January 11, 2022

In the early 2000s, few phenomena pierced through demographics and cultural niches as potently as Harry Potter.

Attempts to recreate the phenomenon, be it The Hunger Games or Twilight, never captured the zeitgeist like J.K. Rowling’s storytelling. As popular literary trends go, the closest recent fad was Game of Thrones, but that was predominantly buoyed by the HBO adaptation; nobody stood in lines for book releases. While Rowling’s prose was aimed at children, her storytelling captivated readers of all ages.

In celebration of the Harry Potter franchise’s 20th anniversary, HBO organized a grand reunion, bringing together the cast of the widely popular film adaptions for a series of retrospective interviews and nostalgic throwbacks. The reunion special wove together vignettes from the films with various interviews with cast members. In one scene, Robbie Coltrane, the actor who animated the affable giant Hagrid, remarked, “I won’t be here in 50 years. But Hagrid will.”

In addition to paying homage to cast members who have died, such as Alan Rickman, highlights of the HBO special included Mark Williams, who played the patriarch of the red-haired Weasleys, reflecting on the importance of family and the larger role family played, thematically, in Harry Potter.

Notably absent from the lineup, however, was the creator and author of Harry Potter herself. J.K. Rowling’s only appearances in the two-plus hour feature were in scant archival interviews she had recorded in 2019. Based on how the special skirted around mentioning her at all, it was as if she bore the name of her own “he who must not be named” villain; it was a surprise the special didn’t eulogize her altogether.

Some sources allege that Rowling’s absence from the reunion was of her own volition. However, it is hard to overlook the role her outspoken aversion to progressive orthodoxies on transgenderism has played in tanking her social cachet.

In 2007, after publishing the final Harry Potter novel, Rowling courted the praise of liberals by outing Potter’s headmaster Albus Dumbledore as gay. But more than a decade later, as younger readers swayed further left ideologically, Rowling found herself in a rapidly shrinking political center, holding such outmoded ideas as the notion that biological women differ from transgender women.

It was this same taboo that had reams of indignant internet progressives hounding American stand-up comic Dave Chappelle. They tainted Chappelle’s public image to the point that Patton Oswalt, who has never shied away from political commentary, felt the need last week to post a groveling public apology for having taken a photo with the venerable comedian as if he were David Duke.

Meanwhile, Rowling, upon criticizing such progressive propensities as referring to women as “people who menstruate,” was met with a deluge of death threats.

One problem with cultural policing is that it does not allow writers to be good writers; it doesn’t allow comedians to be comedians; it does not allow interesting art to exist or be created. The Harry Potter world, like any new art that endures beyond ephemeral TikTok trends, isn’t created by evading interdicts and following rules. Original and timeless art is born out of the intent to innovate and push boundaries.

Alternatively, in the absence of conditions that foster and encourage creativity, culture begins to resemble the monotony of the Soviet Union. Art was commissioned, controlled, and regulated by the Ministry of Culture; it all conformed to the same rules, and it all looked the same.

Originally Published at The Washington Examiner