“I wouldn’t be the person I am without so many people here,” says Daniel Radcliffe in the trailer for Return to Hogwarts, the forthcoming 20th anniversary celebration of the Harry Potter film series in which Radcliffe, his co-stars and crew reminisce about their decade in the Wizarding World. But one suspects their contributions pale next to those of the woman who very pointedly is not.
Conspicuous by her absence is the writer from whose mind the whole thing sprung in the first place. There’s no seat for JK Rowling at these cosy fireside chats. Instead, the author of the seven Potter novels will be shown in archive footage only. Nor is her name among the 23 star contributors trumpeted in the trailer itself: it only appears in the final frame in microscopic text, next to a copyright mark.
This snub follows her fallout from the trans rights movement in 2020, when she published an essay arguing that the rights of women and girls were being undermined by the movement’s concept of gender identity: that someone’s self-professed ‘inner sense of gender’ should determine whether they are considered a man or a woman in all circumstances, rather than their sex. This sparked a great deal of controversy on Twitter, where Rowling was bombarded with abuse. Within days, Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint had all publicly distanced themselves from the creator of their career-making roles – though not, heaven forfend, from her work, and the wealth and prestige it continues to bestow.
So there’s good reason to think that if Rowling had both received and accepted an invitation to the televised reunion, the chat over the vol-au-vents might have been frosty. But the reunion special is far from the only recent Potter project from which Rowling appears to have been strategically airbrushed. Her name was also absent from the recent trailer for the third film in the Fantastic Beasts franchise – a Potter period spin-off set in the first half of the 20th century – again, save a minuscule copyright notice in the bottom left corner of the final frame. (By contrast, it had pride of place in the adverts for the 2016 and 2018 instalments.) A forthcoming blockbuster video game, Hogwarts Legacy, also makes a point of specifying on its website: “JK Rowling is not directly involved in the creation of the game”.
Has the row really turned the Rowling name toxic? Her recent sales figures strongly suggest otherwise. Her latest detective novel Troubled Blood, written under her pen name Robert Galbraith, and The Christmas Pig, her new children’s book, each shifted over 60,000 copies in their first week of publication, dwarfing their closest rivals, while sales of her Harry Potter series – existing copies of which are hardly in short supply – rose seven percent in the 12 months following her intervention in the trans debate.