On Authorial Intent and Mutual Recognition

Recently, I have been re-watching the Harry Potter series. I re-read the books last year, for the first time since I was in early middle school. But I have found myself hesitant to endorse this series that I love because of the comments of J.K. Rowling, the author of the books.

Over the years, she has made many claims about the books. Following the publication of the last book in the series, she announced that Albus Dumbledore had been gay all along. At one point, she claimed that she had envisioned Hermione Granger, one of the main characters, as a black girl. But these announcements came post facto, and were therefore far too late.

By introducing these ideas after the characters had been solidified in the public’s mind, J.K. Rowling robbed these characters of mutual recognition. These supposedly central parts of characters identities had been hidden for years. How could we mutually recognize characters for traits that had never been expressed? By withholding the information that she claimed to have known all along, Rowling’s pathetic attempts at inclusivity fall short.

No young black girl is reading Harry Potter and relating to Hermione because of her struggles with racism or colorism. No closeted teens are watching these movies and seeing one of the main heroes of the story be LGBTQ+ like them. If the people she now tries to include can’t recognize their struggles in these stories, is she really including them at all?

7 thoughts on “On Authorial Intent and Mutual Recognition

  1. Marina T

    I agree with you on the fact that it is indeed too late to say “oh by the way Dumbledore was gay” without having put it in the books.
    I’ve recently discovered that to add salt to the wound of her transphobic tweets, she is writing a new book where a murderous cis male dresses as a woman to murder his victims. Villanizing a serial killer with transgender qualities is all kinds of wrong. Even worse, the pen name of the book is of a scientist who used to experiment on conversion therapy.

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  2. TALIB B

    I think this is a really interesting post. I’m not a fan of Harry Potter but I’ve heard about J.K Rowling’s comments and I very much agree with you. By trying to add diversity to characters and a story after the fact serves no purpose to the reader and is only done to cover up for the writer. When kids read books and watch movies and never see someone that looks like them in a protagonist role they are forced to identify with the antagonist and that’s how sociatal identity roles start to form. J.K Rowling has done a great disservice to every person reading who doesn’t identify as white and straight and by repeatedly making books without diversity its clear what message she chooses to send and makes her apologies and excuses carry no weight.

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  3. Lily M

    I was also very disappointed by J.K Rowling’s lame attempt at saving the reputation of her novels. Although I enjoyed the stories as a child, and the movies are great, I also find it challenging to get past the moral dilemmas you stated in your piece. I agree with you that the people reading her stories, specifically young and possibly confused kids, are not seeing the representation that they deserve. Rowling has definitely made it clear that her books were not made with an inclusive intent which is a great disservice to her readers.

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  4. Nick W.

    I totally agree. If J.K. Rowling’s wanted to include the LGBTQ+ community into her stories, then she should have truly INCLUDED queer characters. To merely say Dumbledore is gay after all the books have been released feels like the opposite of mutual recognition because it is such a half-hearted attempt.

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  5. Najda HSJ

    I definitely agree with this post. I grew up obsessed with the series as well, but there was a huge lack of diversity in the novels. As a kid, you like to look up to characters who look like you, characters who act like you, and characters who have gone through the same struggles that you have been through. Since the main characters were all white and straight, it was hard for me and for other children from various minority groups to see themselves as these magical characters that they so desperately wanted to be.

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  6. With the things that she had said recently about the Trans community and the lack of inclusivity in her books, it is really difficult to look at the Harry Potter series without seeing her values. As a giant Harry Potter fan, I am finding it difficult to separate J.K. Rowling from the series. Can I still love something if the person who created it isn’t a good person?

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  7. Evelyn R

    Isabel I fully agree with you as the claims shes making lie in her intrest to possibly stay relevent and its discrediting her voice and slandering the books. Rowling could just support them publically not try and change charectors and theuniverse 12 years after the fact. It raises the question do you still support a story and continue to spread its story although in doing so your spreading work from someone who has malice views.

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