. Though, it seems that some of her fans have trouble understanding the difference. I’ve seen some treat her as a religious leader whose every utterance possesses deep meaning and is the last word on all things Potter. In their eyes, she’s the “Popess of Potterdom”. Why put yourself in thrall to anyone and not think for yourself?

        For example, I find it ridiculous that Dumbledore is gay and think that’s where she was less than honest with her readers. If you are going to have someone who is a gay character then don’t put them so deep within the closet that no besides the author had a clue about it. I suspect that she was trying to tweak those who objected to the series on religious grounds. Plus, I think she knew if she “outed” Dumbledore earlier in the series that more than a few parents would not have purchased the books for their kids. And so, there may have been a touch of cynicism and a concern for the bucks in what she did with Dumbledore. I see no reason to praise her for saying Dumbledore is gay even though I support gay rights and I did so decades before it was popular to do so.

  12. Big Ben December 18, 2016 at 3:54 am #

    I agree that diversity should not be crammed down people’s throats, but I do shake my head when for the last two years the people nominated for the top four acting awards categories in the Oscars have been entirely white – in a nation that’s only 63.7% white.
    And I don’t doubt that some of those actors are LGBT, even if the characters they played are not.
    I just finished Fluency and Remanence by Jennifer Foehner Wells. They’re the first two books in what I hope is a continuing first contact sci-fi series featuring some pretty well thought out aliens. Not quite as engrossing as Julie E. Czerneda’s richly imagined cornucopia of aliens, but not bad. What I find amusing is that I figure most sci-fi fans love diversity and detail when it comes to their (fictional) aliens, but insert a “minority” human protagonist – be it race, religion or sexual identity – and all hell breaks loose.
    (How DARE you shove 84% of our planet’s racial makeup in my face?!? I love diversity! Look at the original Star Wars movies … Chewie was brown, Yoda was green, C-3PO was gold and Lando and the dude who did Darth’s voice were black guys. See, that’s diversity … right?)
    Personally, I’m not worried. The US Census Bureau says that around the year 2045 caucasians will become the minority in America … after that there will be plenty of “minorities” represented in literature and media.
    Problem solved.

  13. shrekgrinch December 19, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

    “JKR is not a slave”

    Yes, she is! …in the eyes of all Takers, the Makers are their slaves. This insidious meme always is the end product of something that merely starts off with “…the more fortunate should pay their FAIR share, after all…we are not asking for much.”

  14. Brad R. Torgersen December 22, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

    The drag about fannish enthusiasms of this magnitude, is that there will inevitably be pouting fans who seem to express their adoration through nit-picking and complaint. STAR WARS has pouters by the truckload. Star Trek has them too. It’s as if the purest form of fan affection, manifests as a strange sort of perpetual upbraiding of the very thing those fans claim to love?

    Speaking as a fan who “crossed over” and went pro with his own story-making, I did exactly as the article suggests. I taught myself (through patience and long striving) how to tell a tale. I didn’t harp and carp on my favorite tale-tellers, about how they ought to do it better, or do it my way, or satisfy my particular wants and needs. I went out and got myself a storytelling toolkit of my own, and have been quite happy to tell my own stories, the way I want to tell them — thankfully, with an expanding audience who seems to like the way I do my job.

  15. Billy December 27, 2016 at 3:49 am #

    One thing that ticks me off

    There is a writer that wrote a series 2 or 3 books, the 3rd book : The author said was 95 percent finished and in a few months it would be published – That was at least 20 years ago – maybe 30.

    Readers still keep asking about that 4th book.

    There is another author , wrote a great book. The sequel (2nd book) is on Amazon – you can’t buy it. No word on when you can buy it.
    I emailed the author * When can we buy it ? No response, no nothing. (It has been like that on Amazon 2 or 3 years)

    I do understand if someone gets sick and cant finish – but 95 or 99 percent finished – Hire someone , a relative or even just a editor and finish then throw it up on Amazon at a reduced price.

    At least do something !

    There are too many books like that.

    The publisher does not like the 3rd book ? Screw them ! Put it on Amazon yourself !

    Just my 2 cents


    I like to read and that irritates me.

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