Creator vs. works

‘Hogwarts Legacy’ releases amongst controversy surrounding JK Rowling


Courtesy of Warner Bros

A screenshot from “Hogwarts Legacy” shows some of the expected storylines players may explore.

In September 2020, “Hogwarts Legacy” was announced at a Playstation 5 event and instantly excited “Harry Potter” fans and video game enjoyers alike. Released in early February, “Hogwarts Legacy” is an action RPG (role-playing game) where players follow a storyline through a recreation of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with everything built in the game to parallel the books and movies. Gamers play the role of a fifth-year student new to Hogwarts, learning to hone their wizarding skills as well as preparing for a goblin revolt that had been brewing since the start of their school year.

The reviews on the game have been mixed, with an IGN rating of 9/10, and a Wired rating of 1/10. From players, the game has gotten pretty positive reviews, and it became the number one most streamed single player game ever on Twitch, a popular video game streaming service. According to NBC News, the concurrent views peaked at 1.28 million during its launch. However, the “real-world harms” of the game are “impossible to ignore,” as mentioned in Wired’s review. 

J.K. Rowling, the author of all seven installments of the “Harry Potter” series, has no correlation with the creation or production of the video game. Recently, though, Rowling’s seemingly untarnishable legacy was damaged by some unsettling comments related to the transgender community. On June 6, 2020, Rowling re-tweeted an op-ed piece from Devex titled ‘Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate.’ She apparently disapproved of the title, writing, “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” 

This initial tweet caused a lot of backlash, but she did not relent as she tried to explain her views in more detail. In a second thread of tweets, she said, “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.” 

She seemingly believed that these comments would clear the air a bit, but they did quite the opposite, kickstarting a Twitter campaign to “cancel” Rowling. One Twitter user encompassed the feelings of some former “Harry Potter” fans. 

“‘Harry Potter’ is about the magic of love, acceptance, belonging.” says user Mallory Rubin. “The power of courage. The impact of hope. Trying to take those things away from people is a terrible tragedy. Trans women are women.”  Hundreds of offended people took to social media to express their sadness and hatred towards Rowling, and that hate continues to this day.

In the context of this “Harry Potter” game, the question is: can any work related to a creator be ethically separated from that creator if they’ve done something controversial? 

This question hit mainstream media hard in late 2022, when musician Kanye West began making some more than questionable statements on the internet. West said in an interview with Alex Jones for InfoWars that he, “[sees] good things about [Adolf] Hitler.” However, his large and loyal fanbase continued to listen to his music under the claim that the creator is separate from the work. 

At the end of the day, it’s up to personal judgment regarding whether or not people choose to accept the work of someone who has been labeled as doing something wrong. But the most important thing to remember is that some of these things are near and dear to people’s hearts. 

Valerie is a queer gamer on Twitch who organized a boycott against “Hogwarts Legacy” and all other “Harry Potter”-related merchandise. She is not transgender herself, but considers herself an ally to the trans community. In an interview for NBC News she said, “We love [the trans community] more than we love a stupid little video game.” 

People are affected by these real issues every day. Transphobia, homophobia, racism, and antisemitism are all issues that make the lives of people harder every day. So, the most important thing is caring for others. People should respect and not shame others who decide to not listen to a controversial creator’s music or buy their merchandise if they feel that that creator has done something that is against what they believe in. The issue of the creator involved doesn’t have to impact someone personally for them to show some empathy, and that empathy alone will go a long way.