Stepping on a Landmine
I recently mentioned on Discord that I was going to the 20th Anniversary Theatrical Re Release of the Harry Potter films. The response was swift, and overwhelmingly negative.
You see for pandemic related reasons, I tend to frequent Discord Servers with a much younger than me. Not kids, but 18-25 year old, or thereabouts. Suffice to say 34 qualifies you for an `Ancient One` role which I wear with pride.
Also for self discovery reasons I tend to hang out in queer spaces online.
As you might expect in this demographic Harry Potter has a much different image than it does among those who grew up with it. For those of you that have been living under a rock, and there are a few who still don’t know.
Harry Potter’s author has in recent years used her platform to spread anti Transgender propaganda. And in many minds the whole series of books has become tainted by association. This is not a post about that.
Plenty of metaphorical ink has been spilled on that subject by much more talented authors talented authors than I.
A hero falls
Among younger queer people The Wizarding World is far from the place of happy childhood memories, far from a place of self discovery and compassion. Harry Potter is just another space in which rejection lurks behind every corner and open hostility is tolerated and encouraged.
Many of my friends were shocked and confused as to why I still supported such a vile women, many assumed I didn’t know about JKR’s recent activities, and one even tried to break the news to me gently, and as I said were quite shocked when I still saw the movie. Which brings me finally to the point of this post.
Part of growing up is realizing that most of your heros will have feet of clay. This is because our capitalist society idolizes success, all the while totally disregarding the fact that success in the market is mostly a function of luck.
As a result most of our so called heros suffer from a total dearth of Heroic Virtue. Yet for all the modern hero’s faults, it pays to keep in mind that a hero’s function is not to be admired for their supposed virtues. Rather to inspire virtues in you. Heros fall, Triumphs and Values endure, this is as it should be.
What Harry Potter Means to Me
If I were to cut Harry Potter out of my life completely, many of my accomplishments would be irrevocably tainted. I was a disabled kid with a reading disability, who was told that audiobooks didn’t count as `reading` who was given slop years behind his actual intelligence level in an effort to `teach me to read`, when the problem was not knowledge but rather the pain involved with reading.
No one believed me about either issue until i successfully read the third Harry Potter, with my eyes. Before that I had given up all hope of ever reading, and more importantly getting the adults around me to believe me. That struggle taught me I was capable and more importantly showed the so called experts a thing or two. We had no fights about audiobooks after that.
Equally I would have let the memory of surviving my first depressive episode be tainted. I was only able to live through that because I wanted to see the end of a FanFiction. And Every single time I’d think of suicide. It would be like no, go read Potter. I must’ve read the books, like ten times over three months, and Oh god I can’t even tell you how many fanfics i read over those months.
I could mention more incidents throughout my life in which these books proved pivotal, but you dear reader get the point. Harry Potter is important to me on a deep, almost spiritual level in ways that few other books are. Only The Dragonriders of Pern series comes close to matching it, and only the Bible exceeds it in importance. What I came to realize was.
The Book Belongs to The Reader
What makes these books special is not the author. I’ll bet J.K Rowling doesn’t care about a half blind, disabled, bisexual man from the middle of nowhere Upstate New York. But this is the magic of literature, once the author has done her bit she no longer matters. The triumphs I made while reading these texts belong to me, not JKR.
Would they have been possible without these works? Do I therefore owe the author something?
Examining Capitalist Heroism Narratives
Well let’s examine that shall we. The Traditional Capitalist driven Hero’s Narrative, around Rowling goes something like this. Before Harry Potter, children literature was a bunch of hacky moralizing tripe, and Megabooks schlock, with no redeeming qualities at all. Only the genius Joanne saw this as a problem and single handedly revived children’s fantasy, with the help of her editors at Bloomsburry. The only ones to recognize her genius.
I’ll admit to a bit of ironic intensification for effect, but look at any pre transphobia biography of the women in question and you will see this kind of gushing portrait.
Any quick look at the facts of the matter quickly reveals how wrong our Capitalist Hero’s Narrative actually is. Before we get to just how wrong it is, I have to make a quick digression into how old school publishing works. When an author creates a novel or whatever they own it, from the moment they hit save on the word processor, or it comes out the manual typewriter or whatever.
Publishing Industry Digression
As soon as it’s out of your head and in something you own it for basically ever.
Publishers have to buy what are called publication rights from the author. They do this by pay a certain percentage of sales to the author for basically ever this is called royalties. The author will want to get paid up front for their hard work, right away however.
So there is a system known as advancing. Where the Publishing company pays the author an up front sum, and the author doesn’t get her royalty payments, until the total sales of the book are greater than the advance amount. So in effect the advance is the publishing company betting on how successful the book will be in the market, So we must ask ourselves how much did Bloomsburry initially bet on Genius Joanne.
1,500 British Pounds Sterling or about 3,000 in 2022 dollars plus or minus 100 dollars either way. Seems a bit low doesn’t it. Heck the commonly quoted figures (see Biography.com’s entry on JK Rowling) lists the Scottish Arts Council, a branch of the Scottish Government as contributing an 8,000 pound grant.
Art is Socialist
Yes you read that right folks. Socialism made more of an initial investment in JKR than did the free market.
Furthermore I looked into so called `copycats` of Harry Potter released around the time of the first three Potter books, the good ones that I remember, by Authors like Garth Nix, Avi, Philip Pullmen, and T.A. Baron. Among others. Of the dozen or so I sampled at least four were released contemporaneously with or before Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Which would render them not copycats but parallel creations.
I can almost hear the supporters of Capitalist Heroism yelling, that she won in the market doesn’t that make her special. Well no, it just makes her one of hundreds of artists around the world who saw a need for high quality fantasy literature for children in the early to mid 90s, and proceeded to make an attempt at filling it. The Market didn’t believe in her all that much.
What made Rowling, what gave her the power she now has. Are the fans who believed in her initially.
Art is an inherently Socialist Endeavor, the artist is nothing without their fans, and the fans wouldn’t be in community together without the artist. It has always been thus, ever since the first storyteller made something up to entertain his buddies around the campfire. The capitalist system was somewhat crudely grafted on some 200 years ago. Unfortunately that Capitalist System, awards and entrenches the power of authors and artists. So that it’s incredibly hard to for the people that gave it to take it away again.
I do not support Transphobia in any way, shape, or form. Transgender people have a neurological difference, just as valid as any form of Palsy or Autism among many others. Facts don’t care about your feelings m’kay.
Storm the Gates
Using a full on Cancel on JKR in this instance, would give her even more power. Every fan defines what the art means to them. For me Harry Potter will always be Triumph over the odds and Hope amidst the darkness. Do I wish we lived in the time line where T.A. Baron had caught fire instead, yes I do. But we don’t live in that world. To let JKR’s bigotry taint that gives her the power to erase my achievements. This is something I will not do.
Rather I will continue to enjoy the Harry Potter books as a radical act of defiance. I will recommend Queer and Trans positive fanfiction like Stephen Ratliff’s Ginger Snaps, or Kaleidoscopic Grangers. Buy my cosplay props from independent Etsy sellers from now on, and I probably won’t go to the 25th Anniversary Theatrical Re-Release. I would encourage everyone to do the same. Sorry Joanne you’re not a genius, and you are far from a hero. We can’t take your platform away. But I’m keeping Hogwarts. Morte de Author! Viva Revolution!
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