The creator of the Harry Potter characters and author of the seven-volume Harry Potter fantasy series has found herself at the center of controversy yet again, and she’s perfectly fine with that, going so far as to say that she’s happy to go to jail for two years for her actions.
J.K. Rowling, British author and philanthropist, was cast into the public spotlight of fame in 1997, when her first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was published. It was an instant success, and subsequent novels were published in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2005, and 2007. In 2001, the first film adaptation of one of her books premiered at the box office.
A Real-Life Rags to Riches Narrative
The film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) was even more successful than Rowling’s first novel by the same name, and seven more films followed. In all, the eight films inspired by Rowling’s novels created a nearly $8 billion franchise. Rowling, who had lived a life marred by personal struggles and financial woes, suddenly became the character in her very own rags to riches story.
From the mind of J.K. Rowling had sprung the best-selling book series in history, and by 2004, the British author had become the first billionaire to create her wealth solely from writing. In 2012, her name was dropped from the list of billionaires following her $160 million donation to charity.
Controversy Follows Fandom
Rowling came under fire for comments she made in June 2020 related to the transgender community.
On June 6, 2020, the famous author retweeted an opinion editorial piece, the topic of which was “people who menstruate.” In her post, Rowling pointed out that the post did not use the word woman or 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.
Her initial tweet garnered backlash, but the Harry Potter author didn’t back down and wrote about her views in more detail, later posting:
“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 nonsense.”
Then, just days after her initial tweets, Rowling went on to publish a post on her official website about the situation. She also posted a tweet that read, “TERF Wars,” where TERF serves as an acronym for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.”
In her post, she said she knew that it was “time to explain myself on an issue surrounded by toxicity” and said she was writing her explanation “without any desire to add to that toxicity.”
“For people who don’t know,” Rowling wrote, “last December, I tweeted my support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected in law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t.”
Unrivaled Backlash Followed
But despite her efforts to give context to her comments, Rowling’s explanation was seen as a doubling down on her sentiments–sentiments that were received by many as “transphobic,” and ultimately, she drew even more ire from Harry Potter fans, as well as activists within the trans community. She even received backlash from some of the stars who embodied the characters she created in the film adaptations of her novels.
Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter in the film series, was the first star to take a public stance, denouncing Rowling’s comments and going so far as to apologize for the “pain these comments have caused.”
Renewed Controversy in 2023
This week, Rowling again found herself at the center of controversy that stemmed from her June 2020 comments.
Per Deadline, the author responded to a report by The Daily Mail dated October 14, 2023, that suggests that the Labor movement in Great Britain is attempting to make attacks on individuals’ gender identity criminal offenses. If those efforts are successful, the report further suggests that the offenses would carry with them a penalty of up to two years in jail.
Rowling’s response to the post has reportedly revived the controversy that began in answer to the comments she made in 2020.
I'll happily do two years if the alternative is compelled speech and forced denial of the reality and importance of sex. Bring on the court case, I say. It'll be more fun than I've ever had on a red carpet.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) October 17, 2023
“I’ll happily do two years if the alternative is compelled speech and forced denial of the reality and importance of sex,” Rowling wrote in a post dated October 17 on X, formerly Twitter.
Her comment was a response to another user on X, who suggested that Rowling could ultimately receive a jail sentence for sharing her views.
“Bring on the court case, I say,” she added. “It’ll be more fun than I’ve ever had on a red carpet.”