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?

Autonomy and Power in “Escape from Spiderhead”

Spiderhead, as an establishment, is inherently about power. Abnesti tries to make himself seem like a hero, like he is working towards a greater public good. When he explains to Jeff the new drug they are developing, he talks about the ability to stop wars, help people find love, etc. But it is clear that it is not these results that he necessarily cares about, but rather the control that this gives him. He tells Jeff, “‘No longer, in terms of emotional controllability, are we ships adrift. No one is. We see a ship adrift, we climb aboard, install a rudder'”(58).

In this way, he admits that it is power, rather than conflict resolution, that they are actually after. This is reinforced in the way that Spiderhead functions – with Abnesti and Verlaine in control of all of the prisoners at Spiderhead. This power dynamic is recognized by the prisoners trapped in Spiderhead. The use of the word “acknowledge” implies that there is no real choice for these prisoners. When Jeff begins resisting the commands of Abnesti and Verlaine, they have systems in place to ensure his compliance. The prisoners at Spiderhead lose autonomy as a punishment for their crimes. Upon first read, Spiderhead seems very different from any prison we, as readers, are familiar with. But one has to wonder: is that really the case? Or is the power struggle and lack of autonomy as described here a part of our prison systems?