By author and radio broadcaster Russ Kane.
It was twenty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper told the band to play… no not quite.
But it was twenty years ago that the world first heard about a young, bespectacled boy who turned out to be a wizard. As you do. The little guy’s name was Harry Potter.
The first book, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, has now sold in excess of 120 million copies, making it one of the bestselling books in history. Prices for first edition first printings go up to around £5,000.
The book had been rejected by twelve publishers, all citing that no one would be interested in the subject matter, plus they told the first-time author that it was “too conventional, too long, too weird and too old-fashioned”.
‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ had been written in Edinburgh cafés while the author and her daughter lived on benefits. It was accepted by Christopher Little, the next literary agent the synopsis was submitted it to and eventually, Bloomsbury Publishing took a chance on the unknown author, but to minimise their financial risk they only printed 500 copies.
The unknown author was Joanne Kathleen Rowling. She was told to write as ‘JK Rowling’ so that people wouldn’t know she was a woman, as that might affect sales. No, seriously. The rest is history.
The fifteen Harry Potter books have sold over 500 million copies, been made into eight hugely successful films, been turned into an enormous theme park ride at Universal in Orlando, Florida, and a very popular Warner Bros Studio Tour Experience near London.
The 2021 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling’s fortune at £820 million, ranking her as the 196th richest person in the UK. Pretty good going for a single Mum on benefits writing in a café.
So, why this walk down Publishing Lane (or should I say Diagon Alley?). Because JK Rowling is not mentioned among members of the Harry Potter film franchise appearing in a 20th anniversary special on HBO Max, due to air January 1 2022.
On Tuesday, WarnerMedia announced names of crew members and alums who will feature in the special, with no mention of Rowling. WarnerMedia announced that the special will feature the franchise’s central trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. They will be joined by other franchise alums including Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Imelda Staunton, Mark Williams and many more. But no JK Rowling.
Did someone forget that Joanne Rowling created all of this? Did it slip their mind that without her imagination no one would have heard of Harry Potter or the actors Radcliffe, Grint, Watson? No. So what’s going on here?
Rowling sparked backlash from the trans community after saying that transgender individuals should be defined by their biological sex. That’s it. That is what she said. She quoted biology.
The result? Last year, J.K. Rowling was labelled a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist). Look it up. What did J.K. Rowling say, exactly? On June 6, 2020, Rowling retweeted an op-ed piece that discussed “people who menstruate,” apparently taking issue with the fact that the story did not use the word women.
“‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” she wrote.
It all kicked off big time. Rowling then wrote:
“If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth. The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women, i.e., to male violence ‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences—is a nonsense. I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”
That was it. That’s what she said. Word for word.
This led members of the Harry Potter cast including Emma Watson (who played Hermione Granger) and Bonnie Wright (who played Ginny Weasley) to make statements against the author. A new dimension in the term ‘biting the hand that feeds you’.
“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are,” said Emma Watson on social media.
WarnerMedia quietly made the decision to not add the creator of the Wizarding World to Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts. Think about that. The one person who created it ALL – the one person whose imagination and writing skill gave lucrative employment to tens of thousands of people, who re-ignited a love of reading to an entire generation of children, who galvanised the world of book publishing, who made child actors into global stars, has been kicked to the kerb, air-brushed out of history and been dubbed a pariah.
This is the person who chose to live in the UK and happily pay £48.6m in tax in just one year. She didn’t run off to tax-efficient Monaco and then preach to the rest of us how to live, like some F1 stars.
Rather than take the Netflix approach of ignoring the same group who went apoplectic over the Dave Chappelle special ‘The Closer, WarnerMedia & HBO have opted to incant “Cave inimicum” and attempt to cast a Disillusionment Charm or Bedazzling Hex to achieve invisibility over JK Rowling.
Someone tell them it’s fiction, not a how-to manual.
This is the world we now inhabit. It is the Salem Witch Trials – denounced and burned at the social media stake.
On 8 June 1949 a book by George Orwell was published. It was titled ‘1984’ – a dystopian social science fiction novel and cautionary tale.
Orwell wrote in it that:
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. History has stopped.”
Not even Orwell could have foreseen how 2021 would make 1984 look as innocent as a Harry Potter book. I suspect the vast majority of people are, in fact. ‘Rolling With Rowling’.
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© 2021 Russ Kane