JK Rowling purses her lips and looks stern on a red carpet.

A Lowlight Reel: J.K. Rowling’s Most Controversial Moments

Five points from Rowling! And then five million more!

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J.K. Rowling is the world’s most famous TERF. Just like the wizarding world that she dreamed up, she has a long and dark history. Darker than the Dark Lord Voldemort himself! After all, she quite literally wrote the book on the guy. And just like Lord Voldemort, she has some controversial views on the make-up of people’s blood and how it relates to their magical purity—I mean—gender. For her, it’s basically one and the same.

We shouldn’t be surprised that J.K. Rowling is a bigot. After all, this is the woman who introduced a generation of children to made-up slurs like “Mudblood.” Prejudice has deep roots in the history of the wizarding world—and deep roots in the author that created it.

But surely the things she says can’t be THAT bad, right? Surely comparing her to He Who Must Not Be Named is a false equivalency. Look, she might not be Avada Kedavra-ing trans people in the streets, but her words certainly embolden other people to do it. So let’s take a walk down Diagon Alley—I mean—Memory Lane and explore the most Death Eaterish things that Rowling has had to say.

1. J.K. Rowling and the Sorcerer’s Bone

Ironically enough, J.K. Rowling’s first controversy-stewing statement was one that she made in apparent support of the LGBTQ community. Well, really just the G community. In 2007, Rowling came under fire after announcing out of the blue that Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts’ late headmaster, had been gay the whole time. In fact, the old sorcerer had wanted to bone his bff turned enemy Gellert Grindelwald.

And the entire internet said, “wait … what?”

The problem wasn’t that Dumbledore was gay (at least for the non-bigots, the bigots certainly made it a problem) the problem was that Albus Dumbledore was a geriatric old wizard whose sexuality was never brought up. And frankly, dude was so ancient that people didn’t want to think about him getting busy with ANYTHING. Gay? REALLY? Where in the books did he EVER mention ANYTHING about his sexuality? When did it EVER come up as a plot point? When was his sexuality ever represented? J.K. do you mean to tell me that your ONLY gay character is a character that we never even get to SEE BEING GAY? What kind of reverse queer baiting is this?

You don’t get culture points for making a character gay in retrospect. It’s not representation, it’s at best bad writing and at worst a weird little shoehorn for you to ingratiate yourself with the queer community and score points. Points that you immediately FORFEITED with your next headline grabbing quote.

2. J.K. Rowling and the Echo-Chamber of Tweets

Rowling made headlines again after finding herself on the wrong side of Twitter. She posted a tweet in support of Maya Forstater, a British researcher who was fired after making a series of transphobic comments. While many of her fans were not impressed, her tweets woke a basilisk that had been hiding in dark, secret chambers of Twitter: The TERFs. The Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists crawled out of the plumbing in order to claim Rowling as one of their own.

Rowling gladly accepted her new accolades, and soon their reptilian, anti-trans gaze had turned her heart to stone. She decided to feed the beast by retweeting an article that used the phrase “people who menstruate” in order to be more inclusive to trans people and childishly attempted to dunk on the article. ”‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” she tweeted. Once again, the backlash was swift. Yet Rowling doubled down by creating a Horcrux—I mean—writing a lengthy essay that defended her statement, attempting to justify her transphobia with her experiences as a sexual assault survivor. Her statements were met with widespread celebrity backlash, with Harry Potter franchise film leads Daniel Radcliffe, Eddie Redmayne and Emma Watson speaking out against her.

3. J.K. Rowling and the Prisoner of Her Own Biases

In 2016, J.K. Rowling decided to double down on her penchant for claiming to be an authority on things for things that she doesn’t understand by writing a four part series called The History of Magic In North America. And guess what she decided to write about? Native American culture. Yes, J.K. decided to comment on folklore that she knows absolutely nothing about and write about the existence of skinwalkers. What’s a skinwalker? Is that another J.K. Rowling patented slur? Not quite. Skinwalkers are evil wizards and witches of Navajo legends that are said to be able to shapeshift into animals.

In a later tweet, Rowling said “in my wizarding world … there are no skinwalkers.” She says that the term “skinwalker” was a term used to “to demonize wizards.” So essentially Rowling co-opted a term from Native American culture and RETCONNED IT INTO A SLUR. Naturally, people took offense. Dr. Adrienne Keene tweeted, “It’s not “your” world. It’s our (real) Native world. And skinwalker stories have context, roots, and reality.” She said that Rowling’s attempt to rewrite Native American folklore for “her world” was textbook colonialism.

2. J.K. Rowling and the Goblet of “Fire Him”

Rowling once again faced criticism for refusing to fire Johnny Depp from his role in Fantastic Beasts, despite Amber Heard’s claim that the actor was physically and verbally abusive towards her. She defended her decision on her website. Here’s what she said:

“When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald, I thought he’d be wonderful in the role. However, around the time of filming his cameo in the first movie, stories had appeared in the press that deeply concerned me and everyone most closely involved in the franchise.” 

Sounds like a good start, right? Psyche!

“However, the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected. Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.”

So close. So far away. So yes, the ONE OTHER GAY PERSON in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world was played by a heterosexual abuser. Great casting choices there. Love it.

(featured image: Neil Mockford, FilmMagic)


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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.