“The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.” In 2007, the simple yet effective final lines of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows marked the end of an era. In the magical saga’s final addition, J.K. Rowling gave Harry Potter, along with her devoted readers, both the conclusion and closure they all deserved.
That, however, was nine years ago. Since then, the strong sense of finality that came with Deathly Hallows’s release has dissipated following the release of numerous Harry Potter-related works. Here, in 2016, Harry Potter fans have been offered the script release of the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, three new short stories available on Pottermore, and now the wait for the upcoming film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Personally, I have always been fairly indifferent to the release of Fantastic Beasts. Newt Scamander is not a character I grew up with. He is merely a figure referenced within the Hogwarts series, a man who lived long before Harry Potter’s time. However, when watching the trailer for the first time in the cinema, I felt my body betraying me, as goose bumps began to rise as the all-too-familiar score by John Williams began to play. And this demonstrates the issue with the new additions enforced upon us. For the past nine years, Rowling has repeatedly tried to bring the Wizarding World back to life, with varying degrees of success. That success relies on manipulating the very essence of Harry Potter that has captivated so many. Consequently, as the quality and integrity of her work begins to decline, so does the number of her, until now, “always”-loyal fans.
It is becoming increasingly more difficult to see how Rowling is not doing this all for profitable reasons. She has proven herself to be a successful writer away from Harry Potter, with her lauded crime fiction under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. And yet, despite this, Rowling seems adamant to go against her promise to fans by returning back to Hogwarts, and infiltrating the lives of Harry and his friends once more. The reaction to Cursed Child has been far from unanimous, as many older fans are unhappy with their favourite characters being made unrecognisable, in a play that was not even written by Rowling herself. Once more, the play and Pottermore books have initiated an air of exclusivity around the Harry Potter culture. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to afford to travel to see Cursed Child: instead, millions will have to settle with the lacklustre script (one that is not even the finalised script – that one will be released in 2017). The release of the Pottermore short stories also feels somewhat selective, for there was a time where Pottermore had a limited number of subscriptions available. For a series that was once for everyone, of all ages and ethnicities, Harry Potter is slowly losing its universal touch, now cherished by only a select few, privileged fans.
The risk of tarnishing of Harry Potter’s legacy is at the hands of his creator. Not only is Rowling threatening to ruin the Wizarding World and its reputation: she is also damaging her own. Rowling’s presence on social media is a troubling subject. There is no denying that her enormously positive presence on Twitter has helped a number of avid young fans in need of her inspiration. However, as seen in recent weeks, Rowling one time too many has used her influence and characters to endorse her political views. From likening Donald Trump to Voldemort and scathingly comparing Jeremy Corbyn to Dumbledore, not only does Rowling attempt to make her characters culturally and political relevant still, she is also potentially manipulating the impressionable fans that follow her every word. The latest inappropriate abuse of power was regarding her decision to not support the Israel boycott, where she stated that Harry, although disappointed, would understand her decision. While Rowling is at liberty to have her own opinions, she does not have the right to imprint them onto her fans through abusing the sincerity of her characters.
Warner Bros.’s announcement regarding the release of Cursed Child in cinemas is not surprising. However, it is increasingly worrying how Rowling is exploiting her readers, as she pushes unfamiliar characters into a world that is a treasured aspect of many people’s childhoods.
Photo credit: Executive Office of POTUS