J.K. Rowling has been making headlines of late for hypocritical behaviour towards issues that could regarded as liberal fodder. Chloë Gault gives her take on Rowling’s actions over the last year regarding politics, feminism, and social media.
Every generation will have some cultural figure which they cling to and for many millennials, that figure is Harry Potter. From The Philosopher’s Stone to The Deathly Hallows, Potterheads around the country revere J.K. Rowling with godlike adulation, as the creator of a text that inspired a generation to overcome their issues and find solace in an ordinary boy who became a hero. So, it is rather perplexing that J.K. Rowling, a long-time supporter of the Labour Party, would publicly and rather venomously attack the most in tune Labour leader since Clement Atlee. Her twitter feed presents unfounded critique of Corbyn’s Labour, at one point describing the current political climate as “Incompetent clowns in power and the opposition turning into a solipsistic personality cult”. Instead of rejoicing in a renewed fervour of the Labour party, Rowling sees the behaviour of the people (and indeed the youth led Momentum) as a negative force in removing the Tories from power. This is from a woman who benefited from social welfare, a system brought about by a Labour party that is comparable to Corbyn’s.
The anti-Corbyn sentiment that Rowling seems fixated on is prominent on her twitter feed. During the leadership race for the Labour party, she threw her support behind Owen Smith who was considered a soft Left option. He borrowed a lot of his policies from Corbyn which made him appear the weaker option – diluted policies unappealing to the masses. Her anger was clear when Corbyn was re-elected; she claimed that the people would look back on their decision and not laugh at the outcome. During the general election, Rowling shared an article written by Sarah Ditum in the NewStatesman called “Election 2017: what should you do if you support Labour but can’t stand Jeremy Corbyn?” The Labour leadership contest resulted in a resounding victory for Corbyn; cleaning up with a more than respectable 62% of the vote against Smith. Yet, despite this knowledge, Rowling remains critical of Corbyn, fighting against a Labour leader who finally has put the issues of the working class back at the forefront of policies.
Rowling’s brand of politics often regresses into ‘Champagne Socialism’. She consistently moves away from socialist ideals that she used to celebrate by referring to herself as a liberal. Replying to a tweet which chastises her for becoming a “filthy liberal”, Rowling states, “The far left & far right share many things, like a loathing of ‘decadent’ liberals #FilthyAndProudOfIt”. One fan, dismayed at the outpouring of abuse, tweeted support asking her not to go away. Rowling, rising to the occasion tweeted, “I’m going nowhere! Little known fact about filthy bourgeois neoliberal centrists – we’re tougher than you’d think ;)” She seems to believe that neoliberalism is a badge of honour, and defies the true principles of the Labour Party which stood for the advancement of the working classes.
An avid Remainer, Rowling has used her vast platform to attack the nation she calls home. In an impassioned speech on her blog, she details the positive impact the European Union has had on the United Kingdom. She discusses the investment that has allowed for Britain and Northern Ireland to flourish, and EU driven laws that have created a civilised society. There was a severe tonal change when the public had made their will known, however, with Rowling tweeting in a fierce rage comparing them to villains such as Hannibal Lecter and her very own Lord Voldemort. She tweeted to the masses, “proud to be part of the #IndecentMinority.” While she is very much entitled to voice her opinion, Rowling appears out of touch with the working classes. The people who did not vote Remain because of concerns as to whether or not the FTSE would become unstable. Those who did not vote Remain because they were concerned about freedom of movement throughout the EU. Rather, many voted to Leave because their situations under the current Conservative government are so dire that the idea of uncertainty is more attractive than their current plight.
The most recent controversy revolving around Rowling is her defense of casting Johnny Depp in her fantasy film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – part of the Harry Potter franchise. Depp, having been accused of domestic abuse by ex-wife Amber Heard, came under scrutiny by fans of the novels by his casting as evil Grindelwald. When news broke of his misdemeanours, Rowling spent the day liking tweets that vilified Heard. As writer and producer Rachel Kiley pointed out, she zoned in on tweets that used the descriptive ‘liar’. As someone who is outspoken about women’s rights, it is disappointing to see her supporting an abuser.
Months after the incident, J.K. Rowling finally broke her silence on the issue, releasing a lack lustre statement that included, “Harry Potter fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role. As David Yates, long-time Potter director, has already said, we naturally considered the possibility of recasting. I understand why some have been confused and angry about why that didn’t happen.” So, despite considering a recasting, Rowling had no issue with attaching an abuser to a franchise that’s main character is a victim of abuse.
It is difficult to condemn the nation’s sweetheart, but Rowling’s flippant comments on political matters and feminism prove problematic for a lot of her fan base. There is a lot to be admired about the author – writing Harry Potter whilst on benefits, raising a one year old daughter alone. However, she is contributing to dividing the left and supporting men who advocate violence against women. One can hope that she is able to take her own advice, through the mouth of Dumbledore “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”