By: Leela Praneeth
If you were a part of any gaming and/or queer online circles in the past week, “Hogwarts Legacy” is a name that should sound familiar. Unlike other issues regarding J.K. Rowling’s views, there is a need for nuance in this debate. The debate mentioned here is between the boycott of the game and the implications of “allies” that decide to play the game.
To analyse this issue, we need to review what J.K. Rowling’s views are and why they are considered problematic. Firstly, she has been using a lot of TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) talking points. She routinely refers to transgender people as predators, crossdressers, or sometimes even rapists. It is sad to see queer people getting vilified in public, resembling the days before the Stonewall riots when queer people were constantly accused of being groomers. J.K. Rowling has since doubled down on her bigoted opinions and continues to target and demonise trans people regularly. This got to the point where, to save face, the developers and publishers of the game publicly denounced her views. Surprisingly, they continued the tradition of offensively and blatantly naming the often-only minority characters. For instance, the only East Asian character is called Cho Chang; a black character is called Kingsley Shacklebolt; and the newest addition is the first openly trans character, Sirona Ryan.
The boycott of the game was strongly advised by many trans and cis people as well. The situation deteriorated when Rowling began associating with hateful politicians and organizations, lending them her influence to pass numerous anti-trans legislations that make trans people’s lives even more difficult.
Playing the devil’s advocate, some people have suggested that a charity drive from influencers while playing the game could be beneficial. The counterpoint raised was that it could be better done through other means, like playing games made with the involvement of trans people. It was also suggested that policing people’s consumption of media is wrong and could lead to worse outcomes down the road. Another naive defence came in the form of concern for the game’s developers, who are frequently mistreated in the industry. This fails to consider that the developers of the game are already compensated, and the failure of the game will only affect a successful game corporation and J.K. Rowling herself.
Most participants in this debate are on two major sides. One is calling for allies to show solidarity by not playing the game. The others are feeling judged and “harassed” for playing a game while not supporting the ideology of the person profiting from the game’s success. The harassment here mostly refers to comments judging the player’s morality and requests to consider a lot of trans people’s suggestions. To be fair, it is exhausting to get a barrage of these messages, and the occasional vile comment is disheartening to see. But what about trans people, who experience this tenfold for merely existing? They are constantly pressurised by society to conform to pre-existing social ideals and invalidate their own identities. What we need to understand is that comparing different kinds of harassment is a pointless endeavour, while observing the differences in the treatment of other people is educational.
Normal people who have hobbies outside of constantly monitoring online discourse might look at this situation and scoff at this niche conflict. But we can see how this is a microcosm of the sentiments and actions of the “progressive” members of our society. This can be seen in many examples where a privileged population is restricted or mildly inconvenienced for the benefit of a minority. Recent examples include simple requests that non-minorities refrain from using slurs that refer to the said minority. Similarly, we’ve seen indigenous Hawaiians ask for a ban or restrictions on tourism that are inflating the cost of living to the point where native residents are no longer able to afford their own homes. Most of these appeals received major pushback from people comfortable with the status quo. This demonstrates how “open-minded” people are also open to some unsavory practices in order to maintain their comfort.
If there is still doubt in your head, ask the trans people in your life that you trust. They can guide you on how to be respectful and considerate of their concerns. It is important to be empathetic to the struggles of marginalized people and weigh that over the enjoyment you get from doing something that even inadvertently contributes to their struggle. Whatever you choose, you cannot be angry at the disappointment you feel when the affected people express their concerns.
2 thoughts on “Hogwarts: A Tarnished Legacy”
This is so well written