JK Rowling is absent from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 25th anniversary events. But exactly why has is this important and what does it mean for the future of the Harry Potter franchise?
If you cast your mind back 25 years ago, Titanic had just topped the box office records, Radiohead headlined Glastonbury, and Tony Blair had just been elected as the new UK PM.
But what was arguably more culturally significant is that the first 500 copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were published at the end of June 1997.
It would become the third best-selling novel of all time, and established JK Rowling as one of the world’s most beloved and best-selling authors.
But as we bring ourselves back to the present day, the celebrated author’s legacy now seems destined to be defined by a culture war which ignited following her position on women’s rights and gender.
Rowling is no stranger to the Twittersphere, and she has continuously posted her sometimes controversial opinions. One opinion which sparked backlash was her belief that – in some circumstances – women and girls should have the right to single-sex spaces, prompting accusations of transphobia (which Rowling denies).
But this controversy has definitely impacted the author’s career, and she has been notably absent from Harry Potter anniversary celebrations – most recently with the film franchise’s 20th anniversary TV reunion.
It seems that attempting to separate the art from the artist is now a mission for those invested in making sure that Harry Potter continues to be a lucrative and well loved series.
Most recently, Sky New was invited to the Warner Brothers Studios as they unveiled their new Mandrakes and Magical Creatures features at the wildly successful studio tour. But in an effort to distance the Harry Potter brand from the toxicity of the transphobia allegations, Sky News were not allowed to bring up JK Rowling’s name in the interview.
As one Sky News Reporter interviewed Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy in all eight Harry Potter films and continues to maintain his connection with the franchise, she was cut off by a member of the PR team mid-flow, and made to redirect her line of questioning.
Check out the video here:
As Claire Gregory was prompted to move onto her next question, Felton continued his interview adding that:
“We all expected the Harry Potter fandom flame to start dousing as the years go on and clearly it’s not going anywhere.”
So, even a 25 years later Harry Potter is still as popular as ever – as long as she who must not be named isn’t mentioned.
But those who are most closely associated with the wizarding world are reluctant to comment, but many do concede that Rowling has taken more of a backseat role.
Thomas Taylor, who created the original cover art for the Philosopher’s Stone has noted that the Rowling’s prominence with the franchise has faltered.
“It is a bit strange not to see the author when we are celebrating a book,” admits Mr Taylor.
“It seems to me that fans own Harry Potter now anyway, the fan space has always been incredibly rich, creative and inclusive and I hope people can continue to find what they need in it and shape it to the way they want it to be,” he adds.
Many of the Harry Potter cast, who were just children when the movie franchise began filming, also seem to be torn between the relationship they share with Rowling and their discomfort on her position on gender rights.
Daniel Radcliffe quickly issued a statement following the initial controversy, confirming his solidarity with the trans community as he stated “trans women are women.” He also told fans that “if Harry Potter resonated… that is sacred”, in an urge to separate the art from the artist.
Emma Watson, the leading actress of the films, also appeared to take aim at Rowling during her BAFTAs shout out for inclusivity and “all the witches”.
But it is really a big deal that Rowling is no longer present at anniversary celebrations? Does neither she nor Harry Potter fans care that she still attends events hosted by those who still wish to profit off the franchise?
But as the 25th anniversary celebrations of one of the world’s most beloved books continues, whether Rowling has been or should be cancelled continues to cloud the future of the Harry Potter franchise.