The highly anticipated video game, Hogwarts Legacy, set in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, was released on November 10th amidst controversy due to author J.K. Rowling's statements about the trans community. The billionaire author has been criticized for making statements on Twitter and in a blog post that are seen as transphobic by many people. Specifically, she has expressed opinions that have been interpreted as denying or dismissing the experiences and identities of transgender individuals.
For example, in a series of tweets in June 2020, Rowling criticized an article that used the phrase "people who menstruate" instead of "women," arguing that the erasure of the word "woman" undermined the experiences of people who have been socialized as women. She also expressed support for Maya Forstater, a woman who lost her job after making transphobic statements on Twitter.
In a subsequent essay on her website, Rowling further elaborated on her views, arguing that the concept of gender identity erases the reality of biological sex and that allowing transgender women to access women's spaces like bathrooms and changing rooms is a threat to women's safety. She has also expressed concern about the medical treatment of transgender youth, arguing that it is too hasty and irreversible.
These statements have been widely criticized by transgender activists, as well as many others who support trans rights and gender equality. Many people have called for a boycott of Rowling's work and for her to retract her statements and apologize for the harm they have caused.
Goblins and Anti-Semitism
In addition to the controversy surrounding J.K. Rowling's views on the trans community, the video game Hogwarts Legacy has also been accused of anti-Semitism due to its main plot revolving around a goblin rebellion.
Some fans have pointed out that there are similarities between the portrayal of goblins in the Harry Potter series and stereotypes about Jewish people. The goblins are depicted as greedy bankers who are in control of the wizarding world's finances, which some argue reinforces harmful stereotypes about Jewish people and their perceived influence in banking. The inclusion of a goblin rebellion in the main plot of Hogwarts Legacy has only intensified these concerns.
The accusation of anti-Semitism in the Harry Potter franchise has added to the ongoing debate about the series' representation and inclusivity. It underscores the importance of considering the impact of media and the responsibility of creators to avoid harmful stereotypes in their work.
The debate surrounding Rowling's views and her association with the Harry Potter universe has led to a heated discussion among fans. On one side, there are those who argue that consuming content associated with transphobia is equivalent to supporting the author's beliefs. On the other side, there are those who maintain that the series is bigger than its creator and holds a special place in their childhood.
Streamers Receiving Backlash
Social media platforms are currently ablaze with the controversy surrounding the game. Streamers are being criticized and are even receiving threats for playing the game. Chats on twitch are being bombarded with accusations of supporting transphobia and antisemitism. Girlfriend Reviews, a popular YouTuber who was brought to tears during a recent live stream of the game. Chat participants accused her of supporting transphobia and even went as far as to label her a Nazi, due to allegations of anti-Semitism in the game. In response to the accusations, Girlfriend Reviews released a video on YouTube, in which she explained that she was simply doing her job by playing a game that she had received a review copy of. She also addressed the Nazi and anti-Semitic claims, revealing that she is, in fact, Jewish. Pikamee Amane, a popular virtual streamer was harassed so hard that she recently made an update on her official twitch account stating that she is retiring from her agency. This is only one of many similar cases and incidents like these highlight the toxic environment that can arise from discussions around contentious issues, and the impact they can have on content creators.
While the backlash against streamers playing the game has been intense, many fans of the Harry Potter franchise have come to its defense. They argue that the developers of Hogwarts Legacy do not share Rowling's transphobic views and have worked to create a more inclusive game. In fact, the game even features a trans character named Sirona Ryan, who runs the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. The character plays quite a prominent role in the story and also offers a few side missions.
The Game's Critical Success
Despite the backlash, the game has received positive reviews from critics, for its impressive interpretation of the Wizarding World. The game's attention to detail in recreating the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, along with its rich lore and enchanting soundtrack, has been praised by many. The combat system, which allows players to use a variety of spells and magical abilities, has also been applauded for its depth and fluidity. The game’s sales do not seem to be significantly affected by the controversy. It is claimed to be the best-selling game on steam, which is one of the industry’s biggest online stores, reaching 879,000 concurrent players at its peak.
This debate underscores the importance of separating the art from the artist, while also supporting diverse storytelling. Although the controversy surrounding J.K. Rowling's views has created a tense and polarizing atmosphere, it is crucial to approach discussions with empathy and respect for differing viewpoints. As the conversation around the franchise continues, it is essential to keep the focus on promoting acceptance and inclusivity, rather than perpetuating toxicity and division.