Hogwarts Legacy imagines a Harry Potter without JK Rowling

A screenshot of Hogwarts Legacy

Image source: Hogwarts Legacy

In last week’s PlayStation presentation on Hogwarts Legacythe next Harry Potter open-world role-playing game, members of the Avalanche Software development team talked about using magic, caring for magical creatures, flying on broomsticks, and finding hidden secrets throughout the castle. they did not discuss Harry Potterthe creator of JK Rowling.

Harry Potter is as much a part of the fabric of popular culture as superheroes or Disney movies. Still, as someone who grew up on the peak of book popularity, I can’t think of anything I’d want less than more. Harry Potter. It’s true that there is a huge passive audience for the Potter series, and that even after the last book was published in 2007, Rowling’s fictional world has become an indelible part of popular culture. The cursed childa play set in Rowling Potter universe, won several Tony Awards, including Best Play, and fantastic beasts and where to find them grossed $814 million worldwide and was the eighth-highest-grossing film of 2016.

Hogwarts Legacy will enter a world that has a different tolerance for Rowling’s wizards than either of those two previous properties, however. Since around 2020, Rowling has become infamous for her outspoken views on trans people. She has gone so far as to legally threaten people who talk badly about her on Twitter. Her arguments are typical of transphobes, especially in England: while she proclaims herself protect women and lesbiansshe sneaks up prominent homophobic activists on Twitter.

Rowling’s behavior didn’t completely smear the Potter legacy, given that there is a new fantastic beasts movie on the way, and that Sony has dedicated an entire showcase to the upcoming Hogwarts Legacy. They are, at their core, properties for children, who are presumably only vaguely aware of Rowling or her political beliefs. Warner Brothers, owner of the “Wizarding World” franchise including Rowling’s setting and charactersclearly wants to position itself Harry Potter as a sort of franchisable framework, Marvel-like movies or the star wars expanded universe. The only problem is, once you dig into the lore of the show, it’s clear it’s inextricable from Rowling and her politics. Moreover, she very clearly wants to be the shepherdess of her story, even if she makes it a politically charged property.

Hogwarts Legacy becomes all the more remarkable, then, for being a look at what Harry Potter becomes without Rowling. Based on last week’s presentation, it’s set in the late 1800s, long before many of the characters who Potter fans know and love would even be alive. It’s unlike many other open-world RPGs at all: you can fight people, you can solve puzzles, and you can create things on timers. What makes one Harry Potter The game is mostly Hogwarts itself, with those involved in the game bragging about how they’ve created a version of the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that they want players to explore. The presentation also hinted at a “goblin rebellion” as part of the game’s plot.

Rowling’s portrayal of Goblins has been criticized from time to time for being anti-Semitic by fans and casual observers. In Harry Potter, goblins are hook-nosed creatures obsessed with gold, who run the wizarding banks. In the movies it’s almost funny how blatant it is – they rub their hands menacingly as a young Harry checks his bank account like the now memeified imagery of the “happy merchant”. Asking whether or not these creatures are meant to be anti-Semitic is kind of pointless when, well, look at them. Were the Ferengi in star trek supposed to be an offensive stereotype when they were first designed? Was Watto in star wars? Does it matter when Watto sings that “Jedi spirit tricks don’t work on me, only money?” Despite the politics of the authors of these characters, they exist in a world where these have long been established anti-Semitic tropes.

It’s the kind of stuff that gets baked in Harry Potter it becomes impossible to avoid even in Rowling’s absence. If you turn over a rock from Potter lore, you unearth a whole host of problematic worms. Despite the fact that Rowling did not work on Hogwarts Legacyand despite the fact that Warner Bros. would surely love for Harry Potter exist in perpetuity apart from its creator, as star wars fact now, Rowling actually wrote and created this universe, and in many ways it’s a reflection of her politics.

Harry Potter is, at best, a mirror of the status quo politics of its time – commercially successful and harmless to a popular mass audience,” Liz, one of the co-hosts of the Screaming Shack podcast, said Waypoint. The Shrieking Shack is a podcast where two people died Potter fans re-read the entire series as adults, which they did as Rowling’s positions on trans rights became clear.

“I don’t believe in a mythical pre-fall JK Rowling,” Liz continued. “I don’t know his personal political trajectory, but you can’t read Harry Potter without tripping over her ideas of femininity and gender (for starters).

“If you ignore the issues, it seems weird; if you go to them, it’s probably going to end up feeling soft,” said XeeCee, The Shrieking Shack’s other host. “I think it is healthy and vital to recognize that yes, Harry Potter has a lot of things ranging from “hasn’t aged well if you think about it too much” to “actively awful”. Is Hogwarts Legacy going to touch the house-elf thing? Conversely, are they going to do something like slap on an in-game character creator that lets you choose pronouns, and market it as a “Love wins!” kind of thing, while the author is also out there doing material harm? »

If anything, even this brief glimpse of Hogwarts Legacy shows that the ultimate mission of this cross-media franchise, to create a Harry Potter without the politics that the author has imbued through the act of creation – is not really possible. There are a lot of relatively small details like depictions of goblins that can spoil a replay as an adult. If not that, then it’s sanctioned house-elf slavery, or the fact that girls can get into the boys’ dormitory but Hogwarts castle physically pushes boys away if they try otherwise , or the pointed way in which Rowling references tabloid journalist Rita Skeeter’s Big Hands, or even the fact that the only canonical gay person also fell in love with the wizard Hitler and never loved again, Where the fact that in Rowling’s WWII account there is only one Jewish student at Hogwarts – Anthony Goldstein. These specific details would be less awkward if Rowling divested the property, as George Lucas did with star wars. But she still writes scripts for fantastic beastsand The cursed child still proudly bears his name as part of the title. (Officially the room is called JK Rowling’s Cursed Child.) She actively participates in the creation of more Harry Potterand occasionally hasn’t been afraid to flaunt his authority on the subject on Twitter.

If you look at Rowling’s Twitter account right now, it’s more about her transphobia than her fiction. Just days ago she battled with South Wales Police over a typo she made in a tweet about the memorial service for a gay man who was beaten to death.

Currently, Rowling’s politics and bigotry are the most visible aspect of her personality. It would be convenient for Warner Bros. if it were possible for Rowling to be separated from the intellectual property they own, and that’s obviously quite profitable. But everything that raises eyebrows in Harry Potter comes from one source: JK Rowling. Harry Potter can’t really exist without it.

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