Can J.K. Rowling just stop? I know that it’s impossible for her to do so, but seriously, can Anonymous not take away her twitter account or something.
Now, I’m not for censorship, by any stretch of the imagination. I do, however, understand the theory of Death of the Author.
For those who didn’t study literature in college, death of the author is the idea/theory presented by French literary critic Roland Barthes. He argues that literary criticism shouldn’t incorporate the intentions and biographical context of the author when interpreting a text. This is a basic explanation, and I’m not going to get into a debate about this. Nor, will I give an overview of the problems with this ideal. Cause nobody cares and nobody got time for that.
For the sake of argument, after this past week, J.K. Rowling is no longer the author of Harry Potter. It belongs to all of us, as this tweet from @RileyJayDennis tells me here.
All jokes aside. Some may be wondering what’s going on with J.K. Rowling or how to handle the recent upset with a favorite book series.
First off, I’m not going to tell you what to think because I can’t. Contrary to popular belief, I have not mastered mind control. I’m also not going to get into the debate about transgender because I think transgender people should be loved and respected and accepted into all aspects of life and if you don’t then I don’t care. The second reason to not get into the debate is because I’m not an expert on gender theory. There are people out there who know more, so I’m going to let them talk instead of me.
Yes, I’m giving homework the horror.
Here are a list of books on gender theory and transgender by people that are way more knowledgeable in this area:
- Undoing Gender by Judith Butler (really anything by Judith Butler is amazing)!!
- The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault
- Second Skins: the Body Narratives of Transexuality by Jay Prosser
- Transgender History by Susan Stryker
- Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal by J. Jack Halberstam
Keeping with being upfront, I totally stole this list from a friend of mine who studies gender theory and knows way more than me.
What I want to talk about is how does this affect Harry Potter? Now, do I completely agree with Barthes death of the author idea. No, I do think that the author’s intentions and biographical details can lead to some insight. However, I do not think that this negates what the reader themselves get from the text as well. Basically, it’s a spectrum. As are all things in life.
I vividly remember when I received the first 4 Harry Potter books. My sister has scoliosis which required surgery to correct. My parents, grandma, sister, and I went to Dallas for her surgery; my grandpa was going to meet us later in the week. It was Wednesday evening, my sister had her surgery the Tuesday before, the Ronald McDonald House that we were staying at just finished bingo night. My grandparents said they had an early Christmas gift for me; my grandma joked that she had to hide it from grandpa so he wouldn’t read them before I did.
The gift was the box set of the first four Harry Potter novels. Mind you, this was 2001, and Harry and his friends were just starting to become household names. Only a few days prior did the first movie came out. I had already read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone but had yet to get my hands on the second book. Who could’ve known the impact this series had on me as I grew up?
Those first lines still bring a smile to my face: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” To say I devoured these books would be an understatement.
When anything seemed out of control or I was sad or angry, Harry, Hermione, and Ron were always there for me. I went to all the midnight movie releases and midnight book releases (back when that was a thing, gosh, how times have changed). I had Hogwarts robes, wands, textbooks, any Harry Potter item I could get my hands on, I did.
As I stated before, I don’t want to speak about a topic that I am not as versed in as others are; in that same vein, I don’t want to speak for transgender people or any other minority group. This is my feelings on Rowling’s recent tweets.
Nothing she says can take away my love of those books. Yes, she wrote them and I can be forever grateful to her for that. But I will not stand by and say what she is doing is right or is being an ally because it isn’t. I am of the belief that once art, any creative outlet, is out to the public, the public can take from it what they will. These books belong to me, just as much as they belong to her, or to any of the other millions of fans out in the world. She cannot take away my love of these characters, the nights I stayed up after reading the books trying to figure out what was going to happen, the days on end I went on message boards and discussed and debated the intricate details of these books, or all the times I waited outside the theater with people who I did not know when I walked in but by the end of the night, you couldn’t not be friends. All of these are my memories of joy and love and heartache and a growing imagination. She cannot take my past from me.
I know others have different feelings on the matter. That’s okay. I can tell you that in the future, I will not be supporting her (as much as I can. I do want to see the rest of the Fantastic Beasts movies, but I’ll probably wait either until it won’t go towards their opening weekend or when it’s streaming. My reluctance to see the movie is not just because of this but it did push me over the edge). I will still have my Harry Potter books and my office will still have Harry Potter decorations.
Trans women are women. Even if the creator doesn’t remember one of the most important lessons from Harry Potter, then I sure do: Nobody deserves to live their life in a closet.