Does Anyone Actually Want This New York Harry Potter Store?
Is Planet Harrywood really something New York needs?
Next month, Manhattan will see the opening of Harry Potter New York, a flagship store and immersive experience that will “house the largest collection of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts products in the world from pocket money items to rare collectibles.” The store will feature over 20,00 square feet of shopping, immersive activities, a butterbeer bar, and all sorts of Instagram-friendly photo ops, as well as props from the film series.
The store is the latest addition to Warner Bros. and J.K. Rowling’s ever-growing empire, which includes multiple theme parks, studio tours, and enough merch to fill the Room of Requirement. But while plenty of Potterheads will still be hitting up the store faster than you can say “Accio credit cards!” many more remain dismayed by Rowling’s blatant transphobia. Countless former fans have sworn off everything Rowling-related, for that extremely good reason.
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This leaves some Wizarding World fans at a loss, as they struggle to rationalize separating the art from the transphobic artist. In this case, it’s difficult to do so. And clearly, Rowling and her sprawling franchise aren’t going anywhere. There are still 3 more Fantastic Beasts films in the pipeline and potential TV shows, as well as innumerable merchandising opportunities to be mined for cash. It also leaves Warner Bros. and other companies affiliated with the brand in the position of distancing themselves from Rowling while promoting wares that still line her pockets.
Take for example, PlayStation 5’s Hogwarts Legacy, an RPG which Warner Bros. Games is set to release in 2022. On the game’s FAQ page it says, “J.K. Rowling is not directly involved in the creation of the game, however, her extraordinary body of writing is the foundation of all projects in the Wizarding World.” The FAQ adds that Hogwarts Legacy “is not a new story from J.K. Rowling,” as if that assuages anyone concerned with giving more money to a noted and proud TERF.
Does Rowling’s level of involvement matter when her permission is needed to create anything within the Wizarding World? When she is paid a licensing fee or percentage of the profits of everything the brand touches? Is there a way to indulge in this once-beloved fandom without putting dollars in Rowling’s pockets?
Harry Potter New York is another in the endless Pottermania cash grab fueled by the property’s enduring popularity and name recognition, and a studio looking to maximize their profits. It’s evident in the theme parks, where there are a dozen gift shops surrounding 2-3 actual rides. And look, we love a theme park experience, and we love fandoms. But with Rowling’s boastful transphobia, it becomes impossible to enjoy all this content in the same way.
Jezebel’s Ashley Reese said it best when she laid out what exactly it is we want from Rowling:
“Besides, the loudest fans (in other words, me and those whose brains have been addled by years of online fandom) have made it clear what they actually want out of the Harry Potter franchise at this point (in no particular order):
– A Marauders-era TV prequel
– JK Rowling to denounce her transphobia
– A gritty goddamn Marauders-era TV prequel set from the 1970s to early 1980s Jesus fucking Christ we’ve wanted this since, like, 2006. When will HBO hire me as a consultant?
Since this is unlikely to happen anytime soon, I think I’ll just stick to fanfiction. Thanks, but no thanks, Warner Brothers.”
Outside of fanfiction and buying books secondhand, are there other ways to enjoy Potterdom guilt-free? After all, plenty of childhood classics are written by problematic authors (hello Roald Dahl). Or should we all just resign ourselves to bidding the Wizarding World goodbye and investing our fan energy into another fantasy world?
Not sure what trans and non-binary folks need to hear this, but continuing to enjoy Harry Potter–in spite of Rowling’s awfulness–is not only okay but healthy. If we want, we’re allowed to hold on to the goodness and fandom of that and make it our own. That’s entirely valid.
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) June 7, 2020
As a mother, I have long looked forward to reading the books to my kids. But I think I’ll probably be shifting bedtime stories to the Percy Jackson series, or to an author who didn’t torch their entire legacy. As much as I love the world of Harry Potter, Rowling’s transphobia has tattooed a Dark Mark on the franchise that won’t easily be removed.
(via Jezebel, image: Wizarding World)
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