For a whole generation, the Harry Potter franchise has been childhood-defining. We have grown up with the books and pored over the films, but now JK Rowling is apparently trying to destroy everything about the wizarding world we hold dear.
When it was revealed that Johnny Depp would be continuing with the title role in the upcoming film The Crimes of Grindelwald, the decision was met with legitimate fury by Harry Potter fans. It was made clear that Depp, after Amber Heard’s allegations of domestic abuse against him, was not welcome in a franchise associated with safety and comfort for so many.
JK Rowling was inundated with questions about the decision, and on Thursday 7 December she broke her silence with an inadequate statement that explained nothing and essentially said “I understand why you guys care about this, but I really, really don’t.”
What JK Rowling seems to have failed to notice is that Harry Potter fans, and the target audience of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, are exactly the group of people who are angry about this. 16-25 year olds are more aware and more socially engaged than ever, and if we are to find light in this situation, it is that at least we care so much.
It should not be underestimated how much meaning the Harry Potter franchise holds for people. It represents an almost universally shared experience of a generation. The joy was not only in the books themselves, but in what grew around them. The animated conversations with friends, the collective sobbing at the deaths of favourite characters and, perhaps most importantly, the message the books carried: love wins, and ‘help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.’
The way in which the same generation are now holding Rowling accountable, condemning Depp’s casting, and threatening to boycott the film is heartening. The casting is something that should never have happened, and is not something that we should have to be responding to, but the fact that we are doing so with such indignation is indicative of a growing trend calling for justice against abusive Hollywood bigwigs. This generation is starting to craft a world in which abuse can no longer be a ‘forgive and forget’ situation. When it is this generation who are writing books and casting films, different choices will be made.
This should, of course, be the bare minimum. Those speaking out about this do not deserve a pat on the back for doing so, and while some of us have a choice in whether to boycott the film and turn our backs on Rowling as an idol, others don’t. For those who have suffered abuse, this is a stinging reminder of a system that is currently working tirelessly against them, infiltrating stories and people that once represented escape. The message which offered so much comfort has been distorted. Help will always be given at Hogwarts, but only to those who JK Rowling chooses to believe.
It is easy to speak out as Rowling has done against those who we can easily recognise as the faces of evil. As liberals watching from across the Atlantic, we can look at Trump and Weinstein and quickly condemn their actions, rightly labelling them as monsters.
It is harder is to recognise that abusers can look like your friends, your colleagues, or the seemingly nice enough man you just cast in your film. But if you have a platform, you have a responsibility to uproot them. The selective support for survivors of abuse exhibited by ‘feminists’ like Lena Dunham and now JK Rowling is not good enough. You might ‘know’ this person; you might refer to them by their first name in your statement to show everyone how comfortable you feel around them, but that does not make them innocent. By the same token, just because someone has created something important to you, they are not infallible.
Though it is heart-breaking that Rowling and those with the power to recast Depp’s role have not realised this, it is encouraging to see so many of their fans do.
Instead of demonstrating blind loyalty to Rowling, a whole generation of fans are standing in solidarity with Amber Heard and other survivors. Things are changing. We have power here. Vote with your purse strings and boycott the film.