Examining Hogwarts Legacy backlash related to J.K. Rowling’s divisive views

BY ELLINOR COUCHMAN

Just over two months into 2023, Avalanche Software’s Hogwarts Legacy is on-track to becoming one of this year’s biggest releases.  In terms of concurrent players, it debuted on Steam as the second biggest single-player game in history and the eighth biggest game overall.  

According to CNN, experts predict the game will sell over 10 million copies.  Despite this, many are boycotting the game based on Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling’s controversial views.

Rowling’s open stance to politics is nothing new.  According to Forbes, she lost her billionaire status in 2012 through philanthropy alone.  Recently, however, she’s gained detractors for her opinions on transgender people.  According to Medium, she’s endorsed Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) perspectives since 2017.  

After writing a series of essays elaborating her views in 2020, she’s escalated her opposition to transgender concerns.  

“But accusations of TERFery have been sufficient to intimidate many people, institutions and organisations (sic) I once admired, who’re cowering before the tactics of the playground. ‘They’ll call us transphobic!’ ‘They’ll say I hate trans people!’ What next, they’ll say you’ve got fleas?” Rowling said in the essay. “Speaking as a biological woman, a lot of people in positions of power really need to grow a pair (which is doubtless literally possible, according to the kind of people who argue that clownfish prove humans aren’t a dimorphic species).”

To that end, Rowling’s first activity on Twitter after the release of Hogwarts Legacy was liking a tweet by For Women Scotland–an openly trans-exclusionary organization that recently fought Scotland’s Gender Recognition Act.

Fort Hays State Univesity Sophomore Kat Doty, president of Fort Hays State University’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance, grew up with Harry Potter like most people his age.  However, even before realizing he was a transgender man, Doty says he disavowed Rowling’s views.

“The words that she used in her essay and some of her tweets–they’re just so aggressive,” Doty said.

Rowling earns royalties from the Harry Potter IP.  As such, purchasing the game is tantamount to supporting Rowling.  Despite boycotting though, Doty still wishes the best for Hogwarts Legacy’s development team.

“I think the boycott is not really against the game. The boycott is more against the whole of J.K. Rowling,” he said.

Iowa Civil Rights Commission attorney Sierra Walker has been a lifelong Harry Potter fan.  She has a Harry Potter tattoo, and her wedding cake was Harry Potter-themed.  Two years into her marriage, however, her spouse came out as a transgender woman.  Walker said this added a personal aspect to her relationship with Hogwarts Legacy.  

“I think, by the time I knew it was in production […] I had already stopped entirely buying Harry Potter merchandise because I was aware of J.K. Rowling’s outspoken views on trans people,” Walker said.

Although she has no intention of buying the game, Walker has personally separated the art from the artist.  

“I would still say I am a dedicated Harry Potter fan; I’m just a fan of the series and not the author,” she said.

Rowling’s vast wealth and Hogwarts Legacy’s immense popularity doesn’t bode well for her LGBT detractors.  From Walker’s perspective, though, transgender rights have an optimistic future.  

“I sincerely think that the pendulum is going to swing back, and people will eventually get over themselves and just let people live their lives–the same way that we’ve done with other protected groups in the area of civil rights,” she said. 

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