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JK Rowling Reminds Us Why Separating the Art From the Artist Isn’t Actually an Option

JK Roling gives a sort of smug smile on the red carpet for secrets of dumbledore

J.K. Rowling has been upping her transphobia on Twitter in recent weeks, with a slew of posts dedicated to misgendering, fear-mongering, and fake-concern-trolling on behalf of “detransitioners.” Things seem to have reached a head last week after comedian Graham Norton was specifically asked in an interview how Rowling fit into his ideas on “cancel culture.” Norton didn’t even criticize Rowling but just said that if people want to talk about trans issues, they should talk to and listen to trans people and actual experts. Still, Rowling lashed out on Twitter, appearing—however nonsensically—to accuse Norton (as well as musician Billy Bragg, who tweeted his praise of Norton) of supporting “rape and death threats.”

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This is bizarre but it’s nothing new for Rowling, who has, in recent years, shifted her entire online persona to center around her TERFdom. That’s been hard for many lifelong Harry Potter fans to reconcile. A lot of fans have spent years wrestling with whether they feel comfortable continuing to treasure a franchise after its creator outs herself as being this terrible. It’s a complex question that isn’t just about personal lines of our own emotional comfort around these properties, but also requires us to address the unfortunate fact that it’s basically impossible to continue to consume Rowling’s work without rewarding her financially.

As our Princess Weekes wrote earlier this year:

But the most important question is “Can the Harry Potter world exist and thrive with J.K. Rowling at the helm?” Watching Rowling harass trans people online, seeing how her transphobic rhetoric has added to an already toxic environment for trans folks in the U.K., and the way her Twitter platform continues to allow her to find validation, it is extremely hard to enjoy Harry Potter if you care about these issues.

Her recent comments color every aspect of how the series is read now, and while I don’t blame fans for still wanting to enjoy Potter, the reality is that she is the brand. Any upcoming projects with Harry Potter will always put money in her pocket, and trying to remove her from the book series itself would be a very problematic precedent to set.

Now, in the midst of this spate of intense transphobia, Rowling is reminding us of this fact. Replying to a Twitter user who asked her, “How do you sleep at night knowing you’ve lost a whole audience form buying your books?” Rowling gave a real-life villain response. “I read my most recent royalty cheques and find the pain goes away pretty quickly,” she cackled maliciously (I assume).

This is so vile. People are reaching out to her, telling her she’s caused and continues to cause pain to so many people who once looked up to her and cherished her work. And she responds by literally saying she doesn’t care and that her money is more important to her.

It’s a good reminder, I guess, to anyone who still thought it was possible to separate the art from the artist. It’s up to every individual fan to decide where their boundaries are and what they feel comfortable supporting. But let’s not let there be any illusions about the ways in which that support puts money right into these obnoxious pockets.

(image: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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