Jon Stewart Calls Out Anti-Semitic Depiction of Goblins in Harry Potter, Clarifies He Doesn’t Think Rowling Is Anti-Semitic
A video has been making the rounds of Jon Stewart on his podcast/video/show/thing discussing anti-Semitic tropes, and during the conversation, he brought up the way goblins are depicted in the Harry Potter films.
“Here’s how you know Jews are still where they are,” Stewart breaks down in the episode (via Variety). “Talking to people, here’s what I say: Have you ever seen a ‘Harry Potter’ movie? Have you ever seen the scenes in Gringotts Bank? Do you know what those folks who run the bank are? Jews! And they’re like, ‘Oh, [that illustration is] from ‘Harry Potter!’” And you’re like, ‘No, that’s a caricature of a Jew from an anti-Semitic piece of literature.’ J.K. Rowling was like, ‘Can we get these guys to run our bank?’ It’s a wizarding world…we can ride dragons, you can have a pet owl… but who should run the bank? Jews. But what if the teeth were sharper?”
Stewart added: “It was one of those things where I saw it on the screen and I was expecting the crowd to be like, ‘Holy shit, [Rowling] did not, in a wizarding world, just throw Jews in there to run the fucking underground bank. And everybody was just like, ‘Wizards.’ It was so weird.”
He later went on to clarify that despite this discussion he doesn’t think the writer herself is anti-Semitic.
“I do not think J.K. Rowling is anti-Semitic,” Stewart said. “I did not accuse her of being anti-Semitic. I do not think the ‘Harry Potter’ movies are anti-Semitic. I really love the Harry Potter movies, probably too much for a gentleman of my considerable age.”
Newsweek et al, may eat my ass. pic.twitter.com/eRoYYeNRi1
— Jon Stewart (@jonstewart) January 5, 2022
“I cannot stress this enough,” he said. “I am not accusing J.K. Rowling of being anti-Semitic. She need not answer to any of it. I don’t want the Harry Potter movies censored in any way. It was a lighthearted conversation. Get a f*cking grip.”
This conversation about the depiction of the goblins as potentially anti-Semitic isn’t even remotely new. Back in 2019, Emily Burack wrote for Hey Alma the following about how this was being brought back into the mainstream following a series of bad takes from Rowling, including her hugely transphobic views. Burack spoke to Connor Goldsmith, a literary agent, and he explained:
Rowling’s goblins are nakedly anti-Semitic caricatures — a race of gnarled, hook-nosed misers obsessed with gold, who believe they own everything they’ve ever produced and wizards who purchase things only ‘rent’ from them. They appear to run the entire wizarding economy, and trust no one but their own kind. It’s suggested that secret cabals of goblins work to undermine the wizard government. The fact that these creatures appear in a book series which is ostensibly an allegory for the Holocaust is as distressing as it is bizarre; one hopes Rowling didn’t intend to create such a caricature, because it really undermines her project, but intent isn’t really what matters at the end of the day.
Rowling may have a history of calling out anti-Semitism, but that also has not stopped her from making problematic choices—like having her Jewish witch character, one of maybe less than a handful in the series, join up with wizard Hitler 1.0.
Whether Rowling is anti-Semitic or not is important, but even more so is how people who don’t see themselves as such can still promote and normalize anti-Semitic tropes.
(image: Warner Bros)
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