The ancient, rusted printing press at Pottermore Publishing rests covered in cobwebs this morning, and the old inky-fingered typesetter is out looking for other employment following new revelations outlined in Pam Segall’s recent Insider piece “There is no good way to introduce ‘Harry Potter’ to the next generation.”
Segall, a self-described millennial Potterhead, claims the Harry Potter magic is dead, killed by its creator’s malicious spells transmitted via Twitter in 2020. Furthermore, according to Segall, J.K. Rowling’s assault on the Potter magic goes back as far as 2018 when the Harry Potter author “liked” a “couple of offensive tweets” cast by other like-minded magic killers.
In probably one of the more relevant assertions of the piece, Segall says of Rowling, “Her actions disenchanted scores of fans, who have struggled to figure out what to do with their love for the series given the controversy around its creator.” Meaning some multiple of twenty fans is experiencing the same emotional difficulty and confusion described by Segall in this piece.
Having not been a millennial Potterhead in the late nineties, but rather a gen-x pothead too old for Harry Potter, it is difficult for me to fully appreciate Segall’s sense of disenchantment and loss. However, it must be darn near impossible to maintain a sense of magic and possibility when you’re swallowing all that ideological bullshit Segall’s been feasting on.
After bringing up about four or five of Rowling’s inclusivity infractions across all the Harry Potter works, Segall succinctly summarizes how the magic came to be drained from Potterland for Segall and the 20, 40, 80 or so other disenchanted fans. “In a series that spans thousands of pages and often provides minute details, the thought that Rowling couldn’t spare a few words to mention a character’s race or sexuality already seems preposterous,” Segall writes.
Indeed it is preposterous. Because everyone knows that beginning at some fixed date in 2016 or 2017 it became a cultural imperative that every children’s book detail the race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality of each of the book’s characters. The fact that some books don’t include these details is a colossal failure of imagination. Everyone knows that for a budding young reader to truly understand what makes characters tick, the author must include the character’s race or sexuality. Furthermore, it would be ideal if their distribution across the works would reflect the demographics of today’s modern society, even if the story is set in some other time and place, or some altogether made up realm.
It is Segall’s contention that Rowling’s bigotry has imposed itself on the Harry Potter works, thus releasing all the magic that has enchanted readers for nearly 25 years now. She calls this “the intrusion of real life” onto the works and concludes, “When we introduce the real world to the Wizarding World, we inherently drain some of its magic.” Setting aside whether or not Rowling’s tweets and likes are offensive, why is it that we are dragging the real world into the wizarding world again? It seems to me, again from the perspective of a former pothead and not a Potterhead, that often when you drag the contemporary world into the make believe world, you run the risk of disrupting the illusion. I don’t know, someone once told me that magic isn’t real, but often I can set aside that reality and enjoy tales of kick ass magic and wizardry anyway.
By the way, asserting that biological sex is real, and criticizing the phrase “people who menstruate” as a dehumanizing term for women is entirely within the bounds of mainstream thought and opinion. Among readers of Harry Potter books, there is nothing controversial about Rowling’s remarks and sales of her books reflect it. Currently, her most recent children’s book ranks #6 on Amazon and the Harry Potter box set ranks #16 in children’s books.
Still Segall writes: “Some fans treasure their existing copies of the beloved series while refusing to purchase anything new to support Rowling financially. For others, the books lie obscured and discarded, awaiting a fate yet to be determined.” I’m sure Segall wants this to be true because Segall and a few colleagues and friends feel this way, but this is clearly an example of magical thinking, dragging the world of belief and illusion into the real world.
Looking forward to a world without Harry Potter, Segall writes, “the best we can hope is that these conversations inspire the next generation to foster fully inclusive magic and create a more perfect version of this fantasy world.” No doubt this world would be fully embraced by the public if it were as imaginative, entertaining and enchanting as the Harry Potter books. However, the biggest obstacle facing this hypothetical work would most likely come from critics like Segall and company. Because they measure out their inclusivity in teaspoons and there is seldom enough of it in any work. Additionally, given the arbitrary formulation and constantly shifting nature of the inclusivity regulations, there is little doubt that if such a work as Segall describes were to set the reading world on fire, a new group of puritans would emerge to douse the flames.
From the sales of her Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling has donated literally scores of millions of dollars to support research and treatment of multiple sclerosis. That’s some multiple of 20 million dollars of her own money. Additionally, she has used her platform to raise money to fight poverty, support children’s welfare and advocate on behalf of victims of domestic abuse. Segall and company seem unable wrap their heads around that magic, preferring instead to do the work of depriving Rowling of her powers to generate millions for those in need. I’m sure there’s some villainous character in Harry Potter who tried to steal or otherwise thwart the magic of those who sought to do good, but I wouldn’t know the name of that character because I was too busy taking bong hits and reading detective novels. Regardless, how does it feel, Segall, to become a villain in one of your formerly beloved Harry Potter books? There’s a story you can introduce to the next generation.