Madonna King: JK Rowling, Harry Potter and separating the art from the artist

Source: HBO Max

Wait for the noise that will roll onto Platform 9¾ over the decision for JK Rowling’s seven books to be made into a Harry Potter TV series.

It will bring carriages of discontent, as those whom Rowling has offended urge others to boycott the series, which will show on streaming service Max (formally known as HBO Max).

What will make Rowling’s critics even more cranky is the fact that she is expected to be the executive producer for the series, which will add to an estimated $25 billion for the Harry Potter franchise.

The backlash against Rowling, prompted by a series of controversial tweets she penned about the transgender community in mid-2020, has undoubtedly proved costly to her personal brand.

But does that mean we can’t dive into the world of Hogwarts and enjoy a fantasy tale that has probably taught more children in this generation to read than anything else?


We should be able to disagree with an artist, in this case an author, over a personal stance, but still appreciate the art she is able to create; in this case seven books that have transported our imagination to a world like no other.

Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley and the rest of the Hogwarts clan have delivered a cultural phenomenon since storming into our lives in 1997, and we owe Rowling a great deal of gratitude for that. And none of her personal views should change that.

Her work has taught children to use their imagination, weave clever sentences, analyse characters, and understand different themes. And while Harry Potter has created vats of gold for her, it has also connected people globally, and provided a whole new world for the millions who have become passionate Potter fans.

To eschew a TV series based on her personal views is counter-productive. But surely it also elevates her personal opinion beyond what it deserves.

Judge the work, not the creator

We shouldn’t care what Rowling thinks personally. It’s her work we should judge.

That line between an artist and their work, though, runs further than the pages of Rowlings’ books.

Take sport, for example. Tennis player Margaret Court proved unassailable, winning the French and US Open five times each, Wimbledon three times and the Australian Open 11 times.

Her prowess on the tennis court deserves our admiration and respect. But that doesn’t mean we have to give credence, or two minutes’ worth of discussion, to the personal views she holds around same-sex marriage and transgender issues.

It’s possible to see her personal views as lacking inclusion and imbued with ignorance. But are they important? No.

It’s her views on tennis, perhaps, we should respect. And her opinions beyond that shouldn’t be given any more traction than the out-of-play ball hit by a testy Nick Kyrgios.

Michael Jackson is perhaps the standout example, when it comes to the same debate in music. We can shun the way he came to look and act and talk. We can dwell on the sexual abuse accusations levelled at him, but where he was not indicted.

But we are also allowed to acknowledge him as one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with sales of more than 400 million records globally. And for my money, Jackson will always be a hit on the karaoke list; and none more than Billie Jean.

Perhaps it’s the echo chambers inside social media, or the fact that we now see black and white in everything, but it’s a colourless world where we can’t differentiate an author’s view from the adventures of the orphaned son of two powerful wizards and the magic he delivers anyone prepared to board the train waiting on Platform 9¾.

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